Denver Broncos: Most Interesting Training Camp Battles

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Correspondent IIJuly 26, 2012

Denver Broncos: Most Interesting Training Camp Battles

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    The Denver Broncos open up training camp at 8:50 a.m. MT on Thursday, thus getting one step closer to the start of the NFL season.

    This will be an important camp for the Broncos as they will look quite a bit different than the last time we saw them on the field, mainly due to the arrival of Peyton Manning and the new offense they will install to accommodate him. 

    The team will have some important decisions to make at key positions and this camp, as well as their four preseason games, is where these battles will be won or lost.

    Here's a look at the positions that the Broncos staff will likely make a large focal point in the coming weeks.

Backup Running Back

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    Barring an injury, Willis McGahee is basically entrenched as the starting running back for the team and rightfully so. He's coming off a near 1,200-yard rushing season.

    The backup job figures to go to embattled former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno or this year's third-rounder—Ronnie Hillman.

    Hillman agreed to terms on a contract on Tuesday, and he's ready for his chance to play the professional level.

    Moreno, on the other hand, is slowly falling out of favor in Denver, and his offseason DUI arrest likely didn't help matters.

    The Broncos have done away with much of what Josh McDaniels brought to Denver, and now, John Elway has a running back that he hand picked.

    The Broncos will likely spread the ball around between many of their backs, but it will be the speed and elusiveness as well as the pass-catching ability of Hillman that will stand out in camp and preseason. 

Defensive Tackle

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    The Broncos main weakness going into the offseason was considered to be the defensive tackle position.

    They addressed that in the draft after trading back to select Derek Wolfe out of Cincinnati with the 36th overall pick.

    Wolfe will compete with Kevin Vickerson, Ty Warren, Justin Bannan and Sealver Siliga for playing time, although none of those men are considered a starter right now.

    Warren hasn't played a down since the 2009 season, but the former New England Patriot does have 20.5 career sacks.

    Bannan is in his second stint with Denver, and Siliga has yet to play in the NFL, spending part of last season on the practice squad. Vickerson has been with the team since 2010 but only has two sacks in that time.

    This is the position on the team that the Broncos need someone to step up for more than any other, Derek Wolfe might just be that guy.

Free Safety

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    The loss of Brian Dawkins will be one of the most glaring for the Broncos this season and one of their young players, or perhaps more than one young player, will need to rise up to fill the void.

    Mike Adams was signed in the offseason as a free agent, so this battle looks to be between Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter.

    Early into the 2011 season, Carter took the starting spot away from Moore and played quite well, making the most of the opportunity.

    Carter finished the year with 56 tackles while Moore only had half that. Carter also made a crucial interception of Ben Roethlisberger in the Wild Card Playoff game, one of the plays that helped propel the Broncos into the next round.

    One idea the Broncos may experiment with is to have both Carter and Moore in the starting lineup and use the veteran Adams to back them up and pick up the pieces should either of them fail.

    Regardless, it will be a very interesting position to watch in training camp.

How Many Wide Receivers Will Be Kept

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    The most interesting position for the Broncos going into camp will be wide receiver due to all of the questions at the spot. 

    Will these guys fit with Peyton Manning? Does Brandon Stokley's experience with Peyton help him make the team? How many receivers will they keep?

    The Broncos have several options. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are sure to be the top two options. Beyond that, they have newly acquired Andre Caldwell, Brandon Stokley, Jason Hill and Matt Willis.

    Eric Page and Gerell Robinson are two exciting undraftred rookies, and Mark Dell has a chance to make the team with a solid camp and preseason.

    So who will they go with? The Broncos have a good pool to choose from, and one or two of these guys will probably be assigned to the practice squad.

    With the offense leaning on the pass way more than they did last season, this will be a crucial position for the Broncos.

    Thomas and Decker, who will have the opportunity to become elite while catching balls from Manning and Caldwell, should be excellent out of the slot.

    Between Stokley, Willis, Hill, Dell, Page and Robinson, I'd expect the Broncos to keep three of those players on the roster. The three who impress the most between now and September 9th will get those spots, as it is very much up for grabs.