AURORA, Colo. —** For all the coverage of the offense learning a modified scheme, perhaps the best people to ask about it are the ones practicing against it.
Members of the defense saw the steps their teammates across the line of scrimmage took while building chemistry between position groups and along the offensive line. The line, in particular, is working to ensure its changes are as seamless as possible.
"They've made great strides from day one to the very last day of OTAs. It's always a learning curve," said safety David Bruton Jr. "We'd been under the same system for four years with [former Head Coach John] Fox so there's a lot of experience with that old system but now that we've got this new system, guys have to spend extra time in the book learning the terminology. ... They've grown a lot and we just plan to keep that momentum throughout training camp."
Tight end Owen Daniels said on June 15 that the playbook installation was complete. The next task was meshing offensive concepts from 2012-14 with ideas that Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison want to implement.
The consensus is that the offense is finding that balance, which allows it to disguise its intent more and they've put more on the defense's plate by varying what they do. That makes the defense's job of reading the offense more difficult. And whenever you can get practice against Peyton Manning, you're going to get invaluable experience facing one of the best quarterbacks in football history.
"We see it all on a daily basis so it's definitely been good to work with [Manning]," said safety Darian Stewart, who faced Manning for the first time in his career during OTAs. "Coach Kubiak does a good job at throwing everything at us that we could possibly see during the season so I think we're getting some pretty good work."
The changes in the offense has presented adjustments for defensive players who had gotten accustomed to what the offense did for the past four years. Now in addition to a scheme change of its own, the defense must make adjustments in how it plays the offense from how it did previously.
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"As a defensive player, it's different when the route combinations are not what you expect or not what you've seen the past four years," Bruton said. "As a DB you kind of get the chance to cheat it – not this time. You've got to more so play it honest."
Late in May at the beginning of OTAs, Kubiak was asked about the defense's performance and how it's coming along with the move to a 3-4 defense. "I think they are actually probably a little ahead," he concluded.
If the defense is a little ahead, then the offense has been matching it step for step, T.J. Ward said, though he acknowledged that estimating the progress it's made will pale in comparison to what we'll see when the season begins.
"I think they're coming along as fast as the defense is coming along. We're lining up together and making mistakes at the same time but they've looked good at points and we've looked good at points. Nothing's going to tell until Sunday."