AFC West: Zac Dysert

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A decision over whether Peyton Manning will, or won't, play quarterback in the 2015 would affect most people who punch the clock day-to-day in the Broncos' suburban Denver complex.

But probably nobody would be more affected than the guy whose locker is next to Manning's -- backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. Since Manning was signed before the 2012 season, Osweiler has been his backup.

Osweiler
Osweiler
A second-round pick in the draft that same year, Osweiler spends more time with Manning than virtually anyone else in the building and Osweiler doesn't know what Manning has planned.

"I have no idea," Osweiler said. "None. I fully expect when Peyton is ready to address it he will. I've been fortunate to be in my situation and will continue to work as hard as I can."

Osweiler has learned at Manning's side, his coaches say he's progressed in an offense that was not built for him, but for a future Hall of Famer who may have the best football recall of any player who has ever lined up behind center.

He's even run the starting offense in practice from time to time. He just hasn't played very much in the last three seasons.

His grand total is 30 pass attempts -- just 10 of those this season -- to go with one touchdown, a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Virgil Green in this year's regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders. Overall he has, at times, shown a top-shelf arm to go with quality mobility, but he has lacked a pocket awareness at times when he has played, often holding the ball a little too long.

But the Broncos feel some of that may be his desire to try to make something happen in the small sample size worth of snaps he has gotten to this point, that it's hard to play with patience when you have waited so long to play. Still, Osweiler said after he takes some down time, he won't adjust his offseason preparation according to whatever Manning decides to do.

"Ever since I've been here I've always taken the approach if you're prepared you don't have to get prepared. I've always prepared every single week, training camp, every single spring, like I was going to be the guy playing. I just went about my business and if my number got called I was ready."

Tuesday Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway addressed his confidence in the Broncos' current depth chart at quarterback with Osweiler and Zac Dysert, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2013.

"We're excited about both of those guys, Zac and Brock," Elway said. "They worked their tail off and have done a heck of a job, so they've made progress, especially Brock has made that progress that you would hope he would make. What's difficult is he hasn't gotten a lot of playing time. When that time comes, you know we'll see where he is and the training that he's gotten up to this point is second to none. (Offensive coordinator) Adam (Gase) and (quarterbacks coach) Greg Knapp have done a great job training Bock and Zac, so we'll see where that is when we get there."

Elway said he told Manning Monday, when the two met in Elway's office, to take "five-six weeks" to make his decision about next season. Elway also added he believed Manning would be back and that he and the Broncos wanted Manning back.

Some pre-game Broncos snacks

November, 2, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some pre-game Denver Broncos nuggets from Gillette Stadium:
  • Stadium workers spent about just more than an hour clearing the snow off the playing field Sunday. They used tractors, a collection of workers with shovels and even a worker or four manning a leaf blower to push some of the larger snow pockets off the FieldTurf surface.
  • While there have been many times early arrivals were greeted to a tarp covering the playing field inside Gillette, that was not case Sunday. There was no tarp covering the field, though forecasts Friday and Saturday said snow was a possibility. Then again, a home-field advantage is a home-field advantage and most teams would be looking to slow down the Broncos' offense.
  • Three hours before kickoff and one Broncos player was going through the paces. Rain or shine or snow, quarterback Zac Dysert always does his game-day work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. Knapp routinely puts Dysert through a series of scenarios in terms of coverages. Dysert, as is usually the case, was the only practice squad player who made the trip.
  • The expectation is that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will use a variety of defensive personnel, especially on the defensive line, to try to slow down the Broncos’ offense. Look for the Broncos, when they step up the pace, to try to limit the Patriots' ability to substitute at times.
  • With one side of Gillette Stadium being open, it’s far more difficult to throw the ball into the open side. The Broncos, like many who play here on less-than-favorable days, may be in a position to call the game different on offense as they play into the open side as opposed to when the offense is moving away from the open side. The Broncos need a big day from running backs Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson and perhaps even the No. 3, C.J. Anderson.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 10

August, 2, 2014
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DENVER -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:


  • The Broncos went through 43 plays -- penalties included -- in the scrimmage portion of Saturday’s work at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Though the defense, as is training camp norm, has been a little ahead of the offense in practices over the past week or so, Saturday was solidly a day for the offense. The three quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert -- were a combined 17-of-21 passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Manning, against the team’s No. 2 defense, was 7-of-10 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Both sides kept things pretty vanilla throughout, but in terms of tempo, the first-, second- and third-team offenses worked efficiently out of the no-huddle look.
  • With the progression of Julius Thomas from two injury-marred seasons to Pro Bowl tight end this past season, Jacob Tamme saw his snap count on offense take a significant dip last season. After a 52-catch season in 2012 when Thomas played in just four games and did not have a catch, Tamme had 264 snaps on offense last season -- 21.9 percent of the team’s snaps. But Saturday Tamme once again showed his value in that break-the-glass-in-case-of-emergency sort of way. With Thomas having been given the day off because of a thigh bruise, Tamme worked at tight end with the starters and finished out the first drive with a diving one-handed catch for a 17-yard touchdown. Tamme, who is also one of the best special teams players on the roster, came within inches of another touchdown catch on the second drive. "Jacob is always there when you need him," Manning said.
  • Manning and the offensive starters worked against the Broncos’ No. 2 defense, so that left Osweiler to have at it against the Broncos' starting defense. Though linebacker Von Miller, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson were held out of the scrimmage, Osweiler faced more pressure in the pass rush than the other two quarterbacks did -- Danny Trevathan had what was called a sack (quarterbacks were not hit) and the second-team offense had five called runs in its 11 plays of work to go with two Osweiler scrambles. However Osweiler was 3-of-3 for 33 yards and a touchdown. Osweiler had a 22-yard completion to former Arizona State teammate Gerell Robinson on a third-and-2 and later had a 2-yard shovel pass to Robinson for a score. "Brock’s had a good camp," Manning said. "He’s just improved every single year that he’s been here and I thought he had a really good day as well."
  • The running back rotation Saturday showed where things are as the first preseason game approaches, Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman worked with the No. 1 offense, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson worked with the second-team offense, and Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay split the carries with the third-team offense. Thompson’s size (225 pounds) and his ability in pass protection and as a receiver have pushed him up the depth chart. Anderson continues to show that dropping almost 20 pounds between minicamp and the start of training camp was a wise move that likely saved him a quality shot at a roster spot, because he was on wobbly ground with the team's decision-makers after the June minicamp.
  • In what was the most extensive live tackling the Broncos have done so far in camp, there were some signs of rust. Hillman broke a tackle on a 10-yard catch-and-run on the team's first drive, rookie wide receiver Bennie Fowler later broke a tackle on a 9-yard gain and the starting defense surrendered a 16-yard run to Anderson and the second-team offense. Defensive end Derek Wolfe said; "obviously we need to work on out tackling." And defensive tackle Terrance Knightson said "We're going against the best offense in the game, so we'll be ready for anybody."
  • Odds and ends: The Broncos' kickers kicked extra-point attempts from the 15-yard line, an experiment in place league-wide for the Hall of Fame game and the first two weeks of the preseason ... Julius Thomas was held out of the scrimmage with a thigh bruise suffered in Friday’s practice, but the injury wasn’t considered serious and following the workout Thomas said; "I’m good." ... There were 38,620 fans on hand for the scrimmage. With the 9,207 who turned out Wednesday in a downpour and 21,993 for a practice last Sunday, 69,820 people turned out for the team’s three stadium practices combined. Fans could not attend practices at the Broncos’ complex during this training camp because of construction at the facility.

Denver Broncos Rookie Report

November, 14, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the season moves beyond the halfway mark the Denver Broncos' rookie class has had limited impact overall so far.

But with a division race still in play and the teeth of the Broncos' schedule staring the team in the pace with two games against the Chiefs to go with a trip to New England sandwiched in between, the Broncos want some of their younger players to step forward.

And with that in mind here is a weekly look at the Broncos' rookie class:

Running back Montee Ball: With reliability being the top priority, Knowshon Moreno got most of the work in the Broncos' 28-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday with 41 plays on offense. By contrast Ball played 19 snaps overall, a total the included five carries for 20 yards. Ball had a 12-yard run in the Broncos' first possession of the second half, tied for his second-longest run of the season. Ball did not get a carry in the first half, but when the Broncos opened the second half in a two tight end look, Ball got some work with that group. The Broncos would like to work him in a little more, but he has to be better in the passing game, including as a receiver and in pass protection.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert got some bonus work in practice this week when Peyton Manning sat out Wednesday's practice. Dysert got some of the snaps that Brock Osweiler would normally take, but Osweiler worked with the starters with Manning having taken the day off. The Broncos continue to like Dysert's progress in his work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp, especially the time the two put in several hours before each game.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson was in uniform for Sunday's game, but did not get any snaps on offense. The Broncos ran the ball just 22 times, their second-lowest total of the season behind their 20 carries in the loss to the Colts, so after Moreno's and Ball's work in the rotation, there were no carries left for Anderson. Anderson played 12 snaps on special teams in the game.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: Williams was a game day inactive for the third time in the last six games Sunday. The first-round pick has been caught in the squeeze by the Broncos' desire to have plenty of defensive backs in uniform – the Broncos had nine defensive backs in uniform against the Chargers and played them all on defense at some point in the game. Jack Del Rio is still confident Williams will find his way into the rotation up front as the Broncos move forward this season. But at the moment he finds himself behind Kevin Vickerson, Terrance Knighton and Mitch Unrein on the interior. As Del Rio put it this week; “He's going to help us, he's going to be a very good player I have no doubts about that.''

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: Webster continues to lead the way in playing time for the team's Class of '13. The Broncos used a variety of combinations in the secondary against the Chargers, including various nickel packages for 42 defensive snaps in the game. In all Webster played 45 snaps on defense in the win to go with 17 snaps on special teams. Defensively Webster finished with five tackles and knocked away one pass.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work toward keeping themselves in the plan moving forward. Painter has continued to work with Alex Gibbs, including some extra on-field time on Monday's with the other practice squad players, and projects to work his way into some kind of reserve role by next summer's training camp if he keeps improving at his current pace.

Denver Broncos Rookie Report

November, 14, 2013
11/14/13
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the season moves beyond the halfway mark the Denver Broncos' rookie class has had limited impact overall so far.

But with a division race still in play and the teeth of the Broncos' schedule staring the team in the pace with two games against the Chiefs to go with a trip to New England sandwiched in between, the Broncos want some of their younger players to step forward.

And with that in mind here is a weekly look at the Broncos' rookie class:

Running back Montee Ball: With reliability being the top priority, Knowshon Moreno got most of the work in the Broncos' 28-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday with 41 plays on offense. By contrast Ball played 19 snaps overall, a total the included five carries for 20 yards. Ball had a 12-yard run in the Broncos' first possession of the second half, tied for his second-longest run of the season. Ball did not get a carry in the first half, but when the Broncos opened the second half in a two tight end look, Ball got some work with that group. The Broncos would like to work him in a little more, but he has to be better in the passing game, including as a receiver and in pass protection.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert got some bonus work in practice this week when Peyton Manning sat out Wednesday's practice. Dysert got some of the snaps that Brock Osweiler would normally take, but Osweiler worked with the starters with Manning having taken the day off. The Broncos continue to like Dysert's progress in his work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp, especially the time the two put in several hours before each game.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson was in uniform for Sunday's game, but did not get any snaps on offense. The Broncos ran the ball just 22 times, their second-lowest total of the season behind their 20 carries in the loss to the Colts, so after Moreno's and Ball's work in the rotation, there were no carries left for Anderson. Anderson played 12 snaps on special teams in the game.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: Williams was a game day inactive for the third time in the last six games Sunday. The first-round pick has been caught in the squeeze by the Broncos' desire to have plenty of defensive backs in uniform – the Broncos had nine defensive backs in uniform against the Chargers and played them all on defense at some point in the game. Jack Del Rio is still confident Williams will find his way into the rotation up front as the Broncos move forward this season. But at the moment he finds himself behind Kevin Vickerson, Terrance Knighton and Mitch Unrein on the interior. As Del Rio put it this week; “He's going to help us, he's going to be a very good player I have no doubts about that.''

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: Webster continues to lead the way in playing time for the team's Class of '13. The Broncos used a variety of combinations in the secondary against the Chargers, including various nickel packages for 42 defensive snaps in the game. In all Webster played 45 snaps on defense in the win to go with 17 snaps on special teams. Defensively Webster finished with five tackles and knocked away one pass.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work toward keeping themselves in the plan moving forward. Painter has continued to work with Alex Gibbs, including some extra on-field time on Monday's with the other practice squad players, and projects to work his way into some kind of reserve role by next summer's training camp if he keeps improving at his current pace.

Broncos Rookie Report: Offense

October, 16, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – It took a little interest from Green Bay this week, but the Denver Broncos' rookie class got an addition to the 53-man roster when wide receiver Tavarres King was elevated from the Broncos’ practice squad Tuesday.

The Packers had expressed some interest, and King said he would prefer to stay in Denver after the Broncos informed him of the promotion.

So, with that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: The Broncos have leaned more and more on Knowshon Moreno of late, and that has limited Ball’s carries. He had three carries for 15 yards against Jacksonville and played just seven snaps overall on offense to go with four in special teams. He was also targeted twice in the passing game, but dropped both passes, something that won’t exactly help his cause moving forward. The drop in the fourth quarter came on what should have been a routine catch-and-run. Moreno has performed well, so he will continue to eat up most of the carries in the offense unless the Broncos get into kill-the-clock mode in the coming weeks, but the mistakes limit both Ball’s and Ronnie Hillman’s carries at times.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback against Jacksonville, and so ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven game-day inactives. He continues to show a quality arm and a willingness to put in the extra time after practice, as well as in the pregame hours on game day.

Running back C.J. Anderson: The structure of the Broncos’ current roster, especially with the team keeping, and using, four tight ends among the game-day roster, has limited Anderson’s chance to be in uniform. The Broncos are using four slots at tight end and have used as many as 10 roster spots at defensive back. As a result, they have not kept a fourth running back in the game-day lineup, so Anderson has been inactive each week, including this past Sunday against Jacksonville. At this point, he may need an injury to one of the top three running backs to find himself in the mix.

Wide receiver Tavarres King: He can thank the injury troubles at wide receiver in Green Bay for his promotion. The Packers, with Randall Cobb suffering a fractured lower leg this past Sunday, were on the hunt for help at wideout for at least the next six weeks. They contacted King’s agent – a player on a team’s practice squad can be signed to any team’s active roster – and made an offer. The player has the choice, however, and the Broncos sweetened the deal with a roster spot, and so King was signed. He’ll have to carve out a special-teams niche quickly if he wants to be on the game-day roster. There aren’t many snaps to go around at wide receiver. The team’s No. 4 wideout, Andre Caldwell, played all of seven snaps against the Jaguars.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick who was waived in the final cuts, is now the lone rookie on offense on the practice squad. He continues to show plenty of athleticism in workouts and has a big upside.

Broncos Rookie Report: Offense

September, 26, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Some in the Denver Broncos' first-year class have found ways to contribute to the team's historic 3-0 start, which has the Broncos leading the league in scoring to this point.

With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's youngsters on offense are doing:

Running back Montee Ball: The Broncos have shown they’d like Ball to be a closer, the guy they put in the backfield to help slam the door when they get the scoreboard the way they like it. But to do that, Ball is going to have to hang onto the football. He lost his second fumble in two games Monday against the Oakland Raiders -- during the four-minute drill, when the Broncos were trying to bleed the clock -- which could certainly affect his snap count in the near future. That's especially true since Ronnie Hillman had one of the best outings of his young career in the victory over the Oakland (66 yards rushing on 7.3 per carry). Ball finished with 17 snaps on offense -- 18 fewer than Knowshon Moreno and seven fewer than Hillman -- and gained 61 yards on his 11 carries (5.5 per).

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback once again against the Raiders and thus one of the Broncos’ seven game-day inactives. Dysert continues to work extra, with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, after each practice as well as before games -- all with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp looking on. He has shown progress because of that, flashing a crisp release and more passes in frame with the receivers than he did at times in training camp, especially with intermediate routes.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson continues to make progress in his recovery from a severe medial collateral ligament sprain suffered in the days following the preseason opener. He has been a full participant in practice this week, but the backfield is already very crowded and his chances of getting a game-day carry are still fairly slim. Coach John Fox was asked this week if Ball’s latest fumble could open the door for Anderson, and he said, “C.J. doesn’t even have a uniform yet. We’ve just got to see that as we go.’’

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived in the final cutdown, and continue to work primarily as scout-team players. King has been one of the receivers running routes for Dysert in post-practice work and Painter has been among a small group of players, including Ben Garland and Winston Justice, who have worked with offensive-line consultant Alex Gibbs following practices.

Broncos Rookie Report: Offense

September, 17, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos first-year class is seeing just how tough it can be to carve out a role on one of the league’s heavyweights. The snaps are hard to come by and they have to be earned with consistency.

With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: Ball is battling to be the Broncos’ grind-it-out option in the run game, especially in late-game, close-it-out scenarios, but he simply has to be more reliable with the ball -- he fumbled into the end zone on the Broncos' first possession this past weekend -- and consistently make a little more of the running room that’s available. Ball played 28 snaps Sunday – by comparison Knowshon Moreno played 44 and Ronnie Hillman had two – and Ball had 12 carries in the game. But of those 12 carries, eight went for 2 or fewer yards and that total included three 1-yard carries, two for no gain and one carry for minus-3 yards. For the year Ball is now averaging just 2 yards per carry and while he has just two fewer carries than Moreno – 20 to Moreno’s 22 – Ball has rushed for 81 fewer yards in two games.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback once again, so ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven game day inactives against the Giants. Dysert looked smooth in an extended pre-game workout with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. Knapp worked through a series of progressions with Dysert several hours before kickoff.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson continues to make progress in his recovery from a severe MCL sprain he suffered during practice in the days following the preseason opener. He practiced on a limited basis last week before being declared as doubtful for the game last Friday. He was also one of the team’s seven game day inactives. It’s difficult to see just yet what role Anderson could have in the offense in the near future when Broncos coach John Fox said Monday the team was already having a difficult time even splitting the available carries up between Moreno, Ball and Hillman.

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived in the final cutdown, and continue to work primarily as scout team players.

Broncos rookie report: Offense

September, 10, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos rookies made the transition last week, from simply young players trying to make an impression on their more experienced peers to young players who now carry the burden of day-to-day expectations about doing the job for a Super Bowl hopeful.

That’s a big jump in the few days between the roster cutdown and the Broncos’ season opener last Thursday night. With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Ball
Ball
strong>Running back Montee Ball: Citizens of the fantasy football nation, don’t say you weren’t warned. The Broncos will almost certainly line up in a three-wide receiver set this season more than any other formation. So, the running the back who plays the most for this team will be the one who gets it done in that set. That means pass protection and handling the audibles are as high of priorities as actually running with the ball. And the guy who the Broncos believe handles that the best right now is Knowshon Moreno. That’s why Moreno played 37 snaps on offense against the Ravens and Ball played 18. Most of Ball’s work came out of the heavier two- and three-tight end looks. He did have an assignment bobble late in the win when he went to the wrong side of Manning to take a handoff. The play nearly resulted in a fumbled exchange, but Manning made a quick adjustment in his footwork and Ball wisely slowed up to take the ball. When Ball handles some of the non-running duties a little more cleanly, he’ll get to carry the ball more. But this is going to be a rotation much of the year, with plenty of ebb and flow all around between Moreno, Ball and Ronnie Hillman.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback for the opener, so he ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven gameday inactives. He received good reviews in his work in practice last week as the Broncos prepared for the Ravens. That will be his role for much of the year as he will likely impersonate some of the league’s best quarterbacks on the scout team.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson continues to make progress in his recovery from a severe MCL sprain he suffered during practice in the days following the preseason opener. Anderson has not used crutches for roughly 10 days -- “I felt like I didn’t need them the last week I used them, but I’m trying to listen to the trainers’’ -- and could return to practice, at least on a limited basis, at some point in the coming days. Because of the injury he was a gameday inactive for the Ravens, but it will be crowded choice at running back when he’s cleared to play. He may have to find a way into some special teams work to be on the gameday roster initially.

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived and continue to work primarily as scout team players. Though Friday was a day off practice for the Broncos regulars, the practice squad players went through an on-field workout.

Broncos rookie report -- Offense

September, 2, 2013
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As much as everyone in the locker room hopes the roster is “set’’ when the cuts are made to get to 53, it is always a fluid situation when it comes to how things shake out over the course of a season.

But the Broncos’ first-year class fared OK as it exited the preseason and is poised for Thursday’s opener. With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: Ball figures to get the most work of any Denver Broncos first-year player as the season unfolds. At least that’s what he wants, and the Broncos have him squarely in the rotation. And it will be a rotation, uneven at times, with the carries being handed out with the ebb and flow of each game. Ball was held out of the preseason finale, so many have presumed since the starters were held out of that game, he is the starter. However, tread lightly there fantasy footballers, Knowshon Moreno was held out of the game as well, and Ronnie Hillman was given two carries simply because they wanted him to have a re-set after three fumbles -- two were recovered by the opponent and returned for touchdowns -- in the previous two preseason games combined. Ball will get the rock, but at least for now, so will Hillman, and Moreno is the most consistent pass-protector as the third-down down guy, and it will be tough to predict how the carries go for quite some time.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: All through training camp Dysert said he wanted to make it tough for the team not to keep him. He did just that, showing some good poise, mobility and chucked it around for 163 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals to close out the preseason. With the number of players who were claimed on waivers this year after the cuts to 53 -- teams were claiming five, six and seven players -- it might have been difficult to get Dysert through waivers so the Broncos could bring him back to the practice squad. So, they elected to keep three quarterbacks for the second time in the three-year John Elway/John Fox tenure. As Fox put it; “I think it’s a key position in this league. Finding young ones to develop is not easy. Obviously, we felt (Dysert) was one of our 53 top guys. I don’t think you can ever have too many of those guys … He earned it.”

Running back C.J. Anderson: He was the only undrafted rookie the team kept on offense, but it was the 10th consecutive year an undrafted rookie has made the initial cut to 53 players. He’s still recovering from a severe MCL sprain suffered in practice following the preseason opener, but at 224 pounds, he gives the Broncos the big back they want and showed enough in one preseason game, and the practices leading up to it, that they kept him even though he isn’t ready to see the field right now.

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived, cleared waivers and signed back to the practice squad. King’s talent puts him among the team's top 53 players, but his work habits were inconsistent enough for them to waive him. Painter is an athletic tackle prospect who just needs some time to develop.

Broncos practice report: LB added

September, 1, 2013
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Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has assembled an all-time football resume, piles of 4,000-yard seasons, four MVP awards and a Super Bowl win.

And yet, as he approaches his 16th season opener, he said he remains as excited as ever at what a new season might bring. Asked Sunday if he still gets butterflies before the opener, Manning said:

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesHe might appear calm under center, but Broncos QB Peyton Manning admitted that he'll be a bit nervous before Thursday night's season opener.
“I do, I do. I think if you don’t you probably ought to be doing something else. Sixteenth opening day, having played in this opening game three times. It’s got a little something extra to it … Healthy butterflies, it’s a good thing.’’

Some things to consider as the Broncos formally kicked off their practice week Sunday for Thursday night’s affair:

  • With a night to sleep on it, the Broncos came to the conclusion – as expected, perhaps -- that six linebackers wasn’t enough on the roster after the initial cutdown to 53 players. That was especially true since one of the players they formally list at linebacker – Shaun Phillips – lines up at defensive end for the majority of his snaps. So, the Broncos claimed second-year linebacker Adrian Robinson off waivers Sunday and he’s expected to practice with the team Tuesday. Robinson is a 250-pounder who made the Steelers roster last season as an undrafted rookie largely because of his special teams play. The Broncos are also his third team since Aug. 23. That’s when he was traded to the Eagles, for running back Felix Jones and the Eagles then waived him Saturday. He played at inside linebacker in the Steelers’ 3-4 look and the Eagles tried them there in their new 3-4 as well. The Broncos use plenty of 3-4 principles in their defense, though their base look is technically a 4-3, but if his game video is any indication Robinson will have a chance to contribute quickly on special teams. To make room for Robinson, running back Jacob Hester was released.
  • The Broncos have obviously had their turn-the-page meeting leading up to Thursday’s season opener. Any and all questions about the crushing double-overtime loss last January, when the Broncos let the home-field advantage slip away, were met with some kind of what’s past is past response. That is Gameweek 101, to be sure, but those in the seats at Sports Authority Field at Mile High may be a different matter entirely. Football fans in the region have done little else but re-hash the playoff loss, the kneel-down the Broncos took just before the end of regulation with two timeouts in hand and the Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones touchdown to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Should the Broncos start slowly Thursday, it will be curious to see how those on hand respond. Asked Sunday if revenge played any part in the discussion about the game, from his perspective Manning said: “If people need that as extra incentive that’s fine. But I think there’s plenty, just with the schedule and the timing of when we’re playing.’’ Some players said thinking about the loss may have helped push them through offseason workouts at times, but that Thursday’s game is the fresh start for the 2013 season.
  • Hester’s release unquestionably makes Knowshon Moreno the most accomplished back in pass protection for the Broncos. Because of that, Moreno could see plenty of work in some longer down-and-distance situations in place of rookie Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. Hester was signed last season, in large part, because the Broncos believed they needed help in pass protection at the position. Hester had spent most of this year's training camp and the preseason at fullback. And the Broncos will run the offense with three wide receivers or two tight ends in the formation far more than they will out of a traditional two-back look, so Hester’s spot became somewhat expendable given the numbers at linebacker. Tight end Virgil Green would line up in the backfield much of the time if the Broncos wanted a lead blocker in front of the running back. It also confirms how determined the Broncos are to keeping rookie quarterback Zac Dysert on the roster at the moment.
  • A look at the starting lineups for the playoff game last Jan. 12 does show how change arrives in the league. Nine players who started for the Ravens in that game are not on this year’s roster, including seven on defense. The Broncos weren't hit quite as hard by full-blown departures, but some things have changed. The Broncos had four starters in the game who are no longer with the team – Justin Bannan, Brandon Stokley, Keith Brooking and Elvis Dumervil. Also, Dan Koppen is now on injured reserve, Von Miller is suspended for the first six games of the season and neither Chris Kuper nor Joel Dreessen are expected to start Thursday. "Both teams have a lot of new guys,'' said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. "They were other places for that game.''
  • Broncos safety Rahim Moore, when asked if he had won back the fans after last year’s playoff loss: “Camp is camp, there is nothing you can really tell by just practice. You can go out there and just show your hard work, but you’re judged by your games. What you’re doing week in, week out is how people judge you.’’
  • The Broncos signed seven players to their practice squad Sunday, including two draft picks from this past April they had released in tackle Vinston Painter and wide receiver Tavarres King, who were the team's sixth- and fifth-round picks, respectively. Also signed to the practice squad were wide receiver Gerell Robinson, running back Edwin Baker, defensive tackle Ben Garland, tackle Paul Cornick and defensive end John Youboty. Baker is the only player of the seven who was not in training camp with the Broncos. The 200-pound second-year back rushed for 1,201 yards as a sophomore at Michigan State in 2010.

Denver Broncos cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
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Most significant move: It was a tough couple days for some of the Broncos' younger players. After retaining the bulk of their draft classes in the first two years on the job for John Elway and John Fox, the Broncos waived four former draft picks Saturday. Three were from the two Elway/Fox classes, when they trimmed the roster to 53 players.

Center/guard Philip Blake (fourth round in 2012), Jeremy Beal (seventh round in ’11), wide receiver Tavarres King (fifth round in ’13) and tackle Vinston Painter (sixth round in ’13) were all let go. King, who spent much of training camp and the preseason working with the second-team offense, likely lost his spot when the Broncos kept 11 defensive backs and three quarterbacks, including rookie Zac Dysert.

King and Painter are practice squad possibilities if they clear waivers.

“As you get better -- you never want to release anybody -- but as you get better, you have fewer slots,’’ Elway said. “That’s the situation that we’re running into.’’

Eleven's a crowd: In 2011, the first year of Elway’s tenure as the Broncos’ top football decision-maker, the Broncos kept nine defensive backs when they cut the roster to 53. Last year they kept 10 -- five cornerbacks, five safeties.

This year, with needs on special teams carrying the day, they kept 11 defensive backs, six cornerbacks and five safeties. The Broncos, like many teams in the league, have gone to more defensive backs on special teams, taking several jobs in coverage units that used to go to linebackers.

"You have to look at special teams too, what guys do on special teams," Elway said. "… So, those are the type things that a lot of people don’t think comes into the equation but what you do on fourth down is part of it."

As a result the Broncos are little light at wide receiver, with just five including returner Trindon Holliday. Holliday played just seven snaps on offense last season after joining the Broncos in October. They team will likely to expand his role slightly this season.

What's next: They are reasonably healthy after an offseason filled with drama, but it remains to be seen if they can consistently generate a pass rush without Miller and if they can consistently protect quarterback Peyton Manning when they play their preferred three-wide receiver look on offense.

But Elway likes the choices they made.

“The bottom line is we kept the best 53,’’ Elway said. “Everyone says you want to win now, and I say we want to win now on.’’

Broncos cuts/moves: RB Lance Ball, C/G C.J. Davis, RB Jeremiah Johnson, C/G Ryan Lilja, TE Jake O’Connell, DE Jeremy Beal, C/G Philip Blake, T Paul Cornick, DT Romney Fuga, DT Ben Garland, CB Aaron Hester, LB Damien Holmes, WR Tavarres King, T Vinston Painter, S Ross Rasner, WR Gerell Robinson, WR Lamaar Thomas, DE John Youboty. DE Quanterus Smith, LB Stewart Bradley, LB Lerentee McCray were placed on injured reserve. LB Von Miller was placed on reserve/suspended.

Manning's apprentices show promise

August, 30, 2013
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DENVER -- On a night the Denver Broncos desperately wanted to escape without major injury, they came away from Thursday's preseason finale feeling good about where the depth chart stands at a position where they hope they won’t really have to test it.

But with conventional wisdom typically putting Denver on the brink of disaster should quarterback Peyton Manning be injured, Brock Osweiler closed out the preseason hoping he had alleviated at least some of those concerns, both inside and outside the Broncos' complex, as he trains behind one of the game’s all-time greats.

"As a football player, as a competitor, I always want to play," Osweiler said after Denver's 32-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Invesco Field at Mile High. "It’s hard sitting back and watching someone else, but at least that someone else is probably going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so it makes it a little bit easier. But this preseason was great, I think from the first game to this game I grew tremendously … and now, shoot, it’s Peyton’s turn to go out there and lead us."

[+] EnlargeBrock Osweiler
AP Photo/Joe MahoneyBackup QB Brock Osweiler says the Broncos would not have to change the offense if starter Peyton Manning is not in the lineup.
Osweiler finished 7-of-11 passing for 108 yards against the Cardinals and led the team on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession. The Broncos certainly had a low-impact game plan in place, so there weren't many opportunities for Osweiler to test his ability to adjust on the fly against Arizona, but the second-year quarterback said he’s ready to use the entire playbook if forced into action.

"I believe last year I would have been just fine," Osweiler said. "The package we would have run would have been a lot smaller. This year, I am way more comfortable with the total package. I understand our protections, I understand what we are trying to do in the run game and I understand our checks now. Last year I only knew that on a small scale. … If my number gets called, hopefully I can step in and the team won’t skip a beat.

" … Obviously, if you’re building a house and you have a choice between four or 25 tools, you’re probably going to want the 25 tools. With me being more comfortable with the full offense, I think without question we are able to do more things on the field."

The Broncos also got a quality look at the quarterback they took in the seventh round of April’s draft, Zac Dysert. Dysert saw his most significant action of the preseason, playing the entire second half Thursday. Dysert directed two scoring drives, finishing 9-of-20 passing for 163 yards and a touchdown.

"I just tried not to do too much," Dysert said. "I just tried to put the ball in the playmakers’ hands and let them do the work for me."

Dysert might have done enough, however, to force the Broncos to keep three quarterbacks on the final 53-man roster, a move they probably didn’t anticipate having to make as recently as two weeks ago. But with several quarterback-starved teams facing injuries at the position poised to troll the waiver wire this weekend, it could far more difficult to get Dysert through waivers -- which Denver would have to do if it wants to sign him to the practice squad.

And keeping Dysert on the 53-man roster would almost certainly cost the Broncos a player at another position for a quarterback who would not take a snap in a regular-season game if things go as planned.

"It’s going to be nerve-wracking … but I can’t control it and I try not to worry about things I can’t control," Dysert said. " … Like I’ve said, I’ve just wanted to prove to them that I can play."

Observation deck: Broncos-Cardinals

August, 30, 2013
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DENVER -- The Denver Broncos' plan Thursday night was easy to see when, just more than three hours before kickoff, most of the players who sit at the top of the depth chart at their respective positions were working with strength-and-conditioning coach Luke Richesson, as Richesson prodded them all from one end of the field to the other over and over again in something far more stringent than just a warm-up.

That’s because they weren’t going to play in the game that followed. And with just a few roster spots still in play, the Broncos' reserves closed out the preseason with a 32-24 loss to Arizona at Invesco Field at Mile High.

Some things to consider as the Broncos now turn their attention to the Baltimore Ravens:
  • There was almost as much to learn by who the Broncos did play as by who they didn’t. Tight end Julius Thomas earned the night off as a starter, but Jacob Tamme did not, as Tamme played in several two-tight end sets, lining up in the slot. Some of that was a numbers game with Joel Dreessen still coming back from two knee surgeries since late May, but it's clear the Broncos have big plans for Thomas in the front-line offense. Running back Montee Ball also was in the pregame workout with the starters, but Ronnie Hillman was not. Hillman started at running back, likely just to give him confidence with a carry or two early in the game given his recent fumbles -- he had a fumble returned for a touchdown in each of the previous two preseason games -- and given he is still very much in the mix to be a mainstay in the run game. Hillman carried twice for 14 yards on the Broncos’ first two plays of the game and then headed for the sideline with his work finished for the night. Knowshon Moreno also did not play, so Ball, Hillman and Moreno are solidly the top three.
  • Broncos coach John Fox said last week that linebacker Von Miller, who is suspended for the first six games of the regular season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, would play in the final two preseason games because Fox didn’t want to turn a six-game suspension into eight games. Miller did play last weekend against the Rams, but he was held out of Thursday night’s game. Miller’s suspension officially begins Saturday since the Broncos play next Thursday night. In the end the Broncos elected to give some young players those snaps instead of risking an injury to Miller.
  • And one of the Broncos’ undrafted rookies made the most of that decision. Lerentee McCray, who has made a strong push for a roster spot since training camp opened, started in Miller’s strong-side linebacker spot and finished the first half with three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. (McCray blocked a punt in the previous game against the Rams.) But McCray was helped off the field with just under four minutes left in the third quarter with a right ankle injury. He had difficulty putting weight on the leg, and if an MRI shows any significant problems Friday, it could complicate what the Broncos can do with him if it's an injury that would keep him on the sideline for several weeks. But McCray certainly earned a spot with his play on the field.
  • The Broncos have struggled to protect the quarterback with the backup linemen in front of him during the preseason -- Brock Osweiler had been sacked eight times in three preseason games coming into his start against the Cardinals -- so the Broncos bulked things up in front to open the game. After not using the two-back look for anything more than a smattering of plays in the first three preseason games, the Broncos worked out of it for most of the first half. They used it on six of 10 plays in their opening drive of the game -- an 80-yard touchdown drive -- and 12 plays in all in the first half. They used a two-tight end/two-back look once and a two-tight end look six times in the opening half. The move did give fullback Jacob Hester a chance to get some work on offense. Hester was the fullback in all of those two-back sets after playing just 25 plays on offense in the first three preseason games combined. Hester’s chances of making the final roster are enhanced by the fact he is the only running back who has lined up at fullback in the offense, that he can play running back and that he is a key special-teams player.
  • The Broncos have plenty of tough decisions awaiting in the secondary for final cuts, but they unveiled at least one of their potential solutions against the Cardinals. Cornerback Omar Bolden, who has played plenty on the outside with the second-team defense in the preseason, lined up at free safety in the base defense for much of the first half. He showed himself to be physical, quick to the ball and comfortable despite it being his first game at the position. It means the Broncos consider him a potential swing player in the secondary, one who could line up at corner and work at safety as well. If the game video confirms for the coaches what seemed clear in real time -- that Bolden can function well at safety if needed -- that likely makes it difficult for veteran Quentin Jammer to make the roster. The Broncos had originally signed Jammer because they envisioned him being able to be a combination player in the secondary.
  • Rookie quarterback Zac Dysert got his first significant action of the preseason. He tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter and led another touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that included a short toss to running back Lance Ball that turned into a 69-yard catch-and-run. Dysert will be around the team, whether on the practice squad or as one of those to get one of the final two or three roster spots. If the Broncos feel they can’t afford the luxury of three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, they will have to get Dysert through waivers to get him to the practice squad.
  • Rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster could get a look from the league office with an unnecessary-roughness penalty in the first half -- he was called for striking an opponent with his helmet -- to go with another personal foul in the opening half for intentionally slamming a player to the ground.
The Denver Broncos, like the rest of the league, will tie a bow on the preseason Thursday night. Most of the team’s regulars will get the night off against the visiting Arizona Cardinals, but decisions still need to be made at a few spots at the back end of the roster.

With that in mind, some things to keep an eye on:

One of the most difficult spots for the Broncos to make cuts ahead of Saturday's deadline to pare the roster to 53 players -- the bulk of which will come Friday -- will be in the secondary.

The Broncos kept nine defensive backs on the opening-weekend roster in 2011 and 10 last season -- five cornerbacks and five safeties. The issue this year is that Denver has two young, homegrown cornerback prospects in Omar Bolden and rookie Kayvon Webster, who have shown themselves to be worthy of the roster and would raise the overall athleticism at the position.

With Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho, Chris Harris, David Bruton and Tony Carter having worked in the top seven slots all through the preseason, that doesn’t leave room for Webster, Bolden, Mike Adams and Quentin Jammer to all make it.

If the Broncos stick with nine players in the secondary, they are essentially choosing between youth and experience for those final two spots. If they keep an extra cornerback, however, it may be an indication they feel they need to open the season with some insurance for Bailey’s foot injury.

Unless Denver takes the uncharacteristic step and keeps 11 defensive backs, Bolden and Webster both figure to play plenty against the Cardinals to state their cases.

  • Brock Osweiler is slated to get the start at quarterback behind what is largely a backup line. That has been a tough combination thus far in the preseason for Osweiler, who has been sacked eight times in the three previous games behind the reserves. It makes it difficult for the Broncos to work out of the three-wide look as much as they’d like given that they haven’t consistently protected the quarterback in it -- even when the starters have been in the game -- this preseason. If things get dicey they might have to go big again, as they did last weekend against the Rams. After opening the game with three wide receivers and allowing too many rushers to get too close to Peyton Manning, the Broncos went to a two-tight-end look. They lined up in a two-tight-end look on 29 of the next 35 plays after the opening three-and-out, including all 12 in a drive that ended with a blocked field goal. The Broncos might feel like they need to give Osweiler a little more beef up front.
  • The last few rosters spots will be decided on special teams, and the Broncos could use a good showing there. In the past two games they have surrendered a 107-yard kickoff return for a score, a 33-yard punt return, an 81-yard punt return and seen a field goal blocked. Many of the Broncos' youngest players will have a chance to help their causes against Arizona, with Denver special-teams coach Jeff Rodgers looking for those who display speed and smarts.
  • [+] EnlargeKayvon Webster
    AP Photo/Eric BakkeCornerback Kayvon Webster, a third-round pick, gets a last chance tonight to show he deserves a roster spot.
    The Broncos have lost five fumbles in three preseason games -- two by Osweiler, two by Ronnie Hillman and one by Julius Thomas. Hillman is not expected to play Thursday, but things need to be cleaned up. Lance Ball and Jacob Hester figure to get some work as the Broncos face some tough decisions at running back as well. Hester has not had a carry in the preseason and is the only back that has lined up at fullback thus far.
  • The Broncos have to sort things out in the offensive line, where they kept nine players in both 2011 and last season. After the starting five -- Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin -- the Broncos need a swing tackle, likely Chris Clark, and a swing guard/center or two, with Ryan Lilja, Steve Vallos and Philip Blake in the mix. Blake, a fourth-round pick in 2012, has been headed the wrong way on the depth chart -- the Broncos didn’t even work him much at center in the preseason, a position he played in college and one they originally drafted him for. Blake is decidedly on the bubble -- a long way down for a player some believed was pushing to start before a thumb injury ended his rookie season. He has regressed since that point, so he's either not getting the message about the changes in the offense or is not reacting well to the coaching he's getting. Rookie tackle Vinston Painter has shown the kind of athleticism that deserves a roster spot, but the Broncos may be in a position where they have to hope he makes it through waivers so they can sign him to their practice squad. Lilja is a tough call, too. Denver certainly likes him in the offense, but he had microfracture surgery on his knee just a few months ago and has missed significant amount of practice time of late because of the knee.
  • Rookie quarterback Zac Dysert will likely get his most significant work of the preseason. Dysert has shown some quality scrambling skills in practice, so he could have an entertaining down or two if he gets loose. He projects to the practice squad, but the Broncos would like to see some better accuracy from the pocket, especially in the shorter and intermediate routes.
  • Linebacker Lerentee McCray and wide receiver Lamaar Thomas are the undrafted rookies with the best chance to make the final 53 -- especially McCray. If the Broncos don’t keep McCray, there are at least two other teams that would consider signing him. He’s a big-bodied linebacker who, while not always showing good instincts, has the ability to disrupt an offense and closes to the ball with speed and intent.

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