The stands were full for the afternoon practice of day one at Broncos Training Camp 2004. Overcast and cool described the fans demeanor as well as the weather here at Dove Valley, much quieter and more subdued than at the morning practice. However, there was plenty of heat on the field. Watching defensive end Reggie Hayword limp back to the line following an impact of bodies heard 50 yards away, one realizes that these highly paid star athletes are one injury away from a potentially career ending disaster.
Defensive tackle Darius Holland, who joined the Broncos last season, quickly became a starter is in his 9th season in the NFL. Holland was part of a defensive unit that finished 4th overall in the NFL and 7th against the rush. His intensity stood out among the players despite the rain and a set of drills designed to challenge their mental and physical capabilities.
Trevor Pryce, a defensive co-captain is in his 3rd year since making the switch from defensive tackle to end, and has the 6th most sacks in franchise history. D.J. Williams who signed just moments before today's practice should be able to pick up some of the slack felt by the loss of John Mobley.
When asked how tough it is to lose a guy like John Mobley, Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said "Tough. He's a great guy and a heck of a football player, and he is a constant leader since I have been here. He is tough and capable of playing in any game. To lose a man of that caliber other guys have to step up. By the same token, we drafted Trevor Pryce in the second round, D.J. Williams in the first round and Jashon Sykes, and Donnie Spragan started a year ago so the talent excuse will not be there in replacing him. But to be frank about it, you get so used to seeing him, and this is my fifth year here."
Clearly Shanahan's decision to bolster the defense during the off season with new acquisitions coupled with solid defensive veterans should provide the Broncos with the talent they need to stay in contention.
(Broncos beat reporter Maiysha Smith contributed to this story.)
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