Broncos Hot Topics - Monday, July 24

Running back Ron Dayne fits the Denver Bronco's zone-blocking offense well, and less talented backs have rushed for 1,000 yards in Mike Shanahan's offense. If he can hold off Tatum Bell, Dayne will have a golden opportunity. He's definately a player to watch in training camp.

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN CAMP

--RB Ron Dayne: If Dayne has a good camp, he will get the chance to start and prove himself as an every-down back in the NFL. He has been ahead of Tatum Bell all offseason, although Bell could win the job with a good camp.

Dayne failed and was forgotten in New York with the Giants. The Broncos signed him last year and were impressed from the start of camp. Mike Anderson was the starter so there wasn't much room for Dayne, but he had two important performances for the Broncos. He had several key runs after spelling Mike Anderson late in a game against San Diego, setting up a game-winning field goal. Then against Dallas on Thanksgiving he had 98 yards and a touchdown, and his 55-yard run in overtime set up another game-winning field goal.

Dayne fits Denver's zone-blocking offense well, and less talented backs have rushed for 1,000 yards in Mike Shanahan's offense. If he can hold off Bell, Dayne will have a golden opportunity.

--DE Ebenezer Ekuban: Ekuban is the only new starter on defense, replacing Trevor Pryce at weak-side end. Pryce's numbers went way down last season, a year removed from back surgery. He was released in the offseason.

Even though Pryce didn't produce a lot of big plays, he still drew attention. Ekuban played well in Denver's rotation last year with four sacks, and the Broncos need him to be effective. Denver's pass rush struggled to produce sacks last year and it wants more pressure from the front four.

--TE Stephen Alexander: Alexander filled his role well last year. He was a key blocker in the running game and was assignment sure for a first-year player in Mike Shanahan's complicated offense. But Alexander's numbers in the passing game were way down from his previous NFL stops.

Alexander had 21 catches for 170 yards. Five times before last year Alexander played at least 10 games in a season and never had fewer than 324 yards. Part of his low output was Jeb Putzier's talent in the passing game. Putzier caught 37 balls for 481 yards as Alexander's backup, but was released in the offseason. The Broncos also released promising young tight end Wesley Duke after he suffered a knee injury, leaving them thin at tight end. Alexander will have to take on a bigger role in the passing game as a result.

--WR Darius Watts: By the end of last season, Watts looked like he had an uphill climb just to make the roster this year. The former second-round pick was inactive the last 10 games of the regular season in 2005, including Denver's meaningless regular-season finale at San Diego in which most starters were pulled early.

But Watts had what might be a career-turning offseason. He showed a better grasp of the offense and more confidence. He needs to carry that into training camp. Watts' main problem his first two years was dropped passes. If he drops some balls early in camp, the Broncos might have to scramble.

Ashley Lelie is expected to extend his holdout into training camp and former Bears first-round pick David Terrell didn't seize the third receiver job in the offseason. If Javon Walker's surgically repaired knee doesn't continue to progress well in his rehab, depth at receiver will be even more important.

PLAYER NOTES --The Broncos announced single-game tickets for the 2006 season will go on sale July 29. It will be a mad rush to get the few tickets that remain. The Broncos have sold out every game since 1970, a streak of 277 in a row.

--A week before training camp, the Broncos hadn't signed any of their draft picks. Denver has a good record of getting picks in on time. The small increase in the rookie salary pool has made it slow going for teams across the league in signing picks.

The most important, and potentially complicated, contract is with quarterback Jay Cutler, the team's first-round pick. Since Cutler won't play unless Jake Plummer is hurt or severely falters this season, he needs as much work as he can get in training camp and preseason games.

--Broncos safety Sam Brandon was taken into custody after a bond violation, stemming from a domestic violence case against him. Brandon was pulled over by police in Texas, and he was not supposed to leave Colorado without the court's permission. Brandon, a backup who signed a contract extension this offseason, posted $10,000 bond and was released.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos are still in limbo with receiver Ashley Lelie's threatened holdout. Lelie hasn't shown any indication he will come to camp on time and the Broncos haven't completed a deal to send him elsewhere. The team has said he will be welcomed back if he reports.

The Broncos will be busy with rookie contract signings in the week leading up to camp. Denver hasn't signed any of their draft picks yet.



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