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Broncos training camp Day 2 observations

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- One thing is obvious from watching the offensive and defensive linemen battle in one-on-one drills this year: Denver's offensive linemen are more tenacious, showing improved footwork and doing a better job getting set in pass protection.

Some of that is due to experience; left tackle Garett Bolles, for example, is a year older and wiser after an up-and-down rookie season. Some of it is due to personnel changes; nine-year veteran Jared Veldheer, who arrived in a March trade, brings a dose of steadiness that gives the Broncos a chance to stop the revolving door at right tackle from recent years.

The causes are many, but the result is clear: Through two days, the Broncos' offensive line looks better.

"I think their coaching is really good this year," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "[With their] techinque, they're doing things that I haven't seen before. It's making us better. So I'm happy about it."

A year ago, the defensive line and edge rushers had their way at times. On the surface, that can be impressive to watch and elicit oohs and aahs from the crowd. But that doesn't improve the team.

"No offense, but last year, we'd get by 'em at will," Wolfe said. "Now, you're not getting a clean win in one-on-ones. You're not going to get a clean win. You're going to have to fight for it.

"They're getting so much better. They've got depth and they're playing as one. They get along. They like each other. They care about each other. So that's huge. We've gone two days in a row without a fight. That says something."

OBSERVATIONS

... The first team period of practice saw the offense work without a huddle while trying to move downfield from its own 45-yard line. Case Keenum led the No. 1 offense inside the defense's 20-yard line on six plays, including completions to Jeff Heuerman, Demaryius Thomas and Royce Freeman.

Paxton Lynch guided the offense to the defense's 37-yard line with a pair of completions to Isaiah McKenzie and three handoffs. The third-team defense got the better of its matchup against the No. 3 offense, forcing a stop after three plays, but three more snaps ended with Chad Kelly bursting down the left side on a third-down keeper.

"On the second day you don’t want guys to come out and not go fast. So my point there was to come out, go no-huddle and push the pace of practice early, just to get guys going after that first day of being a little sore," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "It worked. It was good for us and guys came out and played fast today for us.”

... One aspect of the offensive line's improvement has been solid work in run blocking, where the line has frequently created holes for the Broncos' five running backs to run through.

But creating the holes only goes so far. One other distinguishing characteristic of the ground game through two days has been the decisive cuts by the runners, leading to a slew of gallops into the open field.

... One example came on a run by rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, who took a handoff from Paxton Lynch and quickly ran around Max Garcia's screen-out of Adam Gotsis, allowing Lindsay to turn upfield for a solid gain. Lindsay had another solid pickup that was set up in part by a block from tight end Matt LaCosse.

Another saw seventh-round pick Dave Williams follow a good seal on the right side by Billy Turner, allowing him to get wide and turn upfield for a solid gain.

Freeman had a slew of solid runs as he continued to demonstrate the good vision and decisive cuts to the hole that jumped out from his work during OTAs and minicamp.

The third-round pick had multiple runs that would have been double-digit gains in game situations, including a 10-yard run to the right with after taking a handoff from Keenum during a team period. Freeman capped the day with a solid sprint to the right which could have been at least a 12-yard gain in a game situation.

Third-year veteran Devontae Booker had a solid gain from midfield during one of the team periods, bursting through a hole on the left side of the line before turning upfield for a long pickup.

Second-year back De'Angelo Henderson had some good carries, including one that saw him take a handoff from Chad Kelly and follow blocks from wide receiver Jordan Leslie and offensive tackle Jeremiah Poutasi for a potential 20-yard gain in game conditions.

... Under game conditions, the defense could have had two huge plays, but the rules of practice dictated holding up. On the first, safety Justin Simmons had a line to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, but held up, allowing Sanders to safely catch the ball. On the other, outside linebacker Shane Ray burst into the backfield for what could have been a sack of Keenum, but Ray moved away from the quarterback, allowing the play to continue safely for a completion to tight end Jeff Heuerman.

... Cornerback C.J. Smith capped the practice with the defense's only interception of the day, winning a tip drill to procure a pass intended for tight end Brian Parker. Smith also broke up a Chad Kelly-to-River Cracraft connection earlier that period with tight coverage.

... Rookie outside linebacker Jeff Holland showed good speed off the edge, teaming up with Wolfe on pressure that forced a Keenum incompletion during the final team period of practice.

... Cornerback Tramaine Brock made a good play on the ball late in the final seven-on-seven period to break up a potential Keenum-to-Thomas connection.

... Kicker Brandon McManus was 9-of-10 on field-goal attempts ranging from 26 to 50 yards during a special-teams period, finishing with a pair of connections from 50 yards.

CATCH OF THE DAY

One day after making a gorgeous over-the-shoulder catch on a deep pass from Paxton Lynch, rookie wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton topped himself by making a one-handed grab of a Keenum pass down the left sideline to open the first seven-on-seven period.

"Originally, I tried to get one hand in there, but Chris [Harris Jr.] had my right arm, so I ended up trapping it with my left hand and then securing it. One-and-a-half, I guess?" Hamilton said. "But it was great defense by Chris. He was in a great spot. Case put it in a great spot as well, really in a place that only I could get it."

PERSONNEL NOTES

... Left guard Ron Leary and right tackle Jared Veldheer continued to divide first-team repetitions with Max Garcia and Billy Turner, respectively, as they are brought back slowly from injuries that sidelined them during OTAs and minicamp.

"You want to be smart and mix them in early -- not get those guys sore to where they can’t work," Joseph said. "It’s a marathon, so we don’t want to peak versus Minnesota [in the preseason opener].

"We’ve got time for those guys to get in great shape and to build some endurance in their bodies before we give them multiple reps. But, our goal is going to be to keep five guys together and build great chemistry with our O-line this year."

DATA POINTS

... Mist and fog shrouded UCHealth Training Center early Sunday, holding attendance to 2,701. But the clouds eventually burned off, and the temperature climbed from 58°F to 68°F.

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