When Chris Simms was signed in March and Kyle Orton was acquired in an April trade, they had to learn every nuance of Josh McDaniels' complicated offense. The first minicamps were hard, with plenty of mental mistakes, but slowly they came around.
When Orton and Simms reported early for training camp for a few extra practices with the rookies, McDaniels was impressed.
"The information flow in the quarterback room is much quicker," McDaniels said. "Their recall is certainly very high right now and they know what to do."
The challenge during training camp was more physical. Both quarterbacks needed the camp repetitions to master what they had learned in meetings and from cramming at home with their playbooks.
Naming Orton the starter in June was important for a couple of reasons. Among them was that it cut off another possible distraction for a team that has had plenty. Another was that Orton could take all the first-team repetitions and get comfortable with his teammates.
"Obviously, it helps to be able to get the majority of the reps and get the reps that I need," Orton said. "So that's great to be the face in the huddle and try to develop that leadership role starting right now."
McDaniels wouldn't rule out Simms beginning the season as the starter, saying if he was the best quarterback by September then he would start. Realistically, it would take a monumental effort from Simms to win the job.
Simms has looked strong through the offseason and in camps, showing off good arm strength. He said he feels good after a scary spleen injury with Tampa Bay in 2006. He should be a solid backup for the team this season.
Orton doesn't have Simms' arm strength but he had a good first half of last season in Chicago before an ankle injury slowed him down. He is a smart player and can employ McDaniels' offensive scheme, which is heavy on underneath crossing routes.
--When the Denver Broncos rookies reported to training camp, running back Knowshon Moreno and linebacker Robert Ayers weren't with them as they remained unsigned.
That wasn't a huge problem for the Broncos, but it started becoming one four days later when the full squad took the field for training camp practices and the first-round picks were still holdouts.
Moreno and Ayers are both considered good bets to start right away, but fall behind with every practice they miss. Each day the Broncos go through installation, and they can't go back and do it all again when Ayers and Moreno get to camp.
"I am not going to get frustrated with the process," McDaniels said to a question regarding Ayers. "We have got a lot of things to work on with the players that are out here. Hopefully, it is done very soon, and when it is done, we look forward to getting him in here and trying to play catch-up."
What has happened during the rookies' absence is veterans are getting more repetitions and some are taking advantage. LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter are splitting first-team reps at tailback, usually with Jordan going in first.
"This offseason I put in the work to hopefully be in my best," said Jordan, who lost 20 pounds in the offseason and weighed in at 228 pounds, the lightest of his career. "It's a great opportunity."
Jordan and Buckhalter were ahead of Moreno during all the offseason practices, so perhaps the players gaining the most from Moreno's absence are Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain. Hillis was penciled in at fullback but is getting a lot of time at tailback in single-back sets. Torain, who is coming off a knee injury, looked healthy and strong in the first couple days of camp.
At outside linebacker, Darrell Reid and Elvis Dumervil were the starters as Ayers held out. Both are transitioning from defensive line to outside linebacker and can use the extra practice time. Ayers had taken one of the starting outside linebacker spots by the end of offseason practices.
CAMP CALENDAR: Broncos camp begins in full on July 31, when veterans have their first practice, and ends on Aug. 20. On July 27, rookies will report to training camp. The Broncos will also practice twice at Invesco Field at Mile High, for the public on Aug. 6 and again on Aug. 10.
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