1. THIS IS KAYVON WEBSTER'S MOMENT.
It could have happened earlier for the four-year veteran -- even as far back as December 2013, when injuries forced him into extensive work in a Week 15 game against San Diego. But he suffered a thumb injury that night, which robbed him of an opportunity to build off of a trial by fire against Philip Rivers and his willingness to throw to Keenan Allen despite Webster's tight coverage.
In the following offseason, the Broncos signed free-agent Aqib Talib and used a first-round pick on Bradley Roby. Webster's opportunities grew sparse. But now after two more years spent mostly on special teams with intermittent use on defense, Webster has his shot at extensive work, working as the No. 3 cornerback while Talib recovers from a gunshot wound on the non-football injury list.
Adding to the gravity of the moment for Webster is the fact that his contract expires after the season. If he is to earn a more extensive role now and for the future, this is the moment he must seize. But he said he doesn't feel any extra pressure.
"This is an opportunity, really. There's not really pressure," he said. "It's still football at the end of the day. I can't pressure myself any more than it has been [on me]. We've got a goal that we're trying to reach, and every day we're trying to have an excellent practice."
Webster was targeted frequently the first two days, but responded to the challenge, and then capped it by breaking up two deep passes during Saturday's work while staying step for step with the receivers he faced.
Most impressive was his work against Emmanuel Sanders, who could not shake Webster as he ran a go route up the left sideline. Webster was in perfect position to raise his arm and break up the pass from Trevor Siemian.
"He broke the team down and practiced his tail off," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's a great example today for the football team. He really has been. He played down the stretch last year in the playoffs. He's a big player for us. He's come back really focused on what he's doing."
- DEFENSE CONTINUES TO OWN IT DEEP.**
The "No Fly Zone" has lived up to the name the last three days, particularly on long passes down the sideline and on deep posts down the middle. Completions like Lynch's 39-yard touchdown pass to Raymond have been rare, especially against the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses.
"We are just so hard to throw against because of what we do coverage-wise," Kubiak said. "That's what makes us good."
Some of the incompletions have resulted from quarterbacks just misfiring, but the defense has also made its share of plays, including Webster's aforementioned deflection to prevent a deep strike to Sanders up the left sideline.
Paxton Lynch was the first to look deep, going for Jordan Taylor on a deep post route off a play-action fake during the first team period. Lynch led Taylor too far after he'd broken out of coverage from Brandian Ross and B.J. Lowery, and the pass fell incomplete.
During the first seven-on-seven period, Siemian appeared to have Bennie Fowler open deep up the left sideline. Lowery arrived to break up the pass, but was whistled for pass interference.
In the next team period, Siemian found Cody Latimer deep on a post route, but the pass hung up just long enough for Bradley Roby and T.J. Ward to converge, resulting in an incompletion. One play later, Mark Sanchez looked for Taylor, but Webster and Justin Simmons ensured the pass fell incomplete.
Even when Sanchez found Sanders on a post, T.J. Ward stuck with the play, jarring the football loose. Sanders recovered, but Ward's hustle and the defense's ability to nearly turn a pass on which it was beat into a plus-play resembled its performance last year.
There's a good chance that the offense will not have to face a pass defense quite as smothering as the one it faces every day.
"I tell them that every day," Kubiak said. "You couldn't ask for anything better. If you want to be as good as you can be, you get to work against it every day."
The Broncos put on pads for the first time on Saturday. (Photos by Eric Bakke unless otherwise noted)
- LYNCH GETS THE FIRST MOVE-THE-BALL OPPORTUNITY. **
Some of Lynch's best moments during OTAs came when the offense was in move-the-ball situations, which is when practice goes off script with playcalls that are a reaction to the down-and-distance scenario.
Lynch went 4-of-6 with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Kalif Raymond. The pass was perfect, as Lynch let Raymond break to the outside and delivered a strike near the right pylon. It was a strong end to the day for Lynch, who missed some opportunities for downfield strikes and fumbled a snap on what was at times a frustrating day.
"He took his group down the field," Kubiak said. "That's what he's been doing. He struggles a little bit and then he does something really good. He just has to keep moving."
4. ADAM GOTSIS GETS SOME REPS.
Even though he is working his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Adam Gotsis brought a jolt of rambunctious energy to the defensive line Saturday. His ability to break quickly off the snap allowed him to burst through blockers and get into the backfield, and his motor kept him chugging, even when the play flowed away from him and two blockers provided obstruction. He didn't quit; he just kept chugging.
Gotsis' progress will be fascinating, because he already has the athleticism and the motor to make an impact. Honing his technique will allow his development to continue over time, but his energy and strength could make him an asset right away, even before the rest of his game receives the polish it will get under Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar.
But first, he has to get up to speed.
"I think he's got a way to go because of condition level and just football-wise," Kubiak said. "The progress has been good."
5. O-LINE STATUS: IT'S STILL EARLY.
The offensive line got a step closer to assuming its intended form when Russell Okung lined up at left tackle during the first team period Saturday.
But the unit itself remains at an early stage of its journey toward cohesion. Although Kubiak said he liked the way the unit was driving off the snap, there is vast room for improvement, as it continues to endure a trial by fire against one of the league's best run defenses.
"I know we have so much to do," Kubiak said.
"I think we have a chance to be really good up front. We have to settle those guys down."
Ty Sambrailo has the biggest adjustment, moving inside from left tackle to right guard. He held his own a bit better in the one-on-one drills than he did Thursday, when he struggled to contain Derek Wolfe.
"When you play tackle, people are away from you. When you play guard, people are right in your nose. I think he's adapting to that," Kubiak said. "I think he's getting better each day and he is in good health. He's holding up. I think he has a ways to go, but he is adjusting to that environment."