ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tackle Calvin Anderson has essentially one job: Protect Russell Wilson.
Anderson is fighting to hold down a spot on the offensive line, and he's taken most of the snaps with the first-string unit during training camp with right tackle Billy Turner on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Anderson has only logged one start at right tackle in his career, but the reps he's gotten during training camp are preparing him to potentially become the Broncos' Week 1 starter.
"It's really helpful," Anderson said. "It's helpful to focus specifically on that position. My mentality obviously always is to be ready no matter where I'm needed, but it's been really helpful to get first-team reps at that position so I can be ready for the opportunity."
Playing with Wilson is a major reason why Anderson is taking his game to a new level — not just due to No. 3's talent and craftiness in the backfield, but because of the example he sets for how to be a star.
The right tackle appreciates every opportunity he gets to share the field with Wilson, knowing that if he does his job well, Wilson has the chance to make a spectacular play.
"[Wilson] makes a lot happen with very little, so our goal is going to be to give him as much time as we possibly can so we can … because we know he's going to make a play at the end of the day," Anderson said. "As an offensive unit, we're just trying to make sure we're keeping the pocket solidified, give him some time, and if he has time, he's going to make something special happen."
Anderson noted that Wilson's most impressive characteristic is his presence, which he noticed immediately upon meeting the quarterback for the first time. He was different than other quarterbacks Anderson has played with, exuding natural leadership and inspiration for his teammates.
"His presence is just different," Anderson said. "He has the presence of somebody who's been to the Super Bowl and won, he's been in nine Pro Bowls. He walks into a room and you feel his energy immediately. I think that's really helpful coming from a leadership position because he affects everybody else around him. When we're on the field [and] we see that, we hear that, we feel that and we can sense that, I think it affects all of us in a positive way because we can be more like Russ. … He brings us up to a championship mentality."
Wilson isn't the only player helping Anderson grow his game. Outside linebacker Malik Reed has lined up opposite Anderson for many snaps throughout training camp, and facing each other has made both players improve.
"We both went the undrafted route, so I have a ton of respect for Malik," Anderson said. "I think every single day we'll make each other better. Every day, we're battling. … We can battle on the field and we can still be friends off the field."
Anderson said that he believes facing the Cowboys in practice on Thursday will be a benefit for the entire team and the offensive line specifically. Going up against a new player with different tendencies, Anderson will prepare like he is getting ready to play in a game.
"Any practice we play against somebody else is an opportunity to get better," Anderson said. "We're going to face [the Cowboys], so with the game coming up this Saturday you want to get in the season mentality anyway. That's what we do every week. At tackle we're always preparing for the edge rushers, preparing for how they play games and preparing for how they're going to handle our double teams. … Every single opportunity we get to play another person in another jersey, we're preparing like it's a game. I think that's how you become a championship-mentality team."
OVER THE LINE
On the defensive side, DeShawn Williams talked about the defensive line's success so far at training camp. Dubbed "The Dark Side" by Defensive Line Coach Marcus Dixon, the group has been getting pressure on the quarterbacks and making plays throughout camp.
"To go out there, battling with [Bradley] Chubb, [Dre'Mont Jones], Malik, Baron [Browning] when he's in there with the ones, Mike [Purcell], D.J. [Jones] … [and] when Randy [Gregory] gets back, we're going to be a real scary group," Williams said.
Going up against the offensive line each day, Williams had the most praise for center Lloyd Cushenberry III. He believes the third-year center is at the top of his game and is proving that he deserves to be the starter.
"I'd probably say MVP of that offensive line so far is Lloyd," Williams said. "His flexibility, he's stronger, he's commanding. … Him traveling with Russ this offseason really helped. Whatever the talk that was going on about him losing his spot, I bet [that] kind of pushed him to solidify his spot."
Flip through exclusive photos from Broncos team photographers Gabriel Christus and Ben Swanson from the 12th day of training camp.