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Five Thoughts from Monday's Practice

Posted Jun 3, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason checks in with five takeaways from Monday's OTA practice.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Five thoughts on the Broncos' Monday practice, which was the third of the offseason that was open to media viewing:

1. Knowshon Moreno took a step closer to being back by working in a team period for the first time -- at least in the practices that we've seen -- since January. Moreno has been a mainstay on the practice field, but was limited before this week.

"First time doing team stuff. But I've been doing routes and doing seven-on-seven," he said.

Moreno's knee procedure this offseason was minor compared with the repair of the torn ACL that kept him sidelined throughout the 2012 offseason. He described the procedure this year as a "cleanup." In his work the last three weeks, he has looked smooth, with no hitch in his gallop.

2. As Moreno increased his workload, the absence of Willis McGahee continued. The Broncos' leading rusher the last two seasons hasn't been a part of the voluntary sessions the last fortnight.

"It would be nice if he's here with us, but this is something that he always did," said running back Lance Ball. "We're just trying to get ourselves straight and make sure we're all right."

Added Montee Ball: "I'm looking forward to meeting him and I'm looking forward to learning from him, because he's a vet, we've all known what he's done. But pretty much right now I'm working on what I can work on, what I can improve on, but I'm most definitely looking forward to him coming back."

McGahee's absence has meant more top-line repetitions for everyone else, which helps their progress.

"You get to a level of comfort and familiarity when you're actually getting reps with the ones," said Ronnie Hillman. "You're not nervous that Peyton is going to yell at you when you mess up. So it does have a good effect on you."

3. Week 3 for the offensive line working together began with a crisp practice and perhaps the most well-executed run play in the OTAs that have been open to media. The group created a massive hole for Ronnie Hillman, who took his one cut and surged upfield for an easy touchdown run.

It was also a play that showed how far Hillman has progressed and what he has learned from Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville.

"He's been doing that since Day One," said Hillman. "One cut -- and there's only one person that gets more than that, that's what they always say. I think one-cut-and-go, you've got to get it."

4. When you watch training camp, keep your eyes on the scrum for playing time at tight end and wide receiver. (And if you can't make it to camp, we'll be watching for you.)

At tight end, Julius Thomas was once again active and made multiple catches, but will lament the one that got away, as he missed what would have been a lunging catch down the seam of a pass from Peyton Manning at the goal line.

"I feel like every time we’re on the field he goes hard and tries to make a play like everybody else is doing," said Demaryius Thomas.

Perhaps wanting to match the recent performance of his fellow 2011 draft pick, tight end Virgil Green made the best catch of the day for anyone in his position group: a leaping, falling-backwards grab of a 21-yard pass down the middle from Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler will be the trigger-man on many passes to the backups, so how they mesh with him could determine how the depth chart looks. Osweiler found Trindon Holliday and Greg Orton for touchdowns and hit Gerell Robinson for a deep reception late in practice.

This was also a good day for Osweiler, whose tweaked delivery allows him to deliver passes more quickly, which means he doesn't need as wide of a gap in coverage in order to make a play.

5. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie kept taking away big plays from the offense. Perhaps his best play came early, when he was step-for-step in coverage with Eric Decker and took away what would have been a deep touchdown reception, leaping and deflecting the pass.

"He’s long. He is real long," said Demaryius Thomas, who had a potential deep pass taken away late in practice when Rodgers-Cromartie stayed with him down the sideline to break up the connection. "He covers very well, so you have to be on your Ps and Qs when you go against him. You have to body him up sometimes, you have to be in the right position because he’s fast, long and has great feet."

Another newcomer to the secondary also made an impression: rookie Kayvon Webster. He intercepted a deep Zac Dysert pass intended for Tavarres King in the back of the end zone. Webster turned upfield and returned it beyond the defense's 20-yard-line, but I expect that when the regular season comes, he'll take a knee and the touchback in that situation unless his path is clear.

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