Offseason team activities for the Denver Broncos came to a conclusion last Monday.
Over the course of team activities, rookies, veterans and coaches all came together for the first time for major workouts. A few players missed OTAs for a variety of reasons. Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno and Joel Dreessen either missed all or missed most of OTAs due to injury or personal reasons.
Due to absences of key players, other players received more reps than they normally would and "turned heads" over the past few weeks.
These are eight Broncos who turned heads during offseason workouts.
Perhaps the player that turned heads the most during Broncos OTAs was none other than Denver's second-round selection, Montee Ball.
The University of Wisconsin product made a grand impression during OTAs. AFC West writer Bill Williamson of ESPN.com named Ball as Denver's first-year player who "turned heads" during OTAs.
Considering Denver's situation at running back, it would not be out of the realm to see the Broncos start Ball in 2013. With Ronnie Hillman almost a lock to make the roster, and Moreno and McGahee as huge question marks to make Denver's roster in 2013, the former Heisman runner-up may be lining up alongside Peyton Manning in the backfield as early as his rookie season.
Due to Moreno and McGahee's absences (Moreno was out due to injury for the majority of OTAs), Ball wasn't the only running back who was able to make an impression.
Second-year running back Hillman also caught the attention of coaches. As Joe Morrone of RantSports.com details, "Hillman looks like a different player, according to the people who have seen some of the practices."
Hillman has gained weight during the offseason, beefing up from the 180-pound frame that he played in for the majority of the 2012 season to his now-195-pound frame.
Because of the absences of the aforementioned veteran running backs, Ball and Hillman played alongside Manning on the first team during reps in OTAs.
It wouldn't shock anybody to see the Ball-Hillman duo do the same thing during the 2013 season.
Speaking of players making an impression due to injuries to key veteran players, tight end Julius Thomas did just that over the past few weeks.
Despite making just one catch for five years over his first two seasons in the NFL, the Broncos have continued to show a vote of confidence for Thomas despite injuries and his inability to see the field on most game days (he has played just nine out of a possible 32 games).
It finally looks to be paying off.
At one point during OTAs, Thomas hauled in a 50-yard TD pass from Manning. A week later, the Portland State product made a one-handed grab in the flat before making his way to the end zone. Manning said, via the Associated Press' Arnie Stapleton (h/t FoxNews.com):
He's a great athlete. A big target. If you can't complete a ball to Julius as a quarterback, something is wrong with you. He has a great wingspan and great size and jumping ability. I think he's just continuing to get better for us.
That "big target" may be getting better just in time to make a big contribution for Manning and the Broncos in 2013.
Remember that quarterback who was selected out of Arizona State in the second round of last year's draft?
You know, the guy who never took any meaningful snaps under center as Manning played every snap that matter under center in 2012?
Well, "that guy" caught the attention of his coaches during offseason workouts. Brock Osweiler made a number of quality throws. According to Kyle Montgomery of MileHighReport.com, Osweiler "was the star of Broncos OTAs."
According to Montgomery from that same link:
It may not make a difference in 2013 that Osweiler has "turned heads" in May and June, but it's certainly a positive sign for the future of the Denver Broncos as a franchise.
You know how Trindon Holliday is known purely as a special teams player?
You know how he's also the shortest player in the NFL at 5'5" although he's listed as a wide receiver?
Well, Holliday also made an impact during offseason workouts—as a receiver.
As Bronco Mike states on MileHighReport.com:
There were a few times where Holliday was used in two back sets out of the shotgun as a receiver. He is the epitome of "home run threat" and should be utilized on offense. I doubt any DB in the league could match his speed. Should be deadly with playaction and double moves.
During that article, there's also a tweet from Andrew Mason about Holliday, stating "Also, plenty of work on offense for Trindon Holliday, who caught a touchdown pass from Brock Osweiler."
The Broncos did use Holliday a few times in receiver sets during the Baltimore Ravens playoff game, and it seems that the Broncos will likely do the same in the upcoming season.
It's a bit unusual to see a player of Manning's caliber on a list of mostly young, unproven players, but his OTAs were worth a look because of some of the insight that he revealed going into year two of his Broncos tenure, in comparison to his first year with Denver.
Via Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, Manning said:
Because [I] felt like a rookie in some ways – just from an offensive standpoint, with totally new coaches, new receivers that you're throwing to, trying to get on the same page with 'em. And I signed in, what, late March, and you really can't work out with 'em till April, kinda like when you get drafted as a rookie, you only have a certain amount of time to get on the same page with your receivers before the season starts.
It should be interesting to see how Manning could possibly improve upon his first season in Denver, which saw him finish as a runner-up to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for MVP in 2012.
David Bruton is one of the few players remaining from the Josh McDaniels regime, and he has made a career out of being a special teams stalwart.
Bruton was signed to a three-year, $4.5 million contract extension during the offseason. However, the Broncos might use him at his natural position—safety—going into the season.
In his OTA notes, Andrew Mason had positive things to say about Bruton:
But Bruton's play, which has been solid through OTAs, goes beyond the cerebral to his physical advantages. At 217 pounds, Bruton is the Broncos' heaviest safety. He's also arguably their fastest. Both came in handy when he swooped in to break up a potential Manning pass to tight end Julius Thomas, who is 38 pounds heavier than Bruton.
Bruton has been getting some reps with the ones, especially when it pertains to matchups with tight ends.
It should be interesting to see if this trend continues into training camp.
All three receivers deserve to be on this list, because all of them made an impact during OTAs, including a number of highlight catches.
Once again, Andrew Mason talks about this in his OTA notes:
One of the most difficult roster decisions will be at wide receiver behind Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas. Tavarres King, Andre Caldwell and Greg Orton all made notable catches during Thursday's practice. Caldwell's was the most athletic; he lunged for a long pass down the middle from Brock Osweiler, beating rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster. Orton's was the most clutch; he caught a touchdown pass from Osweiler, quickly cutting inside and grabbing the ball in stride before Rahim Moore could arrive.
With Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker having the top three receiver positions locked up, at least one of the aforementioned three—Orton, Caldwell, King—looks to be the odd man out entering 2013.