ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The learning curve of a new scheme has kept the Broncos' offense busy this offseason, but the unit is starting to see the fruits of its labor.
The Broncos' highlights have included an impressive touchdown drive by the starting offense against the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason opener and strong showings in the two-minute drill at training camp. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been impressed by the progress that the offense has made so far and said the unit has made strides in establishing its identity.
"The best part is that we're really catching on to everything that we want to do," Wilson said after Wednesday's training camp practice. "… We're having consistency just of coming out onto the field, using the walkthroughs, using the practices … to really get our minds going before practice."
"… At the end of the day, it's all about making plays. We're doing a great job of that but also, we're feeling really confident in terms of what we're doing, the identity of who we want to be. Obviously, being a physical, running football team, being a team that can also throw the ball around the field. We've got a lot of playmakers."
According to Wilson, one of the factors that has helped the offense familiarize itself with the new offensive scheme has been the amount of reps they have put in together.
"We've gotten a lot of reps this offseason together here at practice and also off the field as well," Wilson said. "I think all the film study that we're doing together is really helping as well. I've gotten a lot of time with the guys. They can really make a lot of great plays, so it's really fun."
Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi has also been encouraged by the offense's progress, but still sees more room for growth ahead as the regular season nears.
"You can gain some confidence that you are [moving] in the right direction, but I think you always know that you are only as good as your next game," Lombardi said. "You never get complacent. You always have to be working and pushing."
Tight end Adam Trautman played for Payton in New Orleans from 2020-21 and has emerged as a receiving option in Denver. He said Wilson's athleticism has expanded the scheme's possibilities and attested to Wilson's growth as he's become more comfortable with the system.
"A huge part of it is his athleticism and all the different things we can do from a movement standpoint with him," Trautman said. "He's been excellent and he's only gotten better every single day, more comfortable with the offense and whatever the case may be, more control. And I think everyone's starting to see it out here too. We've been seeing it since the start of training camp, but it's gotten better every single day."
While Wilson's athleticism has been an asset for the Broncos' offense, Lombardi also discussed the need for Wilson to strike "a fine balance" between scrambling to avoid pressure and stepping up in the pocket. Lombardi said Wilson has made big-time plays both ways throughout his career and wants to maximize the improvisational ability he brings to the offense.
Wilson has also made finding that balance a point of emphasis and said his coaches' knowledge has helped him be successful in converting those big plays, both on- and off-schedule.
"The biggest thing is trying to get the ball to our playmakers' hands, in whatever way that is," Wilson said. "We've got a lot of ways to do that. [Head] Coach [Sean] Payton really knows how to do that and dial it up. I think that it's all coming together and we're working our butts off."
ROOKIE ILB DREW SANDERS EARNS HIGH PRAISE FROM DC VANCE JOSEPH
The Broncos' top defensive pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, inside linebacker Drew Sanders, is demonstrating why he could be a player to watch on Denver's defense during his rookie season. Sanders is joining an inside linebacking group that includes veterans Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton, but he has been a training camp standout.
Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph spoke highly of the Arkansas product and said Sanders' usage will evolve throughout his rookie season.
"He's a talent, obviously," Joseph said. "He's [6-foot-4], can really run, is really smart. We've got some things we're going to have him do in the fall that we won't show right now, but he's all in."
Sanders had a solid showing in his first preseason action against the Cardinals last Friday, picking up two total tackles and flashing his potential in pass coverage and the pass rush.
He's made an impression in the team periods of training camp as well. Joseph said his priority for Sanders is understanding his position's fundamentals, but he also underscored the uncommon athleticism and playmaking ability Sanders shows on a daily basis.
"Right now, we're focused on playing good linebacker, being a good dime for us on third down, but he's a guy that's improving every single day," Joseph said. "He makes a play a day that no one else can make. The talent is obvious, just time on task is needed."