Denver Broncos Training Camp: Week 2 Stock Report
The Denver Broncos are working towards their first preseason game coming up on Thursday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High against the world champion Seattle Seahawks. They’ve worked hard in more than a week of practice at Dove Valley. Team headquarters is closed to the public right now as they undergo a massive construction project at the facility.
The Broncos also held three open practices to the public at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. In those three practices combined, there were more than 60,000 fans that showed up at the stadium to watch the 2014 incarnation of their team.
Most starting jobs are wrapped up at this time. However, there are plenty of spots up for grabs on the depth chart behind those starters.
Here’s the stock report for the Broncos entering the second week of camp.
Stock Up: Ronnie Hillman
With Montee Ball out for at least two weeks due to an appendectomy, Hillman is now the top back on the roster. This is a great opportunity for Hillman as he tries to rebound from a disappointing 2013 season.
He seems more mature now entering his third season as a pro. Hillman also insists that he’s been working hard on having better ball security. These are two problems that plagued him last year.
Hillman is arguably the fastest player on the roster right now. Having his explosive playmaking ability on the field in this high-powered offense could provide a great boost for the Broncos.
We’ll see if he can hang on to the rock, create the big plays the team wants him to as a runner and work as a dangerous receiver out of the backfield during the preseason.
Ball will be back before the start of the regular season. Hillman can cement himself as the second-string running back if he outperforms C.J. Anderson in the preseason.
Stock Down: Kapri Bibbs
The Broncos picked up three running backs from the college free-agent ranks this year. Kapri Bibbs was a star at Colorado State, and he was added to the Broncos roster after the 2014 NFL draft.
During rookie minicamp and OTAs, Bibbs showed well as a receiver out of the backfield. He was not used much as a receiver for the Rams, so it was good to see that he could be relied on to catch passes. Bibbs was not able to show off his running ability because no pads are worn during those practices.
Once the pads came on in training camp, Bibbs showed off his trademark balance and vision as a runner. He’s not a pile-pusher at the pro level, but Bibbs is capable when carrying the rock inside or outside.
His stock is down because Juwan Thompson is ahead of him on the team’s first depth chart.
Thompson is a running back/fullback ‘tweener, and his game is reminiscent of former Atlanta Falcons back Jason Snelling. The undrafted rookie from Duke can work well as a receiver out of the backfield, and he might be the best pass-blocker on the team. Thompson worked in a David Cutcliffe system at Duke—the same that Peyton Manning worked in during his time in college at Tennessee.
He knows the system, and he’s more versatile than Bibbs is. It’s still early in the race, but right now Thompson has the edge over Bibbs.
Stock Up: C.J. Anderson
Second-year running back C.J. Anderson worked hard during the month off between the end of minicamp and the beginning of training camp. He showed up at OTAs weighing 235 pounds, but lost about 20 pounds during the month of July and weighed in at training camp at 215 pounds.
Lighter than he used to be, Anderson is looking quicker on the practice field. He already had a fast 10-yard burst between the tackles, but now Anderson is looking more explosive after making a cut at the second or third level of the defense.
Even though he’s now lighter than Montee Ball (220 pounds), Anderson has the most power of any back on the roster. He has a strong lower body, and this helps him run through arm tackles with ease. Once at the linebacker level, Anderson can accelerate quickly to rack up chunks of yards.
Anderson has had the longest runs of any back on the roster during the entire duration of training camp. At the Summer Scrimmage on last Saturday, Anderson broke off an 18-yard run against the first-team defense.
He was knocked out of bounds by strong safety T.J. Ward—but he was not knocked down, a rarity for players who are hit by Ward.
Now that Ball is out for at least a couple of weeks due to an appendectomy, Anderson has a chance to leapfrog Ronnie Hillman on the depth chart. Anderson has the ability to be a starter in this league, and he’s running with a chip on his shoulder every day.
Stock Down: Louis Young
Early in training camp, undrafted corner Louis Young was making big plays on the practice field. He’s a versatile player who can line up at cornerback or free safety for the Broncos.
Young has looked good knocking away incoming passes, and he’s a physical player who can play close to the line of scrimmage. He’s shown a good nose for the ball, and he is often around the point of the play.
His stock is down this week because of a groin injury that has knocked him out of a few days of practice.
As an undrafted player, Young has little room for error. The cornerback position is jam-packed for the Broncos this year, and Young is a long shot to make the team.
This injury has severely cramped the small chance he has of making the 53-man roster. It’s still early in camp, but Young needs to get back on the field as soon as possible. If he shows that he’s healthy, stays healthy and excels in the preseason, then Young has a chance of making the practice squad.
Stock Up: Zac Dysert
A seventh-round pick in 2013, Zac Dysert made the Broncos 53-man roster last year as the third-string quarterback. He’s got a strong arm, and he’s athletic enough to scramble for yards if the passing play breaks down.
Dysert has struggled mightily during practice, so how can his stock be up?
The answer is simple: Dysert had a good performance during the team’s Summer Scrimmage last Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Dysert went 7-for-8 passing for 112 yards against the third-string defense. Most of his throws were shorter and to a wide-open receiver in the flat, but Dysert must be credited for getting it done.
He is inconsistent as the day is long, and he needs to become a better practice player if he wants to ever be more than a clipboard holder at the pro level. Dysert has the arm to make throws only a certain handful of players can make, but he’ll throw multiple off-target passes before connecting on a good throw.
Brock Osweiler is clearly the backup behind Peyton Manning. Dysert is not in any position to challenge him for the QB2 job in Denver. His stock is up this week because of the scrimmage performance—and because his stock was down last week.
Stock Down: Winston Justice
Last year’s starting right tackle Orlando Franklin was moved inside to left guard earlier this offseason. During minicamp and OTAs, the Broncos had a competition between Chris Clark and Winston Justice to see who could win the starting right tackle position for 2014.
The first depth chart was released on Monday, and Clark was ahead of Justice at right tackle.
This doesn’t mean that the competition is over between the two. The depth chart only indicates who is in the lead at this time.
The preseason will help decide this battle as well. Justice is known as a fantastic run-blocker, but he has struggles when protecting the quarterback.
If he looks good in pass protection during the preseason, it could help Justice secure the starting job on the right side. He should look strong as a run-blocker who can move opponents out of his way with ease.
Clark has the early advantage, but Justice has more experience as a pro. He could use this knowledge to outplay Clark in the preseason.
Stock Up: Jordan Norwood
The Broncos are looking for a receiver who can contribute as a return man. Most overlooked the Broncos signing of Jordan Norwood to a futures contract in December of 2013. The Broncos may have gotten more than they expected from the veteran receiver.
Norwood came into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State in 2009. He originally signed with the Cleveland Browns, but he’s bounced around to four different teams (including two stints with the Browns) since then.
The veteran has 17 games worth of experience during his five years in the NFL. His best statistical season was 2011 when he had 23 catches for 268 yards and one touchdown for the Browns. This playing time has been a great learning tool, but it also eliminates Norwood’s practice-squad eligibility.
He has to make a final roster, or else his time in the NFL is done.
Norwood has been practicing and playing with great urgency this entire offseason. He runs great routes, and Norwood does a great job of looking passes in before turning to run after the catch.
He’s made difficult catches seem routine. Norwood can bail out quarterbacks like Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert because of this ability. They’ll throw a pass that isn’t quite on the mark, yet Norwood will come down with the ball.
In addition to standing out as a slot receiver, Norwood is looking good as a punt returner. His experience and versatility could earn Norwood a spot on the final roster.
Stock Down: Isaiah Burse
With Jordan Norwood’s stock going up, the outlook for undrafted rookie Isaiah Burse is going down.
The first depth chart for the Broncos was released on Monday, and Burse was listed as the team’s third-string slot receiver behind Wes Welker and Norwood. Burse was also behind those two on special teams as a punt returner. He was not listed as a kick returner.
Burse has struggled as a return man at times in practice. He’ll bobble (or drop) some punts, and this has not given the coaching staff confidence in his ability.
As a receiver, Burse has shown good quickness before and after the catch. He runs decent routes, and Burse gets separation with ease at the stem of the route. Once open, Burse has been doing a good job of securing most catches thrown his way.
Burse has shown problems adjusting to poorly-thrown passes. This is where Norwood has the advantage on the rookie. Burse will need a strong showing in the preseason to be the next undrafted free agent to make the Broncos final roster as a rookie.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey