ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –Offseason training activities allow the Broncos offense and defense to work against one another for the first time in the offseason calendar.
But, there's a catch -- no live contact is allowed at these voluntary sessions.
So, while it is still a step beyond running plays against air, both the offense and defense are still posed with the problem of practicing a contact sport without any real contact.
"Well, it's a good time to work on our technique," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "Get our footwork right, keep our pad level down and work on our hands and things like that and try to stay on the edge. Big guys like us, we'll get a lot of push up the middle, a lot of bull rush, but we can't do that right now. Right now it's trying to stay on the edge and get better at a lot of things we can't do with pads on."
The men in the trenches are used to battles as soon as each play is snapped. So for the coaches, it is difficult to really determine what they have up front until the pads come on.
That means that the coaches won't really get a chance to see their new acquisitions on the offensive and defensive line in action until the pads go on in camp. The team added Knighton as well as guard Louis Vasquez in free agency and used its first-round draft pick on defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.
"It's tough, just not having pads," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. That's a difficult thing because you're not as physical as you're going to be. In training camp, when you get the pads on, that's when we're going to be able to tell how everything's coming along as far as his fit with that group."
Besides working on fundamentals when it comes to technique, players on both sides of the line stress improving their communication and getting on the same page with the players around them during OTAs.
With less of a focus on the physical aspects of the position, time can be spent working on the mental parts.
"This time is a time where, for instance myself and Orlando Franklin today, I'm lined up and we're talking, you know, there's the sam, there's the mike," tight end Jacob Tamme said. "We're talking about who we have. So that sort of stuff is invaluable and I think getting reps at that right now is really helpful. Just being able to play fast and see what's going on. Our defense is moving around everywhere. That type of stuff, communicating with each other, you can't really get done so much in Phase One (workouts) so this is good for that."
The Phase One and Two workouts that preceded OTAs allowed the offense and defense to ease into on-field work, but the offense and defense were not allowed to work against one another in drills.
On-field chemistry and communication began to build through those voluntary sessions, and OTAs offer the chance to take those to the next level when you throw in a live defense – even if there is no contact.
"When you go through that Phase One and there's not a lot of being able to really work together as far as tight ends, O-line, D-line," Tamme said. "So yeah this time is crucial for that even though we don't have pads on, everyone is going pretty hard and trying to be smart but also get better at what we're doing. I think everyone is doing a pretty good job of it."
When the pads finally do come on in training camp, it will open up another dimension to practice.
Nobody is more excited for that step than the men up front who are used to contact every single play.
"I'm just looking forward to putting on the pads and seeing what guys are like when the pads come on," Knighton said. "Because it's a whole different story."