ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --During OTAs, you're looking for players to step up and show their skills. But above all, you're looking to lay a foundation for growth to come.
That was a point Head Coach Vance Joseph wanted to make clear after the Broncos began their second of four on-field weeks of 11-on-11 practice. For the offense -- and quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch in particular -- this is about exposing them to every possible concept of Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy's scheme so they can be prepared for training camp.
The day-to-day results are less important than the overall process of learning.
"You want to put it all in now and kind of stretch their brains, so when you add different concepts, it won't be their first time hearing it," Joseph said. "That's the way I've grown up in coaching. Make them learn it in the spring.
"Even though it looks bad sometimes [because] it's a lot to learn, it makes the fall a lot easier. You can survive the fall with your spring install if it's done correctly."
Everything the Broncos do now on offense will be repeated during training camp.
"Repetition is the father of learning," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.
"It's a lot of moving around. But with a complicated offense, once you're able to master it, that's when we take off and that's when we start having those 30-, 40-point games. That's what we're trying to get to. We're just trying to rep it over and over and over and over."
A few more notes from Tuesday's work:
JOSEPH WANTS QBs TO TEST THEMSELVES
That means he wants to see them try to fit the football into some narrow windows. Sometimes, it results in perfect connections, like when Siemian hit Marlon Brown for a 15-yard gain despite tight coverage from Brendan Langley. At others, that results in interceptions or plays that are nearly picked off, like when T.J. Ward got his hands on an end-zone pass at the end of practice.
"They're always being encouraged to take chances in practice," Joseph said. "That's what practice is for -- to kind of find your boundaries as far as your windows being tight or open. So that's part of it."
Another part of practice is making game-like decisions -- including knowing when to scramble. That doesn't always work out; on one play Lynch lost the football as he moved into the open field. But Lynch has ripped off several long gains during the four days of OTAs with his feet, and Siemian had a solid scramble during Monday's work.
"I want those guys to play the entire play. That's part of playing quarterback," Joseph said. "If everyone's covered and it breaks down, take off and scramble -- get us 5, get us 7 yards."
Both quarterbacks also showed patience in the pocket at other times Monday. Lynch's willingness to go through his progressions allowed him to locate A.J. Derby wide open down the left sideline for a connection that would have covered at least 20 yards in a game. Siemian showed the same discipline, allowing him to complete a similar pass to tight end Steven Scheu.
Nevertheless, quarterback evaluation is difficult because of the moving parts around each passer -- and their own adjustment to the scheme.
"Right now it's a learning process with a new offense going in," Joseph said. "It's tough to evaluate the quarterbacks with everyone learning. Sometimes a receiver's mistake can fall back on the quarterback. So right now, everyone's learning. Obviously in the fall, it would ramp up as far as decision-making and who's playing the best at the position."
After Memorial Day weekend, the Broncos were back on the field for the second week of OTAs. (Photos by Gabriel Christus)
TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE**
While most of the Broncos worked in a special-teams period midway through practice, Siemian, Lynch and Sloter went to the south end of the practice field, where they took turns attempting to throw the football into a large plastic wastebasket from 15-20 yards away.
An assistant held the receptacle aloft in the back of the end zone, standing in the middle before moving near the right and left corners. The goal? To work on accuracy and touch that will allow the quarterbacks to place the ball in the back of the end zone out of defenders' reach and where only a leaping receiver like Demaryius Thomas can pluck it out of the air.
"When you're in the red zone, most of your [route] concepts are back line," Joseph said, referring to the back of the end zone. "So you want to coach the quarterbacks to put enough pace on the ball, but with enough height, so 88 [Thomas] can go up and catch the football."
The quarterbacks combined to successfully place nine of 18 attempts in the receptacle. Siemian led the way with four "completions."
"That's a pretty good drill to teach pace plus height," Joseph said.
"WE'VE GOT TO UP THE ENERGY AROUND HERE"**
So said Sanders, who said the energy for the offense was "good, but not where I want it to be."
"That's one thing I got on the guys about today, is just to come out here, man, and have a bounce to yourself."
Sanders said he tried to preach to his teammates how every day -- even in practice -- is an opportunity to be cherished and embraced.
"Do you know how many people are sitting on the couch and how many guys wish they were out here in the NFL, being interviewed by you guys [the media] and being out there?" Sanders said he told his teammates. "We're blessed to do what we do.
"So, I'm like, 'Pick up the energy.' Act like you're happy to be here. Obviously there's a lot of pressure that comes from the job, but once you're able to forget about the pressure and just enjoy the game and embrace the game, that's when you're having fun, and that's when you start winning ballgames."
The defense had that energy, but the defense is also in a different place, with a veteran core in its third year in its scheme. Joseph and Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy are throwing the entire scheme at the offensive players over the course of OTAs, which could lead to the sense that the energy level is lower than the ideal.
SAMBRAILO WORKING WITH THE FIRST TEAM AT LEFT TACKLE
Last week, Donald Stephenson got the first-team repetitions at left tackle, with Ty Sambrailo working on the second team at right tackle. For Tuesday's work, they flip-flopped.
"They're both getting a chance to play left tackle," Joseph said, adding that each would "probably" get five days of OTA work apiece on the first team. That will lead to an equal split of repetitions like Siemian and Lynch will receive at quarterback.
"Fine," Joseph said of Sambrailo. "He's looked athletic this offseason. He's getting his strength back ... he's coming along great."
First-round pick Garett Bolles, who has shown some flashes but has also endured some typical rookie moments, remains with the No. 2 unit at left tackle.
GOTSIS ACTIVE AT LINE OF SCRIMMAGE
Second-year DE Adam Gotsis made some plays last week at the line of scrimmage, and he carried that over, batting down one Siemian pass at the line of scrimmage.
"Physically, he's a new player. He's 300 pounds. He's probably 13 percent body fat, which is amazing," Joseph said. "He's explosive and athletic, so now he has to get reps and play more."
So far, he's taken advantage.
"He was a second-round pick for a reason," Joseph said. "That's what I saw on tape in college: this guy we're seeing now. He's finally healthy, and you can tell."
... RB Bernard Pierce showed quickness getting to the edge and hitting top speed once he got outside, allowing him to turn in one of the day's longest runs on a sweep to the right.
... Rookie RB De'Angelo Henderson continues to show good balance when he changes direction and goes low. Henderson is able to maintain his speed through his cuts, which helped him post some solid runs Tuesday.
... OLBs Shane Ray and Von Miller are their usual selves, dissolving the pocket from the edge. Backups like Kasim Edebali and rookie Ken Ekanem also succeeded in working off the edge to get into the backfield and pressure the quarterback.
... CB Brendan Langley's size and length helped him break up one pass midway through practice. Although he remains raw, the physical tools are clearly there.
... TE Henry Krieger-Coble made a nice sliding grab near the right pylon for a touchdown catch from Kyle Sloter early in practice.