Denver Broncos Summer Scrimmage Review
Gate 8 at Sports Authority Field. Lucas Polglaze.
I had the opportunity to go and attend the Broncos' scrimmage at Sports Authority Field this past weekend. The festivities kicked off with Dave Logan interviewing first Bronco legend Randy Gradishar and then Bronco alum Ebenezer Ekuban. Peyton Manning and Von Miller both came out, warmed up and pumped the crowd up. Peyton had a few kids out running routes, he hit one in stride for a good 30 yards. The crowd roared. Could that be our next Wes Welker in 15 years, Broncos fans? He certainly looked promising today, let's hope so!
Von also threw a couple passes and ran a few routes. I think we’ll stick to Thomas, Decker and Welker.
They showed a video review of last season on the new massive Thundervision screen, which looked wonderful. Really impressively sized, it’s apparently one of the largest screens in the NFL, just behind the Texas teams.
Thundervision. Lucas Polglaze.
Special teams players Matt Prater, Britton Colquitt, Ryan Doerr and Aaron Brewer came and warmed up. Prater hit several good field goals. Colquitt boomed one that probably traveled 60+ yards in the air. Doerr had a few misfires but looked alright. Brewer was quietly solid, which is exactly what you want from your long snapper.
After they moved inside, clouds moved in on the stadium and rain started to fall. The stadium flashed up a "Severe Lightning Advisory" sign and told people to take cover if they felt it necessary. It sounds cheesy, but they actually played "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones next. We eventually waited out a 45 minute rain delay, getting further soaked all the while.
After about 15 minutes in the pouring rain, Knowshon Moreno came out and went the full perimeter of the stadium, giving high-fives the whole way. It was a very classy gesture and the fans cheered him wildly for it. I was really solidly impressed by that.
About ten minutes later, a whole pump-up committee of Broncos came out. Jeremiah Johnson, Duke Ihenacho, Montee Ball, C.J. Anderson, Vinston Painter and Sealver Siliga came out and rejuvenated the now-excited fans.
Finally the rain let up a little more (although it never did stop completely) and the Broncos team came out. As they ran across the 50, they would drop and slide on their stomachs in the wet grass. It was quite a sight - even Peyton Manning did it! Then they went inside and I felt that scrimmage was about to be cancelled. However, five minutes later, the team came back out and the crowd surged to their feet.
The team started positional drills. I had the linebackers in front of me. They were doing some catching drills, and some of them just couldn’t hold on to the slick football.
After positional drills, the team moved into the actual 11 on 11. They started with 2nd string offense against 1st string defense, then 1st string offense against 2nd string defense, and finally 3rd stringers against one another.
Here are my observations on how the scrimmage went.
I've been entering into a few debates with a few people about the effectiveness and roster chances of Jacob Hester, so I watched him closely to see how he did. He came out with the second string offense, lining up as a fullback several times. One time in particular, a strongside run off right tackle, he got outside quickly from his I formation fullback spot and got a crucial block to seal the edge. Another time, in pass protection, he actually put Von Miller on his back. He really impressed me in the few snaps I saw.
RBs were done by committee (Jeremiah Johnson and Moreno with the second string, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball with the first string, and Lance Ball and C.J. Anderson with the thirds).
Jeremiah Johnson did very well against the first team defense, even with second string blockers. He had two carries that really impressed me. One in particular went right up the gut and gained ten on a 1st and 10. He just couldn't be tackled on that play. I know we've been hearing reports from training camp that he's been doing well, but that was solid impressing proof.
First string safeties were Rahim Moore and Duke Ihenacho; no one rotated in for them.
The alignments for the second string offense were very intriguing. Although they did run some 21 personnel (2 backs, one tight end), several looks came as 12 personnel. One interesting formation saw Andre Caldwell and Tavarres King as the outside receivers, Virgil Green as the tight end and Julius Thomas standing up in the slot, like the Broncos did last year with Jacob Tamme when Stokley went out of the game. A physical tight end like Julius Thomas could be a huge mismatch when played in the slot. However, it means taking Welker out, so I don’t know if I’m all for it.
A note: towards the end of the second string offense vs. first string defense, Mitch Unrein rotated in and actually saw snaps in all of the defensive strings. The most snaps he had were with the second string, though. Danny Trevathan also saw first-string snaps.
Next up, the first string offense came out and matched up with the second string defense. In this particular battle, I had a few things I was watching for, so here they are.
The run game was atrocious. I don't know if it's that we have a deep defensive unit and our second string front 7 are good or if our starting RBs are just bad. It made me wish to have Willis McGahee back; he always seemed good for at least five yards when there looked like nothing was there.
I also kept an eye on Wes Welker. He'd had a phenomenal catch in warm-ups on a ball that was behind him and back shoulder. Great catch.
He had a catch on a 1st and 10, a little bubble screen that went for a first down, maybe fifteen yards. Having Welker and his speed and versatility this year really excites me, I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in a full game. He was targeted in the end zone on one play; it looked he'd dropped it, but come further review, it turned out to be a great defensive play by Omar Bolden. He did have one drop that was a little disappointing.
The lone touchdown of the evening was Peyton Manning rolling right and finding Demaryius Thomas open in the back of the end zone. Touchdown Broncos!
I don’t have many thoughts on the third-stringers.
Quentin Jammer was playing with the 3rd string defense. It looks more and more like he'll be cut.
Zac Dysert didn't blow the seats out of the stadium but he wasn't dreadful. He showed some effectiveness rolling out of the pocket on bootlegs, which could be a valuable tool for him.
The Broncos actually brought out a “speed package” of sorts with the third stringers. 11 personnel, Lamaar Thomas and Quincy McDuffie lined up outside with Trindon Holliday in the slot. All three are fast, return men almost. The coverage backed up a few yards when they saw them coming out.
I believe that was the play where Dysert couldn’t find anything and scrambled out of bounds for a couple of yards, so we didn’t get to see the potential effectiveness of that kind of firepower.
One more overall observation: the Broncos used their pistol-like formation several times (QB 3 yards behind center, RB three behind him), especially in second-team offensive activities. However, I also saw it used in the first- and third-string series.
Happy to answer any questions you might have.
Peyton Manning drops to pass as Shaun Phillips and Mitch Unrein rush. Lucas Polglaze.
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