Archive for the ‘Tom Nalen’ Category

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Some things to watch for vs Dallas

August 18, 2007

Unfortunately, I don’t live in Denver or Colorado or any state nearby in fact. That means I don’t have local TV coverage of the Bronco’s. And that means I won’t be able to see our second preseason game tonight against the Dallas Cowboys until tomorrow afternoon when the NFL Network replays the game.

And since I want to watch the game before reading anyone else’s opinions or analysis, I will be imposing an internet-ban on myself from tonight until tomorrow evening. That means no surfing the net, checking email or blogging for 24 hours… ouch!

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TRAINING CAMP: DAY 2

July 30, 2007

NOTES AND NEWS FROM DAY TWO OF TRAINING CAMP:

“That long arm’s going to be home for you baby, home! That’s the leverage we’ve got to have, gentlemen!”

— Jim Bates, in reference to a great play by Elvis Dumervil

So, Day #2 is in the books.

The Broncos had another great day of practice. The morning practice was with shoulder pads and shorts, and the afternoon practice was a shortened Special Teams session. Highlights included Brandon Stokley’s impressive work as he competes for the #2 WR spot. Jarvis Moss showing some great improvement today and Elvis Dumervil proving to his new coach that a short man with long arms can still bust up a play (see above quote)!

On to the notes…

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OFFENSIVE LINE UPS: MONDAY

den-logo.jpg Wide Outs:
Brandon Stokley and Hixon both had time with the first team, but Stokley seemed to impress the most.

den-logo.jpg Tight Ends:
No real change, although Nate Jackson had a good practice. Daniel Graham remained the primary TE with Stephen Alexander and Nate Jackson both getting some reps on the 1st Team. Teyo Johnson worked exclusively with the 2nd and 3rd Teams.

den-logo.jpg Running Backs:
Travis Henry began to pull away seriously from the pack as the rest of the roster followed. Cecil Sapp was running second with Mike Bell, Andre Hall and Young following behind.

den-logo.jpg O-line:
* 1st Team O-line was unchanged from yesterday: LT Matt Lepsis, LG Ben Hamilton, C Tom Nalen, RG Chris Kuper and RT Erik Pears.

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DEFENSIVE LINE UPS: MONDAY

den-logo.jpg D-line:
* 1st Team D-line stayed the same as Sunday: DE’s Ebenezer Ekuban and John Engelberger, DT’s Gerard Warren and Sam Adams.

NICKLE PACKAGE NOTE: Amon Gordon replaced Adams in this package.

den-logo.jpg Linebackers:
* 1st Team LB’s saw D.D. Lewis rotate in for his turn with the unit: SAM D.D. Lewis, WILL Ian Gold, MIKE D.J. Williams

den-logo.jpg Secondary:
No surprises here as CB’s Champ Bailey and Dre’ Bly and Safeties Nick Ferguson and John Lynch played on the 1st Team. Foxworth was their Nickel back and Cox joined the 1st Team during work on the Dime Package.

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Training Camp Starts Tomorrow!

July 28, 2007

Jump starting the training camp coverage, Andrew Mason has posted the full video of Mike Shanahan’s pre-camp press conference over on denverbroncos.com. He also has a break down of the conference on his blog over at Mason’s Morsels. Here’s a quick look at a few points of interest…

 

den-logo.jpg PUP (physically unable to preform) list includes Rod Smith, Tony Scheffler and… you guessed it, Brandon Marshall. Marshall is still recovering from his quad injury at mini-camp. And while ‘Baby TO’ has unbelievable talent and skills, he HAS to get on the field to get that #2 spot.

“It never helps you when you’re not practicing” — Mike Shanahan 7/29/07

The positive thing about this list is that Brandon Stokley is not on it. After he participated in drills at mini-camp, he has not had any set backs and is expected to take part in all of camp (although he will be among the veterans that are waved from two-a-days).

Mike mentioned that we have 11 guys at the WR position. And with 8-9 guys getting reps per session, he and the other coaches should get a good idea of who is progressing toward one of the final roster spots.

den-logo.jpg Leadership was mentioned in the wake of losing Plummer and Wilson (and with Rod still sidelined). Mike’s response was typical Shanahan:

“There is only one was to be a leader in the Nation Football League — and that’s you have to play well.”

— Mike Shanahan 7/29/07

Not that the team doesn’t have a slew of veteran leaders. Shanahan’s list started with John Lynch, which shouldn’t surprise anyone that watched Tampa Bay during the years leading up to the Super Bowl, when Lynch was the captain of the defense. Nick Ferguson and Champ Bailey were also noted as leaders by example. On the offensive side several O-linemen were mentioned (Matt Lepsis, Tom Nalen and Ben Hamlton).

And what of our new QB’s leadership?

“Jay Cutler will become a leader when he plays well… We’re all judged on Game Day — and he will be judged as well.”

— Mike Shanahan 7/29/07

 

den-logo.jpg Mike also had a few words for his former Super Bowl MVP, Terrell Davis, the day after it was announced he will be inducted into the Ring of Fame.

“A lot of people talk about ‘The System’ all the time. People don’t realize how great a back Terrell Davis was for this organization, and what type of person he was as well. To see him get into the Ring of Fame is really special.”

— Mike Shanahan 7/27/07

 

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Have a good night sleep tonight… we’ll have photos, video and news to go over from the first day of Denver Bronco’s training camp 2007 tomorrow!

 

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My Training Camp Questions

July 24, 2007

Everyone has their list of top Training Camp questions. The Denver Post, ESPN, FOX Sports even this complete dolt over at Yahoo! Sports. Jason Cole actually thinks our biggest training camp issue is that we will be abandoning our traditional Zone Blocking Scheme:

“For the first time in more than a decade, the Broncos are getting away from their traditional cut-blocking scheme in favor of a more traditional style featuring heavier linemen. The timing is unfortunate, as new RB Travis Henry would have been perfect in the old scheme. But because second-year QB Jay Cutler isn’t suited for the movement of the old system, change was essential. It will be interesting to see how it works out.”

— Jason Cole on Yahoo! Sports

Of course this is complete absurdity and Cole should be fired for writing such unresearched garbage — I would surely get sacked if I did my job this piss poorly.

Cole’s idiotic ramblings aside, most of the Training Camp questions poised on these lists are valid areas of concern. And narrowing it down to a set number (like a top five) is fairly difficult. And prioritizing that list is even more complicated. However, I have undertaken this daring feat and am reasonably certain that I haven’t embarrassed myself too badly — well, at least not as badly as Jason Cole did. 🙂

 

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Jon’s Top Five Training Camp Questions:

#5 O-line Work:

Matt Lepsis’ return is a big boost for the O-line that tended to struggle last year. However, I think for the first time in a long time, there is serious competition along the line as we rebuild the Right side. It looks like Pears and Meadow will be duking it out for the Right Tackle spot, while Chris Kuper and Montrae Holland will lead the fight at the Right Guard position.

However, my concern stems from the fact that at the same time we’re working on figuring out our new Right side for the O-line, Travis Henry is attempting to develop chemistry with the personnel upfront to maximize our ZBS. This could delay the development of that chemistry and might even mean a slower start to Henry’s ground game dominance (which I have no doubt about at all).

SUMMARY:

I would like to see a couple of guys step up early and maintain their lead along the Right side, so that Henry can begin getting used to their blocking styles and gap creation. I’d like to see Pears and Kuper excel. I’d also like to see our young rookies in Ryan Harris and Greg Eslinger develop into quality backups and/or practice squad projects.

#4 Overhaul on the D-line:

Many lists include adjusting to Bates new defensive scheme. Or D.J.’s move to the middle, but I don’t think either one is the highest Defensive concern. That honor going to our D-line. And while our new line will not be decided during Training Camp, I think we might get a highlight or two from a couple of players that could play into the coaches final decision. However, don’t expect to see anything significant until the preseason. At that point it will become obvious to both coaches and fans what rotations and combinations work the best.

SUMMARY:

We will get to see a heavy rotation during camp of all the D-linemen. I’m very interested in how our new linemen compete relative to the old pros we acquired. Look for Thomas to be the first of the rookies to see first team work. I think Bates & Johnson will give him a shot early to see what he can do.

#3 Making Special Teams Special:

Ok, I know I’ve harped on this quite a bit, but gosh darn it we stank last year in our coverage of kick off and punt coverage. We ranked 31st in the league in yards allowed on kick offs, and THAT has to change. We allowed almost 5 extra yards per return than the average kick off coverage teams last year. And when you multiply that by the 55 kick returns we faced last year, it means that we gave up 275 yards more than the average NFL team in 2006.

This year we have a new Special Teams Guru, Scott O’Brien. He has a great track record, so we’re all hoping that what we see on the field this year is much, MUCH better than 2006. Camp (and the preseason) is a place when players can make a name for themselves by excelling on Special Teams. We have several ST standouts who have made a place for themselves due to their contribution on Special Teams.

SUMMARY:

Look for most of the media to focus on the heated battle for kick off and punt returners. Those are glamorous positions with lots of attention given them. However, the coaches will be watching Special Teams practices for that one or two players that lay it all on the line (think Terrell Davis in Tokyo his rookie year). Those usually unsung warriors of Special Teams will be the ones O’Brien is trying to find to make his unit something truly special this year.

#2 Wide Open Wideout Competition:

We have several questions at play in the area of WR. Javon Walker is a clear starter. Much has been made regarding his mental state after Darrent Williams’ death, but I think Walker will turn those emotions into on-field drive and dedicate (even if not verbally) the season to D-will. After Walker the picture gets cloudy.

Every Bronco fan wants to see Brandon Marshall come into his own. We all want to see the true star he showed signs of becoming last year. And although Marshall has spent the off-season practicing and working on strength and conditioning, he still seems prone to injury. He was hampered at Team Camp and, again, was injured during Mini-Camp. He needs to stay health to make the #2 spot we all know he can fill. After Marshall, there is a slew of receivers waiting their turn.

Leading the pack (IMHO) is Brandon Stokley. He is ahead of schedule and was working on 7-on-7’s at Mini-Camp. If there are no set backs I would surprised if he doesn’t score the 3rd WR spot. Then there’s Kircus, whom I really like from last year. Domenik Hixon and Quincy Morgan, who have a good shot at the Special Teams returner position. We also have Brian Clarke, Marquay McDaniel and David Terrell.

And the widecard is Rod Smith. In my opinion, the question is not if he will return. The question is if he can return in time. Mike Shanahan will give Smith all the time he can, but I’m not sure how long that is. If Smith isn’t able to practice at Camp and then doesn’t get into any games in the preseason, Shanahan will be up against roster cut deadlines and he will be looking at this undesirable choice: Keep Rod or someone else that is needed elsewhere on the roster. That will be a terrible choice and my only hope is that Rod can make a meaningful appearance prior to those cut deadlines. That will give him some stock value and possibly give him time to fully recover before becoming a necessary casualty.

SUMMARY:

In Camp we should get a good feel for who Cutler is comfortable throwing to, and who is learning the system quickest. We won’t know who will be cut at the conclusion of camp as Shanahan always weights preseason play heavily into his final roster decisions. However, Camp should provide our first clues as the each player’s direction.

#1 Cutler’s Development:

My number one question leading into Camp still revolves around Cutler. I truly think that this team will go as far as #6 will take us and his development is critical to the success of our whole team. We’ve heard some great things from players and coaches about Cutler’s awesome work habits and desire to learn and grow this off-season. Camp is where we will get our first serious look at what he’s really picked up.

SUMMARY:

Many people have mentioned that Cutler has a great advantage working against our top notch secondary. And while I’m sure Cutler throws against Champ and Bly on occasion, the bulk of the first team offensive practices are against the second team defense. That being said, we have SO many players fighting for a spot on the D-line, that Cutler and his O-line will get plenty of pocket pressure experience. This will test both our repaired and rebuilt O-line, but also Cutler’s ability to complete reads and feel pressure in the pocket. And I would argue, we’ll also see some pretty good footwork from Cutler as he gets out and runs the ball when his protection breaks down. I think some people under estimate Cutler’s scrabbling ability. And after having the Snake behind Center, it might seem like that. But don’t think our new QB isn’t mobile. He’ll scrabble when necessary — you’ll see.

 

 

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That pretty much sums up my biggest concerns or questions heading into Camp. There are some other areas that will be great to watch for during Camp and the preseason. So, I’ll work up a list of interesting positions battle and other areas/players to watch this Camp tomorrow.

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Mini-Camp Notes & Info

July 10, 2007

Javon Walker’s MohawkMini-Camp is officially wrapped up and we’ll have a couple of weeks without any news again before Training Camp starts. But for two days we got a good look at some new broncos (as well as some old ones).

Here is the much awaited closer look at Javon’s new hairdo (courtesy of Andrew Mason). We don’t know yet if this is a tribute to Darrent Williams or just a fashion statement… We’ll keep you posted!

and here are some football-related highlights from mini-camp…

 

den-logo.jpg First, and foremost, is the excellent coverage of all things orange & blue by our hero of the Denver blog-o-sphere Andrew Mason. He continues his work with daily news and pictures from mini-camp. Check out the pictures here: DAY 1, Day 2

den-logo.jpg Brandon Stokley was out on the field and running around. He even participate in 7-on-7 drills on Tuesday! He is expected to be 100% by the time Camp starts on the 27th. FULL STORY on Rocky Mountain News, FULL STORY in the Post

den-logo.jpg Brandon Marshall was also on the field running again…. until he pulled his quadriceps. He says it’s no big deal and that he plans to be 100% for Camp. FULL STORY on his recovery from the Groin Injury on DenverBroncos.com

den-logo.jpg Cecil Sapp played RB for the Second Team.

den-logo.jpg The First Team O-line on Monday consisted of: LT Matt Lepsis, LG Ben Hamilton, C Tom Nalen, RG Chris Kuper and RT Erik Pears. On Tuesday, Ben Hamilton was absent and Chris Myers filled in.

den-logo.jpg The First Team D-line rotated heavily both days.

den-logo.jpg As for the secondary, Eddie Moore lined up with the First Team on Monday but was absent on Tuesday. Mike Shanahan said it was excused, but won’t go into details. Warrick Holdman filled in for the LB.

den-logo.jpg Ian Gold, Curome Cox, John Lynch and newly acquired NFLE CB Kevin House each intercepted passes on Monday.

den-logo.jpg Nick Ferguson’s wife gave birth at 4am this morning to a baby boy… and, yes, that excused him from practice as well! Nick says now that he has another mouth to feed he’s going play even more aggressively–is that possible?!

den-logo.jpg Still, hungry for more Broncos New… Check out the great coverage over at THE BEAT and the Guru’s list of Quotables over on Mile High Report.

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DOGFISH: Camp Preview O-line

July 10, 2007

In our continuing series by guest author Dogfish, we will be taking a look at his Training Camp (TC) preview of the personnel on our O-line.  Here, again, is fellow blogger Dogfish…

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GUEST AUTHOR: DOGFISH 

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

OVERVIEW:

The return of Matt Lepsis is crucial to the success of our O-line this year.  And as reports from OTAs have him running at full speed, so far so good on that front.  Lepsis’ return will lock down the most important position on the line and help keep the young face of our franchise upright, and it will also allow Eric Pears to slide over to his more natural position of ORT.   Although he struggled down the stretch with pass protection, Pears acquitted himself fairly well for a rookie put in a difficult position.  Hopefully he will continue to improve with a year of experience under his belt, and this TC will give him a chance to start establishing himself at his proper spot.   Camp will also give us our first look at Ryan Harris, the prospective future at the all-important left tackle position.   Harris won’t play this year barring injury, but he needs to take full advantage of the offseason to make sure he’s as ready as possible if called on–playing in a pro-style offense under Charlie Weiss should give him a jump on the playbook, but he really needs to hit the weights hard.
Adam Meadows is an adequate vet who won’t be overworked in TC.   Jacob Rogers was picked in the 3rd round out of USC a few years ago, but never did much in dallas.  He’ll get another shot here, although he’ll have to impress to beat out Meadows–which is something i’m actually hoping to see.  Meadows is a more proven and reliable player, but I simply don’t trust his body to hold up for any length of time if he’s forced to start (dude already retired once because of injury, and couldn’t make it through two games last year).
Doug Nienhuis has some potential, but looks like a longshot to make the team at this point. . . still, don’t just pencil Meadows in as the 4th tackle, or Pears as the starter–there’ll be some competition for those spots. 

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Matt Lepsis!  His loss was one of the main factors that sunk our season last year, and his ability to return to pre-injury form is one of the keys to this season.   I don’t think we have another tackle on the roster who’s close to Lepsis at the critical OLT spot.  If he isn’t 100%, we could be in trouble.   As I said, the early signs are good, but i’ll keep my fingers crossed until I see him doing it in live action.

BEST POSITION BATTLE:

Pears vs. Meadows for the starting ORT spot.   It’s age and experience against youth and raw ability.  I want the best man to win the job, but I’m hoping that Pears earns it.   Consistency is very important on the line, and Meadows obviously isn’t the future there–I’d rather see us start fresh with a new right side that can grow together instead of plugging in a stop-gap.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:

1. Matt Lepsis
2. Erik Pears
3. Adam Meadows
4. Ryan Harris

GUARDS / CENTERS

OVERVIEW:

With at least two spots open on the offensive line, this is the most wide open things have been going into camp in a while.  And the fiercest battle promises to be at the ORG position.  Second-year player Chris Kuper and free-agent acquisition Montrae Holland are considered the front-runners for the job, but youngsters Chris Myers and Greg Eslinger will also be in the mix.

Early reports from PFW indicate that the coaching staff loves Kuper’s size and athletic ability, and would like to see him win the starting job.  Montrae Holland is the hardest player to predict.  He is considerably bigger than the traditional broncos O-linemen, and it remains to be seen if he has the mobility to succeed in the ZBS.  He also lacks the advantage of familiarity with our scheme and playbook that the other prime candidates for the spot have.   Myers has waited a few years for a chance to make an impact, and Eslinger is coming off a great season in NFLE.  This could be one of the most hotly-contested positions on the team, which is quite beneficial IMO.   These same players will most likely also be competing for the backup spots on the interior of the line, which will intensify things even more.

I also feel that, after a subpar season, Ben Hamilton isn’t entirely safe as the starting OLG.  I do believe that the job is still his to lose, but if he doesn’t play well in camp and the preseason, Myers or Eslinger could mount a challenge for the starting spot on the left side.  With all the centers on the roster, it will also be interesting to see how the depth chart breaks down behind Nalen. 

Denver also added guards Emmanuel Akah and Kevin McAlmont from NFL Europe, and center Mark Fenton of CU as an undrafted rookie free agent.  These players are facing long odds to actually make the team, but the fact that they were brought in (along with Tim Duckworth–who was already cut) may indicate that the team is looking for a developmental type to groom for the future.  IMO, Fenton seems like a good candidate for the practice squad.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Chris Kuper–I trust the PFW report the most, but I’ve also heard one or two other rumors that the front office is very high on Kuper, and it seems to me that he may get the first shot to replace Cooper Carlisle. Kuper has a little better size and base strength than the guards we’re used to working with, which would be a welcome addition to the line.  In last year’s preseason action, I thought he generated the most movement in the running game of any of our backup linemen.  He has the potential to turn into the kind of powerful straight-ahead drive blocker you need in short-yardage situations–the kind of guy we really haven’t had since ‘Stink’ hung ’em up.

BEST POSITION BATTLE:

Obviously, this is the open competition at right guard. . .

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:

1. Ben Hamilton
2. Chris Kuper
3. Mike Myers

1. Tom Nalen
2. Greg Eslinger

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That wraps up today’s installment of Dogfish’s Camp Preview.  Tomorrow, he will cover the other side of the line as he takes on the Defensive Line.