ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Cool weather and a "red hot" Virgil Green defined the day.
1. THE (VIRGIL) GREEN PARTY.
During one period of practice, Green ran to the goal line on fourth-and-9 from the defense's 12, went low and made a quick catch of a Mark Sanchez pass with T.J. Ward in tight coverage. In a later period, he went high in the back of the end zone to snag a Sanchez pass for a touchdown.
These were two of Green's four scores. Another came on a quick slant, and the final one was on a fade route in which he outleapt Corey Nelson for a Trevor Siemian pass.
No one was more dangerous in the red zone Thursday than Green, and it offered hope that the sixth-year veteran can be the red-zone threat the Broncos need from their tight end position in order to make the offense more efficient than it was last year, when it felt the loss of red-zone target Julius Thomas.
"I was just competing, going for balls and trying to make sure I came down with them," Green said. "I dropped a ball earlier in practice and I did not want to make that mistake again. I took advantage of my opportunities, made some plays and had fun out there today."
Green's four touchdowns and Jeff Heuerman's two scores offered an indication that the Broncos' tight end position can be effective in the passing game.
But Green's health could make him even more effective as a blocker. He said the finger procedures he had in the offseason stemmed from an issue he had last year that made it difficult for him to grab an opposing player.
"This offseason I had a couple of surgeries and go those fixed. Hopefully that will be the thing that fixes it all," he said.
2. VON MILLER DAZZLES.
If you train your binoculars solely on Von Miller during a practice, you will see at least one jaw-dropping example of his unique athleticism.
Thursday's came during the one-on-one work. After blowing up a run and a pass play during the first team period of practice, Miller went up against right tackle Donald Stephenson, burst wide and then under Stephenson's right arm as he turned back to where the quarterback would stand.
Somehow, Miller did not lose any speed as he turned and went under Stephenson's arm, maintaining his stride as he burst around him.
Watching Miller at work is one of the delightful aspects of covering the Broncos, because it means you might see balance and athleticism that pushes the limits of human performance. Even young Broncos fans who do not remember the John Elway years are lucky; in just the last few years, they've been able to watch Champ Bailey, Peyton Manning and now Miller -- three players whose performance is essential to telling the story of pro football's history.
Savor Miller, just like you did Bailey and Manning.
3. SHUFFLING CREATES OPPORTUNITIES.
Connor McGovern continued to get some first-team looks during Thursday's practice, but the Broncos also utilized Michael Schofield on the first team at tackle and guard, and Darrion Weems and James Ferentz at guard. At cornerback, Lorenzo Doss moved up to the No. 2 spot with Chris Harris Jr. and Kayvon Webster injured, with B.J. Lowery seeing some time when the defense went into its nickel package.
"We're finding out who's going to be [cornerback number] four, five, six," Kubiak said. "It's good competition."
4. GOOD DECISION-MAKING FROM LYNCH.
All three quarterbacks led scoring drives in either seven-on-seven or team periods Thursday. But it was Paxton Lynch, still young in his development, who had the most to gain after a difficult Wednesday. This was a chance for the rookie to show resilience and the ability to learn from his mistakes.
Lynch has already shown that he has touch and accuracy on the deep ball. But what jumped out from watching him work Thursday was his willingness to make prudent decisions, take what is there, and not try to be the hero when the moment doesn't call for it.
On one play-action bootleg to the right he looked downfield, but then found Andy Janovich breaking open short and in front of him. Lynch quickly reacted and led Janovich perfectly for a 5-yard gain that set up a third-and-1 at the defense's 34-yard line.
Lynch also continues to anticipate his receivers' breaks. During his move-the-ball period at the end of practice, he quickly set up and fired a strike to DeVier Posey, with the ball coming out just as Posey cut and went into his slant. The defense had no chance to react to the pass.
His overall work on that drive was impressive. Although a pair of goal-to-goal passes to the back of the end zone fell incomplete, he drove the offense 68 yards while working under center the entire time -- and might have had a touchdown run in game conditions when he took off under pressure from the defense's 6-yard line.
Another key moment for Lynch came in the two-minute drill period. Lynch drove the offense into field-goal range, but the march might not have happened without his 7-yard scramble on the first play of the possesion.
Lynch read pressure from NT Kyle Peko up the middle and decisively scrambled outside. He picked up seven yards and got out of bounds to stop the clock. It was the decision of a seasoned veteran, and three plays later, he had the offense at the defense's 30-yard line, well within field-goal range.
If Lynch continues making these types of decisions -- and does so consistently -- his professional future is bright. As has been written before, a successful training camp is not determined by whether he is a starter in Week 1, but whether he has shown palpable growth. He's done that so far.
After Wednesday's practice following a day off, the Broncos worked toward getting back in their groove. (photos by Ben Swanson unless noted)
- DEFENSE CONTINUES MAKING AN IMPRESSION.**
Miller's twin bursts into the backfield in the first team period of practice and a later pressure for a sack were far from the only outstanding defensive plays of the day. Other examples included:
... NT Sylvester Williams bursting inside of Matt Paradis to blow up an inside handoff in the team period;
... NT Calvin Heurtelou roaring off the back side to get to Devontae Booker just as a hole developed at the line of scrimmage;
... ILB Corey Nelson bursting forward to read a Booker sweep perfectly; he looked like he had missile lock on the rookie running back. Nelson later cut off Booker just as he reached the second level. The third-year linebacker's awareness and pursuit are the best they've been;
... Safety Brandian Ross's end-zone interception to stop Siemian and the No. 2 offense during a seven-on-seven, move-the-ball period;
... OLB Eddie Yarbrough showing a good bull-rush from the outside during the one-on-one period;
... OLB Shaquil Barrett bursting up the middle on a stunt to pressure Siemian into a throwaway during the move-the-ball team period.