ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Rookie wide receiver Kalif Raymond made his way onto the field nearly 20 minutes before day three of Denver Broncos training camp got underway. That officially makes it a streak for the 21-year-old , who has been the first player on the field every day thus far in camp. Not only was Raymond the first player on the field today, he was among the most impressive.
The Broncos signed Raymond to be a part of the kick return competition, but a great diving touchdown catch during the first 11-on-11 period of camp got head coach Gary Kubiak’s attention.
“You see a fearless returner,” Kubiak said. “That’s why (special teams coordinator) Joe (DeCamillis) brought him here. But, he’s also doing some good stuff as a receiver. You know, he’s small, but he runs good routes. He’s a speed kid—does everything hard. We’ll see. I think he’s smart enough to understand you can’t get too preoccupied with the depth chart. I think he’s just trying to prove to us he can play.
Broncos Put on the (Shoulder) Pads
The Broncos were not expected to put on pads at all until Sunday. Yet, as they came out of the facility to start Saturday’s practice, they were sporting shoulder pads.
NFL rules require at least three days of practice before teams practice in full pads, but getting going with shoulder pads to start should help the team ease into the padded practice tomorrow and as camp continues.
“The first thing when you put the pads on is the game slows down a bit,” Kubiak said. “Everything slows down. They are carrying something different. You have to get used to them. We really preach about staying off the ground regardless of how we practice. I thought it was a good start. I thought our early practice in pads was good. We wore down and got a little sloppy late. We just have to keep getting better.”
Nobody had to tell Broncos’ players they were only in shoulder pads. They were hitting as if it was the first regular season game. Even some players didn’t seem to notice the difference between full pads and just shoulder pads.
“Shoulder pads, for me, is basically full pads,” fullback Andy Janovich said. “We can’t cut or anything. This is my full pads, so it doesn’t really matter that much, but I’m excited for it.”
As the first three days of training camp have gone along, the fans have begun to trickle in. On camp’s first day, the bern where fans can sit and watch practice was less than half full. The Broncos reported an attendance of 3,407 people. On day two, that number creeped up by exactly 666 fans—not exactly the best omen for the defending Super Bowl champions.
On day No. 3, the first weekend day of training camp, the crowd was noticeably larger but still paled in comparison to the hordes of fans who lined the hills of Dove Valley during the Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning era. The Broncos have yet to release an official tally for day three.
The exact reason for the attendance drop-off is one of camp’s biggest mysteries. Whether fans are experiencing a “Super Bowl” hangover, or if they simply can’t get quite as excited about a team with Mark Sanchez at the helm is yet to be determined.
Quarterbacks Get Even Reps
Make no mistake, Mark Sanchez is at the helm of this football team. Despite some rather erroneous national reporting, Sanchez was most definitely not benched yesterday after throwing an interception and on day three he again looked the runaway favorite to start the season as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.
However, second-year gunslinger Trevor Siemian split reps evenly with the first-teamers for the first time Saturday. Kubiak pre-determines which quarterbacks will get which snaps the night before practice so reading anything into Siemian’s appearance with the first team would be purely speculative.
Rookie Paxton Lynch had arguably his worst day of training camp today. He forced passes, looked indecisive at times, and had several near-interceptions. But there’s still no doubt Lynch is the most purely-talented quarterback on the roster. He flashed that raw potential on the aforementioned deep touchdown pass to Raymond, the first touchdown pass thrown in training camp thus far.
“You’re gonna go through highs and lows,” Kubiak said. “These kids are here because they know how to get through those highs and lows. These been through some ups and downs to get a chance to play at this level. So, it’s our job to build them up. It’s also our job to motivate them and sometimes you’ve gotta do that…he’s working really hard. He just gets hung up mentally sometimes.
In truth, all three quarterbacks struggled. It may be some time before Kubiak and the Broncos’ coaching staff is really ready to commit one way or another.
The “No Fly Zone” Comes Out To Play
If the offense was inefficient on Saturday, the opposite can be said of this Broncos’ defense, which showed off its tremendous speed and aggressive attitude during the team portion of practice.
In particular, cornerback Kayvon Webster had an outstanding day. Webster broke up multiple passes in multiple drills and seems to have developed a better nose of the football during the offseason. Even his teammates were impressed.
“K(ayvon) played big for us last year in the playoffs,” safety Darian Stewart said. “You can tell he’s ready to take a next step towards being a possible starter.
Aqib Talib’s ongoing injury recovery will have a big role in deciding exactly what Webster’s place on the Broncos’ depth chart is this season but Kubiak was impressed with the work he’s put in thus far during training camp.
“He broke the team down and practiced his tail off,” Kubiak said. “He’s a great example today for the football team. He really has been. He played down the stretch last year in the playoffs. He’s a big player for us. He’s come back really focused on what he’s doing.”
The Broncos will get back to work Sunday when day No. 4 of training camp kicks off from the UC Health Training Center at 9:30 AM.