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Broncos Notebook: HC Sean Payton details expectations for preseason opener vs. Cardinals

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There can be a tendency to overlook the preseason.

The results don't count toward the standings, and a number of teams across the league have decided in recent years to not play their starters in the three exhibition games.

But don't count the Broncos among the teams who don't see value in the preseason.

As Head Coach Sean Payton explained Monday, there's plenty he wants his players to focus on when they face the Cardinals in their first preseason contest.

"Well, there's a lot," Payton said Monday. "This week I'm going to cover sideline, I'm going to cover the roles and how we're going to play guys, what we're looking for during the game. It's their first game, if you will, with this staff and me, so there's a lot to cover relative to everything from when we're traveling, dress, meeting schedule, locker room — all of that. And then … you want to see — hopefully — you want to see guys that are playing full speed and they know what to do and you're able to evaluate them vs. a different scheme. We've been seeing the same offense or defense, so now we see a different opponent. Hopefully mental errors are reduced. It's a game always with mistakes, so I keep talking to them about getting on to the next play. That's important."

Payton also explained the behavior he doesn't want to see as Denver competes in Arizona.

"I don't want to see 10 guys on the field," Payton said. "I don't want to see uniforms off after we're done playing, sunglasses on, Gilligan's hats on, interviews during the game. That's what I don't want to see. But we'll communicate all of that."

The Broncos will run a rehearsal of sorts for the game during Thursday's practice, including how the team runs out to the sideline.

"Thursday's practice, we will come onto the field out of the south corner, and we will paint the picture," Payton said. "Our bench is over there in Arizona, and it will be the first time they see what we do in pregame, stretching-wise. It will be game-like, we will go through all of that. Part of the reason today for the clock, the 40-second clock, is just the sense of urgency of in and out, up and down, on and off. The tempo we have been stressing — there is a lot we are giving the quarterbacks at times. Obviously, if you get to the line of scrimmage with 15 seconds, there is a lot you can do. If you get to the line of scrimmage with six seconds, there is not a whole lot you can do. [We're] just working through the mechanics of all of that."

Payton said he has not yet finalized a plan for the starters' reps, but he expects them to play somewhere between 15-18 snaps.

"You could be in Phase 1 on offense and Phase 2 on defense because the game started with maybe a lot of plays where your defense was on the field, if that makes any sense," Payton said. "It's not time in the game, it's really more of a pitch count for these guys."


Safety Justin Simmons did not practice Monday after he "tweaked a groin a couple days ago," according to Payton.

"We'll be smart with him and eventually get him back, but in the meantime, other guys will get a chance to get in and get some reps," Payton said. "When you lose someone with his experience, but also his IQ — his football IQ — is pretty rare."


The Broncos are required to release an initial depth chart ahead of Friday's game, but Payton noted it is subject to change.

"Just understand, we can't write it in pencil, but it's in pencil," Payton said.

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