SI.com has dispatched 10 writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. For the complete schedule of postcards, click here.
The Broncos train at their facility in Englewood, Colo., but they still manage to make it feel like a campsite. Fans sit on a grassy slope overlooking the main practice field, close enough to hear the cornerbacks jawing with the wide receivers. There are no bulky barricades or chain-link fences separating spectators from players. The Broncos need to train locally in order to get accustomed to the thin air, their home-field advantage during the season. Players may complain about the altitude, but not the weather. Eighty-five degrees here feels like 75.
1. Jay Cutler is better off after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This may sound like typical training-camp spin, but after last season, Cutler did not want to eat, did not want to get out of bed in the morning, and did not have the first clue why. "We all thought it was stress," said tight end Tony Scheffler, one of Cutler's closest friends on the team, who worked out with him over the off-season in Atlanta. "When he found out [it was diabetes], I think he was more relieved than anything. He is the type of guy who will feed off of this. It will make him a better player and person." Cutler must now have his insulin levels checked during practice and take several shots a day, but at least he is in control of his body again. His appetite and energy are back, not to mention his velocity.
2. Mike Shanahan has found another starting tailback no one else wanted. First, it was Terrell Davis, then Olandis Gary, then Mike Anderson, and now Selvin Young. Undrafted last year out of Texas, Young led the Broncos with 729 rushing yards, and he is raising his expectations significantly this season. "My goal is 2,000 yards," said Young, with a straight face. "Over time, this has been an organization where a running back can come in without big money and accolades and do great things. It's set up for someone who's hungry and loves the game." Of course, the Broncos' offensive line helps, too. Asked why he went undrafted after a celebrated college career, Young said: "It's been like that my whole life. In Little League, I was the MVP, but I couldn't get a ride to pick up the trophy. So they gave it to someone else."
3. The Broncos have made some questionable draft picks in recent years, but no one can criticize what they did in the fourth round in 2006. With the 119th overall pick, they took wide receiver Brandon Marshall. With the 126th overall pick, they snagged defensive end Elvis Dumervil. Last season, those two were arguably the two most valuable players on the team, as Dumervil led the Broncos with 12.5 sacks and Marshall with 102 receptions. This season, expect Dumervil to make the Pro Bowl. Marshall will be suspended for the first three games -- the result of three arrests in the past year -- but he should be a difference-maker the moment he returns. "We challenge every fourth-rounder who comes here now," Dumervil said. "We tell them all, 'You're a fourth-round pick like us. You've got to step it up. You've got to keep the tradition going.'"
In the days after safety John Lynch decided to return to Denver and play one final season, the Broncos welcomed him by signing free-agent safeties Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel. Last week, Lynch finally got the message -- the Broncos had moved on, even if he had not. When Lynch saw that he was not included in nickel and dime packages, he left the team, allowing McCree to move into the starting lineup. Whether that is an upgrade remains to be seen. McCree played the last two seasons in San Diego, where he is best known for fumbling an interception that probably would have secured a Chargers' victory over New England in the 2007 playoffs. Instead of re-signing McCree, the Chargers watched him join a division rival. If nothing else, McCree's presence should spice up the Broncos-Chargers meetings.
The Broncos believe everyone is sleeping on them, and they might be right. They have all the makings of a team that gets written off by the middle of November, only to storm back and enter the wild-card conversation by Christmas. Their first nine games are a gauntlet, including San Diego, New Orleans, Jacksonville, New England and Cleveland. But if they can stay afloat, check out the smooth homestretch: Atlanta, the Jets, Carolina, Buffalo, and home dates with Oakland and Kansas City. Sure, the Broncos close at San Diego, but by then the Chargers could be resting starters.
As the Broncos started field-goal drills, Marshall sprinted to the goal line, making sure he was in position to judge whether kicks were getting through the uprights. Marshall has embarrassed himself several times in the past year, but Chris Henry and Adam Jones he is not. The Broncos are going to miss Marshall dearly in September, both for the way he encourages teammates during practices and the way he scorches defenses in games. When Cutler is in trouble, he instinctively looks for Marshall, and rightly so. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Marshall is a huge target and a fast-moving one. He stands out the way Terrell Owens stood out as a young receiver in San Francisco. If Marshall had not spent so much time in the police blotter this year, he would be hailed right now as one of the most promising pass-catchers in the league. Instead, he is being talked about in the same breath as Henry and Jones, yet another trouble-maker who was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell. Judging from the track records -- and police reports -- Henry and Jones may be lost causes. For Marshall, there is still hope.
• Shanahan is entering his 14th season in Denver and he has only finished with a losing record twice: 6-10 in 1999 and 7-9 last year.
• Dumervil is 5-foot-11, but judging by the length of his arms, you'd think he was 6-6.
• The Broncos are on their third defensive coordinator in three years, with Bob Slowik taking over for Jim Bates, who took over for Larry Coyer.
• Cornerback Dominque Foxworth, an outspoken critic of Bates's scheme last year, has shone in camp. With Foxworth, Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, the Broncos should have one of the best cornerback units in the league.
• When Marshall is out, the Broncos' top receiver will be Darrell Jackson, signed in the off-season from San Francisco, with Brandon Stokley opposite him. Stokley is more comfortable in the slot, but he should have no trouble out wide. He played there last season when Javon Walker was injured.
• It is bizarre seeing someone other than Jason Elam kick field goals for the Broncos. After leading the team in scoring for 14 of the last 15 years, Elam signed with Atlanta in the off-season, leaving Matt Prater with some very reliable cleats to fill. Prater, signed off the Dolphins' practice squad last December, started winning over the locals on Saturday, when he booted a 68-yard field goal in front of 1700 fans.