It was a historical night for the Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High. With 76 players suiting up in full pads, a record practice crowd of 13,402 fans filled the stadium seats to watch the two-hour session. Here are some quick hits from the under-the-lights outing in Denver.
ROLL CALL: Not practicing were Brandon Marshall, Brian Dawkins, and Rulon Davis. After practicing in the morning with an orange jersey for players recovering from injury, Nic Clemons was back out on the field in the same threads.
POSITIONING: On offense, the first-team line that experienced much success a year ago was back on its home turf. Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris manned the tackle positions, with Ben Hamilton and Chris Kuper at guard and Casey Wiegmann at center. Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan split the majority of the carries at running back. Peyton Hillis also saw time as the lone setback, shifting between that and his customary fullback spot. Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham lined up in a multitude of spots on two tight-end sets, and the Broncos even employed some three tight-end looks, where rookie Richard Quinn got in on the action.
The first-team defense was led by Ryan McBean, Ronald Fields and Kenny Peterson up front. Elvis Dumervil, Andra Davis, D.J. Williams, and Darrell Reid completed the rest of the front seven, while Champ Bailey, Andre’ Goodman, Renaldo Hill and rookie David Bruton rounded out the secondary. Nickel packages included faces like Jack Williams, Wesley Woodyard and Robert Ayers with the rest of the first-teamers.
DRILLS: Linebackers coach Don Martindale tested his players’ pads early. He ran a drill where each Bronco had to fight off one block from a teammate, before wrapping up another teammate heading downfield.
The defensive backs worked with secondary coach Ed Donatell and defensive assistant Jay Rodgers on deep interceptions. Donatell acted as a receiver, while Rodgers threw the passes to the cornerbacks to help them with their timing.
Quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Chris Simms worked on three-receiver sets against an empty defensive backfield. Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley ran the drill with Orton. Graham filled the tight end spot and the tandem of Buckhalter and Jordan rotated out of the backfield. Each player worked on running their routes and signalin when they reached an open spot.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer ran the team through punting drills, with Brett Kern and Britton Colquitt splitting the punting duties and Royal and Alphonso Smith taking turns on the returns. It seems to be focused mainly on blocking for the punt.
PLAYMAKERS: It was a banner evening for Goodman in his INVESCO Field debut in orange and blue. As the team began its 20-minute period of situational football, Goodman lined up alongside Gaffney. With Orton facing a 1st-and-10 at his own 16-yard line, he dropped back to pass, but his pocket quickly broke down. Escaping trouble, he thought Gaffney had found a seam deep down the middle of the field. Goodman turned on his speed, creeping up Gaffney’s outside shoulder and skying high to grab the interception.
Three plays later, Goodman struck again. With Orton facing a 3rd-and-10 at his own 35, Royal ran a curl route to the left sideline. Goodman made his read and snatched the ball away again, rumbling 54 yards for a touchdown.
Stokley shined on offense, recording a 9-yard touchdown reception in a red zone offense set. He had 10-plus catches on the night, leaving his tracks over the middle of the field, while peppering the sidelines as well.
The Broncos pass rush made its presence felt. Both Fields and Davis snagged a piece of Orton’s orange jersey before the quarterback could get the ball off, drawing a whistle from the referees for a “makeshift” sack. On a late blitz, Reid pressured Simms up the middle, causing a rushed throw and subsequent incompletion.
In kickoff returns, Tony Carter won the rookie battle over Nate Swift, forcing a fumble on one of Swift’s attempts. Fellow rookies Smith and Kenny McKinley each were able to find seams, showing off their speed on a pair of long runbacks.
SITUATIONAL SUCCESS: Head Coach Josh McDaniels promised a practice that would include real game situations and delivered. Here’s a rundown of some of the real-feel scores that the players faced on the field, and fans could follow along with from their seats.
Blue 17, White 17 – 7:00 left in the 4th quarter, 1st-and-10 White at the 50-yard line
White 20, Blue 17 – 3:45 left in the 4th quarter, 1st-and-10 White at its own 30-yard line
Blue 14, White 13 – 2:00 left in the 4th quarter, 1st-and-10 White at its own 30-yard line
Blue 24, White 20 – 2:00 left in the 4th quarter, 1st-and-10 White at its own 25-yard line
QUICK HITS: Adding to the stadium setting was the presence of headsets — worn by McDaniels and his coaches from the beginning of the 20-minute situational football period to the end of the session.
On their third and final day with the Broncos in Denver, referee Ed Hochuli and his crew helped the players grow more comfortable with game situations before next Friday’s preseason opener in San Francisco.
The crew also kept a watchful eye on new NFL guidelines. A prime example was on kickoff returns, where the referees made sure the new wedge rule was being followed. Starting this season, no more than two receiving players may intentionally line up shoulder-to-shoulder, within two yards of each other, to set up the blocks.
In addition to watching the action live, fans were able to rely on the ThunderVision if they missed any of those playmakers in action. The replays captured some of the biggest plays on display, highlighting Goodman’s pair of picks and Stokley’s catches in traffic.
DAILY JUKEBOX: While it only lasted through the 15-minute warm-up period, fans were serenaded to the sound of another Broncos playlist. Some of the tunes included:
Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow”
T.I’s “Live Your Life”
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”
Young Jeezy’s “Put On”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “The Waiting”
Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”
QUOTABLE: “The fans came out. I mean, that was beautiful. Definitely great atmosphere. I can’t wait to play a live game in this stadium. If this many fans come out for a training camp practice I can’t imagine how it is going to be during a game.”
-Darrell Reid on the atmosphere at practice
The team will hold one practice on Friday starting at 1:15 p.m. MDT and will then enjoy a Saturday off.
Here are pictures from tonight’s session.
– Chris Gentilviso, DenverBroncos.com
Tags: Fans, INVESCO Field at Mile High, Training Camp