GREELEY, Colo. - Occasional brilliance, occasional sluggishness, toss in the expected miscommunications and you've pretty well summarized the first week of training camp for the Denver Broncos.
The best possible news was that for the most part, it was injury free, and those returning from major injuries appeared to be close to, if not fully recovered.
Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, Rob Moore and Terrell Davis have all looked surprisingly good, yet the team is taking no chances on further aggravating their injuries, and has limited them to one workout per day. It is doubtful that this will change for the remainder of camp.
The most serious injury occurred to WR Scottie Moore, who underwent knee surgery to remove loose parts and will be sidelined a minimum of two to three weeks.
The most impressive rookie has been running back Clinton Portis, who has continued to turn heads on the coaching staff with his quick execution and speed. His ability to find holes and change direction has proven well worth a second round pick.
Top pick Ashley Lelie has also looked good, yet his nagging hamstring has prevented him from participating in workouts for the past three days. While it has not yet become a problem, members of the coaching staff are hoping this is not becoming a pattern for the former Hawaii standout.
The biggest name on offense throughout the first week has undoubtedly been backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein. The sixteen-year veteran has shown no signs of the elbow pain that had sidelined him throughout last season, and in fact has thrown farther, quicker and with more accuracy that anyone else on the roster, including Brian Griese.
One of his favorite targets, Ed McCaffrey, is making remarkable strides since breaking his leg in the opening game of last season. While his recovery can not be considered 100% complete at this point, barring any further set backs the fan's favorite has re-secured his starting spot at wide receiver.
The loss of Bill Romonowski has gone virtually unnoticeable as Ian Gold, John Mobley and Al Wilson began hitting everyone and everything in sight. Romo's absence has opened the door for others to become the vocal and emotional leaders, and the linebacking corps. is stepping up to the challenge.
"In a way, Romo held a lot of guys back from being the vocal type on the field because he wouldn't give guys a chance," Mobley told reporters. "Now the players here respect myself and Al (Wilson) a lot more than when Bill was here. I think in that regard we'll be able to get a lot more done."
Rookie safety Sam Brandon has looked impressive throughout the first week. No stranger to hitting, Brandon has delivered numerous hits on anyone unfortunate enough to head his direction. If the intensity continues he should prove to be a steal as a fourth round pick.
Although it's still early, look for Ray Rhodes defense to climb well above the twenty-second ranking it held in last season's 8-8 debacle.
Rouen and Elam are as steady as they get, unfortunately getting them the ball has not been easy. At this stage Denver is sorely in need of a long snapper with any consistency.
As far as the other special team positions, the final weeks of training camp will prove their worth. Some of the Broncos biggest names have started out on special teams, and with several positions already overloaded it will be survival of the most physically fit that dictate who Denver decides to keep on the roster.
If the Broncos can remain healthy in key positions, they should make a serious run at the AFC crown. Shanahan will not be satisfied with anything less than a playoff spot, and will drop the bomb in a minute if any of his starters fail to produce. This includes Griese, who may not make it past midseason with Beuerlein standin in the wings.
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