DeCamillis proud of McManus' honor, looks for better punt-return production**
With 35 points in three games, including a game-winning field goal in overtime against Cleveland, kicker Brandon McManus received the AFC's honor for the top special-teams performer of October.
After adjusting his kicking technique in the offseason, McManus has reinvented himself as one of the most consistent place-kickers in the league. He has totaled 61 points with 13 PATs and 16 field goals. His big foot has also helped the Broncos become one of the top kickoff coverage teams.
"I'm excited for him. That's a great accomplishment, from where he came from," Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis said, noting McManus' path. "So I'm really happy for the kid. It shows that hard work pays off, and he's got some confidence and good to see him going in the right direction."
Our top shots from Thursday's practice include some nice catches and work on blocking. (all photos by Ben Swanson unless otherwise noted)
In other special teams news, wide receiver and punt returner Emmanuel Sanders' recovery from a shoulder injury suffered against the Browns has added a wrinkle to preparation for Sunday's game against the Packers.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak mentioned that safeties Omar Bolden and David Bruton Jr. received some practice returning punts. The decision will be up to Kubiak and Head Athletic Trainer Steve "Greek" Antonopulos, but DeCamillis' focus is on creating better protection for the returner, regardless of who it is.
"We have to keep him clean," DeCamillis said. "That's our job. We have to make sure that we do a better job than what we have in the last couple of weeks. We'll work on that and we have worked on that already."
Rodgers' mobility a challenge for Phillips
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may not be from Texas, but he's got a heck of a lot of respect from Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips.
"He's a great quarterback, obviously," Phillips said. "He was MVP last year, I believe, in the league. He's playing that way again this year. He's a great quarterback and he's like our quarterback—he's a great person, too. I always admired him that way, on and off the field. He's a great example for the National Football League of how you play football—play really well and then be a great guy off the field."
Phillips has had great success putting opposing quarterbacks on the turf, but Rodgers presents as tough a challenge as anyone they've faced yet. He has a quick release, pinpoint precision and the feet to extend plays when needed.
Rodgers' feet may play a big part in how successful he is. The Broncos defense leads the league in sacks per pass play, and they will assuredly try to bring that same pressure on Rodgers. If Rodgers can elude blitzing Broncos or simply escape a normal pass rush, he can put pressure on Denver's cornerbacks to stick to receivers longer than usual.
"The thing that he gives you is they get more time on the routes because he moves around," Phillips said. "Once it isn't there quickly—and he hits the quick passes really well—but once it isn't there, he can scramble and make plays. He's down that throughout his career and he's really great at it.
"We've told our defensive backs that you have to cover them twice. You have to cover on the first time that he drops back 2.5 seconds and when he starts scrambling, you have to keep covering the guy. That's really the key."
Dennison pleased with drives against Cleveland, desires consistency
In each game, the Broncos seem to put together one or two drives that hint at what the offense can look at on a consistent basis, and they had another one of those to finish the game in Week 6. They had another one of those to end the game against the Browns, driving 72 yards in six minutes and 42 seconds to set up McManus for the walk-off field goal.
"Well, certainly that week we thought there was big improvement, obviously," Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison said. "We made a lot of yards. I know we were out there for an extra quarter, but we made a lot of yards that week."
With 442 net yards, the Broncos did compile their best total in Week 6, and even the 367 yards in regulation would have been their best total offensive output.
"But I think we put together a drive in each of the games at some point in time; it's just a matter of finding those drives more than once or twice," Dennison added. "We've got to get it consistent, and that's I think their attitude—or everybody's attitude on the team, on the offense, anyway—has been great. The bye has helped us. I think we're all on the same page, and I think we're moving forward."