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Five Thoughts: Emmanuel Sanders' return, and more practice dustups

Posted Aug 21, 2014

Emmanuel Sanders' return to team work and a pair of skirmishes highlighted the final day of joint practices between the Broncos and Texans.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The public glimpses of Emnanuel Sanders' speed and quickness in a Broncos uniform have been fleeting. Since he strained his quadriceps muscle, they've been rare even on the practice field. Until Thursday, he had not practiced in a week, and had not worked in anything beyond individual drills since playing against Seattle Aug. 7 -- when he was not targeted.

"It felt good to come out here and see that these old legs still work and I can still get open and these hands can still catch footballs," said Sanders, smiling.

His legs might be recovering from an injury, but they remain spry. His quadriceps issue was a "minor setback," but little more, and the extent of his absence was in part preventative, a luxury that the preseason affords.

"I haven't been out here in a while so when I came out I was kind of nervous," said Sanders. "It's not that you doubt yourself. It's that you haven't caught passes. You ask yourself, do you remember the plays? Can you run the routes, can you do the same?"

He showed that he could. Sanders looked quick and sharp on his cuts. He exploded into his route off the snap. And he even found himself caught up in a mid-practice donnybrook; he hit the ground, but popped up and was none the worse for the wear.

Today's Five Thoughts starts with Sanders:

1. All that's missing from the Peyton Manning-Sanders collaboration is a connection during the game. They played 20 snaps together Aug. 7, but Sanders was not targeted.

They had a stellar day together, and Sanders scored multiple touchdowns on a variety of underneath routes and quick outs. Making the plays more impressive was that they came without Wes Welker, who was excused for personal reasons.

"I know Peyton was happy for me to be out here," Sanders. "He texted me last night and told me that he would like me to be out here today practicing and catching balls, so it was fun."

Whether that continues Saturday is unknown.

"Hopefully I'll be playing on Saturday, but I'm not going to give it 100 percent right now," he said. "I'm going to go talk to the trainers and we're going to take it day by day."

2. For a second consecutive day, emotions percolated, with a pair of scuffles between the Broncos offense and the Texans defense. The first saw left guard Orlando Franklin and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt exchange shoves and words after a run play during a team period. But a few minutes later, tempers exploded, with Houston's Elbert Mack and Brandon Harris, numerous teammates and a slew of Broncos involved.

Shoves were exchanged. Punches were thrown. Sanders and a Texan tumbled to the ground. None of the combatants were worse for the wear.

"It just gets that way because they are all very competitive people," said Head Coach John Fox.

Perhaps the funniest moment was when backup tackle Winston Justice assumed a classic fighting stance as the brouhaha ebbed.

"There was a lot happening there during one stretch, and a lot of different pockets of altercations," said Tamme, smiling. "I couldn't choose where to get involved.

"Three days in a row against a different team, you're going to have some stuff boil over eventually. Saturday will be a lot of fun.

3. This has been a solid week for Brandon Marshall, allowing him to build off his five-tackle performance against San Francisco last Sunday. Marshall continued to plug holes, particularly to the outside, limiting Arian Foster's running room. But he also did well dropping into coverage, breaking up one pass in the right flat.

4. Too many chances for takeaways slipped through or just beyond the defense's grasp. It was a positive sign that they were active and around the ball, but Rahim Moore and Steven Johnson were left frustrated at not turning their chance into a turnover. Seeing defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson deflect a pass at the line of scrimmage was another good indication, given that he is still completing his recovery from a hip injury.

5. Michael Schofield saw plenty of work at guard during organized team activities and in minicamp, but most of his action has been at right tackle the last two weeks, and he looks more comfortable with each day. The learning curve is not as steep at right tackle as it is on the inside; he has more time to get set, and uses this to get his legs well positioned and balanced. Further, the presence of Will Montgomery as a potential swing backup on the inside makes Schofield more valuable -- in the short term -- at tackle.

"He's doing good. He's definitely developing," said left tackle Ryan Clady. "(It's) night and day from OTAs. He's definitely honed in and got the offense down and working on his technique."