ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If the Broncos are to improve this season, the red in "red zone" can no longer mean "stop" for their offense -- and it must mean "stop" for their defense.
Last year, the Broncos ranked last in red-zone touchdowns, finding the end zone on just 39.6 percent of their drives that advanced inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The defense was 23rd, allowing foes to reach the end zone 58.5 percent of the time.
The extensive work Monday in red-zone situations during team on seven-and-seven periods was designed to help prevent a recurrence of both. Both sides made plays in what proved to be a fairly balanced morning for the offense and defense.
The emphasis excited the players -- and fans, as well, who got to cheer for high-leverage scenarios, at least as far as practice goes.
"Absolutely, and it's green-light for us as receivers, because that's our zone," rookie wide receiver John Diarse said. "That's what we do -- put points up on the board. It is a little bit more intense, just because the field is smaller, [defensive backs] don't move as much, coverages take away certain guys.
"They leave one-on-one matchups somewhere on the field, and we just leave it up to the QB to find that, man, and we go and do our job."
... Tight end Jake Butt came up big during the Broncos' first red-zone-heavy day of training camp, catching multiple passes inside the 20-yard line, including a 10-yard touchdown grab from Paxton Lynch.
... Marquette King had another strong day, at one point booming a 69-yard blast that went out of bounds at the 6-yard line.
... The heavy rotation of the five running backs continued. During one period early in practice, a different running back carried the ball on five consecutive plays, reflecting the wide-open competition.
"It brings the competitor out in each one of us," rookie Royce Freeman said. "I think that's going to make us better. You can't get better without competing, and nobody wants anything handed to them."
... One red-zone touchdown was made possible by running back Dave Williams, even though he didn't score it. With the defense blitzing on a first-and-goal play, Williams picked up the blitz from safety Darian Stewart, giving Case Keenum just enough time to locate Demaryius Thomas in the left side of the end zone for the score.
... Persistence helped Austin Traylor catch a touchdown pass from Lynch during a red-zone period, as he was held as he ran his route in the back of the end zone, but still managed to make the grab.
... Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb made his second play on the ball in coverage so far in camp, breaking up a pass intended for tight end Brian Parker. He nearly intercepted a pass during Saturday's practice.
Improving the coverage skills of the outside linebackers has been a focal point, and so far, the results are promising.
"From the outside-linebacker position, we've mostly been just covering into zone, but now we're incorporating a lot more man coverage, covering those tight ends, covering those backs," outside linebacker Shane Ray said. "It adds a new level to our game."
... Ron Leary got the offensive line off to a good start during the first team period of practice, pulling to the right to clear a path for Devontae Booker, who burst through the hole for one of several solid runs he had during Monday's work.
... One of the best one-on-one battles of training camp so far has been between rookies Courtland Sutton and Isaac Yiadom. Early in practice, Yiadom broke up a Paxton Lynch pass to Sutton during a team period, but later Sutton was able to beat Yiadom for a score in the right side of the end zone.
"I definitely like what I've seen out of Yiadom," cornerback Bradley Roby said Sunday.
... An early team period saw stout run-defense work from inside linebacker Bo Bower and safety Trey Marshall, both of whom came forward to stop Williams and Freeman on consecutive plays.
Inside linebacker Todd Davis also came up big on one team-period play, stopping De'Angelo Henderson cold as he swept left just past the line of scrimmage.
... Roby intercepted a pass in the one-on-one period, stepping in front of a toss to Emmanuel Sanders.
... Wide receiver River Cracraft had one of the tougher catches of the day during a seven-on-seven period, going low to grab a pass from Keenum at the goal line despite having safety Justin Simmons draped over him.
... Cyrus Kouandjio stepped in at left tackle for Garett Bolles after he left because of a hit to the chin.
... With Jeff Heuerman dealing with knee soreness, Traylor saw more first-team work.
... Leary and Jared Veldheer took first-team repetitions at left guard and right tackle, respectively, although both continue to be relieved by Max Garcia and Billy Turner for some snaps as the two starters are eased back into full workloads.
... Isaiah McKenzie, DaeSean Hamilton, Phillip Lindsay and Cracraft all returned punts.
... Monday saw the largest crowd of training camp to date; the attendance was 3,442 ... The practice took place in beautiful conditions, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures 64°F to 70°F during the session.
On Day 3 of training camp, our photographers highlighted examples of Broncos players coming together.