Let the training camp intrigue officially begin: the Denver Broncos just released their first depth chart. In the spirit of the coverage of the Olympic Games, let me offer you a SPOILER ALERT before you read the next sentence just in case you wanted to wait until Thursday's preseason game.
Peyton Manning held off Caleb Hanie at quarterback.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, don't read too much into this depth chart (which is what we're about to do). It's only the first of many depth charts. In other words, it's a working document.
Now, let's experience some irrational exuberance, or in some cases, rational melancholy.
Your Gut Reaction begins. And remember Rule #7: Gut Reactions will last as long as they have to.
1. Peyton Manning, Champ Bailey, Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Willis McGahee, and Ryan Clady are who we thought they were (Denver's premier players), so there just isn't much to dwell on. Manning's arm looks just fine, but we just won't know until he starts taking hits, etc., etc.
2. Matt Prater, Britton Colquitt, and Lonie Paxton? Same as it ever was.
3. Joel Dreessen ahead of Jacob Tamme makes sense, but only on paper. Expect Manning's pass-happy, up-tempo offense to feature both tight ends, with Tamme getting a ton of looks.
4. Knowshon Moreno begins camp buried behind Lance Ball. Sure, he only recently received clearance to play, but you've got to think the Broncos are sending Knowshon a none-too-subtle message, and that message doesn't need to be engraved on a license plate for him to see it.
5. Tracy Porter: takin' care of business.
6. Ty Warren and Justin Bannan are where we thought they might be--namely, run-stuffing defensive tackles built for first and second down.
7. Ronnie Hillman hasn't worked his way onto the second team, but with his recent injury, it's not all that surprising.
7. Brandon Stokley didn't get awarded bro' points (also known as Keanus) on the depth chart for his work in recruiting Peyton Manning to Denver.
8. I'd lost at least a little hope that Julius Thomas was the next Antonio Gates around Week 8 of last year. Today, John Fox did not keep hope alive.
9. Chris Gronkowski at fullback is no surprise because every team needs to get Gronked.
10. Danny Trevathan is much more important than this depth chart shows on paper. Some of the reasons are due to his play, but others are just unhuman.
1. The offensive line remains unchanged from last year--something I didn't expect. Why, when the Broncos were such a juggernaut in the running game? Two words: Peyton Manning. It's still not registering that Orlando Franklin is a better pass protector than Ryan Harris or even Zane Beadles; further, J.D. Walton seems entrenched at center, despite a lot of thinking (mine included) that saw Philip Blake already passing him on the depth chart.
2. Caleb Hanie begins as the second-string quarterback (Pork Chop got it right), despite multiple reports that Brock Osweiler has been outplaying him early on.
3. Anytime one of your starting wide receivers is also the first-team punt returner, it comes as a surprise. I don't see Decker at punt returner come Week 1.
4. Derek Wolfe is listed as a defensive end, although we know Jack Del Rio has openly said he plans to use Wolfe both at end and defensive tackle (tackle primarily on passing downs).
5. Speaking of defensive ends, the most suprising development of camp has to be Jason Hunter at starting defensive end over Robert Ayers. Even though it's not new news, it's still a surprise nonetheless. Del Rio called Hunter "rugged," which, in football, is the highest of compliments. The demotion of Ayers is further compounded by Ayers being buried behind Dumervil at right end. Again, it's just too early to read into this with much accuracy, but in a vacuum, things don't look good for Ayers, who reportedly hasn't had a great showing at camp.
6. Lance Ball. Tiger's blood. I should stop doubting the guy.
7. I guess they had to list D.J. Williams as a starter, didn't they? At least it will keep Wesley Woodyard hungry--on paper.
8. Look, I enjoy me some Mitch Unrein as much as the next guy (and usually a lot more), but even I didn't expect this.
9. Be honest. Did you really expect Rahim Moore to be leading the battle at free safety?
10. I know I shouldn't be surprised at Joe Mays's place on the depth chart, but I just can't help thinking middle linebacker is still one draft away from being solidified.
The I Don't Know What To Expect
1. Ben Garland may not make this team (Pork Chop got it wrong).
2. Omar Bolden is still an enigma to me.
3. Those reports of Steven Johnson blowing up aren't true (Pork Chop)?
4. I know I said I should stop doubting Lance Ball, but as a kick returner, I doubt him.
5. I too had wondered if Adam Weber had really made an impression. I'm not saying he hasn't, I'm just saying he hasn't yet.
6. Nate Irving is no Von Miller, so I'm surprised Irving is being considered at SAM.
7. Quinton Carter or Mike Adams? It may be a moot point because of injuries.
8. Jeremiah Johnson has to be better than his place on the depth chart.
9. Duke Ihenacho and Malik Jackson, you've got some work in front of you. That's why they have a preseason.
10. If Peyton Manning goes down, does the depth chart even matter?