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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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