An orange moon emerged from the clouds above the Broncos’ headquarters Friday night.
Fog shrouded Dove Valley early Saturday.
The football franchise’s 59th training camp opened with comparable conditions and circumstances, somewhere between bright orange and hazy gray.
Is this team able to “make the playoffs and be able to compete for a world championship,” as Boss John Elway advocated on Friday, or remain another garden-variety also-ran?
Does the fog lift, or a bad moon rise?
Vance Joseph was “pleased” with a “spirited” first day of practice. But, beware the coach who spent last season talking about great workouts before ghastly games.
Reflections though predominantly orange-tinted glasses on the first day:
Chad Kelly was the sixth-best quarterback on the field, ranking behind Elway, Peyton Manning (visiting with his two kids), Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch and Bill Musgrave, and maybe ahead of Vance Joseph. Gary Kubiak was not seen. Kelly didn’t get nearly as many repetitions as Keenum and Lynch, and didn’t do much with those he did have.
Keenum, who will become the shortest Bronco quarterback to start a game since Kubiak (a 6-footer), had a gleaming session, underscored by a 60-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders. Lynch actually looked like a legitimate QB, except when one of his throws was batted and intercepted. Manning and Elway did not compete, but participated in a “spirited” conversation for several minutes.
Courtland Sutton, the second-round draft choice, is a younger, bigger version of Demaryius Thomas, and he will be a starter this year if, as Joseph says, he improves on route-running and Sanders is willing to shift to slot receiver.
Local lad Phillip Lindsay will make the team as a Swiss Army Knife — returner, receiver, running back, special teams player and fun guy. Already, Von Miller anointed the 5-foot-8 lightning bug as a guy opponents can’t stop, and Brandon Marshall, who mentored Lindsay after practice Saturday, indicated he could be “third down” back.
New, veteran punter Marquette King punted like Dustin Johnson hits his driver. An early King-sized punt traveled 72 yards. Altitude has befriended the former Raiders punter.
Shane Ray, scheduled to be out for at least 90 days with a recurring wrist injury, practiced “pain free,” he said, with a supporting splint and has bulked up to 250 pounds. Now, the Broncos have the full quota of healthy rushing linebackers — Miller, Ray, Shaq Barrett, Bradley Chubb and undrafted Jeff Holland, who will stick. Chubb was too nervous to introduce himself to Manning.
All five assumed offensive line starters — center Matt Paradis, tackles Garett Bolles and Jared Veldheer and guards Ron Leary and Connor McGovern — played together and seemed in sync.
Derek Wolfe is beyond his neck injury and has grown his hair to U.S. Open rough length.
In response to close friend Aqib Talib’s recent charge that Denver is “firing all the dogs,” Miller said the Broncos still have a dogged defense. “I’m the big dog.” Let the big dog eat.
Drafted tight end Troy Fumagalli, who has recovered from a sports hernia, certainly looks the part at 6-6, 250. Jeff Heuerman better watch out. Jake Butt is a load who can get open in the Red Zone.
A river runs through it. I liked River Cracraft, who will remind you of all those solid, miniature Patriots receivers. He did catch 218 passes for 2,701 yards and 20 touchdown for Washington State. I think he’ll be stashed on the practice squad with Sam Jones of Highlands Ranch, a futures player on the offensive line.
If the competition at running back is fair, Royce Freeman, who was very impressive Saturday, will win and start. The young man was second in all-time rushing yardage in the Pac-12 (5,621) and ran for 150-plus 10 times. He will average 5 yards a carry; Devontae Booker can’t.
Shelby Harris and Clinton McDonald: Two to draw to.
Su’a Cravens was a steal of a theft of a pilfer from Washington. He’s T.J. Ward 2.0 and may beat out Darian Stewart, but definitely will play in strong safety-linebacker situations. He uses the name “Chris” at Starbucks after being called “Sewer.”
Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon proved he is an ideal upgrade over Brock “The Crock” Olivo. He does, though, constantly shout one colorful word.
The sky turned blue during Day 1 of camp. Perhaps it was an omen.