At 11 a.m. or so today, July 25, the 2008 Denver Broncos are expected to officially begin training camp at their headquarters in Dove Valley. Thanks to its peaceful-sounding name, the area doesn't exactly send out a smash-'em-in-the-chops vibe, and it lacks many of the attributes that made Greeley, the camp's setting through 2003, so appealing. Not only did the latter locale give Northern Colorado fans a chance to get close-up views of the ballers, but it was good fun to keep track of the speeding tickets racked up annually by players desperate to get the hell out of town.
Whatever the case, the Broncos had better check their dove-like tendencies at the locker-room door. Last year's 7-9 record is directly attributable to the defense being unable to stop pretty much anyone, especially when it counted. Elvis Dumervil (pictured) was among the few bright spots on that side of the ball, shrugging off speculation that he was too small to make an impact in NFL trenches by registering twelve sacks. But he's going to need a lot of help -- and there's no telling who, if anyone, will step up to provide it.
The Mile High Report site offers a thorough breakdown of the roster going into camp. At defensive tackle, a huge weak spot of late, former New York Jet DeWayne Robinson is among the few reasons for optimism. He's a real talent if he can stay healthy, which he hasn't been all that often; that's why the Jets were happy to let him go. Relying on him is a big gamble -- and if youngsters Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris don't speed up their development process in a big way, opposing running backs could find making it to the second level just as easy as it was last year.
Things look better at defensive end, with Dumervil supplemented by potential impact players Ebenezer Ekuban, John Engleberger and Jarvis Moss, who's being branded a bust way too early by cynics -- although, granted, such boosters have only to look at his erratic work in 2007 to justify their negativity. The linebacking corps has some bright spots, too -- among them the addition of Boss Bailey (Champ's brother) and the shift of D.J. Williams to his natural outside linebacker slot. But there's not a lot of depth, and if any of the starters gets knocked out, pity the poor secondary. Champ and Dre Bly are along the league's more talented corners, but they've been hung out to dry over and over again by a line that regularly lets rival quarterbacks do everything short of flopping down in their Barcalounger to take a nap.
If that doesn't change in 2008, the Broncos will once again be also-rans in a division -- the AFC West -- with only one decent team (yep, the San Diego Chargers). And that'll make next year's training camp even more tense than this one may be. -- Michael Roberts