DOGFISH: Camp Preview D-line

July 12, 2007

A day late, but with all the post-mini-camp news, who can blame me! šŸ™‚

Here, again, is our guest author Dogfish’s Training Camp Preview of the D-line. For those of you who don’t know, Dogfish is an All-Pro contributor on the Broncomania forum with nearly 10,000 posts. I admire the insight and thoughtfulness of his work and have been given permission to post his TC Previews here on this blog.

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After losing one starter to free agency, forcing the other to take a pay cut, and bringing in at least three new players with starting potential, no position on the team saw more change over the off-season. . . HALLELUJAH! It was well past time. With a new D-line coach and DC in addition to all the new faces, competition should be wide open, and camp will go a long way towards sorting out a suddenly-crowded position. TC will be a good opportunity for Bates to start determining which DTs are the best fits for his system.

Nobody has more to prove than Gerard Warren. He may have been hindered by injuries last year, but it’s hard for me to believe that Shanahan would have forced him to redo a one year-old contract if he felt that Warren gave it as much as he could under the circumstances. He’s not going to win a starting job by default this year, so he’ll have to put forth a solid effort, and TC is the place to set the tone.

Rookie Marcus Thomas has to prove that he deserves the chance we took on him, and the best way to start is by demonstrating a high work ethic in camp. If he does, he can put a lot of pressure on the vets. Hopefully Thomas will also hit the weight room hard. TC will be our first look at Sam Adams, and how well his knee has healed. It will also be Jimmy Kennedy’s best chance to make an impression, and show that he’s willing to work hard and control two gaps without complaining. Kennedy has the natural talent to win a starting spot if he’s motivated and can keep his motor running–something he seemingly hasn’t done in the past. Alvin McKinley probably needs to show up with some additional weight if he’s going to be effective doing what Bates wants him to do.

The rest of the DTs are going to be hard-pressed to earn spots on this team, so camp will be crucial for these guys. Demetrin Veal was just signed to an extension, but he needs to show that he can fit somewhere in Bates’ defense. Amon Gordon’s lack of hustle is likely to catch up with him now that Andre Patterson is gone. Antwon Burton’s size gives him some potential as a run-stopper, but it looks like he’s going to get caught in the shuffle with more accomplished players ahead of him on the depth chart. Swing-DL Kenny Peterson was likely gone regardless, but he certainly punched his ticket out of town by drawing a four-game suspension for steroid use. Undrafted rookie free-agent Steven Harris will have a chance to earn a spot on the practice squad with a solid camp.


It would obviously be very easy to go with Marcus Thomas here– and I will no doubt have a keen eye on Thomas. I’m as excited by his potential as anyone else, but I’m going to go with Jimmy Kennedy here. Kennedy is far ahead of Thomas in terms of strength and NFL game experience. . . and don’t forget that he was a #12 overall pick a few years ago. So far he hasn’t shown the desire and absolute dedication required to make the most of that talent, but he could be a big factor for us if the light comes on. I won’t hold my breath, but maybe getting traded was enough to get his attention. He’s also in his contract year, so hopefully he’ll be motivated by that.


Marcus Thomas vs. the Field for playing time. Since I understand quite well just how much impact role players can have on a team, I don’t get anywhere NEARLY as worked up over who’s going to start at certain positions as a lot of posters around Broncomania do–and Thomas could be behind Sam Adams on the depth chart, and still end up taking more snaps than Adams does. Thomas’ natural talent is very apparent, and how hard he’s willing to work should go a long way towards determining just how much playing time he gets in our rotation. His quickness gives him the potential to be the most disruptive of our DTs, so hopefully he shows enough to at least win a nickel pass-rusher spot to start the season– that’s where I see him making the most initial impact.

I also think we may see McKinley and Veal battling for the last roster spot at DT.


1. Gerald Warren
2. Sam Adams
3. Jimmy Kennedy
4. Marcus Thomas
5. Alvin McKinley



The revamping of our defensive line continues at DE, and like at DT the camp competition should be pretty fierce. Given the big difference in experience, I’m not entirely sure that starting spots will be on the line. It’s certainly possible given the emphasis Bates places on pass-rushing ability, but IMO the MOST probable scenario is that Lang and Ekuban will hold off the youngsters initially. Still, it would be exciting to see one of the new guys earn a starting spot right off the bat, so I’ll definitely be paying close attention.
In addition to Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, I think we’ll carry either two or three veteran DEs– depending on how the rest of the roster breaks down, of course. If we only carry two, then Lang, Ekuban and John Engelberger will likely battle it out for those two spots. I think Carlos Hall has very little chance to make the team after we spent first-day picks on two DEs. I doubt we’ll keep another pass-rush specialist with Dumervil and Moss.

Camp will be important for Johnson and Bates to get a better idea of everyone’s capabilities. TC’s importance is obviously highest for the rookies, but with new coaches and a new system, the importance increases for the vets as well–and these guys will be fighting for their jobs, and quite probably their last chances to start in the NFL. Once Bates and Johnson see what the older guys can do, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them given some practices off so the younger guys can get more reps, and the coaching staff has a better opportunity to evaluate them and to teach technique. I expect that we’ll see Crowder or maybe Dumervil running with the first team in some afternoon practices.

Elvis Dumervil. We all know the impact that Dumervil made last year as a rookie playing a part-time role. It’ll be interesting to see how he builds on a fine first season. I was pleasantly surprised by his production, but I was concerned as to whether we’d see a drop-off once teams got some game tape on him. Dumervil exploded on the scene with five sacks in a two-week span in October, but managed only one sack in four games during November. I was afraid that teams may have figured out how to deal with him, but he did rebound somewhat with two-and-a-half sacks in five games in December. Dumervil’s weaknesses are pretty obvious, so it will be extremely important for him to continue to hit the weight room and refine his technique.

Bates has had a lot of success with pass-rushers in his other stops, so I’m excited to see if he can maximize Elvis’ potential. He’s had a year to adjust to the size and speed of his opponents, so we’ll see how he can produce in a scheme that relies on it’s front four to generate pressure.


Ebenezer Ekuban vs. Tim Crowder at LDE. Bates likes guys with speed off the edge at both DE spots, and Crowder may have more than Ekuban at this point in their respective careers. Crowder is also the most polished and balanced of our young DEs, and in my mind is likely to be the first to mount a serious challenge for a starting spot. I’m sure Ekuban has heard all the talk, and the selection of DEs with our top two picks sent a clear message. We’ll see how he responds, but I would expect his pride to bring out his best effort. I think this particular battle could go all year, but TC will be a nice preview.Ā Ā  šŸ™‚

1. Ebenezer Ekuban
2. Kenard Lang
3. Tim Crowder
4. Elvis Dumervil
5. Jarvis Moss

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Great preview, Dogfish! And we’ll wrap up the Training Camp Previews tomorrow with a look at the defensive secondary.


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