ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --No practice to date this year was more physical than Thursday's session, and that wasn't solely because of the goal-line period that ended the two-hour session.
Earlier in the session, a scrum followed one of Montee Ball's carries up the middle. A few shoves flew, Danny Trevathan's helmet flew off, and most of the offensive line and defensive front seven were quickly engulfed in the the tussle -- or the aftermath to break it up.
Trevathan and tight end Julius Thomas were at the center of matters, but quickly patched things up.
"It's definitely forgotten. We shake hands about it; we'll probably laugh about it later. It's just that guys are trying to show their teammates, 'I'll be there for you in the thick of things,'" said Thomas. "We're competing against each other, sometimes we have to go at it a little bit."
"No, nothing said. It's all brotherly love," said linebacker Danny Trevathan.
And if there's another post-play scuffle, so be it -- as long as it doesn't morph into something worse.
"When something happens that we're really not used to at camp, I'll let you know," head coach John Fox said. "It's kind of par for the course."
1. Seeing Thomas get physical and involved in the run game and in goal-line work later in practice is crucial for his development. His receiving skills have been noted in this space and others during the previous six training-camp practices, but if Thomas wants to see more than just occasional work in the regular season, he'll have to block -- and block well.
"I'm actually pretty happy with how it's coming along," Thomas said. "When I was coming out of college, there was a thing about repetitions. Trying to learn how to block these guys that have been defeating blocks for eight years, it takes a little while. I've just been really focusing on trying to work on my technique and it's starting to pay off for me."
Blocking wasn't natural for Thomas when he first arrived in Denver, and it's still the part of his game that needs the most polish. And while it's unreasonable to expect him to turn into an elite blocker when he's had so little experience at full-contact, full-speed work, he has the size and overall athleticism to get a good drive off the line of scrimmage, and he has been a part of some solid runs upfield by Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno.
But Thomas remains anything but a finished product.
"I don't know if it's harder, but I know that it was more foreign to me for a long time," he said. "Even in basketball, you're still running around catching things. That probably comes along a little bit faster. Blocking is just a whole different set of movements and just trying to teach your body how to do things and the rhythm of it takes a little while."
2. Derek Wolfe isn't the only end/tackle hybrid up front, and the camp performance of Malik Jackson is one of the more promising developments of the summer. Jackson has a good variety of moves, and easily won his one-on-one duel with a swim move to the inside that would have collapsed the pocket quickly.
This was a good day for pass rushers, particularly from the edges. Jackson got to Brock Osweiler for what would have been a sack in full-contact play, and Von Miller sprinted around Orlando Franklin for what would have been another sack. Robert Ayers had his best pass-rushing day of camp so far, powering through left tackle Chris Clark to disrupt the pocket.
Ayers showed the same skill in one-on-one work, bull-rushing Clark back near where the quarterback would be set up. The Broncos have no shortage of speed on the flanks, especially when Miller and Shaun Phillips work on the edges, and Ayers' power rush from the outside offers a good change of pace, and could overmatch some tight ends if he's drawn against them in the regular season.
But as well as the defensive line did in pass rushing, the offensive line mostly had the better of it on the ground, often getting a two-yard push off the snap.
3. The second-team offense scored in a brief goal-line period when Knowshon Moreno swept left for a touchdown, but the first-team offense struggled. The interior of the offensive line was unable to get the same kind of push that it did during team periods at other areas of the field, and failed to score.
"I think, as an offense, we have to do better in goal line," said Thomas. "It's just something we'll look at and we'll adjust."
Ball acknowledged Wednesday that he's working on thinking less and being more decisive, but that wouldn't have helped him much at the goal line; he was overrun on his attempt.
4. The development of second-year quarterback Brock Osweiler continues unabated, as he continues to receive roughly the same number of repetitions in team and seven-on-seven periods as Peyton Manning, albeit with the second unit.
His delivery is smoother and usually over the top, the product of thousands of passes thrown in the last 15 months since the Broncos drafted him. But occasionally he'll reach deep into his old satchel and drop his elbow a bit. Sometimes this helps him avoid throwing into the path of a charging defender, but it also attests to the work-in-progress label that often precedes his name. No one understands this better than Osweiler, who discussed his progress during minicamp.
"I'm nowhere near perfect as far as my mechanics. I'm certainly not thinking about them as much as I was last year," he said then. "But there's always room for improvement."
But the positives outweigh the negatives by a substantial margin. His pump-fake is top notch, and gets the defensive backs to bite. When he throws to the sideline and to the back corner of the end zone on fade routes, he's consistently delivering the football to the outside shoulder. His deep pass to Greg Orton during Thursday's practice was a thing of beauty, hitting Orton in perfect stride near the goal line.
5. When Manning tumbled to the grass as he threw a pass during a team period, you could almost hear 3,000 hearts stop beating. Manning arose and went back to work, none the worse for the wear, but after recent injuries to Dan Koppen and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie rocked the club in recent days, you can't blame onlookers for being at least a tad edgy.