Denver Broncos Facing Make-or-Break Training Camps
The Denver Broncos open training camp in less than one week and the team will start putting in the work that will hopefully culminate in a Super Bowl victory next February.
Though the team is loaded with talent in the form of guys like Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Von Miller, many players face an uncertain future. Their performance in camp may determine how much playing time they get over the course of the season or it may determine if they're even part of the team at all.
Training camp is a tough, grueling challenge that separates the good players and the very good players. To be a part of this Denver team, guys are going to have to earn it.
Here is a look at 10 Broncos that are facing a training camp where they must produce results and convince the coaching staff that they are one of the 53 best players on the roster.
Andre Caldwell, Wide Receiver
What position will see the fiercest competition in training camp this summer for the Broncos? Probably wide receiver.
Andre Caldwell came to the Broncos with a lot of promise after recording 124 catches in four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. In Denver last year, he caught one pass. That won't get it done for this team.
With Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker, three of the wide receiver spots are locked up. Caldwell will have to turn things around in a big way if he is going to be a member of the team going forward.
Jeremy Beal, Defensive End
Jeremy Beal had 29 sacks at the collegiate level as a member of the Oklahoma Sooners and the Broncos hoped they had found a diamond in the rough when they drafted him in the seventh round in 2011. Instead, they haven't gotten much of anything.
Beal suffered a knee injury in the team's final preseason game in 2012, forcing him to sit out the entire season. If he can't show the team what he is capable of this summer, he may be out of chances.
On the bright side, opportunity does exist at the defensive end position as the Broncos could use a player like Beal to rotate with Robert Ayers. Beal will likely have to outperform Malik Jackson in order to get playing time.
Tony Carter, Cornerback
It's hard to put Tony Carter on this list as it appeared the Broncos had found a quality defensive back that could come off the bench last year, especially after his Monday Night Football performance against San Diego.
Still, Carter suffered lapses in coverage last year and will have to show some improvement this year in a deep Denver secondary.
Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris will have no problems making the team and third-round pick Kayvon Webster will be there as well. That could leave Carter battling Omar Bolden for a roster spot.
Bolden can help out on special teams so Carter will have to prove he is better in coverage on the defensive side of the ball.
Joe Mays, Linebacker
If the Broncos had a clear-cut starter at the middle linebacker position, Joe Mays might not even be on the team at this point. Fortunately for him, he still has a chance.
Mays will be in direct competition with guys like Steven Johnson, Nate Irving and Stewart Bradley. After a disastrous 2012 season that saw him lose his job to Keith Brooking before a knee injury sidelined him for the year, Mays needs to come into camp hungry.
Mays can help the team in run support, but he is an absolute liability in the passing game. For that reason, the Broncos might be able to rely on younger players like Jackson and Irving and make the decision to release Mays.
Greg Orton, Wide Receiver
This is Greg Orton's best chance to land a spot on the roster. It's also likely his last.
Orton's career started with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 and he has had stints in the Arena Football League and United Football League in between his time with the Broncos.
Last year, Orton managed to secure a place on the practice squad and now, he could find his way onto the roster if he shines in camp. Like Andre Caldwell, Orton will be competing for one of probably two spots at the wide receiver position.
Gerell Robinson, Tavarres King, Kemonte' Bateman and Quincy McDuffie will be looking to do the same thing. But Orton is a big target at 6'3", 205 pounds and has more NFL experience than all of those players.
Julius Thomas, Tight End
If Julius Thomas could give the Broncos what he is capable of giving them, the offense would be close to unstoppable. At this point, that is still a big question.
Thomas has never lived up to his potential as a former fourth-round draft choice, catching just one pass in his NFL career while dealing with injuries. If he can stay healthy, he gives the Broncos another huge weapon.
With a basketball background, Thomas is an athletic player who can become the type of tight end teams are succeeding with on a regular basis in the NFL these days, similar to Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta or Antonio Gates in San Diego.
Thomas could be the team's starting tight end or he could fall all the way to No. 4 on the depth chart behind Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen and Virgil Green. Neither of these scenarios would be all that surprising.
Jeremiah Johnson, Running Back
There is a wide open competition at the running back position, so how come no one ever mentions Jeremiah Johnson?
Johnson has seemed like a permanent resident on the practice squad over the last few years, yet he does have the skills to play at the NFL level. This camp and preseason is his chance to prove it.
The team had a door open at the running back position when they released Willis McGahee in June and Johnson, as well as Jacob Hester, C.J. Anderson and Lance Ball, may all get an opportunity that they otherwise wouldn't have.
Johnson has only rushed for 77 yards over the course of his career, but he has been in the Broncos system since 2010 and that could bode well for him.
Stewart Bradley, Linebacker
The Broncos were quick to sign Stewart Bradley in March, less than two weeks after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals. Bradley only had 30 tackles in two seasons with the Cardinals.
In Denver, Bradley will likely be a reserve linebacker, at best. But as a veteran entering his seventh year in the league, he may be able to provide solid pointers for guys like Steven Johnson and Nate Irving.
Mitch Unrein, Defensive Tackle
Mitch Unrein developed into a valuable defensive player off the Denver bench in 2012 and his future looked promising. Unrein had 20 tackles and one fumble recovery and he was a very disruptive player on defense.
This offseason, the Broncos have added a lot of depth to the defensive tackle position, first signing free agent Terrance Knighton from Jacksonville and then using the No. 28 overall pick in the first round to select Sylvester Williams out of North Carolina.
With Kevin Vickerson still on the team after signing a new two-year deal, Unrein will likely have to beat out Sealver Siliga and Romney Fuga for a spot on the team.
Knowshon Moreno, Running Back
Perhaps no Denver Bronco player has more to prove in training camp than Knowshon Moreno, a player who has drawn the ire of fans for his inability to stay on the field.
However, with Willis McGahee lost for the season due to a knee injury last November, Moreno filled in admirably.
After losing a fumble in a Week 2 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in September, it looked as though Moreno might be done with the Broncos. They turned to him after McGahee went down and he chipped in with 510 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games against Oakland and Baltimore.
The key to Moreno being successful will be his health. But if he can stay on the field, not only will he make the team, he could be the starting running back in the season opener against Baltimore.