Broncos Update Insider - 8/5

Kicker Matt Prater will be on the hot seat all season because he is replacing the Denver Broncos' all-time leading scorer, Jason Elam.

Kicker Matt Prater will be on the hot seat all season because he is replacing the Broncos' all-time leading scorer, Jason Elam.

But Prater is off to a fantastic start. At the end of the first full week of training camp, he wowed teammates by kicking a 59-yard field goal, then backing up and nailing a 68-yarder with room to spare.

"That would have been good at 73 or 74," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Prater also hit a 54-yard "game-winning" field goal at the end of practice after the offense drove the ball downfield during a two-minute drill.

Denver's decision to make a lukewarm offer to Elam, which led to his departure to Atlanta in free agency, was met with some skepticism by the players. Elam was great in the clutch for the Broncos, hitting four game-ending, game-winning field goals last season. One of the biggest challenges for the Broncos this offseason was settling the kicker situation.

Denver didn't waver much on Prater. They looked at a few veterans but never made a serious run at any of them, and undrafted rookie Garrett Hartley was cut before training camp.

Prater knew it was his job to lose, and he hopes he gained some trust in the locker room with his impressive start to camp.

"It felt good to just show the team that I can do it and give them some confidence in me so in the game when I do have a chance to have a game winner, they expect me to make it and they are not thinking 'flip a coin,'" Prater said. "I maybe got a little bit more confidence out of the team and a little more confidence in myself."

Denver is also settling a battle at punter, where the team is almost assured of having another unproven player. Brett Kern, an undrafted rookie, and Sam Paulescu are the two punters in camp. Paulescu only has one game of NFL experience.

Paulescu is a little more steady but doesn't have the long range that Kern has on his kicks. The team will probably continue to split reps between the two until one of them takes hold of the job, which is most likely to be settled in preseason games.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Broncos started training camp on July 25, and it ends on Aug. 12. Denver will then hold practices with the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 13 and 14.

NOTES, QUOTES

Entering his 16th NFL season, safety John Lynch wasn't going to be a dominating force for the Denver Broncos.

His departure still leaves some holes. Lynch wasn't an every-down starter for the Broncos in training camp, coming off the field in passing situations, so he told coach Mike Shanahan he wanted to be released so he could look for a better situation. The Broncos granted that request.

Lynch's main value on the field to the Broncos was against the run. Denver is coming off a miserable season against the run, and Lynch had an injury-plagued season.

More than anything he would have done on the field, Lynch will be missed as a leader in the locker room. Lynch, along with linebacker Al Wilson, were the unquestioned leaders of the defense for Lynch's first three seasons. Then Wilson was released before last season, and Lynch is gone as well.

"You never find players like John Lynch from a leadership standpoint," Shanahan said. "They're one in a million. He's got everything you look for in a person, as a player."

--The team took a business-as-usual approach to receiver Brandon Marshall the first week of camp, even though Marshall was waiting to hear from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about a possible suspension.

Marshall showed he is way past an arm injury that was a concern this offseason. He has been perhaps the best player in the Broncos' camp, making several spectacular catches every day. The Broncos will adjust if Marshall is suspended, which they were hoping to avoid.

"We'll wait and see," coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's ready to go, he's ready to practice, and regardless of whatever happens, he's going to be out there practicing."

--Tackle Gary Zimmerman's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a source of pride for the Broncos. Zimmerman was adamant he was going into the Hall as a Bronco, even though he spent more seasons with Minnesota. The Broncos now claim two Hall of Famers, Zimmerman and John Elway.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Zimmerman's toughness set a tone for his teams. Zimmerman once was told at halftime of a game against the Raiders that he had to come out of the game because his shoulder was out of place.

"He said, 'I am not going out until No. 7 (Elway) goes out,'" Shanahan said. "With his shoulder out of his joint, he goes out and plays the entire second half. He wasn't coming out unless John was coming out. That gives an idea of his mental toughness."

--The Broncos rookies were thrilled to have a day and a half off after their first week of training camp. They survived the mental and physical stress intact, but needed a rest on their time off.

"Sleep, get a lot of sleep," rookie receiver Eddie Royal said about his plans during the short break. "I'm going to have the playbook in the bed, so I don't have to go anywhere."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I felt like I owed it to him to look at his options, football, retirement, whatever he wants to do." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, on S John Lynch.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

C Casey Wiegmann has filled in for Tom Nalen, who has a sore knee. The Broncos are comfortable with Wiegmann, a longtime ironman center for the Chiefs.

TE Nate Jackson doesn't get as much attention as Tony Scheffler, but is a fine receiver and was working with the starting offense in two TE sets ahead of Scheffler through the first week of camp.

LB Jamie Winborn should have a role on the Broncos. He was a very good special teams player last year and finished the season strong at linebacker. The Broncos would feel comfortable going with him at linebacker if there was an injury to a starter.

S Roderick Rogers moved up the depth chart to second team when John Lynch left. Rogers got a chance to be on the active roster at the end of last season, but needs to play well in preseason games.

G Montrae Holland did not practice the first week of camp because he reported overweight. He might not have a starting job when he comes back, because the team is happy with the work of Chris Kuper at right guard and Ryan Harris at right tackle.



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