ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Friday felt like a day near the Washington or Oregon coast, not like a typical August morning in Colorado. The weather helped attract a UCHealth Training Center-record crowd of 5,587, which didn't see a full-pad practice or a handful of Broncos stars, but did see an intense day.
- A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE QUARTERBACKS.**
Trevor Siemian had perhaps his best day. He kick-started the offense with a 48-yard pass to Bennie Fowler up the left sideline, leading Fowler and beating double coverage while throwing from the shadow of the goal posts. Siemian's strong work continued throughout the day, and near the end of practice, he threaded the needle to Jordan Norwood for a 25-yard gain, stepping up from pressure for a pass that set up a field goal.
"Trevor has improved a lot," said Fowler. "He's comfortable in the offense. He's making all of his reads. Trevor and me have clicked since day one last year so it's picking up from last year."
Mark Sanchez operated under pressure, but still got off some good passes. He did well at reading his receivers, including one pass midway through practice in which he located Jordan Taylor to his right and fired a pass just beyond coverage from Lorenzo Doss. Nearly all of Paxton Lynch's work came with and against the No. 3 units. Lynch also made some plays under pressure, an area in which he's improved in recent days. One of his best passes saw him find DeVier Posey for a 15-yard gain despite the rush of Shaquil Barrett, who was working with the No. 1 defense and had burst inside of Kyle Roberts.
Lynch's improved decision-making and ability to quickly find second and third options underneath and down the field also continued.
- O-LINE SHUFFLE CONTINUES.**
Matt Paradis' day off, Ty Sambrailo's elbow injury, Russell Okung's continued progression back from a shoulder injury and the ankle injury that limited Max Garcia left the line in a state of flux once again, with James Ferentz seeing work at center and linemen such as Michael Schofield, Darrion Weems, Dillon Day and Kyle Roberts all rotating onto the top line.
Kubiak would like for his top line to gain cohesion, but the injuries and absences also give him a chance to evaluate his depth to determine which linemen will have the sixth and seventh active roster spots on game days -- and the eighth and perhaps ninth spots on the 53-man roster.
"You're watching Weems play, you're watching Ferentz and you're watching some guys really become some good players," Kubiak said. "I try to stay focused on the long haul. I'd like to have all five out there on a perfect day, but we'll get there."
Ferentz saw first-team work at guard Thursday, but was back at center because of Paradis' respite. If he is to get a jersey on game days, he will need to handle both roles.
Weems, meanwhile, has made a quick and successful transition from tackle, which he played as a backup in Dallas, to guard -- a similar shift to the one Sambrailo made.
"It's a lot easier to move from outside in than inside out," Kubiak said. "We're trying to take a look at him. He's a bigger kid than what we've been playing with. He's got good size (6-foot-5, 310 pounds).
"We're going to see if he can compete in there with [Connor] McGovern and those guys. I think he's done that."
Unlike last year, the Broncos haven't lost a starting offensive lineman for the season. But for them to improve off of last year's performance, they need some stability before training camp ends.
3. AT NO. 3 RECEIVER, STILL WIDE-OPEN.
It is difficult to gauge the leader in the race to be the No. 3 wide receiver; at various points, Fowler, Jordan Norwood, Cody Latimer and Jordan Taylor have all looked worthy of the role, with DeVier Posey and a cadre of undrafted rookies all making plays of their own.
But Fowler's deep reception was one of the most spectacular plays of camp, and he followed that with other solid catches throughout the day. Taylor was an effective target in short and medium range, complementing his known ability on the go route, and Norwood and Latimer were also involved.
"I think they are all doing good things," Kubiak said. "They are all making plays."
But if Fowler can continue making plays deep, he becomes particularly valuable. He is a known commodity down the seam and across the middle; he's one of the Broncos' best at making catches in traffic. If he can go deep, he becomes an unpredictable weapon.
"Bennie sees himself at another level that he is willing to work towards. I'm very proud of him right now," Kubiak said.
- GOTSIS MAKING PROGRESS.**
Adam Gotsis' path to becoming a solid NFL contributor isn't going to be linear. He will have struggles. He needs the polish that Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar will provide.
"He's got a ways to go," Kubiak said. "Bill is coaching him hard and trying to get him ready to go."
But there are improvements. His endurance on his knee is increasing, and Friday saw his heaviest workload, which included extensive first-team work. He's also getting quicker at moving his hands up and using his lower-body strength to get a push on the offensive lineman, and he's improved at getting his hands up.
"I think he's doing some good things," Kubiak said, but then added, "Typical rookie," two words that illuminate the stops and starts that go with a player like Gotsis.
The Broncos got after it on a cool Friday morning with some of the veterans getting the day off. (Photos by Eric Bakke unless otherwise noted.)
- THE FULLBACK BATTLE.**
Rookie Andy Janovich keeps plowing through the line and emerging as an effective checkdown target on underneath routes, with the ability to turn upfield if he has separation and turn a moderate gain into a long one. Juwan Thompson has kept his ability to shift gears and burst through a hole despite splitting his repetitions between tailback and fullback. And both could have extensive special-teams roles.
"I know how I'd like to use them," Kubiak said. "We'll see how good we are."
One -- or both -- could be the Broncos' first true fullback since Chris Gronkowski in 2012.
"They both have good hands. It's nice to have a fullback," Kubiak said. "They are both very smart. We ask our fullback to do a lot of things."
But Thompson is a special case, since he still takes tailback repetitions. His proficiency in both roles evokes memories of Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughns, both 2000s-era tailbacks who also started at fullback.
Thompson is "doing a really good job," Kubiak noted.
"I think with Juwan it's been exciting to see him take on what we've asked him to do," the head coach said.