NFL Nation: Peyton Manning

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Less than 48 hours after a 34-0 preseason victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning brought a little verbal rain after the team’s first of three practices with the Houston Texans.

The Broncos and Texans will practice together for three days this week at the Broncos’ complex before the two teams play Saturday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. And with a familiar face calling the shots in the Texans' defense in Romeo Crennel, Manning came away from Tuesday’s workout, shall we say, less than enthused about what he had seen.

“I thought our offense stunk today,’’ Manning said following practice. “Their defense totally kicked our butt. ... We’ll learn from the film, hopefully there is some good things to see, hopefully we come out and do a better job tomorrow from a player standpoint.’’

Crennel, after his time as the New England Patriots' defensive coordinator as well as Kansas City Chiefs' head coach, is a familiar adversary through the years. Crennel is in his first season as Texans defensive coordinator, joining the team after another former Patriots assistant, Bill O’Brien, was named head coach.

“Romeo Crennel is one of the best coaches out there, overall it will be a good week for us,’’ Manning said. “... But we’ve got to do better than we did today on offense.’’

Asked what the main issue happened to be, Manning simply said, “Were you watching?’’

“They executed better than we did,’’ Manning added. “... They just did their job a lot better than we did.’’

In reality, Manning and the Broncos' offense, while not at their best following a day off Monday, made their share of plays in both 7-on-7 and team drills. But the group also had some choppy moments against the Texans' regulars.

Manning may have had some other motives as well. The Broncos' starters on offense have played on four drives in two preseason games and the team has scored on three of those drives.

Manning is 22 of 27 passing for 180 yards and a touchdown in those two games and there has been at least some sentiment in and around the Front Range the Broncos' offense is ready to start the season. And that’s an idea Manning seemed to want to poke a hole in Monday.

“I think today that story ought to die,’’ Manning said. “Today’s performance out there on whatever field that is, field 2 ... I kind of call it like I see it. When you have a pretty below-average practice, you’ve got to call it a below-average practice. I think this team does a pretty good job staying pretty even keel. I don’t think anybody is overly excited about beating a San Francisco team that didn’t have Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, didn’t blitz us one time, kind of a pretty vanilla scheme. They will be a different animal when we play those guys in the regular season.’’
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There's a learning curve and then there is the twisting, turning, work-fast riddle that is the Denver Broncos' offensive playbook.

And that is what receiver Cody Latimer must navigate to go from draft pick with piles of potential to draft pick with a productive place in a fast-paced touchdown factory.

"Our code words have code words, our signals have signals," said Broncos wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. "To be able to put that together, to know what's the real deal. Is it an audible? Is it a dummy call? It takes a while to get all that running smoothly. ... And that's the major hurdle for any young guy in our offense, just to know all there is to know as fast as we need you to know it.''

[+] EnlargeDenver's Cody Latimer
John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesCody Latimer hauls in a 33-yard touchdown catch against the 49ers.
And then Tolbert added with a smile: "but I'd venture to say he's picking it up fairly well ... for a rookie."

A rookie that is looking more and more like he can be, despite the Broncos' obvious firepower and depth on offense, a contributor when the Broncos close in on the end zone. Sunday, in the Broncos' 34-0 preseason win over the San Francisco 49ers, Latimer caught his first scoring pass in a game for the Broncos.

He showed his top-tier speed up the right sideline and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler tossed a 33-yard scoring pass that he dove to catch.

"I just saw a one-on-one matchup there," Osweiler said following the game. " ... Cody just did a tremendous job by running by the corner and making a great catch in the end zone."

The starting jobs in the Broncos' three-wide receiver look are largely spoken for with Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders set to get the bulk of the plays. But when the May draft rolled around, the Broncos were still on the hunt for a little more size at the position, and when the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Latimer was still on the board when their second-round pick rolled around they grabbed him.

Latimer had fractured his foot in a pre-draft workout so the Broncos knew he would initially be limited in their offseason work. But just as Latimer showed the initiative to seek out special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers to see if he could return kickoffs, Latimer has also been a willing post-practice student with quarterback Peyton Manning, sweating the details along the way.

"You just want to learn as much as possible," Latimer said. "You have to know where you need to be all the time. You have to know the plays, the variations, just all of things that need to be done."

Latimer also fits another job description the team was looking to fill when they sifted through the rubble that was Super Bowl XLVIII. The defenses that did give the Broncos' record-setting offense at least some trouble last season, including the Seattle Seahawks' D in the title game, often did so by re-routing the Broncos receivers off the line of scrimmage, preventing them from getting a free release and disrupting the timing of an offense that lives on timing.

So when the Broncos looked at Latimer, in almost everything he did at Indiana, they saw a pass-catcher who was also one of the most physically aggressive receivers on the board.

"Absolutely, that was one thing that stood out, his aggressive play in general, not necessarily just to the ball," Tolbert said. "In the run game, he was a rusher on the punt team, on the kickoff team he would run down there and make tackles. Just a tough guy all the way around, rare for a receiver of his caliber to play special teams in the non-traditional roles of a wide receiver."

And when the ball was in the air, Tolbert said, "he was a guy who would get the ball and go win the ball."

All of that, when the Broncos crank things up for real, figures to put Latimer in some kind of rotation when the Broncos move into the red zone. That is if he can master the right-place, right-time technicalities of the team's offense.

"You want to be a guy Peyton Manning can trust," Latimer said. "He knows where (Thomas), Wes and Emmanuel are going to be. I just want to keep working so he always feels like he knows where I'll be and that I'll fight for that ball if it comes my way."

Observation Deck: Denver Broncos

August, 17, 2014
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Sure, it’s preseason, and sure it’s like football base jumping to make too many lasting judgments on what happens in August games, but the Denver Broncos have gone toe-to-toe in back-to-back weeks with NFC powerhouses and fared like a Super Bowl hopeful should.

With starters against starters, the 2s against the 2s and the 3s against the 3s, the Broncos have defeated the Seattle Seahawks and then simply overpowered the San Francisco 49ers 34-0 on Sunday in Levi’s Stadium. The Broncos' top two quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, were a combined 22-for-27 passing for 207 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers.

Here are some other thoughts on the Broncos’ second preseason game:

  • More than the obvious efficiency Manning has shown thus far is the willingness of offensive coordinator Adam Gase to work on a few things without revealing some of the new wrinkles in the playbook. In the Broncos' two preseason games, Gase has run the starters through some power looks to go with their bread-and-butter, three-wide receiver packages. Sunday, Gase flashed some two tight-end looks, including one with Julius Thomas and running back Ronnie Hillman bracketing Manning in the backfield. The Broncos also emptied out the backfield at times and later showed a four-wide receiver set. Late in the third quarter, Gase even put No. 3 quarterback Zac Dysert in a pistol set. They have put a lot out there for defensive coordinators to study without really showing the details of what’s to come.
  • The Broncos starting offensive line has performed well against two of the league’s most physical defenses; both the Seahawks and the 49ers finished in the league’s top five last season. Manning has not been sacked in four possessions and has thrown just five incompletions. Orlando Franklin continues to settle in at left guard, and the Broncos have kept Manning clean in the pocket and carved out some room in the running game.
  • As Hillman has continued to reconstruct his role in the offense after losing the starting job and dropping far enough down the depth chart to be a gameday inactive four times in the regular season and all three playoff games, one of the big items on his to-do list was to be more decisive with the ball in his hands. Sunday, Hillman showed that one-cut quickness on a selection of inside runs. On a 6-yard reception in second quarter, Hillman caught the ball between the hashmarks and turned immediately up the field. Hillman hasn’t yet broken off the big run the Broncos keep hoping to see, but if he continues to maintain that north-south work, he’ll keep getting some carries.
  • The Broncos might have to take a look at adding a linebacker in the coming days. On Tuesday, Danny Trevathan suffered a fracture on the top of his tibia that will keep him out six to eight weeks. On Sunday, rookie Lamin Barrow suffered a lower right leg injury. With Trevathan’s injury, Barrow was already working in one of the linebacker spots in the starting nickel at times and has been Nate Irving’s backup at middle linebacker. Barrow will be evaluated more, including an MRI, on Monday.
  • Odds and ends: The play of the day might have been rookie running back Juwan Thompson catching a ball off of his shoe-tops and then barreling over a 49ers safety to take the ball to the 49ers 1-yard line. … Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer caught a touchdown pass from Osweiler. … Cornerback Kayvon Webster (ankle) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (thigh) were held out.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 23

August, 15, 2014
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:

  • The Broncos "broke" camp after their walk-through late Friday afternoon, though things will look largely the same for players Tuesday when they return to the practice field. Because of construction at their complex, including that of a new indoor practice facility, fans have not been able to attend training camp practices that have routinely been open to the public in previous years. As a result Friday's two practices had much the same setting as Tuesday's will. That's when the Broncos begin three days of work against the Houston Texans. As of Friday, however, the Broncos' veterans no longer have to stay at the nearby hotel and can commute from home the rest of the way. "Camp's over, but we're still in camp mode because we're not in the regular season yet," safety T.J. Ward said. "We get to get out of the hotel and it's not as long of a day, but we're still preparing in that mindset. I'm just glad I get to go home and sleep in my own bed."
  • Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was held out of Friday's morning practice with a thigh injury that has limited him over the last two weeks. Sanders had practiced Tuesday and Thursday but was also held out of Monday's practice. He did participate in the evening walk-through, which forced the Broncos to adjust things with the starting offense earlier in the day as they went through red-zone work and end-of-game scenarios. The biggest beneficiary was Jordan Norwood, who got a selection of snaps with the regulars, including back-to-back receptions from Peyton Manning in a two-minute drill. Norwood, who is also getting a long look as the team's punt returner, would solidify his ability to gain a roster spot if he can consistently show he can give the team something at receiver. The fifth-year player has just four career starts -- all in 2011 with the Cleveland Browns.
  • Rookie running back Juwan Thompson got additional work with the starting offense and also continues to show he's up to the mental challenge. "You just want to be prepared at any given time when Peyton throws anything at you. At the end of the day, I can just ask him, so that I can feel 100 percent guaranteed about what I'm doing out there." Thompson figures to get plenty of work Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers since Montee Ball won't play (appendectomy) and C.J. Anderson just returned to practice Thursday after suffering a concussion. The Broncos believe Ball will return to practice on at least a limited basis next week, possibly as early as Tuesday's practice.
  • Von Miller's mother, Gloria, has been a regular visitor to training camp practices. After Friday's morning workout, Von took defensive end DeMarcus Ware over the meet her. "That's the first time she's met DeMarcus," Miller said. "DeMarcus is her second favorite player in the league, and she wanted to meet him ... She's a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, too." As Miller does more and more in practices in his return from ACL surgery, he and Ware have shown more of their potential in the pass rush. Friday, with Manning under center on one play, Miller launched himself around right tackle Chris Clark and got to Manning before Manning had even finished his dropback.
  • Odd and ends: Aqib Talib intercepted Manning in the end zone in a red-zone drill, a pass intended for Andre Caldwell ... Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler had a difficult sequence in end-of-game work against the second-team defense with what would have been a sack/fumble if defenders were allowed to hit the quarterbacks, to go with an interception by rookie linebacker Lamin Barrow on the next snap.

 

Broncos Camp Report: Day 22

August, 14, 2014
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • C.J. Anderson, who had suffered a concussion in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, was back on the practice field Thursday morning, a week after leaving the Broncos' 21-16 victory. The Broncos will steadily work him back in, but Anderson did take a smattering of snaps with the starting offense while sporting a new type of helmet, similar to what Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker wears. With Montee Ball still working back from an appendectomy, Ronnie Hillman took most of the work with the starters. Anderson and rookie Juwan Thompson also got snaps as well. Asked how he felt Thursday, Anderson said he was sluggish. "I mean, I've been off as far as conditioning. Headache and all that, all that's done. I've got a new helmet. It's brand new, so I'm trying to break it in. Kind of tight at times, but I feel fine and you don't miss a beat."
  • The Broncos haven't been able to allow fans to watch their training camp practices this year because of construction in and around their complex, but folks would have enjoyed a highly entertaining set of 1-on-1s Thursday between the wide receivers/tight ends and the defensive backs in the red zone. Quarterback Peyton Manning was at his best, consistently throwing the ball into the tightest of windows with the defensive backs doing quality work of their own to try to prevent it. In one quality battle after another, Manning dropped scoring passes worthy of GPS, especially those into back corners of the end zone, to Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Andre Caldwell. Cornerback Aqib Talib and rookie Bradley Roby had interceptions in the drill and Chris Harris Jr. knocked away a pass.
  • As expected, Brandon Marshall lined up at Danny Trevathan's weak-side linebacker spot in the base defense. Marshall, who spent most of the 2013 season on the team's practice squad before being signed to the active roster last December, showed he was prepared. He practiced with decisiveness in his movements in both the base defense as well as the specialty packages. "He is athletic," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "I am excited to get a chance to really evaluate him in a more prominent role." Trevathan is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a fracture at the top of his left tibia.
  • Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer showed his ability to snare passes in traffic -- one of the things the Broncos' evaluators liked best about him before the team selected him in the second round of the draft -- when he leaped between cornerback Tony Carter and safety Duke Ihenacho up the left sideline to reel in a pass from Brock Osweiler. With Demaryius and Julius Thomas as well, the Broncos will have plenty of potential size to put in red-zone formations with the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Latimer as well.
  • With the second preseason game looming Sunday, the Broncos are still not consistently fielding punts as well as they're going to need to once the regular season begins. Wide receiver Jordan Norwood has looked the most consistent so far. Isaiah Burse bobbled a punt in a special teams period. The Broncos have been spotty at times in kickoff return work as well so far in camp. Both return jobs are open and could be an avenue for a player to make an established roster where there may not be room for him at a position alone.
  • Odds and ends: Rookie tackle Michael Schofield has worked at right tackle with the second-team offense of late ... Safety John Boyett, who is trying to carve out a spot in a crowded secondary, had two interceptions in Thursday's practice -- one on backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, the other on No. 3 quarterback Zac Dysert in a 7-on-7 drill.
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LATROBE, Pa. -- Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was always one of the better interviews during the four seasons he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He almost always gave thoughtful and honest answers, and I don't want to bash him for his unvarnished take on Peyton Manning's leadership compared to that of Ben Roethlisberger.

Too often we, as in the media, complain that the players and teams we cover give responses to our questions that are as canned as they are clichéd. And then we club them over the head with their words if they ignite a controversy.

What I can't reconcile with Sanders' assertion that Manning is a "far better leader" than Roethlisberger is a scene inside a silent visiting locker room at M&T Bank Stadium late last November.

The Steelers had just suffered a crushing 22-20 loss to the Ravens after rallying back from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit. They should have tied the game late when Roethlisberger put a two-point conversion pass right on Sanders' hands.

Sanders dropped the ball, bringing to a screeching halt the three-game winning steak and momentum that the Steelers had taken into the game on Thanksgiving night.

Inside the Steelers' locker room, just after the scab had been ripped off a team that had started the season 0-4, Roethlisberger put his arm around his crestfallen teammate and talked into the earhole of Sanders' helmet.

A little later Roethlisberger offered similar encouraging words when he spoke to reporters about Sanders -- as well as an endorsement of a wide receiver whose next 100-yard game will be his first in the NFL.

If what Roethlisberger did in that locker room when emotions were still so raw isn't leadership, I don't know what is. And I keep flashing back to that scene with Sanders standing by what he said on a Denver radio station a couple of weeks ago.

I applaud Sanders for owning his comments and not playing the taken-out-of-context card.

But he is off base, and not just because Roethlisberger was one of his biggest supporters when the two were teammates.

Sure, Roethlisberger doesn’t throw to his wide receivers after practice as much as Manning does, but one of Manning's hallmarks is his obsessive attention to detail. How many quarterbacks wouldn't suffer in comparison to Manning when looking solely at the extra work they put in with their wide receivers?

Also, Sanders apparently hasn't kept up with what has been going on with the Steelers since he signed with the Broncos.

Roethlisberger has never been more engaged with his wide receivers, and he has been their coach as much as their quarterback at training camp.

This is clearly his offense.

And his team.

Sanders doesn't owe Roethlisberger an apology even though former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was spot-on when he said there are different kinds of leadership.

Sanders truly believes what he said, and he has a right to his opinion.

He does owe his former quarterback a phone call, if only so Roethlisberger can ask a simple question: Why take a shot at a former teammate who picked up Sanders during one of his lowest moments as a professional?
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning gets asked a lot about a lot of things.

He gets asked about his arm strength – he won’t go there, really -- but folks ask anyway. He gets asked about his neck, wobbly passes, touchdowns, all-time records, legacy, guys on his team, guys who used to be on his team, guys on other teams, guys who used to be on other teams, his brother(s), his dad, his family, New Orleans and if he considers himself a rapper.

And he’s asked about chemistry a lot. Not so much the carbon and life kind, but football. So when folks wonder where the Broncos can go on offense from the single-season record of 606 point the team set last year. The answer for Manning, at least in part, is in chemistry.

[+] EnlargeManning
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning is working on developing chemistry with the Broncos' new receivers in training camp.
“I think there is two kinds," Manning said. “I think there is after-the-snap chemistry where you’re understanding where (tight end) Julius (Thomas) is going to be on a certain route, and then there is before the snap, being sure that everybody knows the signals, knows the code words and all the pre-snap changes that we constantly make."

Those who know him say this is why people have never really heard Manning publicly bemoan practice, criticize the time spent in an offseason workout or rarely fail to stay after practices in this, his 17th NFL season. Because his deal, as the Broncos continue to plow through training camp with Manning having thrown in every practice, is chemistry.

“You want to be able to make adjustments as quickly as you can, have everybody be on the same page, because your main advantage on offense is you know where you’re going," Manning said. “So, it’s always going to be better if everybody knows where they’re going … I tell the story, but with Marvin (Harrison) we got to a point where we could change something when he came by me in motion and we could run it the way we had practiced it. That’s the chemistry that makes you productive because the goal is to score touchdowns and win games."

So while many personnel executives in the league look at a Broncos offense that could be more explosive, with Montee Ball at running back and Emmanuel Sanders to go with rookie Cody Latimer in the rotation at wide receiver, Manning sees chemistry as what will make the difference.

It’s why Latimer and Sanders have spent so much time with the quarterback after training camp practices, when most of the other players have already gone to the locker room. It’s why at times Ball will find himself standing next to Manning during practice and Manning will be diagramming some part of a play with his hands slicing through the air.

The Broncos work fast on offense, don’t huddle all that much and Manning has complete freedom to change plays, or parts of plays, as often as the play clock allows before the snap, often with a simple code word.

“That’s the part you adjust to," Ball said. “The football part -- running, catching -- you can do that. But with Peyton, in this offense, you have to be ready to adjust and you have to be where you’re supposed to be to make it work."

It’s also why, at times, folks on the outside might look at who’s playing and who isn’t and wonder why if the football trinity of height, weight and speed are the only considerations.

“It is not an easy offense to learn if you’re a receiver and for a young player or a veteran free agent, like Emmanuel here," Manning said. “ … It is not easy to learn, so the more we can rep it out here in practice, I think the better it gives them chances to see … let’s face it, the cerebral part of the game, to me, is just as important as the physical part of the game. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it is hard to put you in there.”

Last season Knowshon Moreno went from shaky roster spot to starting running back in a matter of weeks because he knew what he was doing more consistently than the other guys. When Ball showed he too could consistently make the adjustments and be where he was supposed to be down the stretch last season, the Broncos promoted him to the starter in offseason workouts and did not attempt to sign Moreno in free agency.

When the Broncos scouted receivers for this past May’s draft, they wanted size, speed and the ability to make a contested catch, but they also needed a receiver who could handle being a receiver in their offense, a player who could handle what Manning and the offense throw at him. The Broncos believe Latimer was that guy, so they took him in the second round.

“I know there is a time when their heads are swimming, I mean, mine was swimming right after I signed when I got the playbook," Manning said. “Nobody really wants to keep hearing it, but it takes time and repetition, and the payoff is having success in games. You get to see the work you did pay off and if it you didn’t put in the work, put in the time, you see that, too."

Or as former Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley put it; “It’s not always the fastest, the strongest, or whatever -- it’s the guys who get themselves in the right place. You have to be athletic enough to play in the league, but to be everything you can be with Peyton, you have to be in the right spot every time. You do that and you’ll get the ball and do things everybody in this league wants to do."

Broncos Camp Report: Day 20

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
9:35
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • When the Broncos starting offense opened team drills in Tuesday’s first practice, it was undrafted rookie Juwan Thompson at running back as the group went though some situational work. It was a product of two running backs currently being sidelined, as Montee Ball recovers from an appendectomy and C.J. Anderson from a concussion, but also a sign of Thompson’s progress since training camp opened. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Tuesday he was familiar with the Duke running back’s work long before Thompson was signed by the Broncos as an undrafted rookie in May. Manning and the Broncos' pass catchers have spent parts of the last two offseasons working at Duke. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is also a trusted Manning confidante and his former offensive coordinator at Tennessee. Thompson has earned raves from the Broncos for his ability to adjust on the fly and get the play right when Manning or backup Brock Osweiler make changes before the snap. Ronnie Hillman is still working at Ball’s primary backup, but Thompson, who is also the biggest back on the roster, is making a serious case to be among the final 53.
  • Tight end Jacob Tamme was back at practice Tuesday. He was excused for Monday’s practice as well as the team’s second practice this past Saturday night, as his wife just gave birth to the couple’s second child last week. Tamme, who has consistently made impact plays thus far in camp, created space to get the ball time and time again Tuesday, including a long completion from Osweiler toward the end of the workout. He will get plenty of snaps in some of the team’s two-tight end looks when the Broncos pair him with Julius Thomas. But Tamme's play has been top tier, starting with his one-handed touchdown reception in the team's first stadium scrimmage.
  • One overriding theme in this training camp as compared to last year's is the ability of the team’s defense to make life more difficult for the offense in team drills. In one team period Tuesday, had defensive players been allowed to hit the quarterback, DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller would have each had sacks when it was starters against starters. Ware beat left tackle Ryan Clady to the corner one play, and Miller then beat right tackle Chris Clark later in the same drill.
  • The Broncos will have combined practices with the Houston Texans next week as both team prepare for an Aug. 23 preseason game in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. However, it won’t be full-go in practice with the regular season being two weeks away. Broncos head coach John Fox said the two teams will practice at “thud" tempo, which means defenders and offensive players will make impact on plays but will not tackle to the ground.
  • In addition to Ball and Anderson, defensive end Chase Vaughn (right knee) and defensive end Greg Latta (right hip) were again held out of practice. Ball and Anderson did take part in the team’s walk-through Tuesday evening. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who had been held out of three straight practices because of a thigh injury -- though he did play 20 snaps in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks Thursday night -- returned to practice. When the Broncos starters lined up in a two-tight end set with two wide receivers in the formation, it was most often Sanders and Demaryius Thomas at wideout.
  • Odds and ends: Wide receiver Jordan Norwood, who caught a touchdown pass from Osweiler in the preseason opener and continues to push for a roster spot, got some work with Manning and some other starters in a 7-on-7 period Tuesday ... An end-of-game, end-of-half practice period featured a couple penalties, with defensive tackle Marvin Austin jumping offside on a third-down play that gave the offense a first down. The offense later had a false start penalty in the same period.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- No longer a one-hit wonder when it comes to the rap game, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wasn't quite ready to call himself a professional in that arena.

Manning
"I would not say that. I don't think Jay-Z and Kanye West have anything to worry about, let's put it that way," Manning said after practice Tuesday, his first comments since his latest video effort went viral.

His teammates understand Manning's profile in the advertising world, but they have given him the business a bit for Manning's latest DirecTV commercial with his brother Eli. The Broncos even played the soundtrack for the ad, a music video for the network's new fantasy football channel, over the loudspeaker when the team went through its pre-practice stretch.

Peyton and Eli Manning had appeared in a similar video -- "Football on Your Phone" last season. This year the Mannings again shot the video in New Orleans, but each of the quarterbacks brought their offensive linemen along for the ride.

"Eli brought his own outfit," Manning said Tuesday. "It was very disturbing that he had it in his wardrobe. Mine were all props, not sure on the offensive linemen. I think (Ryan) Clady, (Louis) Vasquez, and Orlando (Franklin) had some props as well. We had a good time. We were down in New Orleans, and of course Eli and I any chance we have to be together it's enjoyable, but Eli had three of his offensive linemen as well so you can imagine how many laughs were taken place in between takes on one day deal down there in New Orleans. It was a fun deal."

Asked how the two quarterbacks added some of their teammates to this year's version, Manning said; "They said they wanted some other people in it with you so Eli and I both wanted to bring linemen in there. Orlando has been on me for a while to get him into a commercial. So I thought those guys did a good job, they looked the part, looked tough there, and like I said we had a lot of laughs as well."

"I was happy and thrilled about it," Franklin said. "I didn't really know what was going to be going on. I think they could have made it a bit more funnier. (There were) a lot funnier things when we were videotaping out there in Louisiana."

Broncos Camp Report: Day 19

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • Linebacker Von Miller, who tore his ACL in the Broncos’ Week 16 win over the Houston Texans last December, continues to progress toward his full return. When training camp opened Miller was essentially limited to individual drills to go with some additional work in seven-on-seven drills. But he has steadily added more in team drills with each passing practice, including Monday when the Broncos were in full pads. It means Miller is likely on track to participate in team drills when the Broncos have the Houston Texans in town next week for three days of practices before the two teams play Aug. 23 in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It also means that Texans game should be the first look at what the defense looks like with Miller and DeMarcus Ware in the same formation.
  • A seven-on-seven drill is routinely built to favor the offense with no pass rush and plenty of space for the receivers to work, but backup quarterback Brock Osweiler still had a particularly fruitful session worth noting in the practice, tossing two touchdown passes to Nathan Palmer, who spent some time on the Broncos' practice squad last season, as well as a scoring pass to undrafted rookie Bennie Fowler -- all three came in red zone work. On Osweiler’s first scoring pass to Palmer, he dropped it into the right back corner of the end zone over the outstretched arm of cornerback Tony Carter. Again those drills are usually tipped toward the offense, but the throws were accurate and on time.
  • The Broncos’ pass-catchers also had some bobbles on the day as Palmer fumbled in one drill while Isaiah Burse and Fowler dropped catchable passes in one-on-one drills. Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas and Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas also dropped passes on plays they usually make. Demaryius Thomas' drop came after a spectacular release to shake cornerback Jerome Murphy at the line of scrimmage, but he couldn't hang on to Peyton Manning's pass.
  • Running back Montee Ball said it would be “about a week’’ before he could do some light running as he returns from an appendectomy. And his prediction was right on as a week to the day from Ball’s surgery, he was allowed to do some light running Monday. While there is still a chance he would play in the team’s third preseason game -- against the Texans -- it still appears the schedule will be to hold him out of the preseason games and he would start the Sept. 7 opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
  • Odds and ends: With wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders getting the day off because of a thigh injury -- he played 20 snaps in the preseason opener last Thursday night -- Demaryius Thomas and Andre Caldwell lined up as the two outside receivers with the starters. … Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer once again showed the size-speed combination the Broncos wanted when they picked him in the second round of May’s draft. Manning hit him down the seam in one-on-ones as Latimer outran rookie cornerback Bradley Roby. … Defensive end Malik Jackson first deflected a pass and then intercepted it in team drills, … Former Broncos Brian Dawkins and Jason Elam were at Monday’s practice.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 17

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
7:30
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:
  • Linebacker Lerentee McCray, who has worked at Von Miller’s strong-side linebacker spot as the Broncos weave Miller into practice on a graduated basis after Miller’s ACL surgery, continues to flash in practice. In Saturday morning’s workout, McCray returned a Peyton Manning pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage for a touchdown. “It was a pretty good feeling to get my hands on the ball and go the other way.’’ McCray, Brandon Marshall and rookie Lamin Barrow are poised to be the fourth, fifth and sixth linebackers who will make the roster behind the starters when cuts come. The Broncos could have room for one more if they keep seven – they did in 2011 and 2012. The Broncos kept six last season.
  • Emmanuel Sanders, who played 20 plays in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks after being held out of practice Tuesday, was again held out of Saturday morning’s full practice – he took part in the Saturday evening walk-through. The Broncos lined up Demaryius Thomas and Andre Caldwell with the starting offense in the two outside spots. At one point in team drills, Manning tried to power a ball up the right sideline to Caldwell, but cornerback Aqib Talib closed the gap and knocked the ball away.
  • Much like Thursday’s effort when backup quarterback Brock Osweiler rebounded from an interception to throw a touchdown pass, the third-year passer rebounded from a rough set of drills to far better work later in practice. Osweiler had a tipped pass intercepted by Omar Bolden and had another pass intercepted deep down the field in the same drill by John Boyett. But Osweiler recovered quickly and later hooked up for a touchdown with Cody Latimer. On Osweiler’s progress overall, Broncos coach John Fox said Saturday; “He’s just gotten better … how he functions under pressure, I think, continues to improve and I think he took a big step Thursday night,’’
  • With Montee Ball coming off an appendectomy and C.J. Anderson recovering from a concussion, undrafted rookie Juwan Thompson continues to make his presence felt. Thompson got some snaps with the first-team offense Saturday. With the second-team offense later, he broke off the biggest run of the day, out-running safety Duke Ihenacho the final 25 yards or so to close the deal. Thompson, who played for David Cutcliffe at Duke, is well-versed in pass protection and has shown consistent hands. But in the run game he has shown quality decisiveness -- he squares his shoulders and hits the hole -- and more top-end speed than perhaps the Broncos' believed he had.
  • Odds and ends: Rookie Michael Schofield was the right tackle with the second-team offense in Saturday’s practice. Schofield did not play on offense in the preseason opener, but did play six snaps on special teams … Will Montgomery took a smattering of snaps at center with first-team offense … Cornerback Kayvon Webster was doing extra sprints after practice, running a hill adjacent to the team’s fields.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball wouldn’t exactly say he’s happy he had appendicitis.

But he is happy he had it in August.

"[It’s] great that we caught it now, obviously it’s great that it happened now than in September," Ball said. "Very unfortunate situation for me, but right now I’m looking up. Feeling great and getting to some running next week. I’m excited."

Ball, who had an appendectomy Monday, was back at the Broncos’ suburban complex Saturday. He won’t be ready to start doing some light running for another week or so, but he attended practice, jersey on, as the Broncos had their first on-field work since Thursday night’s 21-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in their preseason opener.

In Ball’s place, Ronnie Hillman has taken most of the snaps with the starting offense. There is a chance, in a small never-say-never sort of way, Ball could participate in the Broncos’ third preseason game -- Aug. 23 against the Houston Texans -- but at the moment Ball is not expected to play in any of the three remaining preseason games.

"Of course I want to play," Ball said. "I want to play against San Francisco in, what, a couple days or whatever. But obviously that’s not going to happen. But like I said, it’s just gradually going along, listening to my body and listening to our great training staff in there. They’re doing a great job bringing me along."

When Broncos head coach John Fox was asked after Saturday’s practice about Ball’s status for preseason games, Fox laid the groundwork for Ball’s next game being Sept. 7 against the Indianapolis Colts in the regular-season opener.

"We’ll just play it by ear," Fox said. "I think we saw plenty of him a year ago, we saw plenty of him in the offseason."

Ball, who has been the team’s top back all through the offseason and into training camp, said Saturday he was awakened with stomach pain on Monday and contacted Broncos head trainer Steve Antonopulos. He had surgery Monday afternoon and Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis and running backs coach Eric Studesville were among those to visit Ball at the hospital.

Because of Ball’s injury, as well as C.J. Anderson’s concussion in Thursday night’s game, the Broncos have some of their youngest players getting plenty of work in the practice rotation. Juwan Thompson, an undrafted rookie who led the team in rushing with 59 yards on six carries against the Seahawks, even got some snaps with the starting offense in Saturday’s practice.

"It’s an unfortunate situation for me," Ball said. "But the running backs are looking good right now. Looking great. The competition is most definitely there. They’re most definitely making me work for that spot. They’re working for it and doing a great job. I’m excited to see them play."

Ball will be the workhorse in the run game for the Broncos this season. Studesville, Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning have all said the second-year back is ready for the job and big things are expected from Ball in the offense.

The Broncos have not had a running back top 250 carries since Reuben Droughns had 275 carries in 2004.

"I’m listening to the training staff, and obviously we’re going to do some tests to see if I’m capable of coming back, which I’m sure I will be," Ball said. "I’ll be even stronger and ready to go."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The bottom line in any NFL season will always be what happens in the season's final game.

The champs are the champs and everybody else is not. Or as Denver Broncos coach John Fox has put it: "There's only one happy team at the end of every season. Everybody else is mad they weren't that team, living with that bitter taste and thinking about how good an opportunity they gave themselves to be that team."

[+] Enlarge Peyton Manning
AP Photo/Joe MahoneyPeyton Manning threw 10 completions for 78 yards in the Broncos' 21-16 preseason win Thursday night.
So, what happened in Super Bowl XLVIII will always be what happened for the Broncos. And what happens in any of their four preseason games in the new season can't wash that away, no matter how much August optimism is wrapped around it all.

Still, for a team that watched its title hopes swept away in back-to-back seasons in that final game, the Broncos are going to take a little solace when they show bounce-back ability at any time, even in a preseason game like Thursday night's.

"We are just trying to have a different mentality this year," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "Running the ball, defense, be physical to go with everything else this team can do."

The high-flying Broncos at times have wrestled with the "finesse" label since quarterback Peyton Manning arrived in 2012, but scoring a single-season record 606 points will do that in the second of back-to-back 13-3 seasons. Especially when most of those touchdowns came out of a three-wide-receiver formation with Manning in the shotgun and the Broncos working at warp speed.

But against the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason opener, the Broncos showed a little get-up-off-the-mat personality.

They rolled the dice a bit, using a preseason game for what a preseason game is for -- to work on stuff -- when they opened their first possession on offense in power looks. They got one first down, but didn't move past their own 37 before their first punt.

They came back on their next possession, using their favorite look on offense -- three wide receivers -- for a 14-play, 61-yard touchdown drive that took 9 minutes, 9 seconds off the clock. That touchdown drive was longer in elapsed time than any such drive the Broncos had in all of 2013.

The Broncos also had four penalties on the drive to go with a bad snap on a second-and-goal from the Seahawks' 2.

"I've never had an 18-play drive in the preseason, I've never had anything like that," Manning said. "I know the coaches will probably be pleased that it's a lot of plays to learn from on the film. All I can say is that it's good we overcame some things. The flags were out tonight. I think that was clear. The fact that we were able to overcome some penalties and still get a touchdown drive -- I always talk about getting situations to occur in the preseason -- that's something that you want to be able to overcome in the regular season. You get a penalty, 'Hey, it's bad, but let's try to find a way to overcome it.' "

Backup Brock Osweiler ended the third quarter with a wish-he-could-have-it-back interception, but rebounded to throw a 34-yard touchdown on the team's next possession.

Early in the third quarter, the Broncos also overcame a sequence of penalties on four consecutive plays, a feat that would have been far more difficult, facing a first-and-35 situation, had they not been bailed out by a pass interference penalty on Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane in the fifth play of the sequence.

"We know the season is where we'll show what we can do, but still you always want to be a team that can overcome things, in any game, starters and backups," Knighton said. "That's always going to help you. Things are going to happen, football is one of those games, it's not always going to be pretty. The good teams overcome the things that happen to it in a game. Just line up and play the next play."

Said Osweiler: "You've got to erase. You've got to move forward."
DENVER -- The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks had a marathon affair Thursday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High that included a 45-minute lighting delay, a player ejection and two teams that combined for 20 penalties through three quarters.

All in all, the Broncos' 21-16 win was a rather ugly affair overall involving last February's Super Bowl teams, but also one in which the Broncos showed the kind of impact some of their new additions can have.

Here are some other thoughts on the Broncos' first preseason game of the year:


  • The Broncos have made their run game a priority throughout their offseason work as well as early on in training camp. No, they don't want to become some run-first outfit, but they do want to be able run the ball with efficiency when the game situation presents itself. To that end they have worked heavy packages in camp and broke one out on their first possession when they used three tight ends in addition to backup tackle Paul Cornick as a fourth tight end on consecutive snaps. There are rough edges to smooth as Ronnie Hillman went 2 yards and minus-1 yard on the two plays.
  • It is often logically hazardous to take a few preseason snaps and use them as a template to project anything to come in the regular season. Preseason football is routinely littered with August heroes. But DeMarcus Ware offered a glimpse of what he has left in his football tank. He blew up the Seahawks' first play from scrimmage -- a run in which Nate Irving tackled Robert Turbin for no gain -- and sacked Russell Wilson two plays later. No surprise for those who have seen Ware go about his business at Broncos camp, but put Von Miller back in the defense and the Broncos are going to be able to create plenty of pressure.
  • The Broncos had the officials in for a smattering of training camp practices. They saw the video on the "points of emphasis" on illegal contact and defensive holding. Consider them very much a work in progress there. Among the starters alone cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward were each flagged for defensive holding while Irving and fellow linebacker Danny Trevathan were flagged for illegal contact and pass interference, respectively. Ward also was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty.
  • Running back Juwan Thompson, an undrafted rookie from Duke, did what undrafted rookies need to do: He got noticed. Thompson had 59 yards rushing on his six carries, including a 20-yarder on a third-quarter touchdown drive. Thompson was a rotation back at Duke, but the Broncos liked what they saw from him in David Cutcliffe's offense -- the Blue Devils coach was Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator at Tennessee and remains a close confidant -- and the rookie hasn't disappointed throughout the offseason. He has a good feel in pass protection, runs with purpose and catches the ball smoothly. At 225 pounds he's also the biggest back on the roster and a former special teams captain at Duke. He's also the No. 4 back right now for a team that routinely keeps four.
  • After tinkering with the heavy formation, the Broncos' starting offense went back to its reliable three-wide set. Thirteen of the 14 plays in the unit's touchdown drive came in three-wide, the scoring play -- a 1-yard run by Hillman -- was in two tight end.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos opened training camp with a team that was good enough to have played in the Super Bowl six months before and as one of the league’s most active teams in free agency, a rare combination as they try to repair the damage from February’s 35-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Broncos wanted a little more nastiness on defense, more athleticism across the board and to keep their edge after back-to-back 13-3 seasons that have ended in postseason disappointment.

They wanted what John Elway calls “the right mentality."

So far in this training camp they have shown they should certainly be in the Super Bowl discussion if they simply keep the train on the tracks in the months to come.

“We will get what we work for," coach John Fox said.

Without many starting jobs open, or even roster spots for that matter, the camp has been about getting the new faces acclimated and smoothing any rough edges before things get going for real.

“I think we all understand what they’ve got going here and why they brought some of us in," said safety T.J. Ward, a free-agent signee. “We all know it’s time to get to work and get ready."

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM


1. It’s clear already the offense is going to score plenty -- again. Peyton Manning, who needs just 18 touchdown passes to set the league career record, has looked as sharp as ever and may actually have more options to throw to than he did in last year's record-setting 606-point performance. Orlando Franklin’s move inside to guard means the Broncos should pass protect better in the middle of the formation, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders should have a career year in this offense, especially given his versatility to play all over the formation. The Broncos also didn’t sit on the laurels of last season’s record-setting effort as Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase were each aggressive and honest, with plenty of attention to detail when looking at what could be better.

[+] EnlargeWare
AP Photo/Jack DempseyDeMarcus Ware has made his presence felt since signing with the Broncos.
2. In cornerback Aqib Talib, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and Ward, the Broncos got exactly what they wanted in free agency. Ware has commanded respect with his no-nonsense, quiet work ethic and leadership from his first day in the building. Talib is the physical corner who can match up anywhere in the formation the Broncos need him, and Ward is a guy defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will move all over the field. The Talib-Demaryius Thomas battles have created some of the highlights of practice. Ware has mentored, in some way, virtually all of the pass-rushers, especially linebacker Von Miller.

3. Continuity helps. The team’s playcallers on offense and defense -- Gase and Del Rio -- are back. Last season, as Gase raced to put in some changes to the offense when Mike McCoy moved on to become the Chargers' coach, the Broncos were working through the new stuff. This year, Gase has tweaked the offense in spots, but there looks to be a greater comfort level across the board. The groups have played fairly cleanly in practice, with only a smattering of penalties and a minimum of repeats as they have worked through things.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. Until they square up in a game that counts, there is at least some question if a slightly revamped offensive line is going to make it happen in the run game. The Broncos don’t want to be some outdated, 50-50 run-pass affair, but they do want to be able to pound the ball to close out games and keep the heat off Manning when needed. Thus far, in limited full-contact work, it’s been a spotty effort with flashes of potential. It will be a key piece in keeping opposing defenses honest and giving the Broncos some other options in the scoring zone.

2. Somebody, anybody, has to step up in the return game. As camp has rolled on, the Broncos have simply mishandled too many kickoffs and punts. They would prefer to not have to use starters if they don’t have to, and wide receiver Andre Caldwell and defensive back Omar Bolden have been the most consistent in kickoff returns so far. At punt return, however, things are still open with Wes Welker, who suffered two concussions last season, currently listed at the top of the team’s depth chart. Because of the concussion risk, Welker is not the player the Broncos want catching punts beyond any deep-in-their-own-territory fair catches. So it is a chance for a young player such as wide receiver Jordan Norwood or rookie Isaiah Burse.

3. The blue ball is in play -- a football with a blue covering -- to emphasize ball security after the team led the league in lost fumbles last season. The Broncos also dropped their fair share of passes in 2013, including a seven-drop game against the New England Patriots and a six-drop game against the Tennessee Titans. It has been a front-burner issue all through camp, but they have still put the ball on the ground on occasion in workouts, especially on special teams. It will bear watching as they move through the preseason and into the regular season.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • With the additions of Sanders and rookie Cody Latimer to an offense that already includes Demaryius Thomas, Welker and Julius Thomas, the Broncos feature an array of pass-catchers who can all play, with equal comfort, on the outside or in the slot. It gives them plenty of size to create some matchup problems against more aggressive defenses. Even the most aggressive defensive backs are going to have a difficult time manhandling them all as the Broncos have spent plenty of time considering how to consistently get their pass-catchers the free release they need off the line.
  • Manning, and his receivers have said as much, has shown a little more pop in his arm through offseason workouts and camp and has pushed the ball down the field with ease.
  • Of the team’s draft class, cornerback Bradley Roby is, at minimum, going to play in the nickel and dime, Latimer will be in the rotation on offense, and Lamin Barrow figures to get special-teams work and could work his way into some of the specialty packages on defense.
  • In recent seasons, the Broncos have consistently had a late free-agent signing, a veteran who signs a one-year deal, come in and contribute in a big way. This year it looks like that guy is going to be defensive tackle Marvin Austin. He had back surgery in the past year, and the former second-round pick by the Giants has caught the Broncos’ eye.
  • It’s early with plenty of road to be traveled, but the most improved players from a year ago look to be running back Ronnie Hillman and guard Ben Garland, who was switched from defensive tackle in the offseason and is pushing hard for one of the final roster spots allotted for the offensive line. Hillman has shown the big-play potential the offense needs at the position, especially as it looks to improve its impact on runs between the tackles against the bevy of nickel and dime formations used to stop the Broncos' passing game.

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