Broncos Team Update

Big things were expected from defensive end Reggie Hayward this season. The Broncos did not offer Bertrand Berry a huge contract despite Berry's 11.5 sacks in 2003, in part because Hayward had 8.5 sacks backing him up. When Berry signed with Arizona, Hayward was promoted to take his spot in the starting lineup.

But less than two weeks into training camp, Hayward had already lost the starting spot that was handed to him. Veteran Raylee Johnson passed Hayward on the depth chart because the Broncos were unhappy with Hayward's consistency and his play against the run.

Hayward didn't have a grand reaction to being demoted, probably because it's the third time in the past three training camps he has been demoted from starter to backup.

"Last year (being demoted) happened to me and I went out and had a great season, and if it happens again to me this year I'm still going to go out and have a great season," Hayward said.

The change on the depth chart isn't entirely because of Hayward's inconsistency. The Broncos are pleased with Johnson's veteran leadership, the quickness he's shown despite coming off a foot injury that ended his 2003 season with San Diego, and his overall attitude.

"What we see is the same old Raylee," Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. "Quick. Fast. Very good pass rusher. Very knowledgeable player. A real asset."

The demotion could be a motivating tool for Hayward, who will play a lot of snaps this season even if he doesn't start.

NOTES, QUOTES

--CB Reggie Stephens, a fourth-year player, gave up a touchdown pass against Washington on Aug. 9. And then a few days later he left camp without telling anybody. "I was going to say he escaped in the middle of the night, but he was here during meetings. He's one of the few guys who escaped during the day," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

--The Broncos prepare for every situation in training camp. They recently lined up the offense at about the defense's 40-yard line with 12 seconds on the clock, and instructed the defensive players how to keep the receiver in bounds and keep the clock running. Why that drill? Shanahan said it was because of a game in 1997 in which the Broncos lost against Kansas City because they allowed a reception near the sideline that stopped the clock and set up a game-winning field goal. The Broncos have also practiced fielding free kicks that follow safeties, because they misplayed one last year against New England, and that was a factor in their last-minute loss to the Patriots.

--The Broncos had rookie RB Tatum Bell running pass routes during practice, although he had little use of his right hand because he is coming back from a broken middle finger. The result was Bell awkwardly trying to catch long passes with one hand, even once putting his healthy left hand above his head and trying to backhand a pass that was coming from his left side. He didn't come down with it.

--Recently in training camp, Shanahan called the team up after their stretching period and invited about 20 kids whose parents are stationed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs and are serving in the Middle East into the middle of the Broncos huddle. The kids got to shake hands with some of the players and lead a cheer that sent the team off to their individual drills.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's always good for controversy too, because you give him 35 (carries) a game, you give it to him too much. If you give him 20-22, you don't give him enough. I'm just trying to help you guys (the media) out, you know." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, saying he would like for his starting tailback to be able to carry the ball 32-35 times a game.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Byron Chamberlain vs. Jed Weaver for the starting TE position. Chamberlain came to camp in shape and with an edge over Weaver because he knew Denver's offense so well from being with the Broncos from 1995-2000. So Chamberlain began camp as the starter and he still holds the spot a few weeks into camp. But Weaver, who had a productive season with San Francisco last year, is right behind him and should press him for the starting job before the regular season starts.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Charlie Adams vs. Triandos Luke vs. Nate Jackson vs. Adrian Madise for the No. 4 receiver. Each receiver has had his good moments and his bad moments during camp. Two of these four could end up being released.

Jeb Putzier vs. O.J. Santiago vs. Patrick Hape for the No. 3 tight end. Putzier helped himself a little by catching a touchdown against Washington and having a solid week of practice leading up to that game. But Hape has good hands and is a better blocker than Putzier, and Santiago can't be ruled out.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Nate Jackson. Jackson, who spent almost all of last season on the practice squad, was singled out and yelled at by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan during a practice last week for jumping offsides during team drills. Jackson responded by having a brilliant week of practice. Jackson, whose 6-foot-3, 223-pound frame has impressed the Broncos since they traded a conditional draft pick to the San Francisco for him last August, has decent speed and good hands. He made many impressive catches downfield in practice last week, using his size and speed to get downfield. He is in a battle to make the Broncos' roster because Denver has a number of young receivers vying for only two or three spots.

ROOKIE REPORT: FB Brandon Miree tore a ligament in his left thumb and had season-ending surgery. Miree was working as a third-team fullback and was a practice squad candidate. ... First-round pick OLB D.J. Williams was scheduled to make his first start against Buffalo on Sunday. Broncos coaches have been impressed with Williams' athleticism, but want to see more consistency in practice. ... RB Tatum Bell, who broke his right middle finger on July 31, returned to practice last week wearing a splint and bulky bandages on the injured finger. He was limited in practice because of the injury, but the Broncos wanted him to get in some practice time as he comes back to the lineup. There's a chance he could play on Saturday at Seattle. ... WR Darius Watts had an up-and-down debut against Washington, making some tough catches but dropping some as well. He has been suffering from a sore shoulder, but the injury isn't serious. ... QB Bradlee Van Pelt won't make the team unless there's an injury to Jake Plummer, Danny Kanell or Matt Mauck -- even then, Mike Quinn would probably be on the roster ahead of Van Pelt -- but he's a good candidate for the practice squad. Van Pelt is proving he's a hard worker, spending plenty of time after practice throwing balls or running sprints.

INJURY REPORT

--LB Jashon Sykes sprained the MCL in his left knee against Washington on Aug. 9. He'll be out 2-3 weeks. Sykes was Denver's starter at strong-side linebacker before the injury.

--FB Brandon Miree is out for the season after tearing a ligament in his left thumb.

-- DT Luther Elliss returned to practice after missing about a week-and-a-half with a sore hamstring. The Broncos are depending on Elliss to be a starter.

-- CB Lenny Walls continues to rehab after minor ankle surgery. He said his goal is to play in Denver's preseason game on Aug. 27 against Houston.


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