The quarterback-decimated San Francisco 49ers loom on the horizon. The quarterback-uncertain Denver Broncos still have much to figure out in the meantime. A handful of crucial positions (including the most important one) lack a clear-cut starter, and a serious injury may have opened yet another spot.
There were plenty of other noteworthy events at this morning's practice. A fight broke out, one of the quarterbacks had perhaps their best performance of the summer, and the team welcomed a few special guests.
Some of the Wounded Warriors made it out to practice, much to the delight of the coaches and players.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... "When you go and put in two and a half hours and you’re competing and going at each other, it’s nice to be able to go and do something like that," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "You can go shake a few hands. You appreciate everything that they do and you want them to know that. I see a few guys over there with them now, so it’s a good day. I appreciate them coming out.”
The example was set, and the Broncos made some noise on an eventful Monday. Let's take a look.
Walker Out for 2016
Football just isn't always fair. Vance Walker had just about locked up the starting defensive end position opposite Derek Wolfe when he went down in practice this morning, suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Walker had to be carted off of the field, unable to place any weight on his right leg.
“Fingers crossed when that happens," Kubiak said. "I didn’t really see it. It was one of the earlier plays at practice. He and Max [Garcia] were tied up and he went down. We just have to see and hope for the best.”
Unfortunately, everyone's worst fears were confirmed. Vance Walker will miss the 2016 season with a torn ACL. No matter how you look at it, it's a terrible thing to happen, especially for a veteran who had finally worked his way into a starting role.
“That’s horrible what happened to Vance," defensive end Jared Crick said. "My mindset has to stay the same, just come out and try to improve on my game every single day. Wherever guys are on the depth chart, they have to keep the same mindset to get through camp. Come week one, wherever guys are at, whatever their roles are, we’ll go from there.”
Crick, acquired from the Houston Texans in free agency (pulling the reverse Osweiler), immediately becomes the favorite to take over for Walker on the starting defensive line. And he's certainly equipped. Crick fits the mold of a 3-4 defensive end in the Wade Phillips defense, and he showed he was also plenty capable in last Thursday's win against Chicago, recording a sack and a few pressures.
Another player that will get some work in Walker's absence is rookie Adam Gotsis. Gotsis also showed some ability and motor in the win, and now he'll have to show it early on in his career as he inevitably gets more playing time than anyone expected. Kubiak spoke about the rookie.
“He is getting in better physical condition," Kubiak said. "I think it took a while coming off his knee, so you see him improving his physical condition at practice. He’s taking what Bill [Kollar] teaches. He’s still has a long way to go as a young player, but obviously we’re counting on him big time.”
Defensive end Billy Winn should also have an easier time finding his way onto the 53-man roster as the Broncos search for veteran depth at the position.
Harris and Sanders had their feet tangled up on as they both chased a pass, hitting the turf as Harris was flagged for PI. Then the fists started to fly. The sidelines were emptied and the scuffle was on, all units converging like the infamous Anchorman fight scene. No tridents, thankfully.
Eventually, Coach Kubiak was able to separate player and regain order.
“They’re just tired of going at each other," Kubiak said. "We have to keep our composure. Guys are going to get upset and battle each other, but there are some things that they won’t let you do on the field, so we can’t do those at practice either. They were just competing. Nobody was thrown out of anything. They’re just competing.”
It's surprising to see two veterans and familiar teammates going at it like that. Harris and Sanders have been matching up in practice since 2014, so it's odd to see something boil over in year three.
They made up." Cornerback Bradley Roby said. "They’re both teammates at the end of the day. I ran over there, too. I was trying to stop it though. I wasn’t trying to do anything.”
Fortunately, the San Francisco 49ers will be in town soon for joint practices. Please hurry.
A lot has been made of second-year Northwestern grad Trevor Siemian in the last few days. He's been steadily building momentum throughout camp, and some really nice throws against the Bears only added fuel to the Siemian fire. This morning was another step in the right direction.
Siemian fired two deep touchdown passes in practice. The first was nine route to Sanders, prompting a gleeful fist pump from number 13. On the next play, he found Jordan Norwood in the middle of the field and watched him race to the end zone for another touchdown.
His performance against Chicago and the subsequent follow up in practice might just earn him the start against the 49ers. That's not to say he's gained an edge over Mark Sanchez (who also showed well in the first preseason game), but he's definitely earned the right to show what he can do with the first-team offense at his disposal.
Sanchez may still hold sway over some of the starters though; tight end Virgil Green spoke about his chemistry with the former USC quarterback.
“We did do a little work in the offseason together." Green said. "While I was mending injuries in OTAs, we spoke quite a bit. Maybe that’s why things are gelling so well.”
The upcoming game on Saturday night will go a long way towards making the final decision. Ideally, you would want to name a starter before the fourth week at the latest, so both quarterbacks may have to start preparing their closing arguments.
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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.