With snow outside and a game in a dome this weekend, the Broncos had their first practice in the brand new indoor facility Wednesday.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —**As snow continued to fall at the Broncos' Dove Valley headquarters, the team moved inside to their new spacious indoor practice facility equipped with a full-length football field. Sure, it was undoubtedly nice to get away from the elements with the temperature hovering just above zero degrees Fahrenheit, but it also benefited the team in helping them get acclimated to conditions they'll see in St. Louis at the Edward Jones Dome.
The differences playing in a dome can mean different things to different positions, and getting to experience those ahead of time helped a lot, as Emmanuel Sanders and Terrance Knighton noted.
"Playing in a dome, it's a lot different," Sanders said. "Especially the lighting for a wide receiver tracking the football and things of that sort. So it was definitely a positive that we got an opportunity to practice in it today."
Though Knighton didn't feel the need to adjust too much with the turf as a defensive lineman, he recognized it can be more of a necessary transition process for the offense, "with the receivers to get their timing right with the quarterback and just getting a good feel and our running backs getting their cuts."
Obviously the goal is to make the change in surface and atmosphere as seamless as possible so that the Broncos can pick up where they left off in their final game of a three-game road schedule.
Part of that is making sure they skip the early-game troubles they had in Oakland, and just continue their success after that initial speed bump.
"That was definitely an emphasis that we put on it, that we started really slow versus Oakland," Sanders said. "Although we did bounce back and we won, we want to start fast and that's definitely an emphasis this week."
Knighton also pinpointed early-game performance, but instead focused on the Rams' success at home in those situations.
"They do a good job of jumping out on teams at home," Knighton said. "So we'll just have to do a good job of matching their intensity at home and throwing the first punch."
He pointed out St. Louis' point differential in the first quarters of home games, which is currently 19 points better than visiting opponents, with 28 total points to nine over four games in their dome.
While the Broncos will look to stick to the example they set on Sunday in Oakland, the Rams are looking to perhaps spark their offense by changing things up at quarterback. Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher announced on Wednesday they would replace Austin Davis, who started the past eight games, with Shaun Hill.
"There isn't that much film on him but at the same time he has played. He's an NFL quarterback that you have to respect no matter what," Rahim Moore said. "The hardest thing is you never know what he can do. At the same time you still have to prepare and as they game goes on and then make adjustment s and we'll make adjustments. They're doing what's best for their organization to win the game."
Though Fisher was happy about Davis' work ethic and preparation, Hill also has the added bonus of much more experience behind him, with about a decade of playing in the NFL on his résumé.
Regardless, it didn't sound like Knighton looked at the change as something that would throw a wrench into the Broncos' preparation for Sunday.
"We'll still go out there with the same game plan because they're not going to switch their game plan midway through the season," he said. "They're going to do what they do and with a new quarterback in there, it might be a little more emphasis on running the ball, just because he hasn't been in there. He's a veteran quarterback, he's played at a high level in this league, so we'll be prepared."
Switching up who's behind center could possibly be a spark for their offense, but there's no guarantee a huge change like that would be a smooth shift. If the Broncos' rushing defense continues its dominant ways, it could force St. Louis into that uncomfortable one-dimensional territory trying to get everything through the air. However, that might be an equally unappealing option for a new starting quarterback against the Broncos' secondary, which allows the fewest yards per passing play.
Still, the Rams are a team that have been competitive with a lot of the league's top teams, and they're sure to give the Broncos their best shot on their home turf.
"They're playing these teams down to the wire, so it doesn't matter what team we're playing, whether we're playing the last team or the first-place team," Moore said. "You still have to go into practice each and every single week ready to prepare for a tough ballgame and a tough opponent, and I think that we're doing that.
"When you win on the road, it's a lot about your team. Anybody can win at home with their home crowd, everybody's familiar with the scheduling and the field. When you go to another stadium and you win it says a lot about your team."