Broncos Update Insider - Monday, August 15

Denver Broncos running back Ron Dayne was singled out by head coach Mike Shanahan after his performance against the Houston Texans. Dayne led the Broncos with 56 yards on 11 carries running behind the second-team offensive line. Dayne has been impressive in training camp.

Denver Broncos backup quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt was used to taking off and outrunning most defenders when he was in college at Colorado State.

The funny thing is, on a 40-yard run in Denver's first preseason game, he did the same thing to NFL players.

"It kind of felt like old times," Van Pelt said.

Van Pelt, who has impressive athletic ability, had a very strong 2005 debut against the Texans. He avoided the rush on a couple of occasions, his long run on a quarterback draw set up a field goal and he threw the ball well. Van Pelt completed 10-of-17 passes for 107 yards and finished with 45 yards rushing.

Van Pelt put a nice open-field move on Texans safety Jason Simmons during his 40-yard run, which came on a third down and four.

Van Pelt was a seventh-round pick last season who played only one series the entire preseason. He did lead the Broncos to a touchdown on that series.

Despite his inexperience, the Broncos elevated him past Matt Mauck and Danny Kanell to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Jake Plummer. One game into the 2005 preseason, that looked like the right move for the Broncos.

Van Pelt, however, was critical of himself. He talked about some of the passes he missed against the Texans, including one forced throw near the goal line after he deftly avoided two blitzing defenders.

"I've just got to keep plugging," Van Pelt said. "I made a lot of mistakes tonight. I've got to get better, and if I get better I'll be OK."

Van Pelt's confidence has been apparent in his second season. Coaches and teammates are impressed with how he handles himself in the huddle, and he's showing he has picked up the offense well during the offseason.

The Broncos would be taking a risk by settling on Van Pelt as their backup quarterback. Kanell, who started two games in 2003 when Plummer was hurt and was a starter with the New York Giants early in his career, might be the safer choice.

But Van Pelt's potential is hard to ignore, and against Houston he looked like he could handle the pressure of being next in line if something happens to Plummer.

"I'm just going to keep on climbing," Van Pelt said. "I know I'm going to keep getting better and better. It's surprising, but to me and the people who believed in me, it's not surprising."

NOTES, QUOTES

-- Rookie cornerback Darrent Williams was tested in Houston. In joint practices against the Texans he often went up against Andre Johnson, and he held his own.

"He's one of the top receivers in this league," Williams said. "I just wanted to go hard every time to test my skill level. If you can stay close to him, you can pretty much stay close to anyone in this league."

In his first pro game, Williams was up and down. He missed a tackle on a short pass to Johnson early in the game and picked up a pass interference call in the first quarter. He also averaged only 2.5 yards per punt return.

However, Williams also did make a few nice plays on defense and had a couple of decent punt and kickoff returns.

-- The Broncos and Texans practiced against each other three times leading up to their preseason opener in Houston. There were no fights, mostly because Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and Texans coach Dom Capers do not condone fighting.

Shanahan said he thought the practices were beneficial.

"I think it's nice for both sides," Shanahan said.

-- Receiver Jerry Rice made his Broncos debut against the Texans. He had a pass thrown to him in the end zone that was broken up, and finished with one catch for six yards.

Rice has been battling tendinitis in his heel, but said he got through the game with no problems.

"My foot felt OK and I'm happy with that," said Rice, who didn't play in the second half against the Texans.

-- The Broncos' starting defense was not impressive against the Texans. On the Texans' first drive they got to the 1-yard line, although Denver did have an impressive goal-line stand to keep Houston off the scoreboard.

However, Houston put its backups in for their second drive and scored a touchdown against the Broncos' starters.

"I think we were just OK," safety John Lynch said. "I was really proud of us on the goal-line stand.

"I think the one thing we didn't do that well was tackling; that will be the strength of this team."

Denver was without three starters on defense: cornerback Champ Bailey, end Courtney Brown and tackle Gerard Warren.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's some things we want to improve on but that's why we got a few more of these games before the (regular season) starts." -- QB Jake Plummer on the Broncos' first preseason game, which was a 20-14 win over Houston.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Charlie Adams vs. Triandos Luke for No. 5 WR -- The Broncos don't have many high-profile starting jobs up for grabs, so the battles at the bottom of the roster will be a storyline through camp. Adams moved ahead of Luke, a sixth-round pick last year who showed flashes of potential as a rookie, for the fifth and probably final receiver spot on the roster. Then Adams led the Broncos with three catches for 43 yards in their preseason opener, which should help him maintain his hold on the spot.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: TE Stephen Alexander caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jake Plummer in Denver's preseason opener and has shown no signs of relinquishing his starting spot to Jeb Putzier, who signed a big contract with the Broncos this offseason. ... RB Mike Anderson didn't play well against Houston but Tatum Bell also struggled, so neither player made a move in the starting tailback battle. ... CB Darrent Williams took over as the team's nickel cornerback a few days into camp. His main competition might come from fellow rookie Domonique Foxworth, who has been solid in camp.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RB Ron Dayne. Dayne was singled out by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan after his performance against the Texans. Dayne led the Broncos with 56 yards on 11 carries running behind the second-team offensive line. Dayne has been impressive in training camp. He's behind Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell on the depth chart but helped himself in the preseason opener. He fits Denver's offense well, because it's similar to the zone-blocking scheme he ran behind when he won the Heisman Trophy at Wisconsin. "Ron had a couple good runs in there and was impressive," Shanahan said.

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Darrent Williams started Denver's first preseason game because Champ Bailey sat out with a minor hamstring injury. Williams gave up a catch early and had a pass interference call, but also made some plays. He gained only 10 yards on four punt returns. ... CB Domonique Foxworth has been solid through camp and was productive once again against Houston. He made a nice play on a deep pass his way and almost had an interception. ... CB Karl Paymah broke up two passes in Denver's preseason opener. ... RB Maurice Clarett has done nothing to move up from fifth on the depth chart at tailback. He stayed in Denver to rehab a groin injury when the team went to Houston for its preseason opener and needs to make a move soon or he might be in danger of being released. ... OL Chris Myers played some center in the fourth quarter of Denver's first preseason game. ... P/K Paul Ernster has a strong leg and got to kick off against the Texans. However, none of Ernster's kickoffs made the end zone on the fly.

INJURY REPORT: DE Courtney Brown is recovering from a dislocated elbow. He is wearing a large brace for stability. He might be back for Denver's final preseason game, but the team's regular-season opener might be a more realistic return date. ... DT Mario Fatafehi is recovering from a sprained MCL in his knee. He could be a couple weeks from returning. ... RB Maurice Clarett has had a recurring groin injury in camp although a MRI showed no torn muscles. The Broncos hopes he can practice leading up to their second preseason game. ... CB Champ Bailey has had a lingering hamstring problem. He practiced very little against the Texans and did not play in Denver's preseason opener. The team and Bailey insist the injury is not serious. ... OLT Matt Lepsis strained a hamstring in the week of practice leading up to Denver's first preseason game. He sat out the game but should not be out long.

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