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Broncos Notebook: HC Nathaniel Hackett wants more physicality, better execution as Denver approaches preseason finale

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' preseason loss in Buffalo may not have counted, but that doesn't mean it didn't matter.

And as Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett reviewed the game tape from a 42-15 loss, he noticed a lack of physicality that had not shown up in practice and that he's hopeful does not show up again.

That, perhaps, was Hackett's biggest message: that the lopsided loss must be used to improve in the future.

"It's an opportunity to learn from mistakes," Hackett said. "That's what you have to get out of that; otherwise, that whole game was a complete waste. I think that just for them, understanding what we're trying to accomplish mentally in each rep is so important and you want to get all that stuff out right now during the preseason. Hopefully we got a lot out during that game."

While Hackett was pleased that the offense "kept battling" and that the defense was able to get off the field, he saw issues in the team's physicality that may have stemmed from certain players overthinking their assignments.

"In the end, that's not what we want to be about when it comes to physicality, across the board," Hackett said. "I think everybody can be more physical, but it looked like they were thinking too much. There was too much on their minds and there were just simple things. … And there were just some misalignments. The starting points is always alignment and assignment for defense, for offense — it's just hearing the call and knowing where to line up and then execute. Those basic things, for whatever reason, didn't work. So we have to evaluate all those guys. Those guys have to evaluate their process to get ready for that game, because we can't put that stuff on tape. That's not what we're about."

Hackett dismissed the idea that the Broncos' physical preparation for the game wasn't difficult enough, and he said the Broncos' recent practices wouldn't have suggested the sort of performance the team's reserve players turned in on Saturday.

"We come out here and we've had some great practices," Hackett said. "I would have never guessed that that would've happened for either side of the ball or anything. It's not all the guys. It's just maybe one guy on one play, and then the next play, it's another guy. Then it's another guy. So it's not like somebody's just totally going off the reservation continually throughout the game. It's just, again, when you put a lot of people in there, you're going to have that human error. I mean, heck, in the end, they don't want to put that on tape — they know that — and we don't want that."

The Broncos' loss is by no means the only one by a contender — the Chargers' reserves, for example, were trailing by 19 points at halftime to a Dallas team that the Broncos handled a week ago — but Hackett did send a message to his team. And linebacker Josey Jewell expects some of his younger teammates to respond this week against the Vikings.

"The guys that have played, they're going to get another couple reps or whatever it is this coming week," Jewell said, "and I'm sure it'll be better and [that] they'll learn from their mistakes."


In the wake of the Broncos' performance against the Bills, it seems fair to ask how Denver's starters can avoid the same fate in Week 1 in Seattle.

Starting inside linebacker Josey Jewell, who is unlikely to play a single preseason snap, said he's confident the Broncos' veteran players have an understanding of how to practice that should help erase some of the mistakes made in Buffalo.

"Just making sure we're taking these practice reps to heart," Jewell said of the key to starting the season with a physical tone. "Since we're not doing tackling, make sure we're coming inside out on the ball and stuff like that. … If you do it smart and you do it like a vet, I think you should be fine without tackling in practice. I think you should be able to take those good angles. As long you do that, things will show on Monday night. But if you don't do that, then they'll pile up and you won't find out till Monday. So just being a vet and taking those small opportunities to get better."


While the Broncos must be ready for their "Monday Night Football" matchup with the Seahawks, it isn't yet time for the whole team to turn its attention to the game plan.

Hackett said while he's done some initial work, it's better for the team to continue to work to get better and then start to look ahead to Seattle in about a week.

"You don't want to start right now, because you don't want the game plan to get dull," Hackett said. "You still want them to continually get better and compete against the defense we're going against, which is ours. So I'm not going to lie, I might have looked at a couple things myself, maybe talked with Russell [Wilson about] a couple things here and there, but you just don't want to go four weeks or however much longer we still have to do that, because things can change. You don't want to solidify anything. We'll slowly implement that in, probably next week a little bit, and talk about some basic things and basic things that we know we want to do, but we want to try to get it to as much of a game week as possible, getting to that first week."

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