Competition heats up for Broncos defensive starting spots
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado –Broncos coach Josh McDaniels may have settled on a starting quarterback during his three-day mandatory minicamp, but the team will head into training camp next month with open competition at a number of positions.
Let the battle continue, especially at defensive line positions, outside linebacker and running back.
“It’ll be an interesting training camp for us because we’ve got a lot of good football players at the same positions, and those guys understand their roles in terms of battling for spots and the playing time that they’re going to try to earn,” McDaniels said.
“We’re looking forward to that, and there were a lot of battles we couldn’t really figure out in the spring because we don’t have pads on. A lot of things to figure out, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Outside linebacker is expected to be one of the more interesting competitions because most, if not all, of the players fighting for playing time are playing the position for the first time. Converted defensive linemen Tim Crowder and Elvis Dumervil and rookie Robert Ayers each spent significant time rotating in with the first-team defense throughout the weekend.
“I think a lot of them were foreign to the position, but not quite anymore,” McDaniels said.
“I think we’re going to see a tremendous amount of improvement from that group from the beginning of August until our first game of the season in September and then throughout the year.”
The team spent much of Sunday’s two-hour practice working on late-game scenarios with the first-team offense, led by quarterback Kyle Orton, trying to drive the length of the field repeatedly against the first-team defense.
The goal, McDaniels said, was for players to experience a range of situations, from being backed up at their own 1-yard line to having to run onto the field to attempt a field goal without any timeouts remaining.
“We put a lot of pressure on the defense and the offense to know some different situations that we put into those drives, and that’s really how close games in this league are won,” McDaniels said. “Most of them are determined under seven points, and if you can win those one or two situations, you have a chance to win the game.”
Veteran receiver Jabar Gaffney said the team will ultimately benefit from those drills once the season starts.
“It was certainly our best work of the weekend, so that’s good to go out on a positive note,” Gaffney said. “We were able to get stuff done, and we can actually see that when everybody does their job, we can be a pretty good offense.”
Longtime Broncos receiver Rod Smith strolled the sidelines for the latter half of Sunday’s practice and spent time talking with several young players, including receiver Eddie Royal and rookie cornerback Alphonso Smith, after the workout.
“Anytime guys like Rod Smith come around, it’s a great influence for our younger players,” McDaniels said.
Royal said Smith reminded him to focus on the “little things” during offseason workouts.
“He’s got great knowledge,” Royal said. “He played for a long time, so my ears are wide open.”