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Broncos Camp Day 3 report: Defense dominates with takeaways

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the Broncos working in a goal-to-go, red-zone period Saturday morning, safety Justin Simmons knew he had an opportunity for a big play.

The first-team offense had a third-and-goal from the 8-yard line after two previous goal-to-go plays went askew via a bad shotgun snap and Josey Jewell stuffing Phillip Lindsay for no gain.

Joe Flacco took the shotgun snap and spotted rookie tight end Austin Fort down the seam approaching the goal line. Simmons saw his chance. 

"I just saw a little spot up in the front line -- there's front-line and back-line routes -- and I saw [Flacco] looking, staring it down and winding up, and it's practice, you just go for it. If you make the play, you make it. If you don't, you don't and you learn from it."

Simmons did. Later in practice, he tacked on another interception of Kevin Hogan as the defense finished with four picks, with Will Parks and Josey Jewell notching the others. The defense also forced a Juwann Winfree fumble that Su'a Cravens recovered.

A good day for the defense equaled a frustrating day for the offense.

"Every interception has a story behind it, but no, [I'm] not OK with it," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "You don’t want to turn the ball over."

"In my opinion, we had a rough day today. Too many turnovers," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who continues to do individual repetitions as he works his way back to full participation.

"The defense is going to be good this year. Obviously, we know that," Sanders added a moment later. "But still, we've got to hold on as an offense and take care of the football. It starts with the quarterbacks and the wide receivers."

One play that jumped out to Sanders was Winfree's fumble, which came via a strip after a 20-yard reception.

"Juwann made a great play but then he got stripped," Sanders said. "It was a great play, but it was a bad play.

"We can't do that if we want to win football games. So I'm looking forward to just keep improving every day. Hopefully we do better tomorrow."

But the defense also believes it can -- and will -- do better as the days progress.

"This is only Day Two. We've got a long ways to go. There were a lot of good plays that were made, but a lot of mistakes, too," Simmons said. 

"Coach Vic talks about it all the time: 'We want to eliminate the sloppiness.' You take it with a grain of salt. The plays are great, but we want to eliminate the mistakes as we go."

THE IMPACT OF PRESSURE

Most of the interceptions accumulated by the defense over the first three days of training camp would not have happened without pressure from the edge and the interior defensive linemen.

One of the best examples came on the fourth and final interception of the day, which was during the last team period. With pressure coming off the edge, Shelby Harris leaped to deflect Flacco's attempt between the hashmarks.Jewell then alertly lunged for the ball to complete the defense's strong day.

Defensive end DeMarcus Walker was particularly active Saturday, registering four quarterback pressures, one of which would have been a sack under game conditions. Two of the pressures came during his first three team-period snaps of practice, and another came during a period when the second-team defense faced the first-team offense.

Outside linebacker Malik Reed also had a pair of pressures of Drew Lock that could have resulted in sacks under game conditions, leading to moments like one he had during a later period, when he stunted inside and drew the attention of two offensive linemen, who kept him out of Brett Rypien's face, allowing the rookie quarterback to fire a pass.

Denver's edge rushers also did well in staying at home and not being caught out of position. Bradley Chubb forced one Flacco incompletion by not biting on a play-action fake. When Flacco turned as he moved out of the pocket, Chubb was there to defuse the play. Outside linebacker Jeff Holland later did the same thing to Hogan.

MORE NOTES:

... Fangio had the No. 1 offense work against the second-team defense and the No. 2 offense face the first-team defense later in practice.

The period was a significant one for Drew Lock, as he led the No. 2 offense. The first play saw Chubb and Von Miller explode off the edge and meet at the spot for what would have been a sack in the game.

But the next two plays were promising. He completed a dumpoff to Khalfani Muhammad on a second-down snap. Then he hit Winfree down the left sideline past Bryce Callahan and Kareem Jackson for a 41-yard completion that was the offense's longest gain of the day.

... Just before throwing the aforementioned interception, Hogan found his footing with back-to-back completions that saw him hit his receivers in stride. The second of these was one of the prettiest connections of camp to date, when he hit rookie wide receiver Kelvin McKnight in stride down the right seam for a 20-yard connection.

... One day after Alexander Johnson received some snaps as the first-team inside linebacker in place of the injured Todd Davis, undrafted rookie Josh Watson got his shot in the base defense, with Joe Jones getting some third-down and long-yardage repetitions.

"It's amazing just when you're in the huddle, having them look at you in the eyes with urgency and hungriness to know that you're calling the calls, and the defensive line is listening to you and the secondary is listening to you," Watson said.

... With Troy Fumagalli nursing a hip injury that has him "day to day" and Jake Butt still working his way back to full-scale work, Fort once again saw first-team repetitions, although he worked with all three units over the course of a busy day.

... Undrafted rookie wide receiver Trinity Benson also saw some first-team repetitions and caught a pair of passes from Flacco.

"We’re going to mix those guys all the time," Fangio said. "The best way to get looks at young guys is to throw them in there with the guys that are ahead of them, see if they look the part and it’s not too big for them, and see if they can operate."

... One of rookie tight end Noah Fant's best moments so far came during a seven-on-seven red-zone period, when he caught a touchdown pass from Hogan in the back of the end zone.

On the third day of training camp, the Broncos welcomed back a familiar face to practice — former head coach Mike Shanahan. Team photographers captured his visit and the rest of an exciting day at camp in today's gallery.

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