Broncos Update Insider - 8/10

For the first time in franchise history, the Denver Broncos had two first-round picks. And for the first time, the Broncos had two first-rounders hold out at the start of training camp.

Linebacker Robert Ayers, the 18th overall pick, signed his deal on Aug. 2. Running back Knowshon Moreno, the 12th pick, agreed to terms on Aug. 7. Neither player missed so much time - camp began in full on July 31 - that they can't recover and have a major impact early in the season.

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels didn't rule out Moreno being able to crack the starting lineup before the regular season.

"He'll earn his role after he gets here," McDaniels said hours before Moreno ended his holdout. "Whatever he does with the opportunities he has once he gets here, that'll tell us where to play him and how much to play him."

Moreno was running third behind LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter during the offseason. The holdout won't help him, but he will move up the depth chart. He is a dynamic player who was selected so high because the Broncos think he can play on all three downs. Even if he doesn't win the starting job by the time Denver opens the regular season, he will have a significant role right away.

Ayers didn't miss as much time, and should also work his way up the depth chart. When he reported to camp he began by working on the second-team base defense behind Elvis Dumervil at right outside linebacker. Ayers also got opportunities to be with the starters in the nickel packages.

One thing that is clear is as of right now, Ayers is a linebacker. He can also play end, and McDaniels indicated at the draft he might start his career at end, but in his first week of camp he was almost exclusively an outside linebacker. Ayers said he dropped a few pounds before training camp in preparation of playing linebacker most of the time.

Ayers should crack a front seven that is still in flux. Dumervil has played well during camp, and Darrell Reid and Tim Crowder are battling on the left side. Somehow, Ayers should find a way to crack the starting lineup, or at very least play extensively on passing downs.

Ayers has shown he physically belongs, making a few nice plays his first few days in training camp.

"He doesn't know what to do half the time, yet," McDaniels said after Ayers' first practice. "He's very physical, and got a long way to go but it's great to have him here."

CAMP CALENDAR: Broncos camp, which began in earnest with two full-squad practices on July 31, ends on Aug. 20.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Safety Brian Dawkins is out for at least a couple weeks with a broken hand. As long as he physically comes back 100 percent, his absence shouldn't be much of a problem. He is a veteran and should not have a problem with the mental side of things.

Rookie fourth-round pick David Bruton has been in Dawkins' place with the starters.

"What happened with Dawkins it's sad but you get your call and it's time to step up and be a man about it, do your job and hope for 'Dawk' to have a speedy recovery," Bruton said.

--Receiver Brandon Marshall sat out most of the first week of training camp with a left leg injury. Coach Josh McDaniels won't discuss the specifics of the injury or when Marshall might be back, but it appeared to be a hamstring injury.

Marshall didn't practice at all in the offseason as he recovered from hip surgery, and had only a little bit of practice time before suffering his most recent injury. He hasn't had a lot of time working with new quarterback Kyle Orton.

--Kicker Matt Prater has had an inconsistent camp, and drew the ire of the fans when he missed consecutive 43-yard attempts during a scrimmage at Invesco Field at Mile High. Prater had a second-half slump last year, but McDaniels said he has faith in his kicker.

"He's made a whole lot of kicks, too," McDaniels said. "We'll see and evaluate every player in the preseason."

--The first week of McDaniels' first camp featured a full-pads practice almost every time Denver took the field, running before or after most practices and players running laps as punishment for mental errors or mistakes like fumbled quarterback-center exchanges. The players were happy to finally get some time off at the end of the first week.

"This is grueling," defensive tackle Kenny Peterson said. "Physically demanding, mentally draining."

--The Broncos had their rookies, including rookie coaching assistant Ben McDaniels (Josh's brother), dive through water and mud to pick up loose balls before a practice as part of some light hazing. Long-snapper Lonie Paxton kept the hose running on the muddy part of the field as players dove head first into the muck.

"We've just got to have fun with it," rookie cornerback Alphonso Smith said. "It's a part of being a rookie."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We'll come back and hit those from now on." -- QB Kyle Orton on some of his passes that didn't connect during the team's first scrimmage.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Linebacker Nick Greisen was put on injured reserve with a knee injury, the first major casualty of training camp for the Broncos. Greisen was a backup at inside linebacker and could play special teams. Later in the week the Broncos put defensive lineman J'Vonne Parker, who had been running with the second-team defense at end, on injured reserve with an apparent knee injury.

Spencer Larsen took Greisen's spot with the second-team defense. Linebacker Braxton Kelley was signed to take Greisen's spot on the roster.

--DE Nic Clemons was out for a few days with a scary-looking knee injury, but returned to the practice field by the end of the week. Clemons was working with the second-team defense at end.

--LB Spencer Larsen has continued to play on both sides of the ball. He will even switch from linebacker to fullback during practice, and even sometimes in the middle of a drill.

--CB Alphonso Smith appears to be the Broncos' top choice to return kickoffs, with Eddie Royal currently holding the punt return job. Smith is backing up Royal on punt returns.

--CB Andre Goodman has showed some nice ball skills during camp. He had a couple of interceptions off Kyle Orton in the team's scrimmage near the end of the first week of camp.

--RB Peyton Hillis continues to see work at tailback in one-back sets. He is also scheduled to be the fullback during the few instances the Broncos go with two backs.



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