Notes from Broncos minicamp, Day 1

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Situational football was the main dish on the Broncos' plate for their first practice of minicamp.

After being chased inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse just after the start of practice because of a thunderstorm, the Broncos opened with a red-zone period that included two sets of downs for the first-, second- and third-team offenses and some fourth-and-goal situations. Nearly two hours later, the team concluded practice outside with three two-minute drill possessions -- two for the first unit with Joe Flacco at quarterback against the No. 1 defense, and one for the second-teamers, with Kevin Hogan guiding the offense.

"We've practiced a ton of situations," Flacco said. "We've already been in the red zone, two-minute -- and not just one or two times, we've been doing a lot of it. So I think the fact that we've been able to do a lot of that stuff has made the learning curve a lot quicker for guys, and guys have adapted well to it."

The two-minute drill work provided some of the most intriguing moments of practice.

... Flacco and the first-team offense got two cracks at the defense, as a relatively quick end to the first series allowed Head Coach Vic Fangio to add another series to practice. In the first series, the defense stepped up to stop the offense on downs at the defense's 47-yard line. Flacco got the drive going with a pair of completions to Royce Freeman that moved the ball from the offense's 30-yard line to its 45. But after a 4-yard run and a 4-yard pass from Flacco to DaeSean Hamilton, the defense forced a pair of incompletions, with Shelby Harris sealing the stop by deflecting Flacco's pass at the line of scrimmage. 

"We're going to put that pressure on [Flacco], and it's just going to make him better for game day," Harris said. "If we can put that pressure on him in practice -- it's nothing like he's going to see in the game, but he's going to be used to at least having people in his face."

The second attempt for the No. 1 offense went better, as Flacco opened with three passes to TE Jeff Heuerman that moved the football 24 yards to the defense's 46-yard line.

"You've got a progression, and you've got the defense maybe determining a couple of parts of that," Flacco said. "Jeff's one of those guys that probably doesn't get a ton of chances in the pass game, but when he does, he's in the right spots. He gets there in the timing of the play, and he knows where to be and how to sit down and when to keep going. It's credit to him; he probably doesn't have a ton of chances, but when he does, he makes the most of it."

Flacco kept the drive going with a quick pass to Devontae Booker, making a quick read in reaction to pressure from DB Kareem Jackson. Then, after an incompletion forced in part by pressure from safety Will Parks, Flacco hit Booker for 10 yards to move the offense to the defense's 29-yard line. Another completion -- this one to RB Royce Freeman -- ended a series in which all of the yardage came on passes to the tight ends and running backs.

 ... QB Kevin Hogan and the offense eventually found more success, although the defense lost an opportunity for a pick-6 when a De'Vante Bausby could not quite corral an interception on the third play of the series after the offense had gained a first down on Hogan completions to Juwann Winfree and Austin Fort.

Given the reprieve, rookie RB Devontae Jackson kept the drive alive. He gained 9 yards on a second-down pass from Hogan, then moved the chains on a fourth-down carry after Su'a Cravens deflected a third-down attempt to Fort. RB Khalfani Muhammad then provided the next push forward, galloping 24 yards down the right sideline with a third-and-10 pass from Hogan two plays later. But a chance for a touchdown went astray three plays later. Hogan had WR Fred Brown open for a fade in the back right corner of the end zone, but the pass sailed too far.

Though a storm forced the Broncos indoors for a little while, as the team completed its first mandatory minicamp practice of the offseason.

... WR Brendan Langley showed his speed by breaking open downfield throughout the practice. He nearly had the catch of the day on a deep pass from Flacco during a team period, but Flacco's pass sailed just beyond his reach.

"Today [Flacco] rode out in a play action out to the right and threw the ball from the opposite 20 to the opposite 15," OLB Von Miller said of the pass. "I don’t know how far that is, but he threw the ball far, [and the receiver] almost caught the ball. Those are the types of easy plays that we have to have. He can throw 80 yards easily. He threw it 80 yards across the field. That’s looking like Super Bowl energy to me.”

What Fangio wants to see from Langley as he converts from cornerback to wide receiver is simple.

"Just that he can play his position," Fangio said. "He obviously can run, and everybody sees that and would like that to be part of the team, but he's got to become a football player, too."

... Flacco was able to get plenty of velocity without appearing to strain himself. During the seven-on-seven period, he used this quality to connect with TE Noah Fant for a long touchdown down the right seam. Fant easily got separation downfield, and Flacco led him perfectly for an over-the-shoulder connection that represented the longest gain of the day.

... An early red-zone period saw the offense get off to a rough start. Potential touchdowns went through the grasp of Booker and Winfree before Fort grabbed a 14-yard touchdown pass from Lock to get the offense on the positive side of the ledger. Later in the period, Hogan hit WR Aaron Burbridge for a score in the back of the end zone, using a pump fake to freeze the defense and buy some room for the fourth-year receiver.

... Fort's work is also worth noting. He had a leaping touchdown grab during a red-zone period last week. In addition to his aforementioned catches, he moved the chains during a period that saw the offense begin at its 1-yard line, getting open in the right flat. Lock quickly located him and Fort was off for what would have been a significant gain in game conditions.

... Pressure from the front seven was a constant throughout the open-to-media OTAs, and that remained the case Monday. On multiple occasions, Miller and Bradley Chubb both attacked off the edge, with the chance for either of them to record sacks in game conditions. Chubb generated some quick pressure by lunging toward the B-gap between the outside shoulder of the guard and the inside shoulder of the tackle.

... OLB Dekoda Watson also had a strong day, punctuated by a quick rush during a red-zone period that would have likely been a sack under game conditions. Watson dominated the second-team work at times Tuesday, and looks to be in regular-season shape. DE Billy Winn also fared well, blowing up multiple run plays during the team periods of practice.

... ILB Todd Davis did not practice to be with his wife as she delivered their baby. Joe Jones took his place on the No. 1 defense alongside Josey Jewell.

"[Jones] did okay," Fangio said. "I need to watch the tape, but he's doing fine,"

... The tempo of the work also remained brisk, as it has throughout the offseason program. Harris believes the conditioning that will result from the quicker pace will help the Broncos avoid the October fades that have followed strong starts.

"We're not going to have that problem this year," Harris said. "We're going to be in shape; we're going to be running around. The difference with Vic is that he expects execution, and that's what we're getting out of these practices, so you'll see it on the field."

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