ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Training camp cannot begin until two weeks before the preseason opener; that's why the Broncos cannot have their first full-team practice until Friday morning, a fortnight before the Aug. 14 game at Seattle.
But the rookies can get extra work in, and beginning Monday, they will. The Broncos' group of 22 rookies is headlined by their nine draft picks, each of whom knows he must display something significant in order to define their role with the 2015 Broncos.
What will each draft pick try to extract from training camp?
OLB SHANE RAY
What he needs to show: That he has completely recovered from the toe injury that limited him during OTAs and that he can spell outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller
for stretches to give each of the Pro Bowl pass rushers a rest. If Ray can demonstrate that his quick first step and explosive outside rush are unaffected by the injury suffered in workouts, then the rest of his game should fall into place. The attention given to Ware and Miller should ensure plenty of one-on-one opportunities, and if he capitalizes, he could take a step toward the best season for a Broncos rookie edge rusher since Miller in 2011.
LT TY SAMBRAILO
What he needs to show: That he's the man for arguably the most important job on the offensive line: left tackle, where he will protect Peyton Manning
's blind side. No new Bronco is more important to the team's 2015 hopes than Sambrailo, and while mistakes will happen, the Broncos are banking on his progress and potential outweighing the inevitable pitfalls of being a rookie. Ware praised his growing prowess and tenacity during OTAs, and Sambrailo needs to pick up where he left off.
TE JEFF HEUERMAN:
What he needs to show: That his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament is on course, and that he will remain a part of the team by taking part in position meetings. Kubiak indicated in May that Heuerman would be involved with the team as much as possible. Even though this year is a loss physically, he can still make progress in the mental aspects of the game to where he should know the offense inside and out by the time he re-takes the field.
G/C MAX GARCIA:
What he needs to show: That he can translate his tenacity and intelligence to a zone-blocking-intensive scheme and become a reliable swing backup. Garcia worked behind Louis Vasquez
at right guard in minicamp, and that's where he will settle first. Assuming Garcia stays healthy, he seems to be a lock for the 53-man roster; fourth-round picks generally don't slip through waivers to the practice squad. But if Garcia is to factor into the
Broncos' game-day plans as one of their 46 active players, he must not only display competency at guard, but the potential to line up at center, since they will need a swing interior backup on the offensive line.
CB LORENZO DOSS:
What he needs to show: That his ballhawking skills from Tulane translate to the NFL. Doss intercepted 15 passes for the Green Wave and showed signs during OTAs and minicamp that he might have the same knack for takeaways in the NFL. If Doss is among the defensive leaders in takeaways during camp and contributes on special teams, he can find a place on the 46-man gamely roster.
NT DARIUS KILGO
What he needs to show: That he can be an effective enough nose tackle to back up Sylvester Williams
. The four-game suspension levied to Derek Wolfe
for a violation of the league's PED policy opens a spot on the defensive line, and with versatile defensive lineman Vance Walker
expected to replace Wolfe in the starting lineup, the Broncos could use a backup to Williams who will not moonlight at other positions. That could be the massive Kilgo, who looked light on his feet during OTAs and needs to demonstrate the same quickness -- with a consistent interior pass rush -- in August.
QB TREVOR SIEMIAN
What he needs to show: That he's all the way back from the torn ACL he suffered last November while playing for Northwestern, and that his ceiling is higher than that of another seventh-round pick, 2013 selection Zac Dysert
. With Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler
the clear leaders as the Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks, respectively, Siemian and Dysert could be in a tussle for one spot on the 53-man roster. Both will try to prove that they are too talented to be exposed to the waiver wire in an attempt to make it to the practice squad.
CB TAUREAN NIXON:
What he needs to show: That his fleet feet can translate to multiple roles on special teams. The Broncos' depth at cornerback will make finding traction there a tough task, so he needs to use his exceptional straight-line speed in coverage -- and perhaps on returns, if he gets the opportunity.
S JOSH FURMAN
What he needs to show: That his athleticism and instincts against the run translate to the NFL. Furman was one of the Big 12's most aggressive defenders last year working in a hybrid safety/linebacker role that brought him into the box, setting him up for 64 total tackles and seven sacks last year. A strong Pro Day workout vaulted him into the seventh round; can he demonstrate the same strength and quickness when the pads go on?