Thursday marked one of the most energized practices of OTAs so far. In 80-degree weather, the offense and defense squared off for much of the session, and in the end the offense seemed to claim victory.
In drills today, Orton was the first quarterback to take reps, followed by Quinn, Tim Tebow and Tom Brandstater.
It was the first time — during an open practice — that Tebow has taken reps before Brandstater.
Then again, McDaniels has said the order means little in the grand scheme of things.
“We told everyone, ‘Everyone is going to get reps and everybody is going to get rolling in there,’” the head coach said on the first day of OTAs. “The order, I don’t think matters. It doesn’t matter to me and right now I don’t think it should matter to anyone.”
The session was not only one of the most active in terms of plays pitting the offense against the defense, but also in terms of the activity on the field.
Players seemed to be fired up on Thursday, and the talk between one another and from the coaches backed up the point.
The linebacker snared the interception and sprinted into the end zone, quickly followed by every single defensive player. The defense formed a huddle to celebrate before the drill continued.
“It’s tough to throw play-action passes when you don’t run the ball very much in passing camp,” Orton smiled.
“Keep kicking their butt, DG!” Jabar Gaffney shouted as Dawkins dropped for 10 pushups.
“You gotta have that!” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale yelled.
The throw missed, however, and fell incomplete. Orton ripped off his chin strap in disgust, and motioned toward Royal. “Good route, Eddie,” he said. “My fault, man.”
The defense argued that he was out, but you can take a look at the photographic evidence yourself.
‘HE’S HAVING A DAY!’
Thursday’s practice at times turned into the Brandon Lloyd show.
In the first batch of 7-on-7 plays, Quinn found a wide-open Lloyd deep down the sideline, and the receiver sprinted into the end zone before throwing the ball in the air.
Shortly thereafter, Orton found the receiver just past Nate Jones and floated the ball into his arms for another score.
Lloyd kept the fireworks going, hauling in a few one-handed passes, including another from Orton that drew instructions for Perrish Cox from coaches, reminding him to stay outside and use Mario Haggan’s help to cut off routes to the inside. Quick side note: Cox redeemed himself later in the practice when he leaped to intercept Tebow in the end zone.
When Quinn found Lloyd for yet another touchdown later in 7-on-7s, Branson shouted, “He’s having a day!” as Lloyd spiked the ball.
The defense noticed the receiver’s hot streak, as well, so when Andre’ Goodman broke up a pass intended for Lloyd in the end zone — which the receiver nearly caught after the tip — Renaldo Hill gave a few “Oh yeeeeeeah”s and Dawkins ran up to the play, clapping.
“Brandon has had a great camp,” said Orton, who also played alongside Lloyd in Chicago. “This is my third year with Brandon, so we’ve got some good timing and a good rapport built up. He’s a guy who didn’t get a big chance last year, but when he did, those three games that he came in he played really well for us. Hopefully he’ll just continue to improve on that.”
The team broke into several interesting drills on Thursday.
The same drill was run with linebackers matching up against running backs and tight ends.
One group was comprised of linemen, who practiced leaping at the line of scrimmage to block a field goal. The other group had smaller players, who practiced sprinting around the side of the line and diving to block a kick before landing on a giant blue pad.
It looked to be part of what McDaniels said the team is doing to change the way special teams practices.
“We’re kind of splitting it up and working in segments,” McDaniels said. “We’re trying to do that as much as we can. We’ll see if it benefits us, we think that it has already but we’re going to continue doing it throughout the spring.”
ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE
At the end of every practice, the offense and defense run sprints under the instruction of strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten.
But on Thursday, McDaniels gave them an out. Pick a player to field one punt — “No second chances!” the head coach reminded them — for the right to skip the sprints.
Branson stepped up first for the offense and easily fielded the punt, drawing cheers from his teammates. Mario Haggan was the chosen defender, and he safely hauled in the kick, as well, much to the delight of the defense.
So the team gathered around McDaniels for a quick huddle before breaking for the weekend.
More photos from practice below.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com