Denver Broncos Training Camp Preview: Depth Chart, Sleepers and Predictions
The Denver Broncos will report for training camp on Wednesday before holding their first practice on Thursday.
For fans of the Broncos, they will only be able to watch the Broncos in person if they choose to go to one of the three practices that will be held at Sports Authority Field, thanks to renovations being done at the team's training facility.
The Broncos will hold practices from July 24-August 15. On August 2, the annual Summer Scrimmage will take place at 11 a.m. MDT from Sports Authority Field.
This will be an important camp for the Broncos as they open up their defense as AFC champions. They're also hopeful for a return to the Super Bowl.
As one of the premier teams in the league, the Broncos shouldn't be faced with too many tough roster decisions. Still, there will be important battles to follow throughout camp.
Training camp will also be pivotal for a few veterans, not just for their future in Denver, but their careers in the NFL.
What about the rookies—and the players many fans may not be familiar with? We've got you covered here. Just before training camp kicks off in Denver, we give you some insight into the Broncos as they head into the 2014 season.
Best Position Battles
After losing Dan Koppen early in training camp last summer, the Broncos scrambled to find a replacement at center and settled on Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez has proven to be a versatile backup, as he played in 11 games at guard in 2013 as well. Yet this offseason, the Broncos brought in free-agent center Will Montgomery.
Still, he will have to do a lot to overtake Ramirez, who was a force in the Broncos' running game last season.
Backup Running Back
We all know that Montee Ball is the Denver running back for the foreseeable future, but few teams in the league are able to rely on just one back.
That means whoever sits behind Ball on the depth chart will need to be ready when called upon, and that sets the stage for an interesting battle in training camp.
Are the Broncos ready to turn the page on Ronnie Hillman? Or can he prove to the coaching staff that he deserves to be the backup, whilst holding off second-year running back C.J. Anderson?
Anderson brings a lot to the table, including good vision and a straightforward running style. Hillman has a fumbling problem to overcome, but the player who gives the team the most as a receiver out of the backfield as well as in pass protection may end up winning the job.
If it's Anderson, where does that leave Hillman?
Derek Wolfe vs. Malik Jackson
A year ago, Broncos fans wouldn't have been able to fathom this. But now, there is a possibility that Derek Wolfe could be jettisoned from the starting lineup in favor of Malik Jackson.
Wolfe was never at 100 percent last year, suffering a scary injury in a preseason game against Seattle before playing just 11 games in the regular season.
Jackson followed up his quiet rookie season by racking up six sacks last year. If he stays hungry throughout camp, Wolfe will have his work cut out for him to hold onto his starting spot at defensive end.
The Broncos have a variety of players on the roster who could surprise people in training camp after bringing in a solid class of undrafted rookies.
Here, we focus on three of those undrafted players who all will take their shot at landing a roster spot.
Bryn Renner, Quarterback
Bryn Renner could easily be given the tag "game manager," but he can play quarterback at the pro level.
While he won't do anything flashy, Renner is an intelligent quarterback who would have most likely been drafted if not for a season-ending shoulder injury suffered during his senior year.
He throws the ball with nice touch and is adept at avoiding pressure. But he also makes smart decisions. You'll often see him throw the ball away, never forcing the issue.
Renner should put as much time into learning the playbook as he can. In camp, he will press Zac Dysert for the No. 3 quarterback job, should the Broncos decide to keep that many.
Juwan Thompson, Running Back
Juwan Thompson doesn't have the name of fellow undrafted running back Kapri Bibbs or perhaps even Brennan Clay, but he is as talented as both men.
He may also be a better fit in Denver than either of them.
Thompson is a do-it-all player that will showcase his ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well as his versatility as a running back.
In college, he was captain of the special teams and even played linebacker in a pinch.
With a wide open battle at running back, Thompson could quietly slide into a roster spot.
Shaquil Barrett, Linebacker
The Broncos would love for anyone to step up at the linebacker position to complement Von Miller and Danny Trevathan. Perhaps that player will be Shaquil Barrett.
An undrafted rookie out of Colorado State, Barrett is a playmaking linebacker who is also an explosive tackler.
During his collegiate career, he totaled 246 tackles, including 32.5 for a loss. Last season, he recorded an amazing 12 sacks.
In the NFL, Barrett could make a serious case for a roster spot if he can drop back into pass coverage. If he combines the ability to do that with his energetic play and pass-rush ability, the Broncos may have found a diamond in the rough.
Players Facing Crucial Training Camps
We touched on Ronnie Hillman earlier, but this may be the most important training camp of his career.
The lasting impression most Denver fans have of Hillman is of him coughing up a fumble inside the Indianapolis Colts' five-yard line last year, thwarting Denver's attempt at a comeback.
Hillman was used very sparingly for the remainder of the season.
Coming into camp, he has as much to prove as any player on the roster. As a former third-round draft pick, the expectations will be magnified.
Hot on the heels of Hillman for playing time are running backs C.J. Anderson, Kapri Bibbs, Brennan Clay and Juwan Thompson. Not a single one of those players was drafted.
It is time for Gerell Robinson's talent to materialize into a spot on the Denver roster.
After spending the previous two seasons in Denver's camp, it was determined that Robinson couldn't make it as a wide receiver. He has since been converted to tight end.
After failing a physical, it was announced by denverbroncos.com that Joel Dreessen has been released. That has to drastically increase Robinson's chances of making the roster.
Robinson is not the type of tight end you see in the league. He has very good hands and great ability to run after the catch. He could become a serious weapon for the Broncos, much in the same way Julius Thomas did last year, if he adjusts well to his new position.
Yes, Quinton Carter still plays for the Broncos. And even though the two interceptions he recorded in the postseason following the 2011 regular season seems like ages ago, he still has a chance to be a solid cog in the Denver defense.
But it won't be easy.
The Broncos have Rahim Moore and T.J. Ward. They also saw Duke Ihenacho take a big step last year. The Broncos also have Omar Bolden and David Bruton on the roster at safety.
The chance is still there for Carter, but it's dwindling. He's not just playing for a roster spot this year in camp, he could very likely be playing to keep his career alive as well.
What to Expect from Top Draft Picks
The Broncos had a keen eye on the future during the 2014 draft, but that doesn't mean some of their picks can't become contributors immediately.
Their top three picks should all be given a chance to compete early on in their careers.
The Broncos did well for themselves by finding Bradley Roby still on the board in the late first round of the draft. It appears that they may be looking for the same defensive model that the Seattle Seahawks employ, at least as far as the secondary is concerned.
With Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, the Broncos already have an excellent combination at the cornerback position. Throwing Roby into the mix could just be the icing on the cake.
Roby is an athletic, confident player who has the ability to run with receivers in man-coverage. If he can do this on a consistent basis, the Broncos will have found exactly what they were looking for.
Expect to see Roby on the field early and often this season.
Cody Latimer was a luxury pick for the Broncos in the second round. Already deep at the wide receiver position, they selected Latimer anyway.
Initially, it seemed Latimer may be a weapon the Broncos stored for future use, but he may be too good to wait on.
With good hands and exceptional blocking ability, Latimer could be a huge force in the Denver offense—especially with Peyton Manning making the throws.
It remains to be seen where the Broncos intend to line up Michael Schofield along the offensive line, but he should be looked at as the right tackle of the future.
Schofield is a tough, versatile player who has very good hand technique. His strength is his ability to help drive the running game.
It's hard to see him beating out Chris Clark as a rookie, but he'll be able to sit back and absorb as much as he can. As early as next year, he could become the starting right tackle for many years to come.
Projected 53-Man Depth Chart
Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Zac Dysert
Running Back: Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson
Tight End: Julius Thomas, Virgil Green, Gerell Robinson
Offensive Linemen: Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Chris Clark, Michael Schofield, Winston Justice, Will Montgomery, Vinston Painter
Defensive End: DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe, Quanterus Smith, Malik Jackson
Defensive Tackle: Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams, Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein
Linebacker: Von Miller, Nate Irving, Danny Trevathan, Lamin Barrow, Lerentee McCray, Steven Johnson, Brandon Marshall
Cornerback: Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, Kayvon Webster, Tony Carter
Safety: T.J. Ward, Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho, David Bruton, Quinton Carter
Punter: Britton Colquitt
Kicker: Matt Prater
Long Snapper: Aaron Brewer
Running Back: Kapri Bibbs, Brennan Clay
Wide Receiver: Greg Hardin
Center: Matthew Paradis
Defensive End: Kenny Anunike
Linebacker: Shaquil Barrett, Corey Nelson
Safety: John Boyett
As they did last season, the Broncos choose to go with three quarterbacks, keeping Zac Dysert in the mix for another season following a close battle with Bryn Renner.
At running back, Ronnie Hillman gets back in the good graces of the coaching staff and fans alike with a solid preseason, but Juwan Thompson becomes the surprise of camp and makes the final roster based on his intangibles. Still, the team elects to keep both Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay on the final roster.
In another surprise, Gerell Robinson shows enough at his new position of tight end to convince the organization that Jacob Tamme should go the way of Joel Dreessen, and Tamme is released.
There are less surprises on the defensive side of the ball.
Quinton Carter still has the ability to be a great safety in the NFL, despite his long layoff, and he is awarded with one of the final roster spots on the team.
Lerentee McCray picks up where he left off before being injured in the preseason finale last year, and he earns a roster spot in overwhelming fashion.