ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Five days into free agency, the Broncos think they have the pieces of their defensive line puzzle in place. Now comes the difficult part: learning whether they fit.
The process began Wednesday when defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley practiced for the first time since arriving in a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles. John Fox and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen immediately plugged him into the first team at nose tackle, relegating previous first-stringer Louis Leonard to the second unit.
Fox wasn’t willing to break down Bunkley after one day, but seemed pleased with his initial glimpse.
“For the first practice, I don’t think I’m going to be able to give his total evaluation quite yet, but we watched enough tape on him with the Eagles that his practice looked a lot like that tape today,” he said.
EX-PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE TACKLE TY WARREN is expected to arrive for Thursday’s practice; unlike the Broncos’ other recent pickups, he was not on the sideline waiting out the start of the league year.
The primary concern about Warren remains the surgically repaired hip that kept him sidelined for the entire 2010 season. The Broncos have confidence that his hip will do fine — which could be traced to confidence in the clinic that performed the procedure: the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vali, which has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Broncos.
Defensive end Elvis Dumervil’s work at training camp this week after missing 2010 with a torn pectoral muscle offered Fox confidence that Warren would have an equally complete recovery.
“Yeah, we check out injuries. Guys get hurt. Elvis missed all of last season as well and he’s looked outstanding in this training camp,” Fox said.
Warren, Bunkley, defensive end Derrick Harvey and returning defensive tackle Marcus Thomas represent the majority of the Broncos’ free-agent activity, which came as little surprise after the team didn’t address the defensive line until the draft’s seventh round and didn’t target tackle at all.
Denver had a list of free-agent targets at all positions ready for the start of free agency, but also anticipated some unexpected cuts — which was the case with Harvey and Warren.
“We weren’t gong to overspend early,” he said. “(We wanted to) be patient, methodical and disciplined with each day monitoring the marketplace. That worked out with Ty Warren. He got released and four teams were after him – Denver, Kansas City, Houston and Green Bay – and we had the first visit with him and he really had a great visit with Coach Fox.”
TRANSACTIONS/PERSONNEL NOTES: After a slew of moves in recent days, the Broncos were quiet Wednesday with no arrivals or departures …
… The team’s complement of restricted and unrestricted free agents is expected to make its collective debut Thursday, pending no issues with the collective bargaining agreement. To accommodate this, the Broncos switched their full-pads practice from 8:50 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. MDT. It will still be open to the public.
ATTENDANCE REPORT: Linebacker D.J. Williams (thigh) and running back LenDale White (lower back spasms) remained sidelined …
… Defensive tackle Mitch Unrein succumbed to a knee sprain midway through practice. Unrein enjoyed a brief first-team stint Monday when Leonard was injured …
… Brian Dawkins has yet to take a full-pad practice repetition, although he has been on the field in a jersey and floppy hat throughout training camp. Rookies Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore continued receiving first-team work at the safety spots …
… Former Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith was on hand for practice. As the session began, he caught up with executive vice president John Elway and team owner Pat Bowlen.
WHO’S WHERE: Bunkley was joined on the first-team defensive line by Ayers and Dumervil at the ends and tackle Kevin Vickerson …
… Ayers worked at defensive tackle on some pass-rush downs, as the Broncos utilized a formation that placed Dumervil and rookie linebacker Von Miller at the ends, with Vickerson next to Ayers on the inside.
“Elvis was the (league’s) sack leader two years ago and Von Miller was a sack master in college, and we think he can do the same thing here, and I feel like I’m just the wild card,” Ayers said.
“People are going to be looking at Elvis and these other guys, and hopefully I can punch them in the mouth a couple of times. That’s my goal, and once we get them paying attention to all three of us, that’s when it’s really going to be fun.” …
… Rookie Mike Mohamed continued to work as first-team weakside linebacker with Williams sidelined …
… Working on kickoff returns were Eric Decker, Cassius Vaughn, Perrish Cox, Brandon Bing and Eddie Royal …
UP TO SPEED: The Broncos worked on the two-minute drill for the first time in training camp, giving the offense 70 seconds and one timeout to advance 60 yards to the end zone.
Both the first- and second-team offenses scored on their respective series against the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses. For the first team Kyle Orton found Julius Thomas for an 11-yard touchdown pass, beating Carter at the goal line; Tim Tebow capped the second unit’s possession with a 32-yard strike to Britt Davis, who caught the pass at the 10-yard-line and lunged forward for the score.
The third-team offense was less fortunate; its drive ended when Brady Quinn’s pass into the end zone was intercepted by rookie linebacker Nate Irving.
WEATHER REPORT: Monday’s brush with triple-digit temperatures gave way to relatively pleasant conditions Wednesday, with temperatures hovering in the low 80′s as clouds increased throughout the practice. A line of thunderstorms created threatening skies late in the practice, but the worst of the weather skirted south of Dove Valley.
NEXT PRACTICE: Thursday afternoon at 4:50 p.m. MDT. It will be open to the public. The walk-through at 9 a.m. Thursday morning will be closed to all but the media.