In their preseason opener, the Broncos threw two rookies to the Bengals.
While the majority of the starters slipped on their caps and kicked back on the bench by the second quarter,
"We wanted to make sure that they understand that there is a different level, there's a different speed, there's a different tempo, plus there is a difference in terms of endurance, and it was good for them to get that out of the way," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said after Tuesday's morning practice.
Playing four quarters of an NFL game is no longer a foreign experience to Walton and Beadles. They earned McDaniels' approval for getting physical in the run game and adjusting to a bevy of opponents, but the head coach said they had rookie hiccups, as well, occasionally confusing their blocking assignments and protection calls.
The more reps both players take in practice -- and especially in preseason games -- the more opportunities they have to study NFL-style football with fewer consequences.
In Cincinnati, they fortified
"I thought they played well," Orton said. "I thought it was good that they were able to go the whole game. For the most part, the inside of the pocket was cleaned out the whole day. They did a nice job."
Every time he hiked the ball, Walton knew he was about to receive a first-hand lesson in pro defensive tackles. Competing against Cincinnati's whole depth chart at DT forced him to react to a barrage of playing styles.
"Every rep you learn something different," he said. "You learn something new about your steps, hand placement (and) what they're doing on defense."
Practicing against three-time Pro Bowler
"Until you go out there and play, you can't really simulate any of that," Beadles said.
Most importantly, four quarters of NFL football might be the best workout the rookies have seen.
"Overall, I thought they played well," McDaniels said. "We just were hopeful that when we go to Jacksonville (for the regular season opener), it's not going to be the first time they're going to play four quarters."
BACK TO WORK
"It felt alright," Williams said. "I haven't been out there in a while so I've still got some kinks to get out. I've still got to get in better shape."
Williams said he likes Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's approach to running the unit and he can't wait to play with a revamped defensive line in front of him.
"I like the size," he said. "I'm back there in my little comfort zone and I've got three 400-pounders in front of me, hogs playing downhill."
McDaniels said the team will keep Williams on a one-practice-a-day regimen for now, but he's encouraged to see the leader of the defense close to top form.
"We were running around at full speed in 7-on-7s and all that, so it's great to have him back," the head coach said. "He obviously brings so much to our defense and the communication inside."