Published: August 11th, 2009 | Tags: Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokley, Casey Wiegmann, Denver Broncos, Eddie Royal, Elvis Dumervil, Jabar Gaffney, Josh McDaniels, Knowshon Moreno, Kyle Orton, Mike Nolan, Robert Ayers
I spent Sunday at Denver Broncos training camp and have many blue-and-orange thoughts to share.
- Broncos training camp 2009 has a distinct sound to it — not pads popping or coaches coaching or fans screaming but music blaring. That’s right, music, of all kinds, blasting through the loudspeaker throughout the entire workout. Coach Josh McDaniels has taken the idea of canned crowd music to the next level. He believes music and lyrics are more distracting than the taped fan noise that most teams use. So while enjoying practice, one also can groove to the late Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” the always inspiring “Eye of the Tiger” from Survivor or stadium staple “Welcome to the Jungle” from Guns N’ Roses. My favorite? “Rock the Casbah,” an early 80′s classic from The Clash.
- I spent time with my old college center at Iowa, Casey Wiegmann, who’s entering his 14th NFL season and coming off his first Pro Bowl. He told me McDaniels’ camp was the most physically challenging of his career and the offense the most difficult to absorb. Coming from a man who has endured Bill Parcells and Dick Vermeil training camps, I thought his sentiments were very telling. By the way, Wiegmann has strung together 127 consecutive starts and played 8,041 consecutive snaps. How’s that for tough and reliable?
- Rookie RB Knowshon Moreno’s first day of practice was Sunday, and he was a crowd favorite. Every time Moreno broke through the line, he did so to a spirited cheer from the hundreds in attendance. While watching Moreno alertly jump across the formation to willingly pick up a free-rushing defensive back during a blitz period, I was reminded of what McDaniels told me moments after the team drafted the former Georgia star 12th overall in April. The coach said the Broncos valued Moreno not only because of his ability to make people miss but also what he brings to the table on third down. Moreno can catch the ball out of the backfield and be an asset in pass protection. Quite a compliment for a young running back.
- I entered the camp a Kyle Orton believer and I left the same way. I don’t think he’s a Pro Bowl, upper-echelon-type quarterback, but he’s smart, tough, and a more gifted passer than most people believe. He won’t carry the Broncos to a 10-6 record by himself, but I don’t think he’s a liability, either. I’m on record as saying Orton will do more positive than negative in Denver this season.
- Speaking of Orton, he’ll welcome back WR Brandon Marshall with open arms if and when that time comes. But the trio of Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokely were quite impressive throughout practice — particularly in the all-important, end-of-workout, 11-on-11 sessions. Royal is an up-and-coming star, Gaffney is crafty and solid, and Stokely will play the slot position in the three-wide set as well as Wes Welker did in the same system last year in New England.
- New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has his hands full transitioning this group from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4. But Nolan is a terrific defensive coach, and after his stint as the 49ers’ head coach, I get the feeling from being around him that he’s energized by this challenge with the Broncos. He has the team’s two best pass rushers, Elvis Dumervil and rookie Robert Ayers, playing the all-important outside linebacker position, which means they both will rush and drop into coverage. Neither looks natural or comfortable yet doing the latter. That will be a work in progress throughout the preseason.
So Broncos fans, don’t book your hotels for Miami just yet … but take that finger off the panic button. I saw a team that’s closer to competitive than they are to being bottom-feeders.
– Paul Burmeister