The Broncos took the field on Monday for the final week of passing camp. Monday’s practice — like Friday — was an “opportunity practice” for rookies and younger players to get some on-field work as the veterans worked out separately.
One new sighting was third-round pick Eric Decker, who was running back and forth catching passes from strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten away from the rest of practice.
Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Harris and J.J. Arrington — all of whom returned to practice last week — were involved in the team portions of practice for the first time.
During the first set of offense vs. defense drills, there were several dropped passes and a few more balls on the ground after the play, as the defense continued to work hard to strip the ball away from the receivers.
After Jarvis Moss dove to break up a pass, knocking the ball out of Richard Quinn’s hands, Head Coach Josh McDaniels yelled out, “The next ball on the ground, white takes off” on a lap around the practice fields. Needless to say, the unit took much better care of the ball for the remainder of practice.
But that didn’t mean the defense wasn’t still there to play.
On the first pass of 11-on-11s, Alphonso Smith picked off Brady Quinn. After a long completion to Kenny McKinley — who also had quite a practice — Quinn’s third pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by Wesley Woodyard. The linebacker trotted into the end zone, celebrating to help set the tone for the defense.
On the next pass, Quinn fired the ball to tight end Nathan Overbay, though it was nearly picked by Syd’Quan Thompson. As the defense reacted to the play, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale shouted, “Almost doesn’t count in this game, now. Come on, hustle back.”
The defense didn’t stop there. By the end of practice, Woodyard had another pick and both David Bruton and Darcel McBath snared interceptions in the end zone before taking a knee.
“This has been one of the high points thus far in OTAs,” Baraka Atkins said. “But that’s what we expect to do every day — create turnovers and make problems for the offense.”
‘DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT’
McDaniels wasn’t all too pleased with the offense’s performance through the first part of practice, so before an offense-only drill, he gathered the players in a huddle, reminding them that the defense continues to win 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
“Will someone please stand up and do something about it?” he implored.
McKinley seemed to take that command to heart.
The second-year receiver caught long passes from both Quinn and Tim Tebow throughout practice. On one play in particular, he hauled in a pass in tight coverage before breaking free from the defender, staying on his feet and sprinting downfield for about 25 more yards.
His first touchdown of the day came from Quinn. With the defense playing tight coverage, the quarterback pointed back toward the middle of the end zone, so McKinley adjusted his route, sprinting inside to haul in a touchdown.
His second score came close to the end of practice on a pass from Tebow. He spiked the ball, seemingly telling the defense the offense wasn’t just going to roll over.
Thomas caught a pair of touchdowns on the day, as well, and Matthew Willis made a handful plays that drew praise from McDaniels.
The first came on a near interception by Cassius Vaughn, but Willis didn’t give up on the play, ripping the ball out of the cornerback’s hands for an incompletion. “That’s it!” yelled McDaniels.
The second came on the last play of practice, when a pass was tipped by Robert Ayers at the line, but Willis adjusted to haul it in for a touchdown, his second of the day.
College free agent Alric Arnett drew praise from the head coach as well when he adjusted to a ball thrown behind him, diving to the ground for the reception. That earned him a “Yes, nice job!”
After practice, McDaniels was asked why it seemed like the defense won the session.
“The defense is just louder,” the head coach laughed. “Usually every period when you ultimately watch it and break it down, it falls somewhere in a 50-50. You know the defense played well some plays and the offense did some good things, too, so hopefully everyone is getting better.”
Pictures from the session are below.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com