Broncos Update Insider - 8/24

Kyle Orton showed he was capable of handling the rumblings of a quarterback controversy in Denver. It probably helped that he didn't pay much attention to the criticism.

Orton followed a three-interception preseason debut at San Francisco with a very efficient night at Seattle, completing 18 of 26 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an ill-advised left handed interception, but overall his performance was a step in the right direction.

Any talk of a quarterback controversy, which came entirely from fans and media because coach Josh McDaniels stood by Orton the entire time he was struggling, might cool even further because Chris Simms left the game against Seattle with an apparent left ankle injury that knocked him out of the game.

Orton never seemed concerned about his slow start. He has rarely shown any emotion since coming to Denver, good or bad. His even-keeled approach to the game probably helped when fans were calling for Simms after the first preseason game.

"I understand they want us to be playing perfect right off the bat, and that's just how it is in this league," Orton said. "But I just try to stay on track, do my job and get better."

Orton is under a little more pressure than many quarterbacks because he's the only one taking over for a Pro Bowler who was traded in his prime. Jay Cutler was traded to Chicago this offseason after a spat with McDaniels. Cutler comes back to Denver this week for the Bears' third preseason game, which will be at Invesco Field at Mile High.

In college, Orton followed Heisman Trophy finalist Drew Brees at Purdue. His college coordinator, Blaine Bennett, said Orton handled that situation the same way - by quietly going about his job and not letting outside criticism affect him.

"He's been through this before," Bennett said. "He's been through adversity in his career."

If Orton can finish the preseason with some momentum, the Broncos should feel better about their offense going forward. Orton can function well in McDaniels' system, distributing the ball out of spread formations and letting his receivers turn upfield and move the chains. With a good running game and a fantastic offensive line, Orton could put together a solid season, even though it got off to a very slow start.

--At some point, Brandon Marshall decided he didn't want to play for the Denver Broncos anymore. And it seems nothing will change his mind.

He reported to camp, but he admitted that was only to avoid fines. That was also just the start of more problems. Marshall missed a couple weeks with a hamstring injury - although, in fairness, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels' refusal to discuss anything about injuries made his absence more mysterious than it was. He was found not guilty on a misdemeanor battery charge in Atlanta, then was upset when a Broncos public-relations staffer told the team not to celebrate his victory in the media.

"I think the biggest thing was, it was really disappointing hearing that some of my teammates on one of the best days for the past three years, of my life, some of my teammates were coached to say 'Don't say you're happy for Brandon,'" Marshall said.

Marshall acted slighted again, displaying some odd behavior during a practice on Aug. 19 in which he didn't take any normal offensive reps (all of his reps came with the scout team as he played Seattle receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh), didn't take his scout team jersey off, stood with the defensive players when he was not in an 11-on-11 drill and didn't run conditioning routes at the end of practice with the other receivers. Then, after practice, he admitted he wasn't even close to learning the playbook.

"You can't go out there and take reps with the 'ones' if you don't know what you're doing out there," Marshall said.

He was left home with the Broncos' injured players from the second preseason game at Seattle, even though he said "I feel great" after that practice on Aug. 19. Marshall said earlier in the week that he wondered if the situation got to the point where it was irreconcilable.

"Unfortunately, sometimes it gets to that point," Marshall said. "There are trust issues on both sides. It's understandable. We've got to try our best to move forward."

While Marshall seems to be doing everything to force the Broncos to satisfy his trade request, the team is in a difficult spot. The Broncos don't want to give Marshall away to another team -- they already traded disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago -- but need to get him on the same page with the rest of the team. McDaniels has said Marshall will not be a distraction, but he might not have much control over that as long as the star receiver remains upset with the team.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- As training camp ended, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels made it clear his quarterbacks were still learning his complicated system.

"Neither one of them is where I want them to be, ultimately," McDaniels said. "That is a process that doesn't happen in two weeks. It is going to happen over time. They are no different than any other player on our team. They have got to get better."

-- Rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater hasn't received many reps in practice because the two veteran quarterbacks ahead of him need as many as they can get to learn the system. Still, Brandstater thinks he has done pretty well in his limited time.

"It's more about making those reps count," Brandstater said. "And when I get my chance I have to make the most of it."

-- Like most NFL fans, the Broncos were curious to see what quarterback Brett Favre will do with Minnesota this year. Favre came out of retirement to sign with the Vikings.

"I'm interested to see how it turns out," Broncos quarterback Chris Simms said. "They have the potential to have a good team there. We'll see if the big man can still sling it around, which I'm sure he can."

-- The Broncos and Patriots worked out a trade that sent defensive end Le Kevin Smith to Denver. There is obviously familiarity between the sides. Josh McDaniels served as offensive coordinator for Bill Belichick before getting the head coaching job in Denver.

"Bill's great to work with," McDaniels said. "We continue to have a solid relationship and we didn't have any arguments about this thing."

-- McDaniels ran a physical camp, with all but four practices in full pads, and took it easy on them at the end. On the final day of practice he cut out one session, and the one remaining session was at half speed.

"I commend them on the way they approached training camp and worked," McDaniels said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "In that meeting with ownership, it was told to me they'll do their best to accommodate me with that wish. And I'm still here. I'm a Bronco and all I can do now is do my best to get in my best football shape and be that player I was the past three years." -- Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, referring to a meeting with owner Pat Bowlen in which he requested a trade.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos traded a fifth-round pick in 2010 to New England for defensive end Le Kevin Smith, who should immediately contribute in Denver's line rotation. The Broncos are looking for big defensive linemen and at 308 pounds Smith fits in well.

The issue for Smith is he doesn't have much more experience than anyone else in the rotation, especially at end. He played 31 games over three years with the Patriots, but has no NFL starts.

-- OG Pat Murray was released. He had been working with the third team and was unlikely to make the team.

-- DE Kenny Peterson had a pair of sacks against Seattle. He will be a starter at end for the Broncos to begin the season.

-- RB Darius Walker had a decent night against Seattle, rushing for 48 yards on 11 carries. He was Denver's leader in both categories.

-- RB Marcus Thigpen, who was an undrafted rookie, was signed to provide some depth in the backfield after Knowshon Moreno hurt his knee in the preseason opener.

-- S Josh Barrett is working a lot with Denver's "big nickel" packages, and the big and athletic second-year player can also help on special teams.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Broncos broke camp on Aug. 20. The team will spend the final two weeks of preseason getting used to Josh McDaniels' typical game preparation they'll see in the regular season.



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