Follow me on Twitter and you’ll notice I like taking pictures. Being that phones have also become primary cameras, I’m usually snapping photos of just about everything that sparks my interest (this includes signs referencing Indiana or Hoosiers, and basically anything with an Angry Bird on it). As a consequence, the cameras that I have that don’t also allow me to check my email or make calls have sat largely unused.
Recently though, I had to pull out one of the “just a cameras.” Checking the memory card I stumbled across my last big photo shoot. Dozens of snapshots from the Denver Broncos training camp in 2011. My first reaction was, “Man, I can’t wait for football to return!” As I scrolled through the photos, I had another thought, “Hmm, I’m gonna need to get back to camp this year as most of these photos are of people no longer with the Denver Broncos.”
Denver’s roster moves aren’t any sort of new revelation. We’ve been aware of every move since that cold, disappointing, January night in New England. It’s just the context of it all. At the time the shutter clicked, many of the players in these shots weren’t just on the team, they were guys that would need to be key components if the Broncos had any chance of improving from a 4-12 season. Now these pictures are like the end of a movie where there’s a freeze frame of each character accompanied by a blurb about what became of them:
“Brandon Lloyd reunited with Josh McDaniels after a midseason trade to St. Louis. The Rams finished with a losing record and Lloyd and McDaniels are now with New England.”
“Kyle Orton was benched, then traded to the Chiefs. He started against Denver in Week 17 and won…7-3. He’s now backing up Tony Romo.”
“Eddie Royal continued to battle injury. He signed with San Diego in 2012.”
“Brian Dawkins played with his usual passion until injury ended his season. He retired in 2012.”
“Tim Tebow led the Broncos to the AFC Divisional Playoffs in one of the most insane, inexplicable runs in NFL history. He was traded to the Jets in 2012 for a 4th round draft pick.”
It’s not like half the team departed, but think about those names, and what they were a year ago. Chances are every Broncos fan at one point or another thought something like, “Hey, Brandon Lloyd is a weapon, and Eddie Royal is due to get back on the track he started with his rookie season.” Or maybe, “You know, Orton can move the ball, and if Tebow gets involved more in the Red Zone this team could score some points.”
When the Broncos return to Dove Valley a little more than a month from now, the pictures are bound to be quite different. So will the mental images fans have for the pending season. Instead of Lloyd and Royal “maybe making some noise,” it will be “Thomas and Decker must deliver.” Whereas there were infinite theories about how Orton and Tebow could effectively coexist, it’s now going to be about how many points Peyton Manning can put on the scoreboard…and how far the offensive line can keep defenders away from him. The veteran leadership and defensive heart of Dawkins won’t be lurking in the secondary. Now it will be about veterans holding tight in the secondary while Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, and a must-be-productive defensive front create chaos in two seconds or less.
Sitting at training camp last year, the overarching thought was, “Which of these guys might surprise us?” This year, I have a feeling that sentiment will be replaced with, “Are these guys ready to win a Super Bowl?”
An entirely different picture indeed.