ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --One reason for the increased competitiveness of this year's OTAs for the Broncos lies in the size the defensive line brings to practice.
In March, the Broncos signed Domata Peko and Zach Kerr, who have a combined listed weight of 659 pounds. But the coaches also instructed their returning defensive linemen to add strength and bulk. Adam Gotsis, Derek Wolfe and Jared Crick all added muscle, with Wolfe gaining 20 pounds and Crick adding 15.
"It's not an advantage for yourself to be under 275 [pounds] -- which I was at times last year," Crick said after Wednesday's practice. "So this offseason I tried to gain 15 pounds. Hopefully I can gain another five before training camp -- obviously all good weight, to where I can move."
So far, so good. Even with added bulk, Crick and the defensive linemen have proved capable of handling the increased tempo of Head Coach Vance Joseph's practices. Their work in practice has been defined by consistently holding their ground against the run, getting a solid push in pass-rush situations and frequent passes deflected at the line of scrimmage -- including one by Crick during Wednesday's work.
"The tempo -- that's really the biggest thing. We're seeing the speed of how things are going to be run, and that's been good so far," Crick said. "Guys are really starting to grasp on and get the speed down, get the tempo that we're running practice with."
Wednesday's practice maintained the crisp pace and intensity established the previous two days. Here are some highlights:
The top shots from the Broncos' next-to-last day of OTAs. (photos by Ben Swanson)
... As OTAs progress, the situational work increases, with two periods of "move-the-ball" work during the session. During the first period, both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch led the offense into field-goal range.
On his drive with the first-team offense in the "move-the-ball" period, Siemian hit TE Virgil Green down the middle for a leaping third-and-6 connection to sustain the series, then later found WR Demaryius Thomas to move the offense into scoring range.
Lynch handled the No. 2 offense in the period. He immediately found himself in first-and-15 after a false-start penalty, but got out of it via a 19-yard pass to TE Steven Scheu. Three subsequent runs moved the offense inside the 30-yard line before the horn sounded to end the period.
... Later in practice, the Broncos worked on their two-minute drill package, giving the offense the ball at its 49-yard line with 59 seconds remaining, no timeouts and a five-point deficit. The defense emerged victorious from both series.
In the duel of the first teams, the defense used heavy pressure to prevent the offense from converting a first down. Safety Justin Simmons finished off the work with an interception of a fourth-down pass up the left sideline.
The No. 2 offense had more success, but ultimately fell short. Lynch guided the offense to the defense's 16-yard line via a 14-yard pass to TE Jeff Heuerman, an 8-yard scramble and a 13-yard strike to WR Cody Latimer. But on a last-gasp play with six seconds on the clock, Lynch's end-zone attempt was tipped by S Dymonte Thomas into the hands of CB Brendan Langley, who secured the last-second interception.
... Lynch continued to show improving patience in the pocket, converting one third down by going through his progressions before he found a late-opening Green just beyond the sticks.
... RB C.J. Anderson had some nice gains, including one that saw him break open to the right by following blocks from offensive linemen Connor McGovern and Menelik Watson.
... OLB Von Miller whipped around the edge to breach the pocket and notch what would have been a sack under game conditions. It marked the second consecutive practice in which he notched a sack. Shane Ray and Vontarrius Dora also posted sacks.
... The day closed with a seven-on-seven red-zone period, punctuated by a precise 20-yard touchdown strike from Lynch to TE Austin Traylor. Lynch saw Traylor break open down the seam to his right and fired a pass that Traylor grabbed at the goal line for the score.
... Two plays after the score to Traylor, Lynch connected with RB Devontae Booker on another touchdown pass, finding the second-year running back for a 15-yard score.