Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Visiting Broncos Training Camp August 15, 2018



Today I visited Denver Broncos training camp for the first time in three years.  This was the last day preseason practices were open to the public, and it was also special because the Chicago Bears were in town for a joint practice.

A long line of cars greeted us as we arrived at 9 am, 1/2 hour before the start of the practice.  No worries, though, as the parking was ample with attendants directing us to where to park.  Very well organized compared to my training camp visits in the past.


There were a bunch of Bears fans in attendance - a rare chance to see their favorite team practice in a different city.  Somebody tell these guys to get updated jerseys!

 
 Even though gates opened at 8 am and by the time we got to the field it was 9:15 am, we found there was ample space on the hill overlooking the practice fields.  We were able to get a good spot.


The Broncos and Bears ran a number of drills against each other.  My observations match what I've been hearing in past training camp reports:

  • New QB Case Keenum is impressive.  He was very accurate with his passes this day, and showed better touch on his deep ball than I expected.  As long as he doesn't get hurt and the offensive line can protect him, we'll be fine at quarterback.
  • New 2nd string QB Chad Kelly had his moments but was inconsistent.  I saw him miss a crossing pattern over the middle to an open receiver that would have been an interception in a real game.  But I like his upside, I think bringing in a veteran as backup qb would be a good move, keeping Kelly on the roster to develop as the 3rd stringer.
  • Forget Paxton Lynch.  The sooner the team moves on from Paxton the better.
  • Wide receiver Courtland Sutton is for real.  He looks better to me than Demaryius Thomas did as a rookie (at 6' 3" both are big receivers with Courtland showing good hands and speed at today's practice)
  • Surprisingly, tight end Jeff Heuerman looked good.  Stay healthy Jeff!
  • Other than dropping a wide open swing pass from Keenum, Royce Freeman looks like the best Broncos running back.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Broncos 2018 Draft Thoughts

I like to follow different NFL draft analysts to get a consensus feel for the Broncos draft class. Overall I liked what Elway did in the draft. Some comments:

Bradley Chubb - a steal at pick 5. Before the draft I was concern they'd pick the ohio state cornerback (Ward) - thankfully the Browns did us a favor by taking Ward not Chubb. I didn't like how Vance Joseph immediately said Chubb would be a linebacker and be "in the linebacker room". Chubb is an immense talent - can the current coaching staff use him correctly? (not wanting to see another DeMarcus Walker situation)

Courtland Sutton wr - he's the pick I see the most disagreement about among the draft gurus I follow. Some say "a steal! a first round talent!" another had him 10th on his list of wr's, another had him 20th! I liked the highlights I saw from his college days (good hands, good at winning one to one battles in traffic). Can he get separation from NFL cornerbacks? Is he just a Bennie Fowler type? Elway said afterwards they were after an offensive lineman early in the draft but it didn't work out. I think the Bronco draft would have been overall stronger with a solid offensive lineman here (even if they had to trade up) rather than Sutton. But I'll root for Sutton to be DT's eventual replacement.

Royce Freeman rb - great pick. Some say "he has alot of miles on him" due to heavy usage in his four years at Oregon. I say that proves he's durable.

Yiadom cb - seems ok will be good on special teams at a minimum

Jewell lb - I like when the Broncos pick productive team leader types who played in a big time conference, and who may have slipped in the draft due to athleticism issues. Jewell looks to be that type of player. I was hoping for qb Lualetta in the 4th (a Gary Kubiak type - smart, accurate with average arm strength). When the Broncos took Jewell I thought the Giants could take Lualetta before the Broncos next pick, and that's exactly what happened.

Hamilton wr - looks like a good pick. Another productive ncaa player, team leader type, in a big time conference. The next pick, Fumagalli, fits that mold too.

Jones, Bierria - look to be decent 6th round gambles

David Williams - no rating service I follow had him as a draftable player. Heck, he's just a 7th rounder, if he doesn't work out no big loss.

========

I think the sooner the team moves on from Paxton Lynch the better. I hope Chad Kelly beats Lynch out and I wish the Broncos had taken a qb somewhere in the draft as a development type. Overall, though, this draft looks good on paper.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My Top Ten Colorado Sports Moments of 2017


Nolan Arenado's walk off game winning homer for the cycle is #1 on my "Top Ten Colorado Sports Moments of 2017" (photo courtesy of MLB)  Here's this year's list:

10.  Avalanche 4 NY Rangers 2, Opening Night, 10/5/17 - The 2016/17 season was one to forget for the Colorado Avalanche.  "The 22-56-4 record, for 48 points, not only was by far the franchise’s worst in its 21 seasons in Denver, it was the worst in the NHL since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers went 14-57-7-4 for 39 points," as reported in the Denver Post.  The surprising win on the road in the season's opener, on the league's biggest stage (Madison Square Garden) signaled that better times were ahead for the Avalanche. While the Avs are still out of a playoff position at year's end (17-16-3 as of 12/28), the team is on the upswing and the opening night win against the NY Rangers was a start to a much better season.

9.  Nuggets 96 Golden State 81, 12/23/17 - I had my top ten list all set then the Nuggets worked their way into my list with a stunning road win against the defending champ Warriors just before Christmas.  The win stopped Golden State's 12 game winning streak.

8.  Avalanche trade Matt Duchene, 11/5/17 - It was no secret Matt Duchene, the #3 pick overall in the 2009 draft, wanted out.  Duchene demanded a trade over a year ago, and Avs GM Joe Sakic received much criticism as Sakic failed to make a deal over the many months of Matt's discontent.  But in the end Sakic got a great haul for Duchene - promising young defenseman Sam Girard, other prospects, and a bunch of draft picks.  After the trade Nathan MacKinnon stepped up his play to become one of the best players in the NHL this season.  Well done, Joe Sakic!

7.  Gary Kubiak resigns as Broncos head coach, 1/2/17 - Just one year after winning the Super Bowl, Gary Kubiak resigns as Broncos head coach.  Any Bronco coaching change is big news, and this one was more of a shocker given the success the Broncos had achieved under Kubiak.

6.  Rockies 2, LA Dodgers 1, home opener, 4/7/17 - The first of four Rockies moments on my list. The Rockies home opener is always a special event on the Denver sports calendar, and this win was extra sweet as home town boy Kyle Freeland wins his first ever start in the majors in front of a sellout crowd at Coors Field.

5.  Broncos 42, Dallas 17, 9/17/17 - The only Bronco game on my top 10 list.  Everything went right for the Broncos this day as they beat America's team (the Dallas Cowboys) in an early season stunner.  The season as a whole was a big disappointment for Denver fans, but at least for one day the Broncos were the talk of pro football with this dominating performance.

4.  DU Pioneers 3, Minnesota-Duluth 2, National Championship Game, 4/8/17 - The DU hockey team wins its 8th National Championship with a narrow, nail-biting 3-2 win over Minnesota-Duluth.  The Pioneers stellar 2017 and championship gave Denver hockey fans something to cheer about in lieu of the Avalanche' disappointing season.

3.  Rockies 3, Atlanta 0, 8/14/17 - In his first game back after a cancer diagnosis in the spring, Rockies starter Chad Bettis pitches seven shutout innings at Coors Field to defeat the Braves.  Bettis comeback and amazing performance made news beyond baseball, inspiring many whose lives have been affected by this debilitating disease.

2.  Rockies 10, White Sox 0, 7/9/17 - Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland's second appearance on my list, as he takes a no hitter into the 9th inning against the White Sox.  Freeland ends up pitching a one hit gem in what I rate as the best performance by a Rockies starter at Coors Field ever. 

1.  Rockies 7, San Francisco 5, 6/19/17 - In front of a packed Father's Day crowd at Coors Field, Nolan Arenado hits a 3 run homer in the bottom of the 9th to give the Rockies a come from behind win over the Giants.  If that weren't dramatic enough, Arenado's blast also completed the cycle for the Rockies 3rd baseman, only the 8th cycle in Rockies history.  The playoff bound Rockies were the top story in Colorado sports in 2017, and Arenado's performance this day was the highlight of an outstanding season.

Monday, November 13, 2017

DeMarcus Walker at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club



Broncos second round draft choice DeMarcus Walker spoke to the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club tonight at Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver.  DeMarcus is a very impressive young man!  Though he hasn't seen much playing time this year, by his comments I got the impression that he will be a force in the Broncos defense in the future.  Here is a summary of some of his comments:

I am thankful to bronco country.  The broncos are a great team to be a part of.  I love being a Denver Bronco.

I had never been outside of florida before coming to Denver.  I love it here.  Denver helped me grow as a person.  It took me awhile to get used to the altitude.  It was initially a struggle.  During my vacation I came here to train so I could get used to the altitude.

I model my game after von miller - he’s the best ever.  He’s teaching me stuff - I’m just waiting my time to be put into games.  Before the preseason game vs San Francisco the defensive linemen went to a local park to relax during our free time.  Von shows up with his personal trainer and asked “want to work out with me?”  Von has an incredible work ethic.  I want to be better than Von.

How does pro football compare to your college career at Florida State?  The speed of the game is the same.  The devil is in the details.  I have to pay attention to the details much more in the pros.

What position do you like to play?  I like playing on the edge where I can use my quickness.

Did the Broncos show interest in you before the draft?  I had no clue the broncos would draft me.  I ran into Bill Kollar (broncos dl coach) at the combine and he asked, “can you play a 4 technique?” I said yes and that was it - he walked away.  

Have you adjusted to the cold?  Nike takes good care of us - they have a double layer glove that is very warm.  But cold is all in your mind - I don’t care how cold it is when I play.


I’m waiting my opportunity.  I’m putting in the work.  Just Von is ahead of me.  


After his talk DeMarcus signed autographs and took pictures with the Bronco QB club members in attendance.  My impression of DeMarcus certainly changed this night.  I think he can be next year's Adam Gotsis - a rookie who didn't play much in his first year who will become an integral part of the Broncos defense in his second year.



Monday, September 4, 2017

My 2017 Broncos Prediction

As a long time Bronco fan I'm not too optimistic about the upcoming season.  Here are my annual predictions:


Sep. 11    Chargers    Los Angeles Chargers  
LOSS - Chargers are better than a lot of people think.  They have a good young defense, a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers, and a good group of receivers.  Keenan Allen has burned the Broncos before and he's healthy now heading into week 1.  I think the Broncos will take a few games to adjust to a new offensive system.
Sep. 17    Cowboys    Dallas Cowboys
WIN - I'm assuming Ezekial Elliott will miss this game (suspended).  The Broncos defense wins this one as 2nd year Cowboy QB Dak Prescott struggles against the No Fly Zone
Sep. 24    Bills    at Buffalo Bills
WIN Bills are terrible this year
Oct. 1    Raiders    Oakland Raiders 
WIN The offense starts to get it in gear with a win over the arch rival Raiders
Oct. 15    Giants    New York Giants 
WIN Now we are rolling!  The Broncos build on their early season momentum to go to 4-1.
Oct. 22    Chargers    at Los Angeles Chargers
LOSS See game 1 - Chargers are better this year
Oct. 30    Chiefs    at Kansas City Chiefs
LOSS Chiefs are my pick to win the divison
Nov. 5    Eagles    at Philadelphia Eagles 
LOSS It seems every year the Broncos lose to a mediocre team on the road.  This year it's in Philly.
Nov. 12    Patriots    New England Patriots 
LOSS Patriots just too good this year to overcome their traditional struggles in the Mile Hi City
Nov. 19    Bengals    Cincinnati Bengals
WIN Broncos get back on track with a quality win over the Bengals
Nov. 26    Raiders    at Oakland Raiders
LOSS The Raiders outscore the Broncos
Dec. 3    Dolphins    at Miami Dolphins
LOSS The Broncos wish they had hired Miami coach Adam Gase when they had the chance.
Dec. 10    Jets    New York Jets
WIN Jets are even worse than the Bills this year
Dec. 14    Colts    at Indianapolis Colts 
LOSS Indy has not been kind to the Broncos in recent years
Dec. 24    Redskins    at Washington Redskins
LOSS The season downturn continues with another road loss
Dec. 31    Chiefs    Kansas City Chiefs
WIN Like last year's finale against Oakland, the Broncos win the last game of the year at home with the Chiefs resting some of their regulars for the playoffs.
 
OVERALL RECORD: 7 wins 9 losses
 
This year will be similar to Josh McDaniel's first year, where the team got off to a surprising 6-0 start under a new coach before fading in the second half of the season (finishing 8-8 that year). I think Vance Joseph will be a better coach than McDaniels but this team will continue to struggle offensively.  The defense will be solid.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Rod Smith at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club


Denver Broncos Ring of Famer Rod Smith entertained a Broncos QB Club crowd Thursday night with stories of his playing days and from his new book "The Rod Effect".  A summary of some of the comments Rod made this night:

"John Elway told me I have two of John's best five plays of John's career," Rod said.  Number one was the first catch of Rod's career, as described on denverbroncos.com:

"In Week 3 of the 1995 season, Denver and Washington were tied at 31 points apiece. With six seconds left in the game, the Broncos offense faced a fourth-and-10 at the Redskins 43-yard line. Quarterback John Elway dropped back at the Washington 43-yard line and launched a deep pass toward Smith.  Smith leaped over future Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green to haul in the game-winning touchdown as time expired — the first catch of his career."

"I sucked on special teams that day," Rod said.  "We only had four wide receivers active, and the Redskins had a hard hitting safety that knocked out the other wide receivers we had.  So they had to play me."  The hardest part of that play, Rod relates, was dealing with his massive teammates jumping on him in the end zone celebration.

The other big play was Rod's 80 yard td catch in Super Bowl 33 vs the Atlanta Falcons.  "That play was not in the game plan," Rod relates, "we drew it up on the sidelines.  Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak saw a weakness in the Falcons coverage and we took advantage of it."

Who were the toughest defensive backs he played against?  "James Hasty, Dale Carter, and Charles Woodson," Rod replied.

Rod told us how special it was to play under owner Pat Bowlen.  "When I was a rookie I was told, 'Mr Bowlen wants to see you'  I thought, 'what did I do?'  But Pat was great - we talked for 45 minutes about life.  He really cared about the players.  The Bronco alumni are always welcome back - that's not true of how other teams treat their former players.  On the road every player had his own room (even for home games I had the same room the night before a game at the Inverness Hotel).  Other teams ask you to double up with a roommate.  Players have different sleeping habits.  The extra expense Pat took for private rooms really helped us get ready for game day."

Rod described his unusual pregame meal ritual.  "The team meal was at 10 am.  That's too early for me to eat!  4 hours before game time??  So I'd checkin for the team meal but not eat much, then I'd go to burger king and get a chicken sandwich and fries.  I'd eat 1/2 of the sandwich and fries before the game, and eat the rest at half time.  One time a rookie ate the second part of my meal before I got to it at half time.  I hazed him the rest of the year!"

On the current team Rod told us some tidbits John Elway shared with him. Sorry readers, Rod said that was confidential to our meeting (you'll have to attend our future meetings to get some real juicy broncos inside info!)  But Rod did say that John feels the team is much improved in the offensive line and that'll make a big difference.

Rod was very gracious in interacting with us at our meeting this day, staying for hours signing autographs and taking pictures with the long time fans of the Broncos QB Club.  We were also honored to have former Broncos placekicker David Treadwell give his opinions on the current team before Rod spoke.

You don't want to miss out on our future meetings!  The club now meets at the Blake Street Tavern near Coors Field.  As you can see from the picture below, we had a full house for David and Rod!  Visit us at denverbroncosqbclub.com for more info.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Billy Martin and the Denver Bears

 



Legendary New York Yankees manager Billy Martin got his first managing job in Denver - taking over for the Triple A Denver Bears midseason in 1968.  The Bears had a record of 7 wins, 22 losses when Martin took the helm, and under Martin’s fiery leadership the team had a complete turn around, winning 66 games and losing 50 in their remaining games. 

The success with the Bears led to Martin being promoted as manager to the American League Minnesota Twins the next season.  Martin would never manage in the minors again, serving as manager for the Twins, Tigers, Rangers, A's, and of course the Yankees over his career.

One of the stars of that Bears team, third baseman Graig Nettles, would later star for Martin’s New York Yankee teams.  Art Fowler was Martin's pitching coach for the Bears - Fowler also followed Martin to serve as pitching coach in New York.

And Denver came calling again to Billy Martin when the Colorado Rockies were awarded a National League franchise in 1993.  “The Colorado people were going to let Billy run the whole show," said Billy's wife Jill (1).   Had Martin accepted that offer, the Rockies of the 1990's would have looked very different I'm sure!

During that 1968 season the Denver Bears hosted a “kids day” at the stadium for area youth baseball teams.  I played second base for my team and I was in attendance that day.  Billy Martin was always very personable with the fans, and he was on this day, too, giving a small group of young second basemen (including me) personal attention in showing us the finer points of playing the infield. 

As a baseball fan all my life, I always remember the job Billy Martin did to turn around that 1968 Denver Bears team.  It impressed on me that a good manager in baseball can have a positive effect on a team more than a head coach in any other sport.  The Colorado Rockies of today are proof of that too, with new manager Bud Black leading the team to the best record in the National League as of May 27th.







(1) from the book Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius by Bill Pennington, page 475.