Broncos Update - Monday, August 23

Running back Mike Anderson might not beat out Quentin Griffin for a starting job by the time the regular season begins, but he proved against Seattle he's a very capable backup and is named the Player of the Week in this edition of Broncos Update Inside Slant.

INSIDE SLANT If the Broncos' offense wasn't struggling so much in the preseason, Denver's starting defense would be the talk of the team.

The Broncos, who added projected starters Luther Elliss, Champ Bailey, Raylee Johnson and John Lynch this offseason, played the entire first half in last Saturday's exhibition game at Seattle and allowed only four first downs and 87 yards. The Seahawks gained 45 of those yards on one play, a long reception by Koren Robinson.

In about two quarters of work in Denver's first two games, the starting defense allowed 52 yards on 22 plays.

And the Broncos have yet to play at full strength this preseason. Starting CB Lenny Walls hasn't played yet after having minor ankle surgery on July 30. Starting OLB Jashon Sykes has missed all but one series of the preseason because of a knee injury suffered in the opener on Aug. 9 against Washington.

"We can definitely play better," Lynch said. "We're searching for perfection."

Even though it was a preseason game against Seattle, the Broncos employed some different blitzes. Expect to see a lot of that in the regular season, with the Broncos using Bailey and Walls in man-to-man coverage.

"People will realize we're going to be an aggressive unit," Lynch said. "You can't do that unless you have (good cornerbacks). Champ sets the tone. It puts coordinators in a mentality that 'We have to be aggressive.' I think everyone raises to that mentality."

NOTES, QUOTES

--DE Marco Coleman decided retirement wasn't for him after about two weeks of trying it. Coleman told coach Mike Shanahan before the team's June minicamp that he was going to retire after 12 NFL seasons. But soon after that he felt the urge to play one more season, convinced his wife to move their family to Colorado and Shanahan welcomed Coleman back when he called the coach to ask if there was still a spot available for him. "I really was fine with (retirement)," Coleman said. "But the competitive nature in me kicked in and I said I don't know how I'm going to feel once it comes time for the season and I'm watching those guys out there."

--The Broncos broke training camp last Friday, to the delight of their players. "It's like a holiday," fullback Reuben Droughns said. "Anybody that says they look forward to camp is telling a lie. Anybody that says they're having fun in camp is telling a lie. Anybody that says they're happy to see camp end, then they're telling you the truth."

--During a sluggish afternoon practice last week, S John Lynch called the entire team up in the middle of the field and let them know he wasn't happy with the way practice was going. Lynch, who was a captain in Tampa Bay before signing with Denver this offseason, was expected to be a team leader but not necessarily this soon. "It's essentially what you want to be," Lynch said. "A lot of teams come out and go through the motions, but if you want to be special, which I know this team wants to be, you got to do it every practice."

--The Broncos have had an inordinate amount of dropped passes this preseason, and what is concerning is plenty of them are by players who are expected to get a lot of playing time this season. "We got guys dropping balls that don't usually drop balls," QB Jake Plummer said. "It concerns me because those guys shouldn't do it."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Why waste your time? I don't think we're wasting any time. They know I can play, they know I can do it, they're not going to put me out there and get my hopes up. I told them I want to do it and they put me in there, and we're going to do it." -- CB Champ Bailey, who took about a dozen snaps at wide receiver during a practice near the end of training camp.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Monsanto Pope vs. Darius Holland vs. Mario Fatafehi vs. Nick Eason for starting DT job -- The Broncos still can't find a tackle to play alongside Luther Elliss. Pope was the fourth tackle during camp to run with Elliss on the first-team defense. The job is still up in the air, although defensive coordinator Larry Coyer wasn't concerned about finding someone to take it over. "We're giving them a chance," Coyer said. We've got a lot of guys in there who have played, so we want to see who wants that job."

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Reuben Droughns vs. Adrian Madise for starting KR job. Madise was Denver's primary kickoff returner during the first two preseason games, but is sliding down the depth chart at receiver and is in danger of not making the team. So Droughns, Denver's starting fullback who returned kickoffs last season, stepped in at kickoff returner at Seattle and had a good game, with a long return of 46 yards.

Jeb Putzier vs. Byron Chamberlain vs. Jed Weaver for starting TE job. Putzier, who led Denver in receiving in its second preseason game at Buffalo, has seen his stock rise during training camp. There's a chance Putzier, who has good hands and speed and is improving as a blocker, could end up being Denver's primary tight end this season.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RB Mike Anderson. Anderson might not beat out Quentin Griffin for a starting job by the time the regular season begins, but he proved against Seattle he's a very capable backup. Anderson led Denver with 120 yards on 21 carries -- 106 yards came after halftime -- and a 7-yard touchdown, the only touchdown from either team in the game.

Anderson, who had 1,487 yards in 2000 as a rookie, made the switch back to tailback this offseason after spending the past couple years at fullback. He got in great shape, dropping about 10 pounds to report to training camp at 227 pounds. The coaches have been happy with him during practice but before the Seattle game he had only rushed for 14 yards on eight preseason carries.

"(Anderson) is a starting tailback in this league; he's done it before," WR Rod Smith said. "(Griffin is a starting tailback. The good thing for us is we have them both."

ROOKIE REPORT: LB D.J. Williams continues to provide glimpses of why the Broncos drafted him in the first round. He was quick to the quarterback on a blitz against Seattle, forcing an incompletion although it was negated because of a defensive penalty. Williams is a decent bet to start from the first game on as a rookie. ... RB Tatum Bell is making strides in his recovery from a broken middle finger. He's still limited with his pass catching and blocking, but he is getting more comfortable. "I'm doing more and more in practice every day," Bell said. ... WR Darius Watts continues to balance his big plays with inconsistent moments. Watts had a 46-yard reception at Seattle to set up Denver's only touchdown and led the Broncos with five catches for 72 yards, but he also had two dropped passes. Watts has had at least one drop in each of Denver's first three preseason games. ... QB Bradlee Van Pelt didn't play for the third straight preseason game and might not see the field at all this exhibition season. He still remains a good candidate to land on the practice squad.

INJURY REPORT: CB Lenny Walls was scheduled to run for the first time since he had arthroscopic ankle surgery on July 30. Walls has been working out in the swimming pool and on the exercise bike. He said he continues to hold out hope of playing in Denver's preseason game against Houston this week.

--OLB Terry Pierce suffered a third-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Buffalo on Aug. 15. Pierce will miss 4-to-6 weeks, which will set him back. He is making the transition from middle linebacker to outside linebacker this season.

--OLB Jashon Sykes said his knee is healing as expected and he hoped to practice sometime this week. He sprained his knee in Denver's preseason opener Aug. 9.

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