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DOGFISH: Camp Preview WR’s & TE’s

July 10, 2007

With the first day of the Bronco’s mini-camp in the books, we got an answer regarding “The Brandon’s,” Mike Shanahan had this to say about Stokley appearing for the first time in a Broncos jersey.

“He’s ahead of schedule. When we start camp, he should be 100 percent (to) go.”

— Mike Shanahan 7/9/07

Stokley didn’t partake in 7-on-7’s but he was in uniform and ran drills. In addition to Stokley, Brandon Marshall was on the field and participated in drills — which is a great sign as he had sat out the last part of team camp.

…and speaking of wide receivers… we have today’s Training Camp Preview on wide outs and tight ends by our friend and fellow obsessed fan, Dogfish.

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GUEST AUTHOR: DOGFISH

WIDE RECEIVERS

OVERVIEW:

Receiver is one of the most crowded spots on the roster right now, so camp will be crucial to start seperating the men from the boys. Javon Walker is the only one who’s pretty much guaranteed his spot on the depth chart, and the coaching staff isn’t likely to overwork the vet after the way he proved himself last year–look for walker to be excused from some of the back ends of two-a-days, as the younger guys need the reps more anyways.
The health of Rod Smith and Brandon Stokley will definitely be one of TC’s burning questions. Lee Rasizer recently reported that Stokley is running freely, and that Smith is progressing nicely, so that’s good news. Both players have a big edge in the battle for spots 2-4 due to their track record and experience, but they’ll still have to show it on the field with lots of young legs behind them waiting for a shot. All they have to prove is that they’re healthy, though– if they are, both should easily win their spots.
TC will be as important for Brandon Marshall as anyone on the team. According to early reports, he will enter camp as the favorite for the second starting spot–a good showing could go a long way to cementing that position for him. This will be a great chance for Marshall to refine his route-running skills working against our starting corners. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this camp may be David Terrell’s last chance to make it in the NFL.
I believe that we’ll probably carry six receivers again this year–with the last two spots reserved for guys who can contribute on special teams. There will be major competition for those two spots between Quincy Morgan, Brian Clarke, David Kircus, Domenik Hixon and Marquay McDaniel. The wildcard here is Hixon, who’ll finally get a chance to justify the 4th round pick we spent on him in 2006 after spending last season on IR. Hixon’s size, speed and experience on the defensive side of the ball make him an ideal candidate to play gunner on the punt coverage units, so if he can show something as a return specialist he’s likely to earn a spot.

I personally feel that Morgan is next in line–he came on a bit as a returner at the end of the season, and is the only player among the bunch who has any proven history as a receiver. With a full off-season and TC under his belt, he may get a chance to carve out a role as an occasional deep threat on offense. Some people still love Kircus’ potential, but he’s played for quite some time now without proving anything–and he surely didn’t win any points with Mike Shanahan by getting into some off-season legal trouble. Clarke is younger and has a relatively similar skill set, and may have a bit more developmental potential left at this point.

McDaniel, the undrafted rookie from Hampton, has been getting some attention lately. A strong showing in camp could possibly move him into position to mount a legitimate challenge for the last spot—otherwise, I see him as a likely candidate for the practice squad. Ultimately, at least one of the last two spots will be reserved for a return specialist–if one of these guys can separate himself in that area, he’ll almost certainly guarantee himself a job.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Brandon Marshall– This guy is just oozing potential, and has reportedly been busting his butt over the off-season (including speed training in Chris Carter’s highly-touted program). The Air Marshall was one of the stars of last year’s camp before a preseason knee injury took him out of the lineup for several weeks and slowed his development. He looked tentative for a while after his return, and another good camp could go a long ways towards establishing the confidence that he needs. How quickly he develops could be one of the key factors in determining just how dangerous our passing game can be this year. Also, his size and strength give him a chance to be a great run blocker, one of the underrated aspects of his potential IMO. Hopefully the coaching staff will keep after him to work hard in this area–as downfield blocking from our receivers has been one of the keys to our running game over the years.

BEST POSITION BATTLE:

Hixon vs. the Field for the RS job. For a position that’ll be as hotly contested as any in camp, it’s hard to pick just one battle–but I’ll go with this one as I think it may be one of the most wide open competitions this summer. Also, we all know how badly our return game sucked last year–it could be really big for us if a legit threat emerges from the pack. If Hixon plays to his timed 4.34 speed, he can be dangerous.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:

1. Javon Walker
2. Brandon Marshall
3. Rod Smith
4. Brandon Stokley
5. Quincy Morgan
6. Domenik Hixon

TIGHT ENDS

OVERVIEW:

With the return of Dan Graham to Colorado, someone is likely to get caught in the numbers crunch here– TC could go a long way towards determining who it is. Graham will need some reps to get comfortable with Cutler, and with the O-line, but with his injury history the coaching staff will have to balance his need to learn against the risk of him getting dinged up and having it linger into the season. For that reason, I suspect that the Chef will get plenty of chances to work with the starters (not just in two-TE sets). No question TC will be big for Tony Scheffler, who like Marshall needs to build some confidence and consistency going into the season. Chef also needs some serious work on his blocking, and that should be a major area of focus for him. Stephen Alexander, Teyo Johnson, Nate Jackson, Chad Mustard and Mike Leach round out a pretty deep group of TEs (though we all know Leach is really just a badass long snapper who probably wouldn’t play offense except for emergency duty). With two capable receiving TEs at the top of the depth chart, I think converted wide receivers Jackson and Johnson are really facing long odds to make the team this year, unless one of them absolutely lights it up in camp.
PLAYER TO WATCH:

Gotta go with the Chef here, as camp will give him a golden opportunity to refine some of the impressive skills he flashed down the stretch last year. the more he improves that blocking, the more involved in the offense he’s going to be. Now that he’s had a year to make the leap from a small school and adjust to the speed of the NFL, we should see that athleticism start to show itself more and more. He can be a weapon that we move all over the field, and I’m expecting him to make some big plays for us this season.

BEST POSITION BATTLE:

Chad Mustard vs. Stephen Alexander– I think this will be the battle for the last roster spot at TE. I think we may only carry four TEs this year, and IMO Graham, Chef and Leach have their spots all but locked up. With the balanced Graham likely to start, I can see us keeping one pure receiving TE (Scheffker) and one pure blocking TE (Mustard)– if we want to go with a more balanced TE in that last spot, it will be Alexander, and if we keep five this year I think he has the best chance at the fifth spot.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:

1. Daniel Graham
2. Tony Scheffler
3. Chad Mustard
4. Mike Leach

Line Break

Thanks, again, to Dogfish for his excellent position reviews leading into Training Camp this month. I’ll attempt get his O-line Camp Preview up later today.

For more pictures and info about the first day of Mini-Camp check out Andrew Mason’s Blog: HERE

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