One of the biggest issues of Denver's offseason has concerned what the team will do once linebacker D.J. Williams is eligible to return from suspension.
Williams faces a six-game ban for having violated the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs, has been relegated to inaction throughout training camp, and was not in uniform for the Broncos' scrimmage yesterday at SAF@MH.
Complicating matters is that Williams may face an even longer ban pending his upcoming DUI trial.
Fifth-year veteran Wesley Woodyard has operated in Williams's starting weakside linebacker spot for the entirety of camp.
Also adding to the intrigue is Denver's Week 7 bye; as it now stands, the 30-year-old would be allowed to rejoin the team during the bye week, and play Week 8 when the Broncos host the Saints, a team ravaged by its own suspensions thanks to the recent bounty scandal.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! If the multiple record-setting crowds at Dove Valley weren't evidence enough, the turnout for yesterday's scrimmage (video, photos, more photos) at SAF@MH showed in a stunning way that Peytonpalooza is all the rage in Denver.
With the team telling reporters it expected 20,000-30,000 fans to attend, a whopping 41,304 fans showed up to watch Peyton Manning make his first appearance at SAF@MH as a Bronco, and we're talking about practice. To put that in perspective, the average attendance last year for regular season games in Cincinnati was 49,251.
The remarkable crowd was nonplussed by a bunch of short passes by Manning in seven-on-seven drills, so he audibled to a deep post to Demaryius Thomas to begin the team element. Although the 50-yard pass resulted in an overthrow, Willis McGahee somehow claimed fault for that.
Following a workout today, veteran safety Jim Leonhard (5-8, 188) signed a one-year deal with the Broncos. The former Wisconsin Badger is entering his eighth NFL season, having spent three years in Buffalo, one in Baltimore, and three with the Jets. He worked out for the Bills on Thursday and reportedly received an offer, but chose to continue on to Denver anyway.
In seven seasons, Leonhard has played in 94 games (60 starts), accumulating 254 tackles, 66 assists, 3.5 sacks, six interceptions for 141 yards and one touchdown, 25 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and four recoveries. The 29-year-old has also returned 82 punts for 820 yards, and 12 kickoffs for 256 yards.
Updated 9:24pm ET
Ronnie Hillman (hamstring) did not practice yesterday, Justin Bannan reaggravated his calf injury, and Orlando Franklin was limited to wind sprints but may participate in the scrimmage as he works back from a concussion. Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, and Champ Bailey provided the highlights, while Jason Hunter again worked ahead of Robert Ayers and got a bit chippy with the offensive linemen on multiple occasions.
Eric Decker returned to action and made a one-handed TD catch, while Jeremiah Johnson continues to impress like he did last summer. Knowshon Moreno and Rahim Moore had a big open-field collision, and isn't it nice to read about Knowshon and contact, and with no mention of his health?
Jeff Darlington paid Dove Valley a visit, and he confirms what we've thought all along: the Broncos will be running Peyton Manning's offense, and all of this talk about blending the Colts' playbook with that of Mike McCoy's has been more smokescreen than anything else.
After adding safety Mike Adams via free agency, the Broncos entered training camp expecting one of Quinton Carter or Rahim Moore to start next to the ninth-year veteran. A week and change into camp, Moore has been impressing, but an injury to Carter on Day 2 has taken him out of the competition for now.
Carter had originally been diagnosed with a hamstring injury, but he also hurt his knee and underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure earlier this week. The second-year ex-Sooner is expected to miss at least the first two of Denver's preseason games.
In Thursday morning’s practice, Peyton Manning was tossing long touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas without any visible strain. After months of people guessing at what percentage of fully healed and recovered his neck, brachial plexus, and arm strength might be, the question is unofficially over. He’s not as strong as he will be, but it no longer matters. He can make any throw, and he can put the ball into the hands of his deep receivers without difficulty. His short and intermediate throws are on target, quick, and accurate. Beyond that, the improvements will make what’s already remarkable even more effective.
As camp continues on into the start of the season, Manning will continue to gain in strength and accuracy as he follows the rehabilitation program that his doctors have set up for him. His receivers will be tasked with running routes precisely and hitting the right spot exactly on time. To do that, several skills will be necessary - the ability to beat press coverage off the line, the ability to gain separation from the coverage, and the hands to make sure that the drops that are part of developing the connection between QB and wide receiver are a thing of the past.
Old friend Brandon Marshall made an appearance on a Chicago radio show this week, and of course he was asked about his rejuvenated bromance with Jay Cutler. Here's what he said when asked if Jay is an elite QB:
But the things that separate those quarterbacks from the Super Bowls and all the other stuff is the guys around them. … Jay has the it thing going on.
What would you suppose BMarsh means by "it"?
Injuries kept Quinton Carter (knee, hamstring) and Greg Orton (ankle) out, and the team waived/injured wideout D'Andre Goodwin (ankle). Ronnie Hillman (hamstring) and Orlando Franklin (concussion) were present but did not practice, although Franklin did participate in the evening walkthrough.
Eric Decker (groin) was also back on the field but did not practice (he should be back today), and Demaryius connected with Peyton Manning several times to take full advantage of the spotlight (video).
Justin Bannan practiced with the starting defense, where Jason Hunter worked for the second straight day ahead of Robert Ayers, who just doesn't seem to be impressing Jack Del Rio all that much. It's early, but a permanent demotion of Ayers could be another massive hit to the Broncos' ill-fated 2009 draft class.
Brock Osweiler was again impressive, this time near the goal line; Ryan Harris remains behind Chris Clark at tackle in Franklin's stead; Del Rio says he plans to call plays from the sideline as he's always preferred.
It's only August 2, and we still have a week until preseason and five-and-change until the opener, but I happened upon this and had to share. Are you ready?
Unfortunately for fans who'd planned to attend, they apparently missed out on Peyton Manning & Co. running a successful two-minute drill (60 yards in 70 seconds with one timeout). Caleb Hanie and Adam Weber didn't fare as well, with their attempts ending with interceptions.
As mentioned last night, three receivers, including Eric Decker, suffered minor injuries; Ronnie Hillman also tweaked a hamstring. Orlando Franklin (concussion), Quinton Carter (hamstring, and now knee, too), and Joshua Moore (hamstring) remained sidelined.
Justin Bannan (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis, while Ryan Harris continues to work as a backup tackle. According to Andrew Mason's report, Harris isn't considered to be competing for a starting job.