DOGFISH: Camp Preview Secondary

July 13, 2007

Everyone is getting ready for camp, and NFL.com has even done a nice video feature on what the Broncos have done this off-season and what we can expect later this month at Training Camp (TC).

And speaking of previewing TC, our guest author Dogfish has the final installment of his Camp Preview series. This time the focus is Denver’s defensive secondary.

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I’m pretty satisfied with this group overall, but I do think there’s more uncertainty at the position entering this year than we’ve seen in quite some time. I feel that we lost the best player of the unit in Al Wilson, but we should have enough solid LBs to get the job done with some improved D-line play.

D.J.’s transition to the middle will be one of the main areas of focus for this group in TC, especially teaching him how to line up the defense and make the correct calls. We’ll also be breaking in at least one new starter on the strong side, although it’s likely to be a vet who does have some starting experience elsewhere.

I’m also interested to see if anyone can mount a challenge to Gold–I certainly hope so. At worst the competition will keep him on his toes, and at best someone like Holdman just MIGHT prove good enough to replace him. I like Gold, but he didn’t impress last year. While I don’t see anyone unseating him in camp, I can see someone potentially challenging him for playing time down the stretch if he doesn’t play better than he was at the end of last year. And if someone gives him a run for his spot in camp, it’ll make that all the more likely.

The addition of Eddie Moore is a bit of a wild card. Moore was a second round pick of the Dolphins a few years back, but he never really panned out. It’s debatable whether Bates likes him enough to give him a second chance here, or if he was really just brought in to help the other LBs learn the system. As Bates didn’t get much out of him in Miami, I’m inclined to suspect that it’s the latter, but you never know.

Cameron Vaughn supposedly has nice potential, T.J. Hollowell has been invited back for another camp, and Louis Green has a few years experience with the club. Those guys will be competing for the backup linebacker spot (or spots, depending on how many we keep this year—right now, with the way the rest of the roster looks to be breaking down, I’m leaning towards five), but special teams play is likely to be an important determining factor. I have FA acquisition D.D. Lewis penciled in as a slight favorite to earn one of those last spots based on reportedly solid ST play in Seattle, as well as some experience playing on the defensive side of the ball.

D.J. Williams! This is his chance to at last prove that he’s the star most people on this board think, rather than the solid-but-unspectacular player that we’ve seen the past two years. Although I won’t read too much into TC reports for a guy who’s playing his third position in four years, it’ll nonetheless be our first indication of how well D.J. will handle the transition. I think his ability to adapt, including making the line calls, will be one of the biggest factors in just how good our Defense can be this year. And it may influence our draft next year as well, so it’s definitely worth paying close attention to. I’ve said before, I think this is a make-or-break year for D.J. in denver, so he needs to come into camp prepared for the mental challenge.


Nate Webster vs. Warrick Holdman for the starting SAM linebacker spot.  Other than the battle for the backup spots, I expect this to be the ONLY real battle battle among the LB corps in camp, and it may well drag on right up to the start of the season or even beyond.  Moore was reportedly running with the first team in OTAs, but I suspect that may have been a result of his experience in Bates’ system more than anything else. Of course he could challenge for a starting spot, but I think the other guys will pass him up once they learn the scheme. Webster may be the more physically talented player, but Holdman is probably more reliable and consistent–he’s also been more durable, and I give him a slight edge.


1. D.J. Williams
2. Ian Gold
3. T.J. Holdman
4. Nate Webster
5. D.D. Lewis



This looks like possibly the strongest position on the team entering camp. Not only did we add a two-time pro-bowler to play across from the legend, but Dominique Foxworth and Karl Paymah make us very strong all the way down to our dime back. Shanahan isn’t likely to overwork Champ in TC or the preseason, so the younger guys will get plenty of chances to play with the starters. That will give Bates a chance to gauge just how good they are, and that could potentially affect any contract talks if we decide to extend either of them before they hit restricted free agency.

Jeff Shoate is still hanging around, and I would guess that this is his last chance to make an impact. We brought in three corners (Bill Alford, Kevin House and Lamont Reid) from NFLE, so we may be looking for another developmental project. I don’t know about PS eligibility for those guys, but if we keep any of them that would seem like the most probable destination. Curome Cox’s ability to play some corner has allowed us to roll with just four true CBs in the past, and I think we will most likely go that route again this year. Whether Cox plays some corner in TC could give us an early indication if that’s what we’ll do.

Karl Paymah. If this were a regular season preview, Dre Bly would get this spot for sure, but I don’t know that we’ll really learn what we need to know about him from camp reports. He’s a natural fit for this system, and I expect him to play well in shorts and T-shirts, but Paymah is definitely a player to keep an eye on this year. He reportedly had the most upside of the three corners we drafted in ’04, and I thought he finally started to show some of that at the end of last year, with very solid games against Arizona, Cincy and San Francisco. I’ve felt for a while now that confidence was Paymah’s biggest hurdle–if the light has come on, we may see some good things from him.
Paymah was also lost trying to play Coyer’s stupid fifteen-yard cushion. He’s a physical corner who will be MUCH more comfortable in Bates man-to-man coverage, especially when he’s allowed to play bump-and-run. Even if he doesn’t win one of the top spots, I think he could end up playing a fairly significant role for us this season.

Dominique Foxworth vs. Karl Paymah for the nickel back spot. Don’t just assume that Foxworth has this locked up because he’s been ahead of Paymah the past two years. As just mentioned, Bates is bringing a new system that may play to Paymah’s strengths more than Foxworth’s. I do expect Fox to withstand the challenge, but I’m not writing Paymah off just yet. Ultimately I really like both players. I’m happy to finally have some QUALITY youth at the position after quite a few years getting by with odds and ends, and I hope that we move aggressively to lock at least one of them up long-term. Whoever loses this battle will still get plenty of opportunities to contribute, as we traditionally have scored early and put teams in comeback mode.


1. Champ Bailey
2. Dre Bly
3. Domonique Foxworth
4. Karl Paymah



Really, there’s not a whole lot to talk about here. Unless something unexpected happens, the depth chart looks to be rather set here–at least towards the top. We didn’t bring in any new blood at the position except for UDFA Roderick Rogers, and I can’t see him as more than a PS player at this point. Steve Cargile and Quentin Harris were desperation hires last year–I doubt either makes the squad. Maybe Brandon or Abdullah can at least challenge Ferguson for a starting spot (I’m sure Lynch will put in a good word to Shenanigans for Hamza 🙂 ). . .

Really, the health of Ferguson and Brandon will be the biggest question that TC can answer. And even if they do prove to be fully healthy, I think their reps will probably be limited until at least the preseason (probably Lynch’s as well– he hardly has anything left to prove, or learn).


Sam Brandon. Given the TEs we have to face in our division, Brandon’s importance can’t be overstated IMO. He may not start, but he plays a valuable role! Gates had his biggest game against us last year with Brandon out of the lineup. Coming off a knee injury can be tricky for a DB, and Brandon also backs up the CB spot. His return to full health is important to us, and if he’s ever going to challenge for a full-time starting position, this should be the year.


I’ll say Ferguson vs. the Field for the starting SS spot, but I’m really not sure how much of a battle it’ll turn out to be.


1. John Lynch
2. Nick Ferguson
3. Sam Brandon
4. Curome Cox
5. Hamza Abdullah

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Well, that wraps up the special camp preview series by our guest author Dogfish. I strongly encourage you to check out the forums over at broncomania, where Dogfish and many other insightful fans chat about everything under the sun!



  1. Nice blog!

    I agree with most of these depth charts, but linebacker should include Green.

  2. I agree that Green has been valuable in special teams play. I’d like to see him stick, but their are several good guys at that position and the numbers game will leave someone high and dry.


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