Camp starts question-and-answer session


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Jan 22, 2006
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Lincicome: Camp starts question-and-answer session

The world begins with training camp.
Gloom comes later, October at the earliest, November auspiciously, probably in Oakland, January eventually, against Indianapolis or Pittsburgh.

The world for now is as cheery as it will get, just before the Broncos matter again.

Training camp is the NFL's refrigerator magnet season, a manageable replica of the real thing, but merely decorative and of limited use.

This one ought to come with more optimism than it does, what with the Broncos measured one game short of the Super Bowl and all.

It should not come with most eyes on a rookie quarterback, especially since the incumbent quarterback has just wriggled into dependable usefulness, his last game notwithstanding, and standing is the preferred position for the new Jake Plummer, rather than dashing or dipping or throwing left-handed passes.

If rookie Jay Cutler plays a down for the Broncos this season, it will mean either the Broncos have collapsed completely, Plummer has slipped the leash or injury has intervened.

In any case, the season will be over. The nagging dissatisfaction with Plummer is nothing compared with the disappointment that would come with a premature Cutler.

The competition is not between Plummer and Cutler, or even between Cutler and Bradlee Van Pelt, because the only order that will work is Plummer all the time, Van Pelt in an emergency and Cutler in the film room.

There should not be a genuine concern over the pass rush, exposed as almost every other Broncos flaw was by the last impression, against Pittsburgh. When you overpay an interior lineman, as the Broncos did Gerard Warren, results should be assumed.

Reassurance should be in the running game, but in an annual fit of daring, the best rusher once again is nowhere to be seen, unless you look on another roster. The Broncos may very well be able to run with laundry lint in the backfield - if not Maurice Clarett - but one of these days they won't.

Ron Dayne must prove he is a better lead back than he has yet to be in the pros and Tatum Bell needs to show an endurance that he has not, yet running back doubts are the easiest to dismiss.

The position is like one of those nesting dolls where Terrell Davis is removed to find Olandis Gary and then Mike Anderson and then Clinton Portis and Reuben Droughns and Anderson again.

With such odd absences as receiver Ashley Lelie, already, and punter Todd Sauerbrun, looming, this training camp should still be uneventful, crisis-free and certainly more uninteresting than the last one.

Features of just a year ago included the last bow of Jerry Rice and the aforementioned Clarett, welcome distractions from the usual calisthenics and depth chart jiggling.

Mike Shanahan's drafting a quarterback No. 1 and signing a wide receiver free agent coming off an injury prompt all the melodrama worth watching.

These Broncos are a veteran, familiar bunch, solid on the offensive line, strong at linebacker and good enough everywhere else.

The only question is simple. Are the Broncos better now than they were when they lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC title game?

Let's see. Is Jake the Stake better than Jake the Snake? Oh, sure. Just as long as the Broncos have the lead, and imagination and daring are not required.

Is defensive end Kenard Lang, the latest import from Cleveland, better than the summarily dismissed Trevor Pryce? Nope. Not with the rush, not with the locker room quote.

Receiver Javon Walker better than Lelie? On two good legs, yep. Deep, nope.

Can rookie tight end Tony Scheffler be better already than Stephen Alexander? Both are still working from potential and neither one is Jeb Putzier.

Stay warm, Mike Leach.

How about a healthy Champ Bailey being better than a banged up Champ Bailey? Clearly. But both are pretty good.

Are running backs Bell and Dayne together as good as Anderson alone? Just as long as neither one has to carry the load, or wear the same pants at the same time.

Is returning cornerback Willie Middlebrooks better than Domonique Foxworth? Heads/tails (which is the way both of them tackle).

Will kick returner Domenik Hixon be better than Darrent Williams? He better be.

Is safety John Lynch older than receiver Rod Smith? Between them there are enough birthday candles to light up Pueblo.

Is new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison better than new Houston coach Gary Kubiak? Fugitaboutit.

Is punter/kickoffer/suspendee Sauerbrun bigger than the rules of the NFL? Only in his mind.

Yada, yada, yada.

Like I said, refrigerator magnets.,1299,DRMN_83_4865954,00.html
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