ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Peyton Manning is expected to play in Houston on Saturday. So are two of his key targets.
Tight end Owen Daniels expects to make his Broncos debut in Houston, and Head Coach Gary Kubiak expects wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to join him, giving Manning close to a full complement of targets as the quarterback makes his first start this preseason.
"[It's] important for myself, even though I'm 10 years in, just to kind of gauge where I'm at and the continuation to get ready for week one," said Daniels.
Added Thomas: "I have got to go 100 [percent]. I've been going against some good guys out here, so I have got to go 100 [percent]."
He appeared to be 100 percent on Wednesday, which is where the Takeaways begin:
1. DEMARYIUS THOMAS LOOKS ALL THE WAY BACK.
Thomas has grabbed plenty of passes in training camp, but his leaping catch Wednesday in which he went over CB Bradley Roby for a Peyton Manning pass was probably the best. Roby had tight coverage on Thomas, but the receiver got behind him and made an athletic catch up the right sideline.
"The last three days, I would say, I see a different guy," said Kubiak, who compared Thomas to the Texans' all-time leading receiver, Andre Johnson. "I know he was working his way back into shape. Right now, he can run all day. You see the plays that he's making. He's getting confident in what we do, lining up and the things that are different for him."
The timing is back for Thomas. The conditioning is almost there, as well.
"It's about there," Thomas said. "Today was probably one of my best days wind-wise and getting more reps. It is close. The thing is the altitude. I know when I go back to sea level, I'll be alright for sure, but it's mostly heavy breathing when I'm here."
Houston's NRG Stadium is 49 feet above sea level. Thomas should be just fine.
- TEMPERS FLARE AT A FEISTY PRACTICE.**
Kubiak saw what he wanted after calling the team together for an in-practice huddle following a donnybrook between TE Dominique Jones and OLB Danny Mason.
"We settled down and we practiced well," Kubiak said.
Any potential scuffles during next week's joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers would come as no surprise, given how those sessions sometimes turn heated. That was the case when the Houston Texans visited the UCHealth Training Center for joint sessions last year.
But Kubiak's huddle didn't quite bring an end to the intense work, as Danny Trevathan's full-speed collision with C.J. Anderson stunned onlookers -- and the running back himself. Anderson emerged with a hip injury but was back on the field two plays later.
"We got better once the day was all said and done," Kubiak said.
- BRUTON SHOWING HIS LEADERSHIP.**
Coaching and teaching from coordinator Joe DeCamillis and assistant Tony Coaxum can only do but so much in guiding the special teams. Some of the guidance must come from the leaders, none more prominent than the unit's captain, David Bruton Jr.
The biggest lesson young special teamers must learn is how to embrace their role. Some players arrive in the NFL with scant experience on coverage and protection units, because in college and high school, they were the standouts who didn't play on them.
"The point that I have to drive across is that you have to put the team before yourself," Bruton said. "The team is bigger than yourself. As far as thinking, you just have to go out there and play, just like you would on offense and defense. Don't worry about making a mistake or doing the techniques right.
"If you make the play, you make the play. Even if it looks God awful, but you made the play, it's just something you have to do. Just play fast, play free. You can't be thinking out there."
Punts and kickoffs with more hang time will help their cause, but not all of the Broncos' issues Friday could be attributed to their punt returners' hands or the kicks themselves.
Top photos from the Broncos training camp practice on Wednesday at UCHealth Training Center.
- SIEMIAN'S RESILIENCE.**
It will be interesting to see how Kubiak divides the repetitions among his quarterbacks, and whether there will be enough room for Trevor Siemian or Zac Dysert to get playing time behind Manning and Brock Osweiler.
But no matter what happens with playing time Saturday, this has been a good week for Siemian. What I liked best from him Wednesday was his ability to put a mistake behind him. Just after a Tevrin Brandon interception, Siemian fired a touchdown strike to Jordan Taylor in the back of the end zone.
Although he may churn internally, Siemian gives the impression of being a cool, unruffled customer.
5. REST FOR THE DEFENSE.
Chris Harris Jr. practiced as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury, but safety T.J. Ward, CB Aqib Talib and OLBs Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware sat out, giving first-team repetitions to players such as Shaquil Barrett, Shane Ray and David Bruton. The chain reaction at cornerback also gave Curtis Marsh some extensive work, and he responded with an interception of Brock Osweiler.