Inside Slant - Aug. 8, 2005

Mike Anderson takes on Tatum Bell for the starting running back position, Bradlee Van Pelt moves in behind Jake Plummer as backup quarterback and the defense suffers two new injuries. Check out all this and more in today's edition of Inside Slant.

The Denver Broncos wanted to see what Bradlee Van Pelt could do, so they promoted the second-year player to their No. 2 quarterback spot a few days into camp.

Van Pelt, who was a seventh-round draft pick last year, moved ahead of veteran Danny Kanell with an impressive performance in the offseason camps and the first few days of training camp.

"We just wanted to give him a little more (repetitions) and see what happens," quarterbacks coach Pat McPherson said.

The Broncos want to see if Van Pelt can take his great athletic ability and translate it into NFL games. He played only one series last preseason because he was the fourth quarterback behind Jake Plummer, Kanell and fellow seventh-round pick Matt Mauck, and the Broncos didn't want to use Van Pelt too much because he was a practice-squad candidate. Van Pelt spent all last season on the practice squad.

But even in that one preseason series Van Pelt showed why many Broncos fans like the former Colorado State athlete. He led the team to a touchdown.

"He makes a plays a lot of people don't make," McPherson said. "He's throwing the ball well and he's showing right now he can get in a huddle and he can lead a team."

Van Pelt came to training camp with a different attitude, knowing he had a chance to win the wide-open backup quarterback spot.

"The expectations are completely different (from last year)," Van Pelt said. "Last year they didn't expect anything out of me and sometimes it's hard to expect things out of yourself when they're not expecting anything from me. But now they're putting pressure on me and I have to respond, and I believe I am responding."

The Broncos would be taking a pretty big chance if Van Pelt ends up as Plummer's main backup. Van Pelt is raw and has barely played in the NFL, never in the regular season. But he fits Denver's offense better than Kanell because of his mobility and ability to throw on the run.

Van Pelt downplayed his promotion to No. 2 quarterback, saying it was "nothing big."

"Honestly I thought my shot to take the No. 2 job would have been in the (preseason) games," Van Pelt said. "But I know where they're coming from."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp opens July 29 for rookies and veterans; the Broncos will hold joint practices with the Texans in Houston Aug. 10-11; camp closes on Aug. 18.


--The Broncos almost had a fight in camp. Defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban was upset with rookie Erik Pears for pulling him down at the end of a pass play, so he shoved Pears and threw a punch before teammates stepped in.

The near-fight was noteworthy because the Broncos usually never have anything close to a fight in training camp. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan does not tolerate fighting in camp and the players are well aware of that.

"If you lose your poise during practice, you lose it during the game," Shanahan said. "You've got to keep your composure. The teams that do fight usually fight during the season, and a lot of times it costs the team the game."

-- Broncos tackle Matt Lepsis can void the final four years of his contract after this season, but he wants to remain in Denver. Lepsis, who played very well last season after switching from right tackle to left tackle, could be a valuable commodity on the open market.

"I pretty much control right now what's going to happen," Lepsis said. "If I have a good season I can void or choose not to. Best-case scenario I stay here and don't have to deal with any of that."

-- Defensive end Trevor Pryce sat out a day of practice with a sore back, which was cause for concern because he missed almost all of last season because of a herniated disc in his back. Pryce was adamant that he was fine, and then tried to prove it by breaking into a dance.

"Could I do this?" Pryce said.

--Quarterback Jake Plummer dropped out of one training camp practice early with soreness in his left knee. Plummer had minor surgery on the knee in May but said he wasn't worried about it.

"If I complain about my knee, how can I look myself in the mirror?" Plummer said. "(Linebacker) Al Wilson, (defensive end) Trevor Pryce and all of these other guys are banging up front, so I have no right to complain about a sore knee."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a thing that hurts you as a man because he's a human being." -- Assistant defensive line coach Andre Patterson on end Courtney Brown's elbow injury.


BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Mike Anderson vs. Tatum Bell for starting RB -- Coaches say they've been happy with Bell during camp, but Anderson won't give up the No. 1 spot. The two have split carries with the first-team offense in camp, but always with Anderson going in first. One definite advantage Anderson has is near the goal line, and the Broncos struggled in the red zone last season.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: TE Stephen Alexander continues to hold off Jeb Putzier as the first-team tight end. Both players will get plenty of action in two tight-end sets. ... QB Bradlee Van Pelt has passed Danny Kanell and Matt Mauck as the team's No. 2 quarterback. Kanell and Mauck will fight for the third quarterback job, although the Broncos have kept only two quarterbacks the past two years. ... CB Darrent Williams is currently the team's nickel cornerback, taking the job from Jeremy LeSueur.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Darius Watts -- Watts came into camp as a question mark, because he faded late last season and had Jerry Rice breathing down his neck. But Watts has responded with a solid camp, making some nice plays. There is very little question he'll be Denver's third receiver.

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Darrent Williams might give the Broncos a playmaker at the nickel cornerback spot. He gets his hands on balls and has great quickness when he does get a chance to return an interception or kick. ... CB Domonique Foxworth has been solid. He is the team's fourth cornerback behind Champ Bailey, Lenny Walls and Darrent Williams. ... CB Karl Paymah started slow but made some strides after about a week of camp. Paymah is still behind fellow rookies Foxworth and Williams. ... RB Maurice Clarett has missed a couple days practice with a groin injury. He hasn't done much to move up the depth chart and is still fifth among Denver's tailbacks. ... OL Chris Myers has worked almost exclusively at center during camp, but a big part of his value is versatility. He played center, guard and tackle in college. ... P Paul Ernster has punted very well in practice but has Pro Bowler Todd Sauerbrun ahead of him on the depth chart.

INJURY REPORT: DT Mario Fatafehi will be out 1-3 weeks with a sprained MCL in his knee. ... DE Courtney Brown dislocated his left elbow and will be out 3-6 weeks. The Broncos hope he can return in time to play in their preseason finale. ... CB Champ Bailey missed a few days with a tight hamstring. But the injury wasn't serious and Bailey was held out mainly as a precaution. ... TE Patrick Hape missed a few days with a groin injury but he shouldn't be out long. ... RB Maurice Clarett has battled a sore groin in camp and missed a couple days of practice.

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