NFL.com has dispatched several writers to report on the 32 training camps. Jeff Darlington details his visit with the Denver Broncos. (Click here for the complete archive of Training Camp Reports.)
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On one of the Denver Broncos' two practice fields, quarterback Peyton Manning stood under center of his new offensive line with no defenders, no wide receivers and no running backs around him. He was in the middle of a tutorial: Manning Cadences 101. "Buffalo ... alert tight ... double, double, double ... apple, apple, apple," he hollered. For years, we've come to learn these calls at the line of scrimmage as trademark Peyton. But as we learn to accept No. 18 wearing new colors, we also must remember that everything must be re-taught to a new group, a new team. The second chapter is so clearly under way at Broncos training camp -- even if in so many ways he still looks like the same old Peyton Manning.
1. Manning will run Manning's offense -- not the Broncos' offense. If we learned anything about the Broncos' coaching staff last year, it might have been their noble and successful ability to adapt to a player's skill set. Denver recognized last year that they'd be best suited adjusting to Tim Tebow's style, rather than forcing him into uncomfortable spots. So you'd better believe, with a quarterback as skilled and seasoned as Manning under center, they are more than willing to do the same for the future Hall of Famer. The Broncos' coaching staff has spent plenty of time this summer studying Manning's offense in Indianapolis, sources said, and they fully plan to use it as a blueprint for their own future in Denver. So make absolutely no mistake: As the Broncos install their offense in the coming month, it will be a partnership between Manning and the coaching staff. Prepare to see much of what you've come to expect from Manning over the years.
2. A revamped secondary should improve depth issues that plagued Denver in 2011. When the Broncos' fans get a glimpse of their team's secondary, they'll at least still recognize the most important player in the group: cornerback Champ Bailey. But the perennial Pro Bowler will be anchoring a very different-looking group, one that appears to be much improved with the addition of former New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter. Porter isn't the only new player, even if he's been the most impressive. Mike Adams and Drayton Florence also will assist in the Broncos' desire to be better prepared for the spread-out offenses that gashed them several times throughout last season. The Broncos saw vulnerability in the unit -- lacking talent and depth -- and they aggressively addressed it during the offseason. If all goes according to plan, the new group will get the opposing offense off the field far faster to allow Manning to do his work.
3. Peyton's quickly gaining a rapport with his top two wideouts. Through much of the first week of training camp, it looked like wide receiver Eric Decker would be the biggest benefactor of Manning's arrival. He quickly became a featured pass catcher, the type of reliable receiver Manning loves. Then, on Wednesday, Decker suffered a slight groin strain that limited him for Thursday's practice. The result? Manning might have realized he now has two very reliable targets. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, best known for his overtime touchdown catch from Tim Tebow in the playoffs last season, looked tremendous in Decker's absence. He caught several balls over the middle with great moves after the catch -- and highlighted his day with a sweet deep catch for a touchdown. Thomas had been pretty inconsistent for the first part of camp, so this practice should instill some confidence in the pairing. It should also make Manning a little more comfortable knowing he does have a nice crop of weapons to help get him started in Denver.
THE NEW GUYS
Jacob Tamme: On paper, the Broncos' new tight end might not turn any heads. He's started only 14 games. He's had only one season with more than 20 catches. He has just five touchdowns during his career. So why is Tamme among the best signings of the offseason? Well, that's simple: Not only is he very familiar with Manning's ways, he also showed the type of promise in 2010 that makes many in the league believe he's only just getting started. During that career-best season, he replaced an injured Dallas Clark and caught 67 balls for 631 yards. Now, he's providing a perfect safety valve in the passing game for Manning. One source said Tamme has looked very solid in camp, rivaling Porter for the most notable new addition of the offseason. That's good news for a team that didn't have this type of weapon one year ago.
Brock Osweiler: At 6-foot-7, this massive rookie is hard to miss on the practice field. But he's making it even harder to not pay attention to him because of his play. Osweiler has quickly impressed the Broncos' coaching staff, and many have already vaulted him toward the top of the depth chart -- perhaps even ahead of Adam Weber and Caleb Hanie. That isn't necessarily going to be formally reflected at any point soon, but sources don't expect it to take long before Osweiler's talent overrides the experience of Hanie and Weber. Of course, with Manning serving as the team's starter, it's uncertain just how many repetitions Osweiler will get during practice to improve on a very promising start.
Jack Del Rio: No, he isn't a player. But this offseason addition might have been the only way Denver could replace former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen without taking a major step back in 2012. Allen did a fine job putting together the Broncos defense last year, particularly given some depth issues, and he was rewarded for his success with a head coaching job for the Oakland Raiders. Now the Broncos have replaced him with a very well-known name in league circles. Del Rio, the former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, is feeling rejuvenated in his new role as a coordinator. He's looking to add bulk to his front seven in order to become a tougher, more aggressive defense. And he'll also have a backfield with the type of tandem at cornerback that should lead to more big plays. Del Rio is set up to have a good year in this new role. It's just a wonder how long he'll be a coordinator before another team in need of a head coach comes calling.
"Demaryius (Thomas) is a guy who we're going to feature. His size and strength and speed allows you to do certain things with him that other players just can't do. ... He's the biggest receiver I've played with since I've been in pro ball."
-- Manning, on his big day with Demaryius Thomas on Thursday.
It isn't rare to hear someone suggest that, because the Broncos were successful with a quarterback like Tebow in 2011, they're destined for a Super Bowl appearance now that Manning is under center. But it's just not that simple. What happened in Denver last season wasn't normal. It wasn't as if the Broncos just dominated in so many other aspects of the games that Tebow's shortcomings were overshadowed until the fourth quarter. The defense had its ups and downs, and Tebow didn't always get a ton of help. So what does that mean for 2012? Well, not much. Instead, the Broncos are destined for some very big things for other reasons. Like the addition of Porter in the secondary to work alongside Bailey. Like Del Rio's presence as a defensive coordinator. And they're certainly destined for big things if Manning can stay healthy. So yes, it's very possible Denver will have what it takes to make a playoff run -- but it will have very little to do with what went down in 2011.