ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After the Broncos jogged off the field following Monday's practice, Head Coach Vic Fangio wasn't completely pleased.
"It was just OK," he said of the team's first padded practice. "It wasn't as crisp as I thought it would be. It was just OK."
The Broncos' defense certainly didn't have that issue on Tuesday. A day after Drew Lock and the offense thrived, the Von Miller-led defense wreaked havoc during both 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work.
During the first 11-on-11 action of the practice, Mike Purcell bulldozed his way through the offensive line and would've had a sack on Lock in game conditions. It wouldn't be the last would-be sack of the day. Miller and Bradley Chubb nearly collided as they worked to avoid hitting Lock after they each flew past the team's first-string offensive tackles. On the play, Miller shed a block from Elijah Wilkinson and then parried away a chip block to get to Lock.
"I think that he had a good day today for the most part," Fangio said of Miller. "Obviously, I haven't watched the tape yet, but I thought he did good. I think Von's in good shape. He's a little heavier than he's been in the past, but not drastically. I think he's worked hard in the offseason to get his body where he wants to get and where he feels it needs to be. I think it's shown dividends already on the practice field."
On the first play of 7-on-7 action, Kareem Jackson intercepted a Lock pass after Jerry Jeudy slipped in his route. Isaac Yiadom added two solid pass breakups during the period, as well.
During a later 11-on-11 period, De'Vante Bausby intercepted a Jeff Driskel pass that was intended for Tyrie Cleveland. Miller continued to dominate in one-on-one scenarios and got to Lock on several occasions. As that period closed, third-round pick Michael Ojemudia nearly grabbed another interception for the defense.
The quality play continued when the Broncos moved to the red zone for the first time in training camp.
"You have to take advantage of every rep and every practice because soon as you know it, Monday night is coming up," Bouye said. "Yesterday was our first day in pads and it didn't go the way we wanted. It wasn't really a message, it was just Vic coming in, showing us our keys, what we need to look for, how we need to play certain things and we just implemented that. Like I said, it's going to be around the corner. No preseason games, so you can't get your technique right. Everything we're doing in practice, we're doing it full speed — both offense, defense and special teams. We have to simulate games somehow."
When teams move to the red zone, everything is magnified. The plays happen faster, the windows close sooner and the margins are smaller. During a pair of periods on Tuesday, the Broncos' first-team offense and first-team defense squared off to take advantage of that work.
"You're looking for execution," Fangio said of his red-zone expectations. "Guys understanding what they're supposed to do on both sides of the ball and being able to operate now in tight quarters. Obviously being in the red zone, it's not good on defense to be in the red zone, but it is a defensive advantage when the field is condensed. We have to be able to know how to adjust our play on defense to take advantage of that. [The] offense has to realize that things are condensed and play sharp, play quick and fit the ball in there where it needs to be fitted. Runs have to be run efficiently. Red zone's a big part of the game. Once you get down there, whether you get three or seven or give up three or seven is crucial."
Lock made his best throw of the day during the first red-zone period, as he floated a touch pass over the head of Alexander Johnson to Melvin Gordon III in the near corner of the end zone. The coverage was impeccable, but the throw and catch were even better as Gordon appeared to get both feet in bounds for the score. Lock would find Courtland Sutton for a score, as well, but the offense wasn't perfect. Lock completed a short pass to Sutton from the 5-yard line in the second red-zone period, but his ensuing pass to Phillip Lindsay was knocked away by Bryce Callahan and the Broncos were unable to score. Lock also had a pass go off the fingertips of Jeudy and another throw to Noah Fant that was deflected by Justin Simmons into the hands of A.J. Bouye. Kicker Brandon McManus, who was standing near the play, signaled that Bouye did not get both feet in bounds, but the cornerback disagreed.
"I think it was an interception," Bouye said. "We said we were going to go look at it on film. Brandon was just giving us a hard time because we gave him one on special teams. The coaches have done a great job since Day 1 emphasizing how we need turnovers no matter where we are. If it's in the red zone, that's coming up big. Being top five in turnovers is going to help our team get to where we need to be, and that's one of our goals."
Also during the red-zone work, converted safety Alijah Holder came up with an interception off Driskel.
Take an inside look at the Broncos' fourth practice of training camp with photos from team photographers Gabriel Christus and Ben Swanson.
LOCK HANDLES PRESSURE WELL
While the offense wasn't as sharp Tuesday as it was on Monday, Lock handled the pressure well during most of practice. On one particular red-zone play, Lock scrambled to his left out of the pocket and found Courtland Sutton for a touchdown. That mobility, Fangio said after practice, brings an added element to the Broncos' offense.
"I think he did good from my vantage point on the field," Fangio said. "That's one thing Drew — as you saw some of those times — now obviously we'll never know if we would have gotten him down before he takes off, but his mobility and scrambling ability are important. It's an added dimension to any offense. That's part of his game that we like. We encourage him to use it when the opportunity presents itself or when he's forced to. I know he'll make some plays off of that when he's scrambling around."
During on 7-on-7 work, the Broncos' offense looked far smoother. During one period, Lock completed passes to Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and DaeSean Hamilton.
- Phillip Lindsay lost the football during a late goal-line period, and he was visibly upset with himself after the play. After practice, Fangio said, "That's just Phillip being Phillip. … He's a very demanding guy on himself." Lindsay has not lost a fumble during his two seasons in the NFL.
- After a drop early in practice, rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam responded with three touchdown grabs in the team's red-zone work. "He shows the ability to catch it — no matter routine or not routine — but we can't afford any drops, obviously," Fangio said.
- Lindsay, Callahan, Diontae Spencer, KJ Hamler, Jeudy and Kendall Hinton went through a concentration drill where they caught a punt as someone waved a pad in front of them.
- Lloyd Cushenberry III showed a nice ability to hold up against pass-rushers during a few team-period plays. On one, he worked with the right guard to hold off the initial defender and then moved over to pick up a defender who was stunting to his opposite shoulder.
- Jake Butt made an impressive diving catch during 7-on-7 work, while Troy Fumagalli made a pair of receptions during an 11-on-11 period.
- The Broncos appeared to be cautious with Juwann Winfree, who is working his way back from a groin injury. He returned to practice but did not participate in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 work.
- One of Miller's lone lapses of the day came when Lock used the hard count to draw him offsides.