ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It's the third day of training camp, and judging by the sight of fans mimicking the players' pre-practice calisthenics, almost everyone at training camp was sufficiently stretched out for the first day in full pads.
1. It was a terrific day for
In June, the second-year running back spoke about the weight he was adding this year, bulking up from around 180 pounds to nearly 200. Hillman knew what the 200-pound threshhold felt like; he weighed that much at the 2012 Scouting Combine. But he shed that weight in time for his rookie season, so Saturday's work was his first full-speed, full-pad work at close to 200 pounds.
So far, so good. Hillman cut decisively, was explosive in the open field, adeptly kept his balance and looked as fast at 195 pounds as he did at 180. He opened one team period following his blocks, including one from
Hillman was also asked to run up the gut during Saturday's work, which was the kind of duty that he avoided through most of his rookie season, when he was more often used to stretch the field horizontally and work outside, where he had more space.
"He has done a good job," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "It is a different deal from the position he was in last year because we were very selective in what we did with him. Now, the whole book is open."
Equally capable of big plays on Saturday was
2. Understand this about fifth-round pick
The comparisons to Elvis Dumervil are obvious, even if they're not carbon copies. Both are undersized and use quickness to beat opposing blockers to the edge. Smith is six inches taller and has a little more reach than Dumervil. But one comparison that could prove handy is how Dumervil was used as a rookie: situationally. He played enough to accumulate 8.5 sacks in 2006, but wasn't in the starting 22 until his second season.
Smith doesn't have to record massive stats this year to justify his selection, but if he's efficient at generating pressure in the snaps he receives, his rookie season will be a success.
"He comes in, he’s a serious guy and goes to work," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "He’s got a ways to go; we all do."
3. In general, the defensive front did a good job of disrupting the first-team offense when
But this sequence also shows why
That's the value of the best slot receiver in the game: if deep passes aren't clicking, you can throttle back, look for Welker near the line of scrimmage, get everyone in position to block and watch him re-ignite a stalled offense.
"I think he missed a couple (of blocks) today. But the thing we keep looking for is making sure he is sticking his nose up in there and trying to make the contact," Gase said. "What (Running Backs Coach) Eric Studesville has been doing is taking him aside, working with him and the linebackers one-on-one.
"It is a process, it’s not going to be an easy thing where he is going to be able to step in there and dominate linebackers as a rookie. It is going to take some time and he is going to have to work on it. We have a lot of training-camp practices left.”
What one has to like from Ball is his pass-catching ability and his instincts in protecting the football. On one carry, he burst to the left side, but saw two defenders approaching, about to tag-team him for the kind of collision that often ends with a fumble. Ball made himself more compact and placed two arms around the football, while continuing to run -- simultaneously preventing a potential takeaway while also becoming a bowling ball, able to burst through for more yardage.
Ball's ability to size up a situation and adapt in a split-second's notice goes hand-in-hand with his natural intelligence. Together, they offer evidence that he can make the necessary adaptations to succeed at this level.
5. Del Rio continues to shuffle his safety combinations which so far has given five safeties a chance to work on the first unit in either team or seven-on-seven drills. There's two reasons for this: nurturing competition among the position group and providing a chance to experiment and find which pairings work best in specific situations.
"That’s what we’re doing -- we’re learning right now," Del Rio said. "We’re looking at a little bit of everybody, getting them in different spots. We’re evaluating. We’re exposing them to a lot.
"I like to use a lot of different combinations with our back end. We want to build that flexibility now, teach them different roles and let them compete. We’ll sort through that and determine which guys go first, and which guys come in in certain groups as we get going."
Del Rio did this at the start of training camp last year with Adams,
"He’s working his way back into it. He’s been cleared to play, (but) the same time, we don’t want to just throw him in full speed. He’s going to take some time to build his way back."