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Five Thoughts from Camp Day 5

Posted Jul 29, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason shares his five takeaways from Monday's training camp practice.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Tuesday is a day off for the players in the regular season -- and this week, as well, making a spirited, physical practice Monday the last one until Wednesday morning.

"I'm going to fly to Vegas. No, just kidding," said Head Coach John Fox, who reminded reporters that while the players get a one-day respite, coaches do not. Upstairs at Dove Valley, they'll further dissect the footage of the last five days of practice to get a better feel for the roster.

The players, meanwhile, will take a much-needed breather after five consecutive days of full practice -- including three in pads. They won't surpass that practice workload the rest of the season because of games, which are sandwiched by days without anything more than a walk-through or conditioning session.

Some will return Wednesday hoping to be re-energized by the day off. Others hope that Tuesday will not disrupt their momentum.

1. All is well regarding Sylvester Williams. The MRI on his injured knee was negative, he'll be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, and should not miss much time -- excellent news for the Broncos and Williams, who had another strong morning, particularly in pass-rush drills.

Williams had the upper hand in his duels with second-year offensive lineman Philip Blake, first beating him with a rip move around the upper body. They were brought back together to duel again seconds later, and although Blake did a better job holding his ground, Williams still managed to push him three yards back of the line of scrimmage.

What impresses me most about Williams is that his quickness isn't just limited to his first step. His upper-body moves are equally fast, which leaves the offensive lineman scrambling to maintain his balance and position. It's tough for an offensive lineman to recover when Williams combines a burst with a rip or swim move, and the chain-reaction can also open up possibilities for blitzing linebackers.

The caliber of Williams' competition will get tougher, but the early signs are encouraging.

2. Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe returned after suffering an ankle injury Tuesday that limited his repetitions, but wasn't quite back to his usual level Monday. This was particularly true during one-on-one pass-rush drills, when he was pushed outside and behind the pocket on both the left and right sides.

But Wolfe was working from defensive end, where he doesn't have the speed advantage he will possess when he rotates inside when the Broncos go into nickel and dime packages. Those same moves will probably result in greater dividends on the interior.

Defensive end Quanterus Smith continues to fare well in one-on-ones; he continues to work on his rip and swim moves to the inside, complementing the raw speed he can display on the flank. The next step is for him to generate pressure more consistently in the team periods.

During a team period, defensive end Lanston Tanyi also got to Zac Dysert a pair of times for what would have been sacks in game-condition situations where hitting the quarterback isn't forbidden. Tanyi and Jeremy Beal looked quick to the edge in one-on-one work.

3. Duke Ihenacho's repetitions continue to increase, and Monday saw his most extensive work yet with the No. 1 defense as Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio continues to mix and match his safeties in various sub packages. Ihenacho has good instincts, is physical and versatile, and could also see his role expand on special teams. With his two interceptions in previous days, Ihenacho is doing too much to be ignored.

"He is a guy that we have kept around for a while that is getting more opportunities and so far he has taken advantage of those opportunities," Fox said.

4. Consistency is an issue with a young quarterback still being refined, and that's the case with Brock Osweiler. But every day, he delivers at least one pitch-perfect, high-level professional pass -- which happened when he found Greg Orton near the left sideline. It was delivered with zip, was thrown to Orton's outside shoulder, and was virtually impossible to defend.

It was a terrific catch by Orton, but the play inherently has some difficulty for the receiver, since the pass, when properly thrown, cannot be intercepted and minimizes the risk of a turnover. Orton knew where he had to go, and Osweiler put the football in the right spot.

Such completions eluded him during a rough training camp last year and demonstrates the degree of his progress. Had the Broncos lost Peyton Manning last year, Osweiler wouldn't have been able to replicate many of the precise throws Manning delivers.

"He has progressed a lot," ox said. "For any rookie, that leap from their freshman to sophomore year is tremendous. He has been the same way. He has a lot better feel for how we operate."

5. Montee Ball opened 9-on-7 play Monday with arguably his best run of training camp, displaying good vision and balance to bounce to the right side and quickly sprint upfield for a long gain. But on the next play he was stuffed, engulfed by the front seven crashing through the offensive line, which forced into protection mode.

Ball hasn't been spectacular yet, but does a good job sensing trouble and ensuring that the big mistake is avoided. But other running backs like Ronnie Hillman, Jeremiah Johnson and Knowshon Moreno, have succeeded at bursting into the open field for long gains. They're experienced at this level and have a year's worth of knowledge of the calls and checks Peyton Manning makes at the line of scrimmage. Thus, Ball is playing catch-up, and struggles are understandable.

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