ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Highlights from the Denver Broncos' training camp on Friday.
One of the major objectives this offseason was to not only get a little more nasty on defense -- "that championship mentality," John Elway has called it -- but to get bigger in the secondary as well. They signed cornerback Aqib Talib (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) as well as safety T.J. Ward (5-10, 200) and then used a first-round pick on cornerback Bradley Roby (5-11, 192). Just two days into camp and Talib’s reach -- "length" in scouting terms -- and his comfort level in both man and zone looks have been on display plenty. He makes it difficult for quarterbacks, including the ultra accurate Peyton Manning, to fit the ball in, and has forced several over-throws and knocked down more than his share of passes from all of the Broncos' quarterbacks already. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio figures to match Talib on No. 1 receivers throughout the season no matter where those pass-catchers line up. "I definitely checked out the defensive scheme and knew a little about Del Rio’s scheme before I made my decision to come here. It’s perfect for me."
The Broncos are approaching a crossroads with tight end Julius Thomas, who is in the last season of his rookie deal. They’d like to sign him long term, but could also use the franchise player tag next season if they do not get a deal done. Either way, Thomas has done his part so far to build on his 65-catch, 12-touchdown season in 2013. Thomas has shown a comfort level in the offense, working on the line, out wide and in the slot. He also spent some time with Tony Gonzalez this past offseason for a little guidance as well. "For me, it was understanding how you continue to play at a high level," Thomas said. "What do you do to prepare for games? What do you do to get the most out of practice? Just some things that only a future Hall of Famer and a 17-year veteran would know."
Shortly after Orlando Franklin was moved from right tackle to left guard this offseason, he said he really wouldn’t know how good he could be at his new position in the NFL until "the pads go on." Saturday morning will be the first time the Broncos work in full gear. The Broncos moved Franklin, who started more games at guard than tackle in his college career at Miami, inside to try and beef things up on the interior after Zane Beadles' departure in free agency. The Broncos don’t want to necessarily run the ball more than their 461 carries last season (11th in the league), but they want to be far more productive when they do choose to run. Saturday will be the first of several preseason tests of the plan, including preseason games against San Francisco and Seattle. Or as Talib put it Friday; "That’s when the real football starts. This is like pajamas or whatever you want to call it. It’ll get a little more live [Saturday]."
Montee Ball had just 59 receptions in his four seasons combined at Wisconsin and many in the league said working in the passing game would be the most difficult part of his transition to a potential No. 1 back. Last August he did miss a blitz pick-up in Seattle when Manning took a huge hit from Bobby Wagner, a hit that paved the way for Knowshon Moreno to work his way back up the depth chart last fall. But Ball has looked steady catching the ball thus far, including a nice back-shoulder grab in team drills Friday.
Odd and ends: Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe briefly left Friday’s practice as trainers worked on his right leg/hip. Wolfe then returned to drills. … Running back Brennan Clay, who did take some snaps with the second-team offense at times Friday, suffered a right thigh bruise, but head coach John Fox said it was "nothing serious." … Best catch of the day went to Greg Wilson, who was on the Broncos practice squad briefly this past January, who reeled in a scoring grab from Brock Osweiler deep up the right sideline in team drills. … Safety David Bruton also picked Osweiler off in team drills, taking it in for a touchdown, adding a flip at the goal-line for good measure.