The 5 Biggest Takeaways from Denver Broncos Rookie Minicamp
The Denver Broncos concluded their 2013 rookie minicamp on Sunday afternoon.
The team had more than 30 players at their Dove Valley facility for practices, from drafted and undrafted rookies to a handful of players trying out for the team.
On Sunday evening, via the team's official Twitter account, the team announced the signings of linebacker Damien Holmes and defensive end Lanston Tanyi (who both worked out for the team) and the release of linebacker Doug Rippy (defensive end Gary Mason Jr. also failed his physical earlier in the week, removing him from the roster).
"This is a great opportunity for the rookies, whether they're draft picks or college free agents, to come in and get a little bit of the head start on the veterans," Coach John Fox told DenverBroncos.com.
Here are a few post-minicamp observations:
1. Montee Ball Is Going to Be Featured
Really, it's not fair.
The Broncos had the fourth-best offense in the NFL last season and cruised to a 13-3 regular-season record with a minimally effective rushing attack in the second half of the season.
Enter second-round draft pick Montee Ball, who scored 83 touchdowns while at Wisconsin.
That sounds like a pretty stacked offense, and the team just added another valuable asset to the staff.
In the late 1990s, Terrell Davis was undeniably the best running back in football. His successes came in part from the team's zone block scheme, which was installed by former offensive line coach Alex Gibbs in 1995.
While Gibbs was in Denver (from 1995-03), the Broncos were one of the top rushing teams in the league.
On Sunday, the Broncos announced that Gibbs will be returning in 2013 as an offensive line consultant.
That can only mean good news for Ball, who is already poised to have a brilliant rookie season.
2. Rushing the Passer Will Be a Focus
There's a new No. 92 in Denver.
Out goes Elvis Dumervil and in comes Sylvester Williams.
Williams is just one of a handful of quarterback hunters whom the team has landed this offseason. Others on the list include Shaun Phillips, Quanterus Smith, Lerentee McCray, Lanston Tanyi and Damien Holmes.
Williams is a defensive tackle, but he can get after the quarterback. Joining him and the above-mentioned rushers will be returning players Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers, Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson, with the latter four expected to compete for rotational roles on the defensive line.
Denver has a lot of pass-rushers on the team, creating great depth. There shouldn't be a large production gap created by Dumervil's absence this fall.
Seeing as Williams weighs in at 313 pounds, there probably won't be many gaps—period.
3. Many Are Called; Few Are Chosen
There are currently more than 80 players on the team's roster. By Week 1, that number will be trimmed to 53.
On game days, that number will drop to 45. That means between now and September 5, nearly half of the roster will lose their gigs.
That means, there will be plenty of competition in Denver this summer—particularly at wide receiver.
The team currently has 11 receivers on the roster, ranging from Pro Bowlers and former indoor football stars to little-known undrafted rookies. But the youngsters shouldn't be written off just yet, as Rod Smith and Wes Welker both went undrafted back in the day before shining when given opportunities.
Denver's unit is led by Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker and rounded out by Andre Caldwell, Trindon Holliday, Tavarres King, Greg Orton, Gerell Robinson, Lamaar Thomas, Quincy McDuffie and Kemonte' Bateman.
Receiver will be one of the most intriguing positions to follow during training camp, as the No. 4 receiver spot is anyone's job to win. Let the competition begin.
4. Expect a Bitter Battle at CB
It's obvious that veteran Champ Bailey is slowing down a little. But the Broncos aren't concerned.
"We have high expectations of Champ," executive John Elway told the Denver Post, according to Mike Klis. "Any time you get up there in age things are going to slow down a little bit, but you hope they make it up on the mental side and anticipate.
Champ is obviously still going to be the team's top cornerback. But who will be No. 1? And Nos. 2, 3 and 4?
The front-runner is Chris Harris Jr., who is coming off a breakout season. But he will have competition from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was signed in the offseason, and Kayvon Webster, who was drafted in the third round in April.
Much like wide receiver, cornerback will be a position to watch this summer.
5. Expect a Summer of Pranks
This has little to do with the team's on-the-field performance, but it will be fun to follow nonetheless.
Quarterback Peyton Manning is well-known as a prankster (Eric Decker and Wes Welker can attest to that), from changing his teammates iPhone languages to Chinese to masterminding a plot that resulted in offensive lineman Orlando Franklin receiving a pie to the face on live TV at a baseball game last week.
What we want to know is, how will Peyton's teammates strike back?
Franklin has already vowed revenge, and he does not look like the kind of guy anyone would want to mess with. Yet, all of the pranks are done in good fun, and Franklin's job is to protect Manning.
So he'll have to get creative. Here's hoping we hear about the retaliation.