ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It was tough to discern what was a better sign for the Broncos Monday — that Knowshon Moreno was improving the depth at running back or that Peyton Manning was showing improvement on his deep throws.
Moving into Day 5 of training camp, it might have been an accomplishment in itself that another player managed to steal a few sentences away from Manning, who has been the talk of Bronco Country for four days straight.
Moreno did that when he trotted out into a team drill for the first time this offseason. Coming off a torn ACL, the fifth-year running back had been limited to 7-on-7 work over the previous four days of camp.
Not only was Moreno cleared for contact, he was charged with relieving Willis McGahee from a few snaps with the first team. The Broncos have been desperately searching for a compliment to the 30-year-old McGahee — so much so that they traded up to take Ronnie Hillman in this year’s draft and recently signed Buffalo Bills castoff Xavier Omon.
Moreno, who is a good receiver out of the backfield and a competent blocker, has been compared to one of Manning’s former Indianapolis Colts backfield mates, the fleet-footed Joseph Addai, and could be a good, change-of-pace back when paired with McGahee.
As for Manning himself, the glowing reports about his health and arm strength have been abundant. One of the first speculative reports came from ESPN’s Josina Anderson late last week.
“Manning has looked better than most people believed he would so far,” Anderson wrote. “But here is a little bit of context: Yes, he’s looked good at the line of scrimmage. His balls have had zip. And the majority of them have been caught. But most of those balls have been short and intermediate, with only a handful of them long.”
As Monday’s morning practice flew past Manning’s driver seat and into his rear-view mirror, Anderson’s legitimate concern went along with it.
Among the many nice passes Manning threw Monday were some sterling deep balls, including one deep post to Eric Decker, who is quickly becoming Manning’s favorite target.
Caleb Hanie: All reports out of training camp support the idea that the signal caller the Broncos signed to back up their risky investment in Manning is struggling mightily. That group of reports includes some comments from Hanie’s new head coach.
“I think we’ve got a 1 and then we’ve got a 2a, b and c,” John Fox said when asked about the competition at quarterback (i.e. there’s Peyton Manning and then everyone else). “We put a little bit more stock in game situations, so time will tell.”
In other words, that means Hanie — an NFL veteran with game and playoff experience — is currently on the same level with a very raw rookie and a second-year undrafted quarterback.
Though he was not injured, Hanie didn’t take part in the team’s 2-minute drill work Monday, which could be yet another sign that he’s coming along slowly.
Rahim Moore: While he was beat by Decker on the aforementioned deep post from Manning in a coverage where he was supposed to be helping Tracy Porter over the top, the second-year safety has been impressing early on this offseason.
Secondary coach Ron Milus seemed as impressed as anyone when he spoke to DenverBroncos.com at the start of camp.
“I think Rahim has grown the most so far,” Milus said when asked which member of his secondary had made the most offseason strides. “He’s made a few plays in OTAs that maybe he didn’t make a year ago as far as playing the ball in the air. So far, we’re pleasantly pleased with Rahim’s growth.”
Quinton Carter: While one safety flourishes, another struggles. Carter was still out Monday, as he continues to nurse a sore right hamstring. Some are speculating that the signing of CU safety Anthony Perkins is proof that Carter may be out for a sustained period of time.
NFL.com write ‘not sold’ on Broncos: While an NFL.com writer was giving one of Denver’s division rivals a ton of love, he voiced some stark reservations about the hyped-up home team.
Gregg Rosenthal included the Broncos in a group of four teams that he is “Not Sold” on. Kansas City, meanwhile, landed in the “Top Shelf” bunch.
“There is a lot of assuming Peyton Manning will be Peyton Manning and that (the Broncos’) weaknesses suddenly will disappear,” Rosenthal wrote.
On the other hand, Rosenthal expressed his fondness of the “youthful, talented Chiefs squad,” whom he feels will take a “big step up” in 2012.
Titan WR reported suicide eerily similar to former Broncos WR: In a very sad story out of Tennessee, Titan reserve O.J. Murdock was found dead Monday morning of an apparent suicide.
Like former Denver Broncos wide receiver, Kenny McKinley, who committed suicide in 2010, Murdock was a wide receiver, played his college ball at South Carolina and was nursing an injury at the time of his death.
It was later found that McKinley was also dealing with some financial difficulties before his suicide. No doubt we will hear more of what else may have been troubling Murdock in the days to come. We are keeping his family in our thoughts.