Under a cloudy sky the Broncos completed their first day of full pad practice. As the team progresses into more physical play and more complicated assignments they will surely be looking to see who can handle the increased work load and who can be relied on when the season starts.

Several players will have an increased amount of pressure levied on them. After big name departures in the offseason Cody Latimer, Brandon Marshall, Darian Stewart and Connor Barth will hold a significant amount of responsibility for the team’s overall success. After four days of camp all four players look up for the challenge.

“I’m ecstatic and can’t wait,” Marshall said when asked about the upcoming season. “I’m just really trying to put my best foot forward and hopefully have an even better year than last.”

Marshall got his first opportunity to be a starter last season and he took command of the role quickly. He compiled 113 tackles in 2014 and was the leading tackler on the team before a week 15 Lis Franc injury sidelined him. He has been recovering throughout the offseason and did very little in OTAs and minicamp.

In the last four days of training camp his workload has increased and Monday morning he was out in full pads participating in seven-on-seven drills. He sat out the most physical portions of practice as a precaution. However, when he was on the field, he looked as explosive as ever and seems to be very close, if not already at 100%.

‘Whenever they let me loose I’ll be ready to go. The staff is holding me back, just being careful and taking precautious so we don’t have any setbacks,” Marshall said after practice.

The Broncos defense will certainly need him to play at the same level as he did last season when he dominated the middle of the field. Danny Trevathan, the other starting inside linebacker is also recovering from a serious injury. He too has been slowly getting back into the swing of things. Both players are looking to return to an elite status when the regular season hits. Despite both players’ insistence that they feel healthy Gary Kubiak has a specific plan in place and said as much last Thursday.

“Brandon and Danny, they got some work in this week with the young guys and veterans that report early. They look good. We are not going to turn them loose tomorrow and say, ‘You’re fine.’ We have a program in place through (Strength & Conditioning Coach) Luke (Richesson) and (Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos) Greek with how many reps they’re going to take and how long they’ll go into practice before we shut them down.”

Another player on the defense that is in line to start is newcomer Stewart. After playing with the Kubiak and the Baltimore Ravens last year, Stewart was signed in the offseason to replace Rahim Moore at free safety. In his first few seasons in the NFL Stewart’s progress was delayed by injuries but in 2014 he finally played a full season and his knack for good tackling and versatility in the secondary earned him a contract with the Broncos.

“It feels great,” Stewart said of being a Bronco and playing in front of the fans at camp. “We are getting better every day and that’s what we pride ourselves on and this camp is going to be good for us.”

Stewart also said his personal goal this season is to join his teammates Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward in the Pro Bowl in 2015-16. Stewart has consistently been running with the number one defense throughout camp and as he stated when he signed with the team that it appears the free safety job is his to lose already. David Bruton Jr. will be Stewart’s only legitimate threat to steal playing time.

On the offensive side of the ball no skill player is being watched closer than Cody Latimer. The second-year receiver is making the leap into the starting lineup this season and he appears to be ready for the job. He has looked sharp, physical and sure of himself through four days of camp. Last year, after a great training camp, the mental side of the game kept him out of the offense on game day.

“Last year was stressful. I was scared to mess up, things like that but now I’m confident, I can play fast and play my game,” Latimer stated Monday. “Wherever they have me at, I just want to make sure I keep making my name known. So I’m excited for it and I am going to keep grinding until the last day of camp.”

Monday he matchup with several second-string defensive backs as Harris Jr. and Talib had the day off. His physical style showed through as he caught multiple passes in traffic. Latimer seems to have grasped Kubiak’s offense and if that is the case he will transition nicely into the third starting spot.

Barth is also looking to continue as a starter for the Broncos. He joined the team late in 2014 after an injury forced his release by The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When the season was over Barth had hit 15 of his 16 field goal attempts. Barth now enters camp as the team’s No. 1 field goal kicker and Monday he attempted his first field goals in front of the fans at UCHealth Center. He banked one in off of the left upright and seemed to be getting under the ball a bit too much but converted all of his kicks.

“Last year I was kind of coming off of an injury so to be 100% health this whole offseason has been good. I feel good but I have to kick them a little bit straighter. But that is what training camp is for, getting the kinks out. That way when game time comes you can put them through,” Barth said.

While Barth remains the favorite the competition is not over. Brandon McManus, who had the first shot at the job in 2014 after Matt Prater left, has struggled with his accuracy despite having a strong leg. Barth has struggled to get kickoffs out of the end zone thus McManus has been retained for those duties. The coaching staff has been adamant about trying to limited their kicking specialist to two roster spots but so far three spots looks more realistic.

Through four days these four players appear to be as advertised. As camp continues they have to keep the pace they are on in order to solidify their spots in September. Once regular season hits the pressures of training camp will pale in comparison to the national stage on Sundays.


Several veteran starters for the Broncos sat out practice Monday as previously planned. Peyton Manning, Von Miller, T.J. Ward among others watched closely from the sidelines as Brock Osweiler and Bradley Roby jumped into the first-team repetitions.

Osweiler looked very inaccurate at times and could not connect on the deep ball. He checked down often and found Emmanuel Sanders, who continues to look in mid-season form already. Despite Osweiler’s inaccuracy Kubiak seemed pleased with his performance Monday.

“I think you just want to see him run the team. He did. At the end of practice, he moved the football team. It’s a growing process for him, but I think he’s handling it really well. Being a guy who’s done that job for a living, when the team gets thrown your way, that’s a lot on your plate—you have to be able to handle it. I think he’s showing his teammates day in and day out that he’s preparing to do that.”

Demaryius Thomas suited up in full pads and practiced with the ones, yet still sat out quite a bit. Jordan Taylor continued his string of excellent practices at wide receiver and Salmon Patton also had an exciting catch late in the workout.

The team as a whole was cautious about hitting but Joe Don Duncan, the 6’4″, 270 pound tight end/fullback lowered his shoulder on a defensive back and looked like a truck hitting a Prius. Roby and Sanders were jawing back and forth in a spirited practice and Stewart nearly had an impressive interception on a go-route in team drills. Malik Jackson was once again relegated to stretching on the sidelines due to a strained calf muscle. Lastly, Shane Ray showed a spark while DeMarcus Ware and Miller were off Monday.

“I’ll tell you what, Shane had a good practice. He started slow early in practice. We got him going and he made some plays late in practice. We need him to show up and quick and today was his day to be a starter. Obviously, we’ve got two great ones right there, but he was brought here to be a big part of that. He took a step in the right direction today,” Kubiak stated.

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