ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --One frustrating period near the west goal line of the north practice field encapsulated a frustrating day for the Broncos' offense -- and the two quarterbacks competing to be the starting quarterback.
With a UCHealth Training Center record crowd looking on, the No. 1 and No. 2 offense tried repeatedly to pass the ball into the end zone. Each time, the offense failed, only managing to score on runs.
Paxton Lynch led the first-team offense into the teeth of the No. 1 defense and the "No-Fly Zone." His first pass was nearly intercepted by Chris Harris Jr.; his second pass, into the left flat, was jumped by Bradley Roby and taken back for a touchdown.
It was Trevor Siemian's turn next, and while he avoided the backbreaking interception, he fared no better, missing open targets. All of his attempts fell incomplete.
The rest of the day wasn't much better. Cornerback Lorenzo Doss intercepted Lynch on a pass that bounced off Marlon Brown's shoulder pads, and then he capped the day by picking off Siemian on the final snap of the morning.
"They're 'No-Fly' for a reason," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said.
... As good as the defense is, Head Coach Vance Joseph wasn't inclined to grade on a curve.
"Did I like what I saw? Not really," he said.
The media in attendance laughed, perhaps unprepared for such bracing candor from the new head coach. But Joseph was serious.
"Both guys had issues today. I didn't like what I saw today. Honest. We struggled today."
It wasn't just about the two quarterbacks competing for the starting job. The No. 3 defense had three potential interceptions of Kyle Sloter passes in its hands, but couldn't hang on to them.
"We turned the ball over too many times," Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. "We had a red-zone period early that we didn't have clean enough execution in the passing game, so we'll go in, evaluate the film and learn from it."
Yes, Denver's first-team pass defense is likely to be tougher than anything that Siemian or Lynch will see in the regular season. But it's not like the offense doesn't have quality at its disposal, starting with Pro Bowl receivers like Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
"It's NFL football. Make your reads. We have good receivers; they can win against anybody," Joseph said. "It's not about the overall secondary; it's about the matchup. 88 [Thomas] and 10 [Sanders] can win. So find them and throw the ball to them."
Eventually, Lynch and Siemian did, but they -- and the entire offense -- left Sunday hoping that Monday will allow them to do what the defense did Sunday: make a quick recovery from a sub-par performance.
"I think they got the best of us yesterday," said safety T.J. Ward. "We had to get them back today."
... Practice closed with a two-minute, move-the-ball no-huddle period. The No. 1 defense rallied for a stop thanks to a third-down sack and a fourth-down incompletion forced by Ward, who broke up a Lynch pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders, knocking the receiver to the ground in the process.
The collision scraped against the limit of what was permissible in practice, but without it, Sanders easily completes the catch; it was on target and would have kept the drive alive on fourth-and-13.
Was it over-aggressive?
"No," Ward said. "It was fourth-and-12 for the game. I had to make that play."
Doss' second interception of the day sealed the deal for the second-team defense against the No. 2 offense; his pick sealed the deal on the second play of the series.
... With Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett out until the regular season, the Broncos are looking for options and depth at outside linebacker. One of those could include rookie defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who worked with the outside linebackers during Sunday's practice.
Although Walker was one of the most prolific pass rushers in college football during his time at Florida State, going from a hand-in-the-dirt alignment as an interior rusher to a stand-up edge-rusher role is a massive adjustment. However, he seems to be handling it well so far, leaning on experience in the role in high school and college.
"He looks a lot more comfortable than you think," Woods said. "Again, it's just something that we're playing around with, because he does have that versatility. It's nothing that's set in stone. We're just looking at it in practice and taking it from there and seeing where it goes."
... Going to full pads usually benefits the front seven of the defense, and that was apparent during the first team period, when pressure from the interior led to a pair of sacks. The first sack was credited to Von Miller, who worked around Menelik Watson, but it was actually caused by Derek Wolfe, who pushed Ron Leary back into Lynch, collapsing the pocket. The second sack was also set up by an interior rush, as Billy Winn bull-rushed his way into the backfield, preventing Siemian from having any time to throw.
... The strong work of the interior line also set up inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis to capitalize and make several strong plays against the run.
"The inside linebackers were excellent today," Joseph said. "Those two guys have been very consistent from the spring until now. I'm looking for big years from both of those guys."
... WR Carlos Henderson needs some confidence-building plays, and he might have got one on a long catch-and-run from Lynch. Henderson ran a short crossing route, and Lynch placed the ball perfectly: out front, allowing Henderson to catch it without breaking stride. He turned upfield and galloped for what would have likely been a gain of at least 30 yards in game conditions.
Dressed in their Sunday best -- well, practice uniforms -- the Broncos put in work on Day 4 of training camp. (photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)
... RB De'Angelo Henderson did not practice because of what Joseph termed a "small" ankle sprain. He is expected to practice Monday. "He could have gone today, but, again, guys, it's being smart with these guys early on," Joseph said.
... OT Donald Stephenson also sat out practice because of an injury, but is expected to return Monday, Joseph said.
... RB Bernard Pierce missed a second consecutive practice because of a hamstring injury.
... Leary left practice because of a groin issue that first set in during Saturday's session, Joseph said. "We didn't want it to get worse, but he's fine," Joseph said. "We'll see if he goes [Monday], but he's fine. It's not serious." Leary remained on the sideline with the team through the end of practice.
... Turner filled in for Leary at right guard late in practice. "He is a tough, smart guy. He's a good athlete, but he's got to stay healthy and stay on the field," said Joseph, who was on the coaching staff in Miami last year when Turner was with the Dolphins. "If he does, he will compete for playing time."
... RB Jamaal Charles was given a rest day and is expected to return to practice Monday. Charles practiced each of the first three days, although he has not received any team-period repetitions and is expected to be brought along slowly because of injuries in recent years.
... Offensive lineman Connor McGovern continues to fill in for Matt Paradis at center, and he earned praise from Joseph for his performance on the first team. "McGovern's played really well at the center position," Joseph said.
... Paradis and DE Adam Gotsis continue to be limited to work in individual periods. They are expected to see team-period repetitions sometime this week.
WEATHER REPORT:The Broncos practiced under partly sunny skies, with temperatures rising from 70°F to 76°F.
ATTENDANCE:6,161. Average: 4,843 (1,075 higher than at the same time last year).