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Broncos minicamp preview: Five things to watch

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **For anyone with a signed contract, this week's three-day minicamp is mandatory. Its practices are the only offseason on-field sessions for which attendance is required, barring injury or excused absence.

But with near 100 percent participation by healthy Broncos in organized team activities that began May 27, the coaches have been able to get plenty of concepts installed while beginning an evaluation of their players -- a breakdown that will remain incomplete until full pads go on during training camp in August.

Still, there's plenty to watch for this week as the Broncos convene for minicamp:

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  1. PROGRESS UP FRONT.**

Rookie Ty Sambrailo's work at left tackle is just the starting point for an offensive line that continues to wade through offseason departures and Ryan Clady's season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament.

No matter what happens going forward, 60 percent of the Broncos' starting offensive line will include players who did not start for the team last year. Although the recently signed Ryan Harris offers another veteran option, he has not started a regular-season game alongside any Bronco on the active roster. (Harris and Chris Clark were both on the 2010 Broncos, but Clark never started in the eight games he played that year, while Harris started 10 of the 11 games in which he played then.) So it's not just about getting everyone used to a tweaked system, it's getting all players used to each other.

That's exacerbated on the left side, where Sambrailo and Ben Garland are learning to work as a tandem, with a combined zero NFL starts.

"The first day we were kind of stepping on each other a little bit and we didn't really know each other's steps on certain blocks and plays," Sambrailo said June 1. "Now you kind of get in a groove as you take more reps."

No one expects this offensive line to have its cohesion at a regular-season level just yet, but continued progress would offer assurance that the unit can eventually get to the proficiency it needs.

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  1. SHANE RAY'S TIME?**

As he completed his recovery from a toe injury, Ray took a step forward last week by working during individual periods as the coaches bring him along incrementally.

"They didn't want to rush me back and cause more injury," Ray said June 1. "They wanted to make sure that when I started getting work that my foot was feeling good and it wasn't going to have any setbacks."

The question now is whether his work last week will allow him to advance to the next stage: seeing some repetitions in 7-on-7 and team periods. The former might allow him to continue his gradual transition and recovery. Fellow draft pick Trevor Siemian -- who is also recovering from injury (torn ACL) -- stands as an example of easing a player back; he saw some 7-on-7 work June 1.

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  1. EXPANDING THE WORKLOAD.**

Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips said May 29 that cornerback Bradley Roby would "probably" see some work at safety in the "next couple of weeks," so it will be interesting to see if Roby gets any work there during the three days of minicamp.

If and when Roby works at safety, it is unlikely to be the only tactical tweak. The progression of OTAs and minicamp is designed to be similar to training camp, albeit without the heavy contact in practices, so concepts grow more complex and diverse with each day of installation.

The heads of players are spinning, Kubiak acknowledged June 1.

"Yeah, but you know what? They're getting better. It's really exciting to watch," Kubiak said. "It's not like we're young in a spot; we're young as a group. So it's very competitive. Guys are getting a ton of reps. It's just exciting to watch them grow. There are some young players on this football team right now and obviously those guys have got to grow up really fast."

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The Broncos continued with their Organized Team Activity practices on Monday, finally joined by Shane Ray.

  1. WHICH YOUNG PLAYERS WILL MAKE AN IMPRESSION?**

That's the big question of offseason work. Already through two weeks of OTAs, players such as linebackers Todd Davis, Steven Johnson and Shaquil Barrett, running back Juwan Thompson, cornerback Lorenzo Doss, tight end Marcel Jensen and wide receivers Jordan Taylor and Bennie Fowler have drawn notice. None are among the currently projected starters, but all have made some plays and distinguished themselves (although Davis and Johnson did receive first-team work with Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan still recovering from injuries).

Others will undoubtedly stand out over the next three days. Show a little bit out here now, and you'll have more chances to show a lot in August.

5. ALL ABOUT THE QBs.

How much of the workload for Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert will come under center, and how much will be in the shotgun? Kubiak said after the first OTA on May 27 that Manning would be under center "a good three days" before moving back. Work under center was also a point of emphasis for Osweiler on June 1 when many veterans were given a mental-repetition day.

OTAs are as much about shoring up areas of weakness as playbook installation. So if the Broncos give the quarterbacks plenty of shotgun looks this week, it will be a good sign that Kubiak, Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison and their staff saw the progress they desired from the days in which they emphasized under-center work.

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