Archive for May, 2007

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David Kircus News

May 29, 2007

David Kircus WILL be with the team regardless of the outcome of his trial…

Mike Shanahan said today that David offered to take a lie detector test to prove that he did not take the first swing in the fight that lead to his assault arrest. Shanahan has used lie detectors tests before and had been pleased with the results, so he allowed Kircus to take the test.

“I said, ‘Well, David, I’ll give you a chance to take a lie-detector test,’ and he wanted to do that, and he passed it with flying colors, so he will be on our football team.”

— Mike Shanahan 5/29/07

When asked what would have happened if he had failed the test, Shanahan answered:

“If he flunked the test, he would not be with us. But he wanted to take the test. He said, ‘Coach, if I flunk it, I won’t be on this football team. If I do pass it, I’ll be on this team.’ I said, ‘Hey, that’s fair enough for me.’ Anybody that wants to go in there and take a lie detector test where his career is based on whether it comes out positive or negative, I’ve got a good feeling about.”

— Mike Shanahan 5/29/07

I think this will also bode well for David’s upcoming legal battle. I mean, if you can convince Mike Shanahan, you have a pretty good shoot with the jury! Let‘s hope so, as Kircus has shown truly promising ability last year and I was looking for an even better showing this year.

FULL STORY on DenverBroncos.com

FULL STORY at the Denver Post

 

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What we learned during QB Camp

May 28, 2007

I was looking over my list of top question marks regarding our upcoming season this weekend. These were private questions I’ve had about a number of issues relating to our team and a successful year. In my humble opinion these were concerns leading into our first OTA days. I’ve listed them for you as well as some of my thoughts about each after the Broncos wrapped up their 2007 Quarterback Camp.

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1. Jay Cutler’s Wealth & Fame?

This off-season has been perilous for Jay. I mean, any 24-year-old kid that is suddenly thrust into hero status on a stage this big can be quickly overwhelmed. He has gained unbelievable wealth and fame in a very short time period, so the biggest question mark in my mind is: Will all this affect Cutler in 2007?

The answer so far is: NO. In addition to being a cool cat under center, Jay seems to be keeping a very level head through all this attention. He’s avoided being in the media for silly stumbles at his home (see Brian Griese) or infractions of the law (see Micheal Vick) and has occupied his time this off-season with extra work at Dove Valley in the weight room and throwing the old pigskin around with his wideouts and tightends. In fact, he’s turned down many paid promotional gigs so he can spend time practicing with his teammates.

And what’s the key to his focus despite all the distractions? Cutler’s father believes that it’s because Jay hasn’t fulfilled his goals yet.

“He can really stay grounded because he has not accomplished what he wants to accomplish. He had a nice first year, but he’s not even close to what he wants to be. I think he keeps that in the back of his head. He’s had a good five games, but he has a lot bigger goals than that.”

— Jack Cutler 4/11/07

This all speaks volumes about how Jay Cutler will handle the growing media attention as we near the season this year — and hopefully the POST-season.

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2. Marshaling our WR’s?

With Rod Smith’s return to form still in question after his hip surgery, who will step up and fill our #2 spot at wide receiver? Can Brandon Marshall fill this role? Will there be a surprise dark horse (Domenik Hixon, Brandon Stokley, David Terrell, David Kircus, etc) rise to the occasion?

Brandon Marshall looks like the best bet so far. In addition to having his trouble with the law well behind him now, he has redoubled his efforts to improve on the field this off-season. He spent months at Cris Carter’s FAST Program in Coral Springs working on strength and conditioning for this coming season. Like Cutler, it’s good to see young athletes choosing to get additional training rather than blowing their free time with nothing more than partying. I think this shows Brandon’s intention to become a starting WR for our team, and I look forward to seeing what he can bring to this year’s camp.

“It’s impressive that he’s made it a point to do this (off-season training). He’s way more driven this year. He may not see that – but I do .”

— General Manager of FAST, Leslie Calvagne 5/20/07

After Marshall, Hixon has impressed me the most. He’ll make the team as a returner, but with his raw talent he might have a shot at starting as well. You don’t believe me? Ask Champ Bailey…

“You can’t really grade the guy too much from practice, but from what I see, the guy runs great routes. He’s fast. He’s an unbelievable talent. . . . Other than Brandon and Javon, who are going to stand out, he’s that guy where you say, ‘Dang, this guy’s good.’ ”

— Champ Bailey 5/22/07

I’ll take “Dang, this guy’s good” from Champ Bailey any day of the week!

🙂

 

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3. New Defense?

With our new Defensive Coach, several new assistant/position coaches, the departure of Al Wilson and the addition of Dre Bly as well as several rookies, how’s our Defense doing?

To the first part, how are Jim Bates and his new assistants doing, the answer is good. The leaders of the defense have repeatedly stated their respect and admiration for Bates and the system he is bringing to Denver. In addition to having a proven track record, Bates has always been considered a player’s coach and that seems to be true at Dove Valley as well.

For Bly’s part, he seems well adjusted and content. He and Champ have known each other for some years and there are even rumors that a friendly competition over number of picks may start up during the season. Needless to say all the early talk about Bly wanting out of Denver is history.

DJ Williams is feeling his way into the Mike LB slot and the leadership that entails. We all know he has the talent to play the middle. What we are all watching for will be how his leadership skills grow over the next few months.

And as for the rookies, we won’t know anything about their progress until later in camp when the pads go on and the hits start. Right now, they have their heads down and are learning as fast and as much as they can. The final verdict will have to wait until training camp and the preseason.

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4. Travis Henry learning curve?

Henry has played in several systems in college and the NFL, but he hasn’t run behind a zone blocking scheme like the Broncos. He has all the attributes of a downhill runner (5’9″ @ 215lbs), but it will still take some practice to master the one cut Broncos running style.

We won’t be able to fully assess Henry’s progress until they add pads and contact. During these first OTA days Travis Henry was simply learning all the terminology, formations and schemes. But our ace running back coach, Bobby Turner, is a master at teaching this system and I would very surprised to see Henry fail to impress us this season.

“You can tell from my first day that I’m better on tape. At first, I was kind of hesitant. Now, I’m ‘zoom, zoom.’ You know what I’m saying?”

— Travis Henry 5/24/07

Yeah, we know what you’re saying… and we’re liking it! 🙂

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These are only my top four, but I have to say that I’m feeling much better about where we are for 2007 after this first camp.

Next we have Team Camp…. let’s hope for more good news!

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Line Backer Line-up

May 23, 2007

During this brief camp we’ve gotten to see some of new players that will be competing for starting jobs as the OTA days continue. One of the biggest defensive holes to fill will be the ones at line backer. With Al Wilson gone after a neck injury, DJ Williams has been moved to the middle. Ian Gold is well entrenched on the weak side, which leaves DJ’s old strong (Sam) side LB slot wide open.

The coming competition should be a great one to watch as we have several great guys that could fill that spot. Here’s a quick look at the contenders…

Nate Webster (#58) already has one Super Bowl ring from his time with the Tampa Bay Bucs. The year of that Super Bowl win Webster recording 33 tackles (23 solo) and placing fourth on the team with 16 special-teams stops that year. But after spent his first four years in Tampa, Webster left as a free agent to Cincinati where serious knee injuries kept him off the field. He signed with the Broncos last May and has not only made a full recovery from his past injuries but also impressed both his coaches and teammates.

“Nate Webster is a natural player. This is a guy who is a starting-caliber player in the NFL — he fits right in.”

— Al Wilson 11/14/06

Warrick Holdman (currently wearing Wilson’s #56 jersey) is entering his 9th NFL year. Having played for Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, he has more starting experience than any of the other contenders with 84 starts (in 105 regular season games). He has more than 500 tackles (390 solo), seven forced fumbles, five sacks and an interception on his resume. He has started at least 10 games in five of his last eight years and started all 16 for Washington last year. However, at 31 years old he understands his experience and knowledge will be his edge.

“I feel good. I’m not 23 years old no more, but I feel like I know what I’m doing. I’ve seen a lot of routes and a lot of different blocking schemes. And I have to use that a little bit more because I’m not 22- or 23-year-old anymore. That’s just a fact.”

— Warrick Holdman 5/22/07

“”I liked his steadiness. He is a true vet, a true pro. He knows how to play football, and the big thing in bringing guys in with that veteran status is you want solid, good guys who have a passion for football. And that’s what Warrick fits.”

— Jim Bates 5/22/07

Cameron Vaughn (#59) was picked up as an undrafted college free agent by Denver last May. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad, but don’t think Vaughn can’t play at this level. He was a three year starter for LSU where he played 52 games (33 starts) and totaled 239 tackles (121 solo). He played two years at weakside, before starting his senior year at middle. In that year he posted a team best 83 tackles (46 solo) and one sack. In 2003 he helped his team win the national championship. Last year, Denver coaches tested Vaughn at all three positions, so versatility may help win him a spot.

Louis Green (#53), a college free agent picked up briefly by the Ravens, spent his first two years with the Broncos on and off the practice squad, before he landed a roster spot in 2004. He has been a special teams ace for the Broncos with a 2005 performance that ranked third on the team with 10 stops in 14 regular-season games. With former special team LB Keith Burns’ move to the coaching staff, Green could move into an on-the-field leadership role on special teams this year — filling the spot Keith Burns has filled for years in Denver.

Eddie Moore (#51) is another University of Tennessee product (see Al Wilson). At UT Moore appeared in 46 games (24 starts), posting 219 tackles, including six sacks, an interception a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and 13 passes defensed. He was Miami’s 2nd round draft choice in 2003, but spent that season on IR due to a left Lis-Franc injury in the preseason. In 2004 he played in 13 games for Miami and registered 34 tackles, a fumble recovery and four passes defensed. He also placed third on the team with 12 special teams stops where he also posted a forced and recovered fumble. He spent all of last year out of football after ending up on IR again in 2005.

T.J. Hollowell (#57) competed in Denver’s training camp before he was placed on the club’s reserve/injured list in Aug 2006 with a left calf injury. Before coming to Denver, Hollowell spent his first two NFL seasons hopping from one practice squad to another. At Nebraska, Hollowell played 49 games (14 starts) and totaled 173 tackles (76 solo), 3.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, a pair of interceptions, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. He also made appearances in the Rose Bowl and Alamo Bowl.

D.D. Lewis (#54) — another college free agent — played the last five years for the Seahawks. In 48 career regular-season games (19 starts), Lewis has totaled 141 tackles (103 solo), one sack, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He also has played four career postseason games (3 starts), including a start in Super Bowl XL during the 2005 season. He brings experience as well as skills and could end up on the roster.

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Most of the attention will be on the starting Sam slot and Mike position Williams has moved to, but the real fight will happen right behind that with special team contributions playing a major role. Coach Shanahan likes to keep several LB on the roster but most of the back ups MUST be playmakers on special teams.

With all these guys competing, we should have some really awesome training camp video (not to mention preseason footage) to watch!

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My list of least-known favorite players

May 21, 2007

It seems like every year around this time I find one or two players buried deep in Denver’s roster (or even practice squad) that I begin championing to friends and family. Over the year’s only a couple have risen to the starting line up while most turn out to be duds — and are quietly sent packing. Here’s a look at some of my choices from the last few years:

In 1999-2000, I was enamored with 6th round pick, TE Desmond Clark. I thought he had mad skills and was sad to see him go after the 2001 season; however, he has had considerable success the last few years in Chicago.

In 2001 I began following another sixth round draft pick, Kevin Kasper. Kasper didn’t last long with the Broncos and has journeyed to several other teams.

In 2002-03 I must have been blessed with good judgment as I began pulling for Reuben Droughns and Sam Brandon (both unknowns at the time) . Droughns was a special team guy and FB then, and I was thrilled to see him rise up and capture the starting RB job in 2005 — even though I was most fond of his blocking ability. Brandon was also a big special teams guy that has now become an important part of our defense.

Starting in 2003-04, Nate Jackson caught my eye and have enjoyed watching him stick with the team (even through his move from WR to TE). Also Cecil Sapp (I love cheering for the undrafted guys!) which has worked his way into the starting FB competition this year.

In 2005 it was QB Bradlee Van Pelt and our newest (and shortest) CB, Darrent Williams — what can I say, I also like to pull for the short guys! Darrent won the starting job his first year and BVP is now with the Houston Texans.

Last year it was undrafted RB Mike Bell, Safety Hamza Abdullah and WR David Kircus. Mike become a sensation last year by winning the backup job behind Tatum and Abdullah has had the honor of praise from players like Lynch and Ferguson, but Kircus didn’t get much playing time and remained mostly unnoticed last year.

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This year, in addtion to keeping a close eye on Jackson, Abdullah, Kircus and the others, RB Andre Hall and Safety Roderick Rogers are two players I can’t wait to see this preseason. Both players are college free agents (Andre Hall was picked up by Tampa last year after the draft and Rogers was picked up this year by Denver) and both have the potential to compete at the next level.

Andre Hall played one year of High School football. However, in that one year he led the county in rushing yardage with 1,742 yards and 26 touchdowns on 227 carries (7.7 avg). After a brief time at the Georgia Military Academy, he returned to Florida to attend USF. Hall left the Bulls as the all-time leading rusher (2,731 yrd) on 480 carries. Had had 24 TD’s and caught 44 passes for 470 yrds (10.7 yrds avg). He also scored three times on kickoff returns. Over all, he passed the 100 yard mark 12 times in 23 games including two +200 yard outings. Tampa Bay picked Hall up as a undrafted free agent on May 1, 2006, but was waived at the end of July. Chicago signed him in August but waived him on Sept. 1. Denver signed Hall Nov. 15th of last year and he spent the last half of 2006 on the practise squad.

While Travis Henry seems to have the starting tailback position locked up, look for him to push Mike Bell and the rest of the RB’s.

Roderick Rogers was a two-year captain at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, GA. There Rogers posted 261 tackles, 13 interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He then spent three years as a starter at Wisconsin, where he played 42 career games (26 starts), compiling 99 tackles (66 solo), one fumble recovery, five interceptions (138 yds.) and 21 passes defensed. He received second-team All-Big Ten Conference accolades in each of his final two seasons at Wisconsin. As a senior in 2006, Rogers started all 13 games and registered 36 tackles to go along with two interceptions.

I have lived in both Tampa, FL and Atlanta, GA — So I could claim both these guys as home-town favorites, but the truth is I didn’t know either one until they were added to the Broncos roster. I think the real reason I like them is that neither one was drafted, and both come from smaller schools. Pulling for the underdog is always fun. Heck, I think that’s part of being a Denver Broncos fan. We pull for the underdogs, because we WERE underdogs for so long!

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So, of all the mostly unknown players we’ve added to the roster this off-season who are you watching this year?

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TE Tony Scheffler breaks his foot

May 19, 2007

Channel 4 in Denver has reported that Tight End Tony Scheffler broke his foot today (Friday 5/18/07). Scheffler is scheduled to have surgery on Monday and he will be out for 2 months.

“He’ll be fine. I know he’s a little bummed, but if there’s a positive to something like this, it’s that it happened now and not in training camp. Once the season starts, everyone will forget this even happened.”

— Stephen Alexander 5/18/07

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The Sports Guru over at Mile High Report has mentioned something that I haven’t heard the mainstream media covering regarding Tony’s off-season weight gain. Scheffler told reporters this off-season that it was his decision to add weight and I think TSG is right about the coaching staff not being pleased about the extra pounds.  Scheffler is reported to have already lost 10-12 lbs of the extra weight with plans to drop another five.

CBS4 Coverage

Denver Post Story

Rocky Mountain News Story

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Not RB, but FB looks to be a fight

May 18, 2007

Yes, Yes, I know. Travis Henry is getting lots of coverage as he goes through his first OTA’s in a Denver uniform. Of course, he will get media attention — he has the glamorous job of running back. However, I think the real fight this year will be at the overlooked position of fullback. Fullbacks never get the attention they deserve even when the RB they block for sets records and wins super bowls. Many Denver fans will remember the great Howard Griffith, but ask anyone on the street and Terrell Davis will be the only back they can name from those years. So, it’s not surprising that very few articles mention the pending battle for the starting FB position. But be ready… because it’s coming.

At fullback this year, we have Cecil Sapp returning from Injured Reserve after he fractured his left fibular bone on Dec. 4th. Before his injury Sapp was splitting time with starter Kyle Johnson. Kyle Johnson took over the FB duties from Rueben Droughns in 2004 and lead the way for several of our last 1,000 yard rusher. Johnson also has great hands and has been called on to catch TD’s in each of the last three seasons with the team (with a total of 8). However, injuries and competition from Sapp lead to only 7 starts last year.

Now, enter the new guys…

Leading the pack of new fullbacks is Troy Fleming. While not expected to blow past Johnson and Sapp, it’s important to note that Fleming played fullback with Travis Henry in Tennessee in both Nashville and Knoxville. That’s right, Fleming blocked for Henry in college at UT as well as in the NFL with the Titans. Now, both Fleming and Travis are in Denver. And with Henry having the starting RB job nearly squared away, the coaches will be keeping a very close eye on Fleming.

And then there’s journeyman Paul Smith. Having played with the 49ers, Lions and most recently the Rams, Smith has shown is versatility by playing RB, FB and special teams. Last year, he helped lead Steven Jackson to the 5th best yardage in the league with 1,528 rushing yards.

Lastly, we have Thump Belton. Belton has spent time on the practice squads of both Chicago and Detroit and now enters his fourth year in the NFL.

Maybe no one’s talking about. And maybe it’s not as flashy as the starting running back job, but one of these guys will get the position and I’ll lay money that it will be a battle worth watching.

Fullbacks at Camp:

#37 Sapp, Cecil 5′ 11″ 229 5th Colorado State CFA-’03
#39 Johnson, Kyle 6′ 0″ 242 5th Syracuse FA-’03
#34 Fleming, Troy 6′ 0″ 245 3rd Tennessee FA-’07
#26 Smith, Paul 5’11” 237 7th Texas-El Paso UFA-’07
#33 Belton, Thump 6′ 0″ 232 3rd Syracuse FA-’06

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Oh, yeah. The articles on Travis Henry….

Story & Audio on Denverbroncos.com

Denver Post Story

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The Rob Smith Report

May 18, 2007

Rod SmithAll eyes and cameras and microphones are trained on Rod Smith these days.  Since the beginning of Denver’s first 2007 OTA days, everyone wants to know something that Rod Smith doesn’t even know – Can he return to his 2005 level of performance?

And at this point not even the doctors can tell you what condition Smith will be in when the season rolls around — and these are very good doctors (Smith’s surgeon was the same doctor that repaired Priest Holmes knee). 

Although Greek (Steve Antonopulos), Denver’s head athletic trainer, also doesn’t know exactly when Smith will be ready for field work, he has every confidence that he will be ready when the season starts.

“Obviously, you want him ready for the season. But based on the time restraints from the injury, (training camp’s) about the right time, somewhere in there. If it takes a few weeks less, great. If it takes a few weeks more, whatever it takes. You know he’s going to give you everything he’s got when he’s ready to go.”

— Steve Antonopulos 5/18/07

Right now, Smith is off crutches and working every day on stationary bikes and ellipticals.  While none of us know when he will return, Rod assured a host of reporters yesterday that his age (he turned 37 Tuesday) has nothing to with situation or his decision to play in 2007.

“I don’t want to talk about age – my age has nothing to do with it. If they didn’t think I could go out there and perform, they wouldn’t have me in the building. It’s that simple.”

— Rod Smith 5/17/07

As a fan, I’m pulling for his return.  I think that a pain-free Rod Smith still has a couple of meaningful years with our club and his reliability and leadership can’t be calculated with simple game stats.  Above all else Rod is a symbol of what a REAL team player is.  He has always put the team ahead of himself and for that reason he will always be one of my all-time favorite Broncos.

Thanks, Rod — and get well soon!

DenverBroncos.com Story & Video

Denver Post Story #1   Denver Post Story #2

Rocky Mountain News Story

Associated Press Story on ESPN.com