Three Things We Learned From The Denver Broncos 2016 Mini-Camp

The Broncos recently completed their 2016 mini-camp. With the team having undergone so many offseason changes, what are the main takeaways?

With Denver Broncos OTAs come and gone, the players have been dismissed for the next six weeks until the start of training camp.  There might not be as many storylines as most defending Super Bowl Champions typically offer up, but for all intents and purposes, this has been an eventful offseason, which has led to one of the more interesting mini-camps in some time.  Here are three takeaways from this year’s OTAs

The Quarterback Battle Takes Shape

All of Denver cheered as Peyton Manning went out on top with his second Super Bowl win, cementing his legacy as one of the best to ever play the game.  

Fast forward and now the names Sanchez, Siemian and Lynch are working under center with the expectation that only one of them will see significant time in this upcoming year.  While Coach Gary Kubiak started out the OTA session with all three signal-callers seeing equal reps, it quickly became a two-person race between the recently acquired Mark Sanchez and 2015 seventh round draft pick Trevor Siemian, with the rookie Paxton Lynch being designated the odd man out. While Sanchez did receive the bulk of the first team reps, Kubiak went out of his way to say that the two quarterbacks were “looking each other in the eye” and that the competition seemed to be a stalemate exiting OTAs.  This could mean that, with limited work, Simien might have looked better in certain spots, but I would still tend to lean toward Sanchez being the starter come the beginning of the season for one important reason.

Sanchez is a capable and proven player in this league and Siemian, at this point, isn’t.  In much the same way the quarterback situation played out last year with Brock Osweiler and Manning, Kubiak only went to the lesser-experienced player when he had to and still chose to go back to Manning to end the regular season and start the postseason. This would lead us to believe that, while Siemian may have a higher ceiling than Sanchez, Kubiak will go with the proven hand when the real games start.

The Three-Headed Monster at Running Back

C.J. Anderson has always been the man at the running back position, even when Ronnie Hillman was starting last year, make no mistake about that. Now that C.J. is being paid like the man, it would seem that he is taking the steps necessary to put a strangle hold on the starting job. With the drafting of Devontae Booker and the re-signing of Hillman, it may lead fans to think that the dreaded “running back by committee” will rear its head here in Denver and that all three backs will see significant action and equal parts carries.

Injuries have done the most to hold C.J. back and, if healthy, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that he will be the guy for the foreseeable future.  Anderson has the requisite experience in the zone-blocking scheme that Booker doesn’t and also has the size, vision and physical style of running that the speedy Hillman lacks. 

C.J. looked slimmer and in the best shape of his career during mini-camp, all while being the vocal leader of the group.  Look for him to be a 15-20 carries-per-game back this year, with Hillman and Booker getting reps in certain scenarios or to spell Anderson.

Next Man Up on Defense 

Coaches love to use that phrase any time a starting player goes down with an injury, but in this case it seems completely applicable to use the term to describe who is going to fill the shoes of Malik Jackson and David Bruton, Jr. on defense.

Anytime you lose a player the caliber of Jackson or Bruton, it hurts and this is not to marginalize their talents they brought to the table.  However, this coaching staff and front office is adept and bringing in role guys who will adequately fill the voids in a roster. This year is no exception, as both Jared Crick and Vance Walker will look to fill Jackson’s shoes on the defensive line and rookies, Will Parks and Justin Simmons, look to contribute in place of Bruton

You probably won’t see either Crick or Walker take a bulk of the snaps during the year but in a rotation, both players will be an adequate replacement for Jackson.  From mini-camp, Walker looked to have the edge early and being experienced in Coach Wade Phillips’ system, should have the leg up as the season comes upon us. 

Justin Simmons was an absolute steal at the end of the thirrd round and has the physical tools to produce as the backup to Darian Stewart and as a contributor in nickel situations.  However, do not count out Parks, as the fellow rookie has showed a unique scrappiness in his game and made a few big plays in the mini-camp scrimmages.

Competition breeds character and should be a welcome change to this year’s team heading in to training camp.  While there may not be a lot of high profile roster battles coming up or lots of holes to fill in the roster, there is no doubt that there will be a more competitive vibe on the field during the dog days of summer, as the next crop of Denver Broncos look to take the first steps in defending their World Championship. 

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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