ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Head Coach Vic Fangio wants to ensure that his team is prepared for whatever high-leverage situation it might face.
Two-minute drills. Fourth-down plays. Last-second field-goal attempts. All of these scenarios were in play for the Broncos during the first two days of their minicamp.
Scheme installation remained the point of emphasis throughout the last two days. On the offensive side, Fangio noted that "90 percent of our concepts" are already installed. But the ability to properly manage specific high-leverage situations can separate good teams from mediocre ones and middling ones from poor ones.
One doesn't have to think hard to recall games that the Broncos lost because of end-of-half management last year; better work in that area could have led to at least two more wins. The Broncos believe their work this year can turn those defeats into triumphs.
"Game management is a big deal to Vic Fangio, and it's going to be a stamp on the way he coaches," Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said. "He's establishing a base for that right now, and the foundation, so he's put us in a lot of situations. We're going to be a great team at the end of both halves."
But getting there requires absorbing some hits.
Situational work didn't always go well for the offense Wednesday. One series of plays for the first-team offense against the No. 2 defense ended when TE Troy Fumagalli could not quite corral a fourth-and-4 pass from QB Joe Flacco, ending the series. But three plays later, the No. 2 offense delivered in its duel with the second-team defense, thanks to a diving catch from WR River Cracraft. Running a go route, Cracraft got past CB Horace Richardson, then lunged for Hogan's deep pass at the left pylon. He completed the catch for the touchdown, punctuating the score with a vigorous spike.
Finally, at the end of practice, Flacco was able to buy enough time in the pocket and scan the field well enough to cap a 30-yard touchdown march by finding Courtland Sutton in the back of the end zone. Flacco looked left, right, then left, then back to the right again, keeping his eyes on the end zone while moving his feet to buy time for Sutton, who eventually flashed open to Flacco's right.
The work in that period – with the offense starting its series at the defense’s 30-yard line – mimics an adverse situation for the defense that arises often: overcoming a giveaway or a special-teams lapse that effectively makes holding the foe to a field goal a successful series.
"I kind of like to expose the players to a lot [at] this time of year, so hopefully by the middle of training camp, we figure out what we're going to be, rather than give them something new in training camp and have to learn it.
So far, so good.
More notes from Wednesday:
... Rookie TE Noah Fant didn't have a deep reception down the seam like he notched Tuesday, but he displayed good concentration to haul in a pass from QB Kevin Hogan early in practice. Fant got open in the left flat, but the pass was a bit behind him, forcing Fant to reach out and juggle the ball into his grasp.
... Practice ended with the afore-mentioned Flacco-to-Sutton connection, but another touchdown -- 50-yard deep touchdown strike for the pair -- was perhaps the highlight of the day for the offense.
... LB Aaron Wallace seemed to be all over the place. Early in practice, he helped force a Hogan incompletion on a fourth-and-4 play, as he and Demarcus Walker generated the pressure to create a hurried incompletion. During a later period, his quick reaction to a pass deflected in the box allowed him to intercept QB Drew Lock.
... While Wallace capitalized on his chance at an interception, other defenders saw chances for thefts barely elude their grasp. Safeties Su'a Cravens and Will Parks each dove for potential interceptions, but could not complete the play. ILB Keishawn Bierria also had a chance at an interception of Hogan during a team period at the end of practice, but the ball skipped through his grasp.
... Rookie OLB Malik Reed was also active. Early in practice, he burst off the right edge to force Brett Rypien into a hurried incompletion. Later, he teamed with third-round pick Dre'Mont Jones to force another hurried Rypien throw.
... DL Zach Kerr single-handedly defused a potential screen pass from Lock to Noah Fant, reading the play well and meeting Fant as he caught the football for a 3-yard loss.
... But part of the test of pressure is in the quarterback's response. During one move-the-ball period later in practice, Flacco read defensive pressure well. Twice, he hit receivers out of the backfield in space created by the pass rush, finding Devontae Booker and Andy Janovich to push the offense past midfield. Flacco then hit Janovich again for another first down that got the offense to the defense's 34-yard line.
Flacco was also able to quickly recover from a pair of low shotgun snaps, getting the ball away to allow the offense to avoid further damage.
... Much of the pressure on Flacco came from Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who sometimes held up their rushes for the sake of avoiding a collision with the quarterback.
... Second-year RB Royce Freeman looks faster than he did at this time during his rookie offseason, and his sharp cutbacks allowed him to turn upfield for some solid gains.
Former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning brought his father, Archie, out to Day 2 of mandatory minicamp, and former Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Collier (of the "Orange Crush" defense era) joined them for a special day at practice.