As camp drudges on and the days begin to melt together, the team will start to take shape as positional battles are won and lost. For now, though, each and every player still has a chance to prove their worth in an attempt to join the 53.
When the Broncos took the practice field on Saturday morning, they arrived in helmets and shoulders pads to a steadily growing crowd. Von Miller jogged out to "M-V-P" chants (accurate) and the Temptations serenaded the players and attendees with the 1966 classic, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."
The Latest from the Training Room
The nose tackle position took a hit yesterday as both Sylvester Williams (shoulder) and Phil Taylor (knee) left early due to injury. Each underwent MRIs and, fortunately, both tests came back negative.
Taylor was present at morning practice, but was not suited up in full pads and walked with a bit of a limp. According to coach Gary Kubiak, Taylor and Williams should both return to the field sooner rather than later.
"MRIs on both of them are fine," Kubiak said. "Actually, we thought Phil might be back today, but I think you could possibly see Phil tomorrow. Sly might be another day, but they're both fine."
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1689690-broncos-rookie-preview-ad... It's undoubtedly a big deal for both tackles to avoid anything major on the injury front. After the Broncos declined his fifth-year option, Williams is in a contract year and has the chance to create a big market for himself with a standout season.
Taylor is a former first-round pick trying to add depth to Denver's interior defensive line. His rookie year with the Cleveland Browns was frustratingly promising given the flame-out that would follow, but he has a shot to resurrect his career (in Denver or elsewhere) if he can perform these next few weeks.
Those two weren't the only Broncos who had to spectate today. DeMarcus Ware (back) and Aqib Talib (thigh) are still taking it slow (Talib of course suffering from more of a wound than an injury), while Von Miller is still being eased back into the swing of things after missing OTAs.
Finally, it was a bit of a surprise to see Adam Gotsis banging pads this early, but sure enough, there he was at defensive end. Gotsis suffered a torn ACL last Halloween with Georgia Tech, so it's encouraging to know that he's ahead of schedule in his recovery.
Quarterback Competition Heating Up
First of all, let's make sure we clear up something from yesterday. Despite hasty reports from national sources looking to cash in on some cheap quarterback drama, it's simply not true that Mark Sanchez was benched for Trevor Siemian after throwing an interception to Chris Harris yesterday.
Gary Kubiak has made it very clear that he's cooked up a very deliberate rep distribution scheme to allow all three passers to hone their craft. Essentially, even if Sanchez had thrown a gorgeous touchdown on the play in question, Siemian still would have taken the very next snap based on the plan that the coach had already drawn up the night before.
Manufactured controversy aside, all three of the quarterbacks both flashed ability this morning. Sanchez and Siemian both split reps with the first team.
"I think Trevor and Mark are doing really good," Kubiak said. "They're good. They're consistent at what they're doing."
Ultimately, all three quarterbacks experienced ups and downs, but that's to be expected with the level of competition on the other side of the ball.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... To some extent, the story remains the same; Sanchez is still the leader because of his polish and experience, Siemian is able to challenge for the starting job with his knowledge of the offense and impressive whip, and rookie Paxton Lynch is the mega-talent waiting in the wings.
The big highlight pass of the day came from Lynch. In an 11-on-11 session that pitted the third-offense against the third-team defense, Lynch led the offense on an impressive drive, capping it off with a superb 39-yard touchdown pass to undrafted rookie Kalif Raymond.
It wasn't always perfect for Lynch, but that's a part of being in the infancy of a promising NFL career.
"There are ups and downs at this level. It's our job to motivate him. The bottom line is to get him to be as good a player as he can be," Kubiak said. "He's working really hard. He just gets hung up mentally sometimes. He gets a little slow so I am trying to speed him up."
If and when Lynch passes through the mental ringer that plagues so many rookies, he'll be pushing for the starting job.
Kayvon Webster Stands Out
Without a doubt, the surprise star of day three was fourth-year cornerback Kayvon Webster.
Webster was glued to receivers all morning and broke up two straight passes--including a deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders. It's no small thing to make heads turn in a secondary as dominant as the No-Fly Zone, but Webster's play warranted praise from the head coach.
"He broke the team down and practiced his tail off," Kubiak said. "He was a great example today for the football team."
Webster himself talked a little bit about his mindset entering his fourth NFL training camp.
“Just one play at a time, maximize my opportunities and do what [Defensive Backs Coach Joe] Woods says." Webster said. "Practice my technique and everything will follow.”
The development of Kayvon Webster may eventually shape roster decisions. First of all, if Talib has to miss games due to suspension, Webster's play so far in camp makes him a dependable contingency plan. And it's not just speculation, safety Darian Stewart agrees.
"Kay played big for us last year in the playoffs. You can tell that he is ready to take that next step and to possibly start," Stewart said.
Not to mention, if he plays well enough in 2016, John Elway may opt to extend Webster (who enters a contract year) and allow Talib to become a cap casualty prior to next season.
I might be getting ahead of myself, but if today is any indication, Webster could become the long-term answer on the outside.
Wide Receivers Impress
The obvious highlight yesterday from the wide receivers was the absurd one-handed snag from the sticky-fingered Jordan Taylor. In case you've been living under a rock or just awoke from a baseball-induced coma, here it is:
People have been comparing this catch to the famous Odell Beckham Jr. grab, but when you think about it, that's just not fair. Beckham already has enough on his plate in New York. He doesn't need to be living in Sunshine's shadow. But I digress...
For the third straight day, Kalif Raymond was the first Bronco on the field. After earning some attention yesterday for his precise routes and separation from man coverage, the undrafted wideout from Holy Cross was on the receiving end of the aforementioned 39-yard touchdown pass from Lynch.
"He’s small, but he runs good routes. He is a speed kid and does everything hard," Kubiak said about Raymond. "I think he’s smart enough to understand that he doesn’t get too preoccupied with the depth chart. He is just trying to prove to us that he can play.”
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1689940-broncos-rookie-preview-mo... Maybe it was because undrafted great Rod Smith was on hand at practice, but the college free agents stepped up their game this morning. Lynch's Memphis teammate, UDFA Mose Frazier, sold out and made a diving catch on a pass from a scrambling Trevor Siemian. Frazier's name was sparsely mentioned during the first two days, but effort like that will stand out on tape.
Former Houston Texans wide receiver DeVier Posey may be a long shot to make the squad, but he's been a steady contributor, catching a high volume of passes on day three. He's a Kubiak draft pick, so like Marlon Brown, the verbiage and intricacies of the offense haven't held him up.
Although he may not be making any highlight-reel grabs, Bennie Fowler is quietly getting better in year three. The big Michigan State alum has been owning the outside with another solid performance and subtly separating himself from the other wide receivers gunning for the third spot on the depth chart.
Todd Davis Settling In
The inside linebacker void left by Danny Trevathan's departure left many expecting a fierce battle to claim the position next to Brandon Marshall. However, that competition may just end up becoming a coronation.
Third-year player Todd Davis has been lining up at inside linebacker with the first team. And now that he's getting comfortable as a starter, it doesn't sound like he wants to let go of the job.
"Last year, I was able to run with the ones a little bit because Von Miller was injured," Davis said. "I feel at home. I feel like I am right where I need to be. I just need to keep progressing and working hard and we’ll be where we need to be as a team.”
Marshall, who has the closest look at Davis on the field, likes what he sees out of the Sac State alum.
"Me and Todd have a natural chemistry so I'm excited," Marshall said. "Todd is a hell of a player and everybody will see soon. He's taking a lot of first-team reps and he's doing a hell of a job so unless coach says otherwise, I think that's what it's going to be.”
Special Teams Notes
The Broncos special teams unit was nearly perfect down the stretch in the 2015 playoffs. Kicker Brandon McManus was perfect, hitting all 10 of his field goal attempts in the postseason. Today wasn't quite as good.
After nailing his four field goal tries early in practice, McManus reverted to 2014 form, yanking three consecutive attempts at the end. One of them clanged off of the right upright, but at least it was closer than this. On a side note, I'm glad we eventually won that game in overtime, or else this would never ever be funny. Never.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1690869-continuity-on-the-o-line-... Much like the currently-soaring Colorado Rockies, McManus is incredibly streaky. He goes through slumps and surges that, in a way, tend to coincide with the success of the whole team. If he can develop some amount of consistency, there's no limit on how good he can be.
In other news, running back Kapri Bibbs saw some work on punt coverage. Bibbs has shown plenty of ability as a runner, but that alone won't get him a spot on the roster. His quickest path to the 53 is through hard-nosed special teams play and better pass protection.
Bibbs wasn't the only back that could see action on punts and kicks. Fifth-year veteran Ronnie Hillman will compete on special teams this year, according to the head coach.
"Ronnie is doing it. I think they have different roles, but Ronnie is definitely doing it. No doubt," Kubiak said. "If we are going to be a three, four back team, I don’t know how that’s going to pan out, but that will play a factor.”
With his burst and exceptional straight line speed, it wouldn't be surprising to see Hillman return a few kicks in the preseason. With the crowd they have at the position, every added bit of value makes a huge difference.
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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.