ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos near their season opener, fans are undeniably eager to see their team in regular-season action.
So, too, is Head Coach Sean Payton.
"It's not uncommon when the season starts [that] you're anxious to see what you have," Payton said Wednesday. "You haven't played a full game with your starters. You've been in the preseason. There's a handful of guys that are new here — coaches and players."
Payton will get his first full look at his team in Week 1, but the journey toward improvement will continue over the course of the season — particularly in the first several weeks.
"I would always say, the first quarter pole of the season, you're in a sprint to improve and make corrections," Payton said.
That race to get better also involves anticipating mistakes and preparing for what could lie ahead.
"We're trying throughout this week to hit on everything that can come up with the younger players, [like] ball security," Payton said. "It's different than colleges they played at, how the ball is attacked. Defensively here, [it] is much more aggressive. And so [you're] trying to head off some of these things that over time you've seen from experience so that it's not a traumatic event that's forcing us to. Now, it's a game with mistakes, it's not without mistakes. But it's important for us to have a clean plan where guys are playing fast. Those are the things that I draw on as you get ready to start a season with a new team."
And while Payton may not know exactly what to expect from his team in Week 1, he's hopeful for a strong performance.
"Obviously, you want to play well," Payton said. "It's a home game. It's a division game. It's our first game."
Quarterback Russell Wilson echoed his coach's sentiment about the importance of earning a Week 1 win.
"You always want to start fast," Wilson said. "Obviously playing in front of our fans here — Broncos Country — what an opportunity we have to obviously set the tone [and] go up against the Raiders. [There's] a lot of history here between these two teams. We've got to create a new history by playing one game and just winning that game and trying to do everything we can with that.
"I think the best thing that we can do is be ready to battle and be ready to fight. It's going to be a long game — it's going to be back and forth. There's going to be a lot of energy and emotion and everything else. The team that can weather the storm and weather the battles is going to be the team that's going to come out on top, and hopefully that's us."
WILSON READY FOR SEASON OPENER
Wilson is set for his second campaign in Denver, and he knows he's faced skepticism surrounding his ability to rebound from a disappointing 2022 season.
That's nothing new for the veteran player.
"I think you've got them in your back pocket sometimes," said Wilson when asked if he keeps receipts of those who doubt him. "Listen, I'm used to some of those who believe and some of those who doubt. When you're playing high stakes and … you dream to be the best you can possibly be every day, there's always going to be people that question whether you can do it or not. I think I've proven that throughout my career — what I can do. Got to do it again. That's just the name of the game. Every time I step into the white lines, there's always something to show. There's something to prove."
As Wilson looks to play well on Sunday, the Broncos will aim to put their signal-caller in position to succeed. Payton said the Broncos have talked "ad nauseam" about doing "the things he does well, putting him in those positions and putting our offense in those positions."
'A BIG ROLE'
Running back Javonte Williams is poised to make his regular-season return — against the same team he suffered his injury against last season — and Payton said the third-year player is "going to play a big role" for Denver.
"I haven't put together a [snap] number for him," Payton said. "We feel like him and [RB Samaje] Perine give us — I don't want to say similar backs — and then obviously, we have a little different dimension with [RB] Jaleel [McLaughlin]. We feel like he's moving well. He is strong and healthy. Preseason was important for him, but more important is the hours he put into the rehab."