The season opener is just a week away, and the Broncos got down to business with their first practice of the regular season to prepare for it.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** In the way that someone might go about learning the basics of a foreign language, Broncos guard Evan Mathis has taken that same method and applied it to learn the ins and outs of the offensive line scheme in a matter of two weeks as he prepares for the season opener against Baltimore.
The difficulty might be hard to fathom, but Mathis made it clear on Monday that he'll be ready for Sunday.
"I feel very comfortable," Mathis said. "Earlier in my career this would have been something that would probably be very overwhelming to me, but at this point, there's confidence and sense of urgency just to get it done."
The sense of urgency is easy to understand with Mathis' first game coming in just a few days in a position group that relies a good deal on its collective chemistry.
"I've played with them in practice, but we learn on the run," Mathis said. "It's a lot of communication, a lot of preparation and planning and talking in the meeting room and on the field between plays and practicing your fits when you're working double-teams and things like that. I don't expect it to be a problem and it's only going to get better with time."
Mathis has been able to build cohesion with the offensive line over two weeks of practice, but has yet to get a live game repetition after missing the final two preseason games to continue building his conditioning. With a rookie in Ty Sambrailo lining up to his left and a first-year center to his right in Matt Paradis, Mathis' harmony on the line is essential.
"I don't think the learning curve for cohesion is going to be a problem," Mathis continued. "If we're going to run most of the blocks that we're going to have to do in the game, we're going to have to do those in practice. And if there's an issue or potential issue, we'll be able to talk that out and it's all about—for the cohesion aspect of it—it might be we're talking about specific double-teams and stuff like that. So there might be a small adjustment—a step here, a hand there."
The learning process has not been daunting for Mathis, especially with his experience over the years moving from one offense to another in the initial stages of his career.
"It's really not that hard," he said. "There's a lot of overlap for me. So I've seen, schematically, versions of everything that we do at one point in my career, whether it be college or the many offenses I've played in the pros. It's like you're saying; it's just cramming. You sit there and you study and you learn it. But if you were to count how many plays it was, it's not an outlandish number. Like if we're going to sit here and learn our times tables or learn 40 or 50 words in a different language if you just study a few hours a day for a few days, you're going to have most of it down."
Head Coach Gary Kubiak is comfortable with Mathis' progress, too, and has taken note of his devotion to taking advantage of any available time to learn what he can.
"A lot of guys got a break around here, but he's been hanging out with the coaches quite a bit," Kubiak said. "He's the one that's done the great job of pushing the envelope, getting himself to where he's ready to go. Will he be able to play the whole game this week? I don't know, but I know he sure thinks he can.
"Evan's played more football than anybody on that offensive line. I feel very comfortable with that," Kubiak concluded. "He had good work today. If there was anybody up front that's the most experienced, it's him, even though he hasn't been working with us. I feel really good about where he's at."