Woody Paige: Passing camp tradition sputters out as Broncos quarterback competition continues

DENVER — The Broncos’ offense couldn’t put together an average of two touchdown drives a game last season.

So, it shouldn’t be shocking that the offense couldn’t put together an informal, unofficial players passing camp this week in California.

The Broncos’ two most prominent offensive players – Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders – had indicated publicly, and two other players told me privately, they planned to attend the "passing camp" for quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.

Obviously, though, the offense couldn’t find a quorum. Or, probably, a quarterback.

It’s difficult to catch passes if nobody is around to throw to them. And, apparently, it was too hard to get people together when they are on summer vacation in other locales.

Paxton Lynch was in his hometown in Florida Monday. He showed up on Twitter in photos while holding a personal "passing camp" with young players from his former high school team – the Deltona Wolves.

And Trevor Siemian returned several days ago from Ireland, where he was sight-seeing (old castle and Cliffs of Mohr, among other tourist spots throughout the country) and playing golf at the scenic links courses. He returned to Denver, then went off to Illinois – he played college football at Northwestern – to continue his off-season conditioning.

Neither quarterback apparently was interested in a passing fancy, and, based on what I know, the get-together was discussed among veteran players, but never was finalized because of lack of participation.

Blame Peyton Manning. He originated started the concept of a "passing camp" years ago with the Broncos. He would invite a few wide receivers and tight ends to Duke, where his former college offensive coordinator, David Cutliffe, is the head coach. And Mark Sanchez, who came to the Broncos last year from the Eagles, continued the routine, but in California. The "passing camp" didn’t help Sanchez.

Not much, if anything, is to be made of the lack of an offensive activity.  The offense will be reunited in two weeks at Dove Valley when the real training camp opens. Everybody will get plenty of repetitions and opportunities to practice passing, and get to know their teammates, old and new, better.

Really, after all the events of the off-season, the Broncos might have only three or four offensive starters who haven’t started games for the team in the past.

For example, Thomas and Sanders again will be the starting wide receivers. The starting tight end, or ends, will be Virgil Green, A.J. Derby or Jeff Heuerman. All three started games for the Broncos last year.

Tight end draft choice Jake Butt, who is coming off ACL, told me recently he has spent the entire summer in Denver (undergoing rehab at Broncos headquarters) and is ahead of schedule six months after surgery. He can be expected to serve as a reserve tight end, but likely will be an inactive until the left knee is strong enough to play significant time.

The starting running back will be C.J. Anderson, returning from a torn meniscus, or Devontae Booker. Both started games last season. Jamaal Charles, the great running back signed as a free agent, has rarely played the past two years because of his own serious knee injury, but he is expected to be primarily a third-down back.

Fullback Andy Janovich, who started early last season, is back from injury, and really is the only fullback choice.

The one change in starters among the wide receivers, the tight ends and in the backfield will be at slot receiver.  Jordan Norwood is gone.  Rookie Carlos Henderson will be the first choice as replacement, but camp will determine.

The oft-criticized offensive lineup will be reshuffled with the addition of two free agent veterans – guard Ron Leary and tackle Menelik Watson -- and first-round draft pick Garett Bolles. Center Matt Paradis will be able to go after surgery on both hips, but the final makeup of the starting line is unsettled.

Siemian and Lynch both started games last season, and they could both start games this season, despite who is declared No. 1 sometime in August.

What matters most is improvement on the Broncos being last in the AFC, and 30th overall, in time of possession on drives and drive success rate (first downs and touchdowns) and 31 total touchdowns on offense in 2016.

"Passing camp" wouldn’t have solved those problems.

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