ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** Organized team activities are as much about experimentation as education. Shuffled personnel groups and alignments offer plenty of players glimpses at the first team -- and sometimes reveal nearly as much as the actual action once the ball is snapped.
That's where we start the first of the four takeaways from Monday's work.
- Last year, Louis Vasquez's adjustment involved a new team and scheme after four years with the Chargers. This time around, it involves getting acquainted with a new right tackle to replace Orlando Franklin, who moved to right guard. But no matter who lines up at tackle, Vasquez expects the transition to be smooth.
"We're rotating right now with Chris Clark and Winston Justice. They have a few years under their belts, so it's not taking very long, because they've been in the game and they know what offensive line play is about," Vasquez said.
Clark started 14 games last year at left tackle after Ryan Clady's season-ending foot injury. But Justice, who didn't start for the Broncos last year, has NFL starting experience at right tackle, something Clark does not possess. Clark has worked as a right tackle in practice, but hasn't handled that role in the games.
Justice was re-signed in March, and even though the Broncos drafted Michigan's Michael Schofield, he could find a role up front.
"He didn't get a whole lot of opportunity last year," said Fox of Justice, who played 18 offensive snaps last year. "I thought he did very well. So he understands our offense a lot better and knows a lot of the calls. We thought he earned that right and that's why we signed him back."
- Even at a reported $6 million guaranteed, Emmanuel Sanders might turn into a bargain. His blend of speed and quickness on the outside offers a dynamic element the Broncos didn't have at that spot last year, and has resulted in him consistently getting downfield separation through the two days of OTAs we have witnessed. Late in the practice, he grabbed a deep pass up the sideline from Peyton Manning.
Sanders was not perfect. Earlier in practice, he came inches away from a lunging, end-zone catch on a post route but saw the football glance off his fingers. But Sanders grabbed everything else at all ranges, and is already making the offense more dynamic.
- Last year at this time, we saw Julius Thomas emerge as a potential, frequent target of Manning. This year, he's looked toward Virgil Green on a regular basis. Green caught Manning's a pass in the first seven-on-seven period of the day -- after catching multiple passes from Manning last Wednesday -- and would have had a touchdown catch Monday if not for a leaping deflection by cornerback Aqib Talib.
Manning knows what he has in threats like Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Jacob Tamme and Demaryius Thomas. If he can hone timing with Green, it gives him yet another option -- and perhaps the chance to add another power gear to the Broncos' diverse passing offense.
- Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson have similar size -- now that Wolfe has re-gained the weight he lost last year -- and skill sets, with the ability to go inside and outside. But it's not simply a matter of seeing one or the other at a time; they can be used in tandem, depending on the situation.
Last year, Jackson spoke of how competition with Wolfe helped hone his skills, and by the end of the year, he had become a solid starter, and was particularly prolific as a pass rusher. That was the case for Wolfe as a rookie. Now, the job starts all over again now for both, and if they are used in tandem, they can not only keep each other fresh, but provide a burst of speed if both are used together on the inside in pass-rush situations.
"You have to reprove yourself every year," said Wolfe. "It doesn't matter who you are. You always have to reprove yourself. I appreciate the competition, I love it." Organized team activities are as much about experimentation as education. Shuffled personnel groups and alignments offer plenty of players glimpses at the first team -- and sometimes reveal nearly as much as the actual action once the ball is snapped.