Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws at training camp on Saturday, July 28, 2012. (BroncoTalk.net photo)
The Denver Broncos donned the pads for the first time Saturday morning, and the sound of popping hard plastic echoed across the fields of Dove Valley. “It’s not really football when you don’t have pads on,” rookie defensive lineman Derek Wolfe agreed. They were a welcome addition to the Broncos training camp atmosphere.
So were the ooh’s and aah’s of the crowd, as Ring of Famers Karl Mecklenburg, Terrell Davis, and, of course, John Elway attended Saturday’s session, while Peyton Manning and Eric Decker put on a clinic for the 4,443 fans in attendance. That number broke the record set Thursday of 4,172; it was a hell of a Saturday morning show. One we’ll call, The Manning to Decker Show.
Safety Quinton Carter was held out following his hamstring injury yesterday. John Fox was hopeful they’ll get him back soon. Jamie Blatnick (ankle) continued to be limited.
John Elway (BroncoTalk.net photo)
Right tackle Orlando Franklin left practice early with a “crick in his neck,” per Coach Fox.
THE MANNING TO DECKER SHOW
Wide receiver vs. defensive back one-on-ones are a highlight-worthy drill every practice, and today’s was no exception. The second snap of the drill was the best play of the day.
Eric Decker squared off against the one and only Champ Bailey, giving fans the perfect early setup: Hall of Fame quarterback vs. Hall of Fame cornerback, with the former’s favorite target in between. The setup didn’t disappoint. Decker ran deep down the right sideline, getting a step on Bailey as Manning threw for the end zone. The two connected for the touchdown right in front of the fans, who went absolutely wild.
It was the first of many Manning-to-Decker connections Saturday. In the first set of 7-on-7 work, Manning, cool as ever, went 6 for 6. His first three completions were all to Eric Decker, once over Bailey, once beyond Mike Adams, and once just plain wide open.
“(T)he way he’s throwing, the leadership he has in the huddle, the calls he’s making, it’s fun coming out every day,” Decker said after practice.
Denver Broncos Ring of Fame linebacker Karl Mecklenburg talks to Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil during training camp practice Saturday, July 28, 2012. (BroncoTalk.net photo)
Not everyone was a fan of “The Manning to Decker Show,” though — defensive stars like Elvis Dumervil were miffed at the offense’s early success.
“As of right now, we don’t like those guys. I’m not on board with ‘The Show’ or whatever that is,” Dumervil said, half-joking. “But those guys are good, give them credit. They’re going to make us better. That’ll be good for us.”
“(Manning’s) got the offense in sync, and they’re moving pretty fast,” Dumervil said. “We gotta keep working.”
Whether the entire offense is in sync remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: early in camp, Decker has emerged as Manning’s favorite target.
OTHER ONE-ON-ONE WORK
Decker wasn’t the only player to have an impressive play in the one-on-one drill.
- Wide receiver Matthew Willis cut twice on his wheel route on the left sideline, but was smothered by Tracy Porter. I thought to myself, “Wow, excellent coverage,” just as Peyton Manning threw behind Willis anyway. Somehow, miraculously, Willis dove back and hauled in the catch, to Porter’s (and my) disbelief.
- Demaryius Thomas wasn’t going to let Decker have all the fun. He ousted Porter for a decent catch early before beating Omar Bolden cleanly on a deep post for a touchdown.
- Brandon Stokley showed an impressive level of nimbleness for his 36-year old frame, outrunning Ramzee Robinson to the end zone after a medium-length grab.
DEREK WOLFE TAKES CONTROL
Denver Broncos rookie defensive lineman Derek Wolfe (BroncoTalk.net photo)
The rookie had a very nice practice Saturday, his first in full pads, where he could actually perform the techniques he will have to hone in game day. It was difficult scouting his footwork, hands or leverage from my vantage point, but Wolfe showed tenacity. On consecutive plays he registered a half-sack, then dove on a botched snap for a fumble recovery. Later, I saw him push the left guard nearly into quarterback Caleb Hanie, then get around his blocker to nearly sack the backup signal caller. It was a good day for Wolfe, and we’ll have more on his progress in an in-focus post later.
HIGHLIGHTING THE BIG HITS
Here were some of the big hits from Saturday’s first fully-padded practice.
- Dumervil wasn’t the only defensive player getting tired of The Manning to Decker Show. Danny Trevathan delivered a smacking helmet to helmet hit on Decker that forced a Manning incompletion with Bailey covering.
- Later, rookie linebacker Steven Johnson broke through the line of scrimmage to pop running back Mario Fannin in one of the louder hits of the day.
- Another hit in good coverage caused WR Mark Dell to bobble the football, which was caught for an interception by Elliot Coffey, who took it to the house.
Hits are fun, but hands off Peyton Manning. “You get close and feel like you hit him,” Dumervil said. “Come game day we’ll have our opportunities.”
Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Brock Osweiler throws during training camp Saturday, July 28, 2012. (BroncoTalk.net photo)
BROCK OSWEILER SEES #2 WORK
The Broncos have been rotating their quarterbacks quite a bit, but Brock Osweiler got more work than he had in the previous two practices. He was the second quarterback for two seven-on-seven sessions and most of the full team drills.
Osweiler’s delivery looked less awkward to me today (maybe I’m just getting used to it), but he’s still clearly the greenest when it comes to understanding the playbook. He’ll take the longest to throw and is the most susceptible to sacks, and often a coach’s whistle would blow in 7-on-7 work, dictating to Osweiler that time was up on the play and he needed to dump it off.
That being said, it was his best practice overall. He didn’t take any sacks that I saw, and he didn’t pull the football and start running, as he had in previous practices. He was mostly accurate with his throws and even delivered a few with some real zip. I’d like to continue to see him get #2 work.
KUPER, BANNAN TAKE SOME SNAPS WITH THE ONE’S
Caution has been the word when it comes to starting interior linemen Chris Kuper and Justin Bannan, but both saw a couple of snaps with the starters, pads and all.
(I do mean, “a couple,” literally. The two were in then out two plays later.)
- Wide receiver Tyler Grisham has a very nice practice. The second year player out of Clemson had a pair of highlight reel catches, one a diving catch that went through Duke Ihenacho‘s hands, while another was a tough grab with Syd’Quan Thompson in tight coverage.
- Willis McGahee broke free on the outside on a couple of runs in full team drills.
- I continue to be impressed by rookie Malik Jackson, who added at least another half sack in today’s action.
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. (BroncoTalk.net photo)
Check out Facebook.com/BroncoTalk for a photo gallery from today’s practice.
The Broncos will hold a media-only walkthrough at 6:00 p.m. MT. Tomorrow there is a practice open to the public at 2:20 p.m.