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Mile High Morning: Why team periods, preseason reps will be key for Broncos' special teams unit

The Lead

Broncos punter Riley Dixon has been a standout performer through the first weeks of training camp, and Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica didn't mince words when describing just how impressive Dixon has looked on Denver's practice field.

"I've seen a punter that has hit some balls — I've been in the league for 16 years — that has been as good as I've seen," Kotwica said after Tuesday's training camp practice. "Not only hang time and distance, but direction."

With the Broncos' preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals only a few days away, Kotwica is hoping Dixon can replicate the mastery of his craft that he's demonstrating on the side in Denver's training camp team periods and in preseason action.

"One of the things that we're continuing to work with Riley on is transferring the things that we're seeing on the side into the team period," Kotwica said. "If you guys were out here [Monday], he had a fantastic team period. That's the bar that we've set, and that's what we're looking forward to seeing as we move forward, especially on Friday night."

The importance of critical practice and preseason reps in establishing consistency is a common theme across the special teams unit. From Dixon to kickers Brett Maher and Elliott Fry to the returners and coverage team, Kotwica sees the rest of August as a prime opportunity for the members of the Broncos' special teams unit to build confidence and execute in high-pressure situations.

Maher and Fry have made the most of their training camp opportunity and have brought accuracy and NFL experience to the Broncos' special teams unit.

"The good thing is that both guys have done a tremendous job," Kotwica said of the Broncos' kickers. "Both Brett and Elliott have been really good. In the charted kicks, both are over 90 percent. We hit the two-minute ones the other day."

Kotwica also sees the remainder of training camp and the preseason as proving grounds for Maher and Fry to demonstrate their reliability in late-game situations.

"There's going to be key kicks coming up here, whether it's in a team period, or in a two-minute, or on Friday against Arizona," Kotwica said. "There will definitely be kind of like the 'Moneyball' in the 3-point contest, there are going to be some key kicks here as we go down the stretch."

Addressing the return and coverage aspects of special teams, Kotwica praised the growth of wide receiver Montrell Washington and leadership of fullback Michael Burton. In his first year as the Broncos' special-teams coordinator, Kotwica is excited about his unit's direction.

"We have a really, really good group and we've got some depth at different positions," Kotwica said. "We just want to give those guys the opportunity to show their skills so that we're at our best when Vegas comes into town [in Week 1]."

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