ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' defense knows it can't wait.
If Denver's defense wants to reach its goals, it must be dominant from the start. And as Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph evaluated portions of Denver's game against the 49ers and the initial joint practice against the Rams, he knew it didn't meet that standard.
"My point to the guys yesterday was we can't start games that way," Joseph said Thursday. "Last week against San Francisco — the first four or five plays — we were out of sorts. Even in Arizona, the first drive was not great. It was OK. [It's about] building a mindset of being dominant from the start and not waiting to be dominant. Most good defenses and most good offenses, their first 15 plays are their best plays. If you can nail those, it sets for a good day. We cannot be a team that eases into games and gives up field goals on the first drive. That's not who we want to be. That cannot happen."
During Wednesday's practice, Joseph said he was "shocked" by the initial plays of seven-on-seven as it looked like a jog-through pace. On Thursday, though, that changed. In the early stages of practice, the Broncos' defense swarmed the Rams' offense and found success.
"We addressed it last night, and we came out this morning," Joseph said. "[We were] better with our energy, and it showed in our play."
Ultimately, across the two practices, the Broncos' defense received plenty of chances to improve.
"I think you get more opportunities in joint practices," Joseph said. "You get more reps. Obviously in a preseason game, you play your starters 25 reps. They can get 25 reps in two periods in this setting. I like it. It's good for both teams to evaluate your players and also evaluate your scheme. [Rams head coach] Sean McVay is a guy who has a great offensive scheme like [49ers head coach] Kyle Shanahan. It's good to go against those guys and find your soft spots in your defense and discuss them with some coaches who would talk to you about what they see and how you can defend those guys better. It's good on both sides of it for the players and coaches."
PURCELL RETURNS TO PRACTICE
Defensive lineman Mike Purcell returned to practice Thursday after passing his physical and being activated from the Non-Football Injury list.
Head Coach Sean Payton said Denver will "be smart with him coming back," but the team hasn't yet met about Purcell's upcoming reps.
For Denver's defensive line, Purcell provides more depth to a group that Joseph believes is among the strongest on the team.
"That's huge for us," Joseph said of Purcell's return. "That defensive line has been our most consistent and deepest group and been the healthiest through camp. Adding Mike just adds more depth, but to find three or four young guys who were free agents last year and are playing good ball for us, that's key. That builds depth. Moving forward in the defensive linemen room, you want young and healthy guys who can play. That's a balance for you, so that is where we are in that room."