Kris Evans looks ahead to Broncos Training Camp, scheduled to start in the next few days.
With the global COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, Broncos training camp is set to begin as planned. Rookies report on the 23rd July with their teammates joining them on the 28th. With significant negotiations ahead for the NFL and players prior to competitive gameplay, the Denver Broncos will want to maximise the positives of any adjustments to the schedule and their preparations. There will, of course, be negative aspects of a disrupted training camp and preseason. The feeling of uncertainty is profound as players seek to strike a deal with the NFL to play football in a format which has their health as the number one priority. Today, I consider how the alterations to training camp bought about by the pandemic could help or hinder the Broncos in the coming season.
Von Miller 2.0
Anyone who follows Von Miller on social media will have been impressed by his off season physical condition as he heads into his tenth NFL season. Soon after the 2019 regular season ended he could be seen grinding away on coastal runs. This workout routine was hindered by his diagnosis of COVID-19 early on in the pandemic. Thankfully, he now appears to be back in fine health after experiencing minor symptoms. The Super Bowl 50 MVP will be looking to return to his best when the season begins, as he enters into a period of his career where close management of his training schedule is required. Von, along with other veterans in the team, will benefit from the reduced workload that will be dictated by social distancing measures. A training camp with a less physical toll should allow him to make up for work lost while unwell and could see him thrive on the eventual commencement of the season.
Anyone visiting Denver and surrounding areas for the first time will notice the difference in the oxygen level in the air on exertion. Unaccustomed to altitude, Noah Fant seemed to struggle to adjust during last year's training camp. I felt that his play at the beginning of the season indicated that he had missed out on some valuable reps during practice. Could this have been as a result of a lack of altitude acclimatisation? A prolonged training camp could see new players reap the rewards of full adjustment to altitude as well as benefiting from the physical conditioning that training in thinner air brings.
Lack of film
The Broncos are one of the teams with the most new personnel on offense and, along with the addition of Pat Shumur as offensive coordinator, will be looking at running a new scheme this year. The recent announcement of no preseason games this year will present almost no film for opposition coaches and players to study. There will be limited preview of just how fast K.J Hamler is during game play, less information on how the Broncos will split Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon in the backfield and minimal data on the amount of separation first round pick, Jerry Jeudy, can create at the elite level. This makes Vic Fangio's team an unknown quantity with the potential to take some teams by surprise following altered preparation. Similarly, the Defense who have fresh faces in Jerell Casey and A.J Bouye, who combined with a fit again Bryce Callahan aid the Broncos chances of a quick start to the regular season.
There will be no fans in attendance at training camp, no buzz before the first practice; no cheer after Courtland Sutton claims a high ball and no fanfare for the emergence of Drew Lock or Von Miller from the locker room. The rookies and new acquisitions will not be greeted by eager autograph and selfie hunters to welcome them to Colorado. It is these things that raise the excitement for the players as they report from the off season. These factors can add juice to the energy tanks of the players as they fine tune their skills. A concern is that practices may be 'flat' with reduced motivation for players to perform at every opportunity resulting in stunted development of the team. However, I feel positive that the professional squad will prevail to get some cheer-worthy reps in during this training camp.
Chance to Impress
The Broncos have a stellar record in identifying top quality players who have not been drafted and subsequently signing them as undrafted free agents. The opportunity of players to excel in camp and then in pre season being key in informing these decisions. The COVID-19 pandemic sees these periods as potentially the most disrupted, taking away valuable time for this years undrafted free agents to impress. Cornerback out of Wake Forest, Essang Bassey, seemed set to have the best chance of making the final roster after he was awarded this years most valuable undrafted free agent within the organisation. He will be hoping to make an adequate impression in the time he has in training camp to extend his stay with the Broncos.
With social distancing measures ruling that contact between players should be limited, tackling practice is likely to be insufficient. Although I'm sure aggression will be at the usual intensity, I am concerned that come game play the off season rust will take a little more shaking than usual. Every team will face the same challenges which could result in a plethora of high scoring games littered with technical errors. Vic Fangio will want to avoid this at all cost and ensure his players are ruthless and fine-tuned from the get go.
Overall, I feel that the positives outweigh the negatives, as long as the NFL works to protect the players as much as possible. As things stand I would take any form of football, with a regular or truncated season. I am encouraged that leagues such as the NBA, Premier League and Super Rugby have been able to make adjustments to enable competition to resume. Although stadiums may be empty or at limited capacity, the appetite for football remains huge in Broncos Country where games can be viewed on television from a safe distance and future trips to Denver can be planned.