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Five Thoughts from Camp Day 21

Posted Aug 14, 2013

Andrew Mason shares his five biggest takeaways from Wednesday's penultimate training camp practice.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- One might have thought that exchanging full pads for shorts and shells and lightening up the contact would calm practice a bit.

A scuffle between Rahim Moore and Ronnie Hillman during Wednesday's practice immediately invalidated such thoughts and served as the emotional apex of the last mid-day practice of training camp. There's one more morning session at 8:50 a.m. Thursday; then it's on to Seattle, followed by a daily practice schedule that will more closely resemble the regular season.

1. Shoving after a play is nothing unusual, but when arms flail around the helmets -- as they did between Moore and Hillman -- then that's where concern can arise.

"I'm pretty sure (Head) Coach (John) Fox is going to talk to us, tell us not to do that," Moore said.

"There won't be too big of a talk," said Fox. "Those things happen. It's like two brothers fighting sometimes. It happens. You just slap 'em on the side of the head and move on."

Fox knows well the consequences of when tempers boil over, as he experienced in 2008 when coaching the Panthers. But he's now just one practice away from emerging from training camp with nothing more than a few inconsequential scuffles that are a reflection of intensity rather than anything which could linger.

"I mean, it's part of football. I mean no harm," said Moore. "Me and Ronnie, we're boys, so I look at it like this -- if you're not really out there fighting and having some type of controversy, you're not really playing. At the end of the day, you've got to move on to the next snap."

2. While Peyton Manning is the clear on-field leader of the team, leadership can't stop with him, and that's where the Broncos find themselves in a transition. One team captain from last year is in Baltimore (Elvis Dumervil) and another, Chris Kuper, has not taken a snap during practice since January and doesn't appear to have a starting slot waiting for him unless injuries strike, he learns how to play center, or both.

Dumervil's absence in particular is felt, because that makes the defensive line the only line on defense without a returning captain (special-teams captain and linebacker Wesley Woodyard and cornerback Champ Bailey remain entrenched). Robert Ayers is the longest-tenured defensive lineman; Kevin Vickerson is the oldest (unless you include Shaun Phillips, who is still listed as a strongside linebacker). Derek Wolfe's potential as a leader was cited throughout the offseason, but as the senior member of the defensive line, Vickerson puts much of the onus -- and criticism -- on himself.

"Myself, I need to pick it up," Vickerson said. "But that's just everybody across the board, as a whole. But I'm pointing the finger at myself first. I can pick it up. But we need more leaders at every position."

It goes beyond games, or even practices, Vickerson notes.

"It starts in meeting rooms first, making sure guys pay attention, making sure guys understand after coach (Defensive Line Coach) Jay (Rodgers) and (Defensive Coordinator) Jack (Del Rio) give us information on the plays," he said. "Just seeing if guys understand it -- most of the guys do, but some of the guys that don't, they come up to me and ask."

3. End-game scenarios have been a staple of most practices the last two weeks. Wednesday, the Broncos gave the offense a tie game with no timeouts left, 59 seconds on the clock and the football at its 40-yard-line, and later gave it a two-point deficit in the final seconds, with the ball lined up for a two-point conversion.

The results were mixed. Led by Peyton Manning, the No. 1 offense drove to a 51-yard Matt Prater field goal in the first scenario, but Manning was intercepted in the end zone by Chris Harris in the second on a play that was nullified by a defensive holding penalty. Ronnie Hillman scored on the do-over. The second-team offense went out on four plays in the first situation, but scored on a Brock Osweiler-to-Virgil Green pass at the conversion.

It doesn't match game pressure, but it doesn't hurt.

"The game is about situations. So the more we practice, the more situational football we get into," Fox said. "Typically it comes down to in the regular season when you start the real games, you've got to play well in situations. So we'll try to practice that and continue that, but we'll add more and more as we go. It's hard to say exactly where we are right now, but I'm pleased with their efforts."

Manning looked smooth on his drive; he completed three of the four passes that weren't clock-killing spikes, finding three different targets in the process: Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. Osweiler's drive was doomed by pressure from Malik Jackson that forced a throwaway and a potential catch near the sideline that Tavarres King failed to corral.

4. You can't miss Trindon Holliday when he takes snaps on offense. Even if he tried to use his 5-foot-5 frame to get lost in a thicket of blue helmets, he's still the fastest player on the field -- fast enough to fumble a football, then pick it up on one bounce and sprint up the left sideline for a touchdown in a play that looked more like something out of Australian rules football, where you must bounce the football every 15 meters you run.

Holliday saw more touches on offense Wednesday than at any other point during camp, and the results were mixed; he had the afore-mentioned big play, but also saw a potential long touchdown pass from Osweiler slip through his fingertips. But any actual offensive use for Holliday in games will be done with caution.

"You've got to be careful," Fox said. "Sometimes back in the old days, long snappers used to (also) be other positions. And then they get whacked, and all of a sudden you don't have a long snapper. So we'll be limited on what we do with him, but I think he's shown the ability to be a premier returner."

5. On the extremely miniscule chance that juggling one football while catching another ever becomes a skill required in a game, Wes Welker would get the call ahead of Eric Decker. He managed to catch a fourth football while juggling one and holding two; Decker's attempt to do so failed when the incoming football collided with the one he was juggling.

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