ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **The chilly wind that greeted the Broncos for their previous two practices was gone Friday, leaving behind warmth and a chance to hone their conditioning during a lengthy practice.
1. TWEAKING THE PRACTICE SCHEDULE
The Broncos' recent spate of slow starts led Kubiak to alter the practice routine this week.
Photos from Friday practice before the Broncos take on the Texans on Monday Night Football. (photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)
"We have changed some things up," Kubiak said. "But I change things about every two or three weeks, anyways. It's just the way we do things."
The most visible change was to practice in shells during Thursday's practice. Typically, the practice four days before game day is in shorts and helmets. If the Broncos practice in shells during a week, it usually happens three days before game day.
But Friday's work was also longer than usual for the same point in the week, as the Broncos stayed on the field two hours.
"We needed a good, long practice today, so it's nice," Kubiak said. "We had heat, we were out here a long time, had a lot of football to cover and [had to] get better at our attention to detail and get really focused on that.
"We have a lot of things that we have to get better."
- AND THAT STARTS WITH FIRST-DOWN IMPROVEMENT ...**
... But unfortunately for the Broncos, the offense has also been stopped on first down way too often in recent weeks.
In the first two weeks of the season, the Broncos ranked 11th in the league, averaging 6.19 yards per first-down play. They were ninth on the ground (4.64 yards) and 11th through the air (8.15 yards).
In the weeks since then, the Broncos have averaged just 3.99 yards per first-down play, placing them last in the league, with averages of 2.48 yards per first-down carry and 4.96 yards per first-down rush, which in turn sets up third-and-long situations that have exacerbated the recent offensive woes.
Why has the offense struggled?
"I wish I knew and could tell you the exact reason," Kubiak said.
"That's a big down in this league, if not, you're probably not making third downs, and those kind of went hand in hand," he continued. "We've got to find a way to get more plays, and if you're not making first downs and staying on the field, then you're going to get out of whack. We've got to be better with our timing and what we're getting."
- DEFENSE GIVING UP SAME NUMBER OF POINTS PER GAME, BUT ...**
With questions lingering about the recent spate of slow starts, Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips took the time to point out that his unit still leads the league in passing defense, and that its scoring defense was on a similar pace to last year.
"Last year, we gave up 18.5 [points] per game, and this year we're giving up 18 per game," Phillips said.
The Broncos are doing better relative to their opponents' scoring averages this year. Last year, Denver held opponents an average of 4.3 points below their season-long average; this year, they're limiting foes to 8.4 points below their averages.
But not all points are necessarily equal in terms of determining the direction and outcome of the game, and the early 10-0 deficits have been problematic.
"It's not good when you get behind early like that," Phillips said. "It's something we're obviously trying not to do. We're giving up the same amount of points, but we'd rather not give them up the first series of the game, where it hurts your team as far as mentally getting behind.
"We're addressing it. It still ends out the same number of points, but like I said, it's not the way you want to do it."
- FOR MILLER, A "SAUCY" REUNION WITH OSWEILER**
As is the case with the entire locker room, outside linebacker Von Miller holds no enmity toward former teammate Brock Osweiler as they careen toward Monday night's game.
"It's always exciting whenever you play somebody that you've played along with. It'll be the same with Malik [Jackson] and it'll be the same with Danny [Trevathan]. It's just a little bit of added sauce.
"That's just how it is. You're playing one of your brothers, you're playing one of the guys that you bled with. It's just a little bit of added sauce. You want to beat those guys when you play them again."
Miller needs at least a half-sack of Osweiler to extend his streak of games with at least a half-sack to nine, dating back to last year's postseason.
- BACK TO THE OLD ROLE FOR JOE DeCAMILLIS**
A week after his last public duty as interim head coach -- the day-after-game press conference following the loss at San Diego -- DeCamillis stepped onto the box for his weekly question-and-answer session as special teams coordinator, and was pleased to return to his usual spot.
"I'm glad to be anonymous again, I can tell you that," DeCamillis said. "It was an interesting deal last week, that's for sure.
"I'm focused on getting ready for this week and I'm glad [Kubiak] is back. I'm more glad than anybody, to be honest with you."