ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Fullback George Aston was one of the last players lingering on the field when he ran into Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon as he headed to the locker room.
Over the course of two minutes, the animated McMahon gestured and showed Aston where he needed to put his hands. Given the scope of Aston's work Sunday in place of injured starter Andy Janovich, the extra teaching might not seem like the most pressing matter.
But if Aston is to capitalize on the opportunity that comes with being the sole healthy fullback on the roster, he must flourish in the third phase. Filling in for Janovich is not limited to making lead blocks to guide a running back through a hole. It also requires handling a multi-faceted special-teams role like Janovich has over the last three seasons.
Aston said McMahon was answering "just a couple of questions" regarding dealing with pressure in punt protection.
"I need to get better on some technique things," Aston said.
If Aston is only a fullback, his chance to make the 53-man roster could evaporate. When Head Coach Vic Fangio was asked whether the offense could go one or two regular-season weeks without a fullback, he said, "Sure." The availability of tight ends like Troy Fumagalli to handle some spot snaps in the backfield ensures that.
So Aston must prove himself crucial in a role that goes beyond offense -- and he must pay attention to the tiniest aspects of his craft.
"Every little thing matters at this point," Aston said. "Your foot and hand position means everything, just off by a couple of inches and you miss a block. Every little detail really matters.”
Fangio has noticed.
"He’s been a surprise guy coming as an undrafted free agent," Fangio said. "There aren’t many fullbacks out there these days in college or pro football, so there’s not an abundance of them. I think he’s had a nice catch and run after the catch the other night. He’s got a chance.”
Maximizing that chance will depend as much on special teams as what Aston does lining up behind Joe Flacco in the I-formation.
DEFENSE GOES TWO-FOR-TWO IN TWO-MINUTE
Given a scenario in which the offense had 2:10 on the clock, no timeouts and a two-point deficit, the Broncos' first- and second-team defenses won their duels with the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses, forcing a turnover and a turnover on downs.
First up were the second-teamers, with Drew Lock at quarterback. Lock had the offense moving thanks to an 11-yard completion to Juwann Winfree and a perfectly-executed 13-yard run by Khalfani Muhammad on which the line flowed left and Muhammad went right, leaving him with plenty of open field.
But with first-and-10 at the offense's 49-yard line and 1:55 on the clock, an apparent timing issue led Lock to throw into the right flat -- with no receiver in the area. Cornerback Linden Stephens intercepted the pass and returned it for the touchdown that ended the series.
Flacco and the No. 1 offense drove 22 yards before their drive stalled. Two consecutive completions to Noah Fant and DaeSean Hamilton moved the chains, getting the offense to its 40. A 7-yard pass to Phillip Lindsay two plays later set up third-and-3 at the offense's 47-yard line.
At that point, Von Miller took over. He exploded off the right edge, forcing an incompletion on a deep Flacco attempt to Courtland Sutton down the left sideline. One play later, on fourth-and-3, De'Vante Bausby helped deflect a Flacco attempt for wide receiver Nick Williams, and the series ended.
... Defensive end DeMarcus Walker's pass-rushing work during camp has earned notice, but he's also been effective against the run. He blew up a handoff to Khalfani Muhammad during the first team period of practice by reading the toss sweep perfectly and following the flow of the play as Muhammad took the football while going to the left. The play would have resulted in a loss of yardage in game conditions.
... Outside linebacker Malik Reed made his presence known, helping prevent a completion with tight short-area coverage and causing a Brett Rypien incompletion with pressure off the edge.
... Tight end Moral Stephens saw plenty of work, and caught two passes from Kevin Hogan during a team period early in practice. On one of them, he reached back and slid to grab the pass, which was behind him as Hogan released the football under pressure from inside linebacker Josh Watson.
... Rypien completed deep passes to the right side in consecutive seven-on-seven reps. On the first, he located rookie wide receiver Trinity Benson, who burst past two defenders; Rypien dropped the pass in his grasp for a completion of at least 40 yards. The second completion saw Rypien find rookie Juwann Winfree for a 30-yard gain down the right seam.
... In addition to Johnson's interception, cornerback Bryce Callahan got on the pick board, stepping in front of a Hogan attempt to Steven Dunbar Jr. near the left sideline during a seven-on-seven period.
... Flacco completed a pair of deep passes to Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders during a team period.