The Denver Broncos held their first training camp practice of the Peyton Manning era on Thursday morning and it didn't go without massive fanfare. The Broncos drew 4,372 fans, setting a record for the Broncos' Dove Valley location. The previous record set was on August 1st, 2010 when 3,103 fans came to see Tim Tebow in his rookie season.
There were other tidbits of note outside of 'Manning-mania'. Here are a few notes from Thursday's practice.
With DT Justin Bannan sitting out due to a calf injury, Mitch Unrein took first team snaps on defense with Ty Warren. Unrein was an undrafted free agent who was a part of the Broncos' defensive line rotation in 2011. Unrein also moved ahead of previous No. 1 on depth chart, Sealver Siliga.
With a six-game suspension to begin the season, D.J. Williams will not be with the Broncos' No. 1 defense during training camp. Wesley Woodyard will receive the first crack to take over Williams' spot at weakside linebacker. Nate Irving and rookie Danny Trevathan will also receive opportunities to win the spot. It is the first time since Williams was drafted in 2004 that D.J. will not be a part of the first team defense.
Safeties Mike Adams and Rahim Moore were on the first team defense. Quinton Carter was with No. 2.
Caleb Hanie is No. 2 on depth chart, Adam Weber back to No. 3, and Brock Osweiler at No. 4. Whoever loses the battle between Hanie and Weber for the backup spot behind Manning will likely be cut. If Weber loses battle, it's possible he gets re-signed to the practice squad.
RG Chris Kuper is dealing with an ankle/fibula injury. Kuper was at practice yesterday, but backup Manny Ramirez was on first team drills.
Lance Ball was behind Willis McGahee in team drills. Ball played as the No. 2 running back. Knowshon Moreno was at practice, but did not participate in team drills as he was wearing a knee brace. Mario Fanin, who is competing for a roster spot, got some reps with the No. 2 offense.
The defensive tackle positions are up for grabs. It could go any way between Justin Bannan, Mitch Unrein, Ty Warren, Sealver Siliga, Derek Wolfe and Kevin Vickerson. Entering training camp, Siliga and Warren were listed as the No. 1 defensive tackles on the depth chart. Apparently now, Unrein and Warren are No. 1.
The D.J. Williams tidbit isn't a shock. Williams will be out for nearly the first half of the season, and guys that need the reps who will take over Williams' spot for the time being and possibly in the future need these reps. Woodyard was excellent in his playing time in 2011, as he ranked in the top 10 in total tackles during the first half of the season. If Woodyard wins this battle for Williams' weakside linebacker position, and plays as well as he did in 2011, it wouldn't shock me to see the Broncos rid themselves of Williams following 2012.
Adams will likely start for the Broncos in 2012. Moore and Carter will be competing with one another to start alongside Adams.
The quarterback battle for No. 2 seems to fluctuate. In mini-camp, Weber had the inside track. With the start of training camp, it appears Hanie has the inside track. The one positive to this situation would be if Hanie outperforms Weber, as previously mentioned, the Broncos could always keep Weber around on the practice squad for another season.
Kuper is injured. Ramirez is a versatile lineman who can play numerous positions, but as of right now, he's nothing more than a backup. Kuper is not in danger of losing his starting spot.
The No. 2 position at running back is up for grabs. Ronnie Hillman just signed his rookie contract a mere two days ago. By the end of training camp and the preseason, we should have a better idea of who the true backup will be.
Some early notes on Friday afternoon's practice:
Practice was due to begin at 2:20. Peyton Manning was the first Bronco to arrive, at 2:05.
After about 10 minutes, there was a lightning delay. Broncos resumed practice shortly after.
Due to weather issues, Broncos were forced to move training camp into indoor facility. Practice is now closed off for the public to view.
Here are a few pictures from today's training camp.
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