The Friday before the Denver Broncos‘ Saturday scrimmage saw the team meet for its eighth training camp workout, a scorching hot affair that benefited from a merciful blanket of clouds halfway through. In a way, that weather pattern mirrored the Broncos defense: they were scorching hot at first before succumbing to Peyton Manning‘s offense later on.
Today I decided to run the training camp report a little differently. I went to Twitter and asked BroncoTalk’s 5,200 followers to pick some players I might not have covered as thoroughly yet, and I’d scout them. Let’s break it down.
The only player truly absent was Quinton Carter, suggesting his hamstring/knee may be more serious than the other issues lingering with the Broncos. Tackle Orlando Franklin, running back Ronnie Hillman, and wide receivers Tony Grisham and Greg Orton all walked the sidelines during practice. Franklin even ran some sprints at one point — head coach John Fox said he has been cleared to practice, andthe team will use him “sparingly” tomorrow. Justin Bannan left practice early with his lingering calf issue.
BT SCOUT: ERIC DECKER
This wasn’t a requested scouting report, but wide receiver Eric Decker was impossible to ignore. The former Gopher made his triumphant return to all facets of Broncos practice Friday, hauling in three Manning touchdowns in four red zone, one-on-one attempts. As good as Demaryius Thomas looked yesterday without Decker, today was a reminder that Decker is truly the receiver most in sync with Peyton Manning. He also runs the crispest routes and the most jarring cut of all the receivers, always getting a step on his opposing DB.
BT SCOUT: OMAR BOLDEN
The rookie cornerback is the backup nickelback, seeing most of his work covering the slot receiver on the second team in team drills. That means his most common opposing receiver was Matthew Willis, as he’s been backing up Brandon Stokley in the slot to date, but Bolden also lined up against guys like Mark Dell, Gerrell Robinson, and even, yes, Eric Decker. When Bolden faced Decker in one-on-one red one work, Decker busted a double move to the corner of the end zone, where Manning lobbed a perfect pass. Bolden’s coverage was solid, but Decker came down with the touchdown anyway.
Like most rookies, Bolden has his up plays and his down plays. He’ll jump up to make an impressive pass breakup against Gerrell Robinson, then get beat on a short slant by Mark Dell. He’ll take a good angle in run coverage during half-speed walkthroughs, but then a Matthew Willis block took him completely out of the picture as a running back got a step behind him. He has good footwork and a decent back pedal, and I like his potential… he’s just clearly not there yet. My hopes is the Broncos defensive backs stay healthy so the Broncos can use Bolden very sparingly this year and let him learn on the sideline.
BT SCOUT: BEN GARLAND
As fluctuating as this defensive line has been, Garland has been resigned to the third team whenever I’ve seen him. That was the case today, as Garland saw time predominantly at left and right defensive tackle, despite being listed at defensive end. Garland has decent power, and he can push his blocker into the quarterback, but he’s clearly missing that next step in his pass rush repertoire. Fourth round pick Philip Blake, playing left guard, handled him easily in one play I watched. He can’t beat his blocker well enough to get beyond him, and he isn’t fast enough off the snap to threaten the edge.
In one play I saw Garland break through the line of scrimmage, but it was a running play off left tackle, and Garland was several yards to the runner’s right by the time both crossed the line of scrimmage. Garland didn’t quit though, and caught up to the back, who was slowed by a few would-be tacklers, to make the tackle five to seven yards downfield.
So clearly strength and a no-quit attitude are Garland’s game; if he makes the team (a long shot, in my opinion), it’ll be as a run stuffer in a DL rotation and as a special teams player.
BT SCOUT: RYAN HARRIS
I was glad someone asked me to scout tackle Ryan Harris – he was a player I had hoped to cover more than I had to date. After Franklin went down I was surprised to see Chris Clark getting snaps ahead of Harris, but I honestly find that justified at this point. Clark has looked solid and continued to be a flexible option for the Broncos (he played some tight end today), while Harris has not impressed.
I didn’t see anything impressive in Harris’ footwork. He bent at the waist during his blocks and barely moved his feet. During running plays, Harris looked lost. He’d hit a guy here or there but never really knocked anyone out of the play. A few times, guys he hit were in on the tackle moments later.
I didn’t see every block Harris made. I probably saw less than half. But of the ones I did, I can’t say I was impressed once.
BT SCOUT: SYD’QUAN THOMPSON
Syd’Quan Thompson, the 2010 draftee who lost his sophomore season to a torn Achilles last year, is noticeably small. The Broncos list him at 5’9″, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was truly a nudge shorter. He is clearly on the roster bubble based on his position in team drills — he most often covered Cameron Kenney, the wide receiver the Broncos signed just Wednesday. Twice, Kenney, waived earlier this week, got the better of him.
That isn’t to say Syd’Quan is terrible, he just remains inconsistent. It’s the type of inconsistency you accept in a rookie like Bolden but expect better of out of a third-year player like Thompson. You can argue he missed Year Two, which is true, but it’s a cutthroat business in the NFL. Just ask D’Andre Goodwin.
Thompson would get beat on routes but also had a couple of nice plays I’ll mention. He had a solid last-minute pass breakup against Andre Caldwell in red zone one-on-one work, with Peyton Manning throwing (Manning even pointed skyward toward Caldwell before the snap, telling the receiver exactly where he was going to put it. Thompson didn’t see the gesture but still knocked the ball out as Caldwell came down with Manning’s well-placed ball). He also forced Mark Dell to stay outside on a short crossing route — the receiver always wants to cut into the defensive back’s face on that route, and Dell couldn’t deliver.
Thompson’s best chance of making the team is clearly in kick return work. With Bolden boasting a 30-yard average in college in that department, he may have to show something more very soon to make this roster.
The Broncos’ summer scrimmage is tomorrow at the stadium at 3:50 p.m. Gates open at 3:30, but I’d recommend getting there by 2:30 to make sure you find a parking spot. See you there!
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