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Notebook: The Race Begins

Posted Aug 6, 2012

With the release of this morning's depth chart, defensive end Jason Hunter and quarterback Caleb Hanie know they will have to work to maintain their current positions, and new safety Jim Leonhard talks about how excited he is to be a Bronco.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- By the time the Broncos' regular season opener kicks off, Denver’s depth chart could look substantially different than the one released this morning.

“We’ve got to start somewhere," Head Coach John Fox said.

The players recognize that during the preseason, everything is written in pencil.

Veteran defensive end Jason Hunter is listed as a starter, having worked his way up the depth chart to occupy a position where Robert Ayers started 13 games in 2011. But he said he’s only concerned with what he can control — what he does between the white lines.

“You know, I’m just enjoying football right now,” Hunter said. "I’m not really thinking about depth or losing my spot, because, I mean, I know what I have to do, what Jason Hunter has to do, and how I have to play. That’s what I’m going to do, whether I’m with the ones, twos or threes. That’s one of the things I’m working on this camp, is being consistent. I know that if I can be consistent and play the way that I know I can play, everything else will take care of itself.”     

At quarterback, Peyton Manning is the unquestioned starter. But the battle to be Manning’s backup includes rookie Brock Osweiler, Adam Weber and Caleb Hanie. Hanie is listed as No. 2 on the official depth chart the Broncos released Monday morning, but he knows he’ll have to work hard to keep his job as No. 18’s primary backup.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Nothing is ever set in stone in this league. It’s like you have to constantly perform. It’s a performance-based league and that’s why you can’t ever let down. We’ll play it week-to-week.”

The first depth chart of the preseason only means so much. Between now and the Broncos’ nationally televised regular season opener on Sept. 9, Denver’s coaching staff will have to make a number of difficult decisions.

Fox said the chart released today is far less important than the one he will release in a little more than a month.

“The people can make a lot out of this chart we hand out," Fox said. "Really, we only put it out there because we have to for the other teams. As I said many times, it’s not where you start the race, it’s where you finish. We’ve got a lot of games ahead of us, a lot of practices.”


Newly signed safety Jim Leonhard attended Monday’s training camp practice at Dove Valley.

The eighth-year former Wisconsin Badger will be evaluated by the training staff this week and hopes to suit up as soon as possible.

“It feels good to be in Denver,” Leonhard said. “I’m excited to get this thing rolling. Obviously coming off the knee injury, it’s great to know where I’m going to be and get back to work; 24/7 football. It’s what I love. I’m excited to finally get on this field.”

Leonhard, most recently a New York Jet, had a one-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 after playing the first three years of his career in Buffalo.

The veteran has amassed 309 tackles in his career with six interceptions and 24 passes defensed, according to press box totals. He now welcomes the opportunity to continue his career with a coach who brings an attack-minded approach to the field.

“I love defense,” Leonhard said. “That’s all I’ve known here the last four year is a team oriented around defense. To have (Defensive Coordinator) Coach (Jack) Del Rio in that same aggressive mindset, I think it’s going to be a fun defense to play in.”

Leonhard officially became a Bronco on Saturday afternoon, and was able to go straight from the signing at Dove Valley to the Summer Scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Though the record-breaking crowd of 41,000-plus impressed him, it didn’t surprise him after playing against the Broncos in Denver each of the last two years.

“It's exciting,” Leonhard said. “I’m a Wisconsin guy. I think there’s only one other place that’ll get that kind of crowd and that’s up in Lambeau. But it was impressive. I played out here the last two years with the Jets and the crowd is amazing. It’s always a great atmosphere, so I’m excited for it to be the home games now.”


After the practice, Coach Fox explained how the reps would most likely be distributed in the first preseason game on Thursday night at Chicago.

“Typically, our first play, roughly, some of the first quarter, seconds come in for the second and third and our thirds finish the game and the fourth,” he said. “I don’t see us deviating too much from that.”

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell made a few catches throughout the practice including a touchdown reception during a team goal line drill. Afterwards, Coach Fox praised his work ethic in training camp.

“He’s got great downfield speed. I think he’s worked very hard to learn our system. Again, I like the way he’s going about his business prior to the preseason games. We’ll sort it out. Those guys on their performance in these preseason games actually pick the team and not us. We have high hopes for him and we’ll see how it works out.”