Training camp and the preseason reinforced a lot of things. Quarterback Jake Plummer performed very well, as expected after his career year in 2006. Receiver Javon Walker, acquired from Green Bay in the offseason, returned from a knee injury and showed some flashes of his playmaking potential.
The Broncos' starting defense was strong in the preseason. The starters played the equivalent of a full game over the first three preseason games, and allowed three field goals and 263 total yards. That came without starting linemen Gerard Warren and Courtney Brown, who were out with injuries. Warren should play in the regular-season opener and Brown should return early in the season.
"Everybody is comfortable with each other now," cornerback Darrent Williams said. "We're pretty much the same group as we had last year. We're just trying to take it to the next level this year."
The only major unresolved issue is the starting tailback position. Rookie Mike Bell was the starter most of the preseason, but coach Mike Shanahan said before the final preseason game that Bell hadn't locked up the job. That gave Tatum Bell and perhaps Cedric Cobbs a chance to win the spot before the regular season.
Shanahan, who usually doesn't reveal his starting lineup choices before the game, indicated he wouldn't say who his starting tailback was before the season opener at St. Louis.
"We'll all find out when we open the season against the Rams who that starting running back will be," Shanahan said. "But there is some competition there."
The Broncos aren't guaranteed to have the same success they had last year. The schedule is tough, and Denver can't expect to have the same luck with injuries. Last year the Broncos lost Champ Bailey for two games, Darrent Williams for four, Courtney Brown for one, and that was it among the regular starters.
The Broncos didn't suffer any major injuries in training camp. Warren dislocated his left big toe but returned to practice before the last preseason game. Brown had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out some cartilage, but he wasn't expected to miss much time in the regular season, if any.
The Broncos are confident about their chances of competing for the AFC West title, and nothing they saw in the preseason changed that.
"We feel good about where we are," linebacker Al Wilson said.
COACHING: Mike Shanahan, 14th year, 12th with Broncos (122-74, 114-62 with Broncos).
REMEMBERING: 2005 record: 13-3 (1st in AFC West); lost in AFC Championship Game to Steelers, 34-17.
-- The Broncos struggled to run the ball in their third preseason game against Houston. In the first two games, Denver was effective as usual in the running game.
"It's probably good for us not to dominate the line of scrimmage like we really did in the first couple games," coach Mike Shanahan said. "It brings you back to a sense of urgency."
-- Third-string running back Cedric Cobbs has played well the entire preseason. He had 161 rushing yards through three preseason games, best in the NFL. He said he didn't feel he trailed Mike Bell and Tatum Bell by much on the depth chart.
"I would say I'm not too far away from them, if not tit-for-tat with them," Cobbs said. "I just have to keep continuing to get better. This game is real important to me so I'm definitely going to try to raise it to another level."
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- The last three years the Broncos have had a different 1,000-yard running back: Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns and Mike Anderson. All three were either traded or cut after gaining 1,000 yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Here it comes, ready or not." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos are feeling good about their depth on the offensive line. They cut Cornell Green, a veteran who rotated with right tackle George Foster for some games last year, and four other linemen were included in the first wave of cuts. The Broncos have struggled to build offensive line depth for a couple years, but a few good draft picks and the free-agent addition of tackle Adam Meadows have helped them.
PLAYER TO WATCH: WR David Kircus -- Kircus was released by Detroit
before last season and spent the year out of football. He came to camp
with Denver this year and made plays just about every practice. Kircus
has value because of his special-teams ability, and could contribute on
offense as well.
Voice your opinion on our Broncos Hardcore Message Board