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Ten takeaways from Tuesday's Broncos OTA: Quarterback competition, D-line, special teams & more


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **It was Mark Sanchez's first opportunity to lead the No. 1 Broncos offense in a team period at practice Tuesday.

His work is where the takeaways from the Broncos' fourth 2016 OTA begin:



With the wrap he wore last week on his left thumb exchanged for a soft splint, the eight-year veteran quarterback had a full workload in team and seven-on-seven periods Tuesday after being unable to take snaps as he completed his recovery from the surgery he underwent May 14.

"We'll get eight or nine [days] of good work with him under center," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.

His first pass in the seven-on-seven period missed; he couldn't locate Demaryius Thomas on a short drag route with Chris Harris Jr. in tight coverage.

But Sanchez settled down as he got into the team period, and after suffering an interception by Darian Stewart on which the ball bounced off Bennie Fowler's hands deep, he responded with a deep touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders past Stewart and Aqib Talib.

"I felt good," Sanchez said. "I think you're just learning more and more every day. You're getting more comfortable with the players we have, with everything -- all the terminology."



Kubiak acknowledged that Trevor Siemian was ahead of Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch in the mental size of the work given Siemian's year of experience in the system, but that Sanchez was "catching up very quickly."

That puts Siemian in the unusual spot of being the quarterback providing guidance, despite having never thrown a regular-season pass as a pro. Lynch said he takes as much from Siemian as he does from Sanchez.

"Sometimes things may mean a little something else coming from another player, [so I am] just helping him out," Siemian said. "I've been here for a year, so there are some things that I can offer up that may help him out."

Siemian has been extremely accurate so far during OTAs. The tip-drill interception he threw late Tuesday that was deflected from Phil Taylor to Darius Kilgo at the line of scrimmage was his first so far in the seven-on-seven or team periods of OTAs.

Siemian did a good job of leading rookie TE Henry Krieger-Coble and Juwan Thompson on passes outside and near the sideline; he placed the football outside where only his intended targets could catch it.

He also looked very composed running the no-huddle offense late in practice, which was a direct manifestation of his improvement at communication with teammates.

"I think last year, my first year in, you're swimming a little bit and you're just trying to figure out what am I doing," Siemian said. "Being able to communicate with other guys and look at route depths or what they sell in coverage, going back and forth with those guys is probably one of the bigger differences."



Although he has plenty of distance yet to traverse, Lynch's progress from day-to-day is evident.

He already does a good job of leading his receivers. After succeeding at that on deep routes last week, he did well there on short passes Tuesday, including one perfectly placed toss to Thomas on a drag route against Chris Harris Jr. Given that few cornerbacks are in Harris' class, this would have almost certainly turned into a long catch-and-run for Thomas in a game, because he did not have to break his stride.

On a short pass across the middle to TE Manasseh Garner, Lynch did well at looking to his right and guiding the safety away from the middle of the field. This opened up territory for Garner, who like Thomas would have had a long catch-and-run in game conditions.

Lynch's ability to lead his target also helped him find Jordan Taylor for a play on a playaction bootleg. Taylor was in tight coverage, but because Lynch's football was in the right spot, he had just enough space for the catch.



A different and more intense atmosphere exists at OTAs for the quarterbacks, but Sanchez doesn't believe that's because of the competition that will likely be the primary storyline of this offseason.

It's actually because of the quality of the defense, which still has speed and pressure to spare even without DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Brandon Marshall.

"It's going to feel like maybe more than an OTA because we're playing against such a good defense, and they take up so much space on the field, and they have a good knack for reading routes and reading patterns and combinations," Sanchez said. "It's a heck of a competitive atmosphere when you're in there with that first group, but it makes it fun."

Kubiak continued to divide the first-team snaps for the quarterbacks all three ways, with Lynch and Siemian each taking their turns with the No. 1 offense.

"We're going right down the middle," Kubiak said. "What we're trying to do is make sure they all get their work with the first group."

And in the end, each quarterback ended up with between 18 and 20 passes between the team and seven-on-seven periods Tuesday.

"We haven't made a decision [that] you're [No.] 1, you're 2, you're 3," Kubiak said. "We're all working together, and I think we'll continue that way throughout the OTAs."



With all three quarterbacks seeing first-, second- and third-team work, it will be difficult for the No. 1 offensive line and receivers to get the timing they would ordinarily hone.

But for Kubiak, the positives of giving each quarterback a fair shot and finding out their capabilities with -- and against -- first-team players outweighs any cohesion issues that might result.

"I think it's a little hard. Like if you've got your first offensive line, and your first receivers, and here comes a new quarterback," Kubiak said. "But in the long haul, that's what's going to make us better -- and that's what's going to make that guy step out, in my opinion."

When Kubiak was subsequently asked about his comfort with the situation at quarterback, he quipped, "Who said I was comfortable?"

"It is different," Kubiak acknowledged. "It's unusual -- for the most part -- in this league.

"But I think we have a really good situation, too, because I see three really good football players, and the only way they establish themselves and take a team over is if we somehow give them the opportunity to do that."

Kubiak reiterated that he didn't have a timeline on when he hoped one quarterback would separate from the others.

"They're all very capable of running our offense," Kubiak said. "We'll see what happens."



Ware remained sidelined after his back flared up last week, and is likely to remain out for the rest of OTAs, Kubiak said.

"He's working more with 'Greek' [Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos] and Luke [Richesson]," Kubiak said. "I don't know how much you'll see him in OTAs. I hope we get a few in before we call it for summer, but there is no reason to rush him out there."

Marshall and TE Virgil Green continued to work out off to the side after taking part in individual drills. Both are recovering from finger surgeries,

"They'll both be ready. They could probably do some before we get through here [with OTAs], but I think we'll probably get them on the other side."

With Ware and franchise-tagged Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller absent, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett continued to see extensive work. Ray was particularly consistent at working around the edge to create pressure that would have led to sacks in game situations.



With Green limited and Jeff Heuerman not taking part in seven-on-seven or team repetitions Tuesday because of a sore hamstring, Henry Krieger-Coble and Manasseh Garner both saw extensive work, along with veteran Garrett Graham.

Garner has shown a knack for making receptions on out patterns and delivering as a blocker, while Krieger-Coble is a good route runner with sure hands who seems to have a knack at plucking passes into his grasp, even when they appear to be thrown too hard or too far outside.

"He knows what he's doing," Kubiak said.

"The big thing for him is going to be getting bigger [and] stronger, so I don't know how much ground he can make up between now and training camp. That's going to be the key for him in his career: Can he get a little bit bigger?"

Krieger-Coble says he hopes to play at 245 pounds.


In the spring sunshine, the Broncos continued their OTA work Tuesday. (photos by Ben Swanson)


Even without Adam Gotsis and Kenny Anunike, the Broncos' remaining complement of defensive linemen have consistently burst through the line to make life challenging for the three quarterbacks in pass-rushing situations.

"I think we're going to have a really good group. I wish [No.] 99 (DE Adam Gotsis) was out here working right now. That would really be good to see. But I think we're really going to have a good group. We're going to play six guys. That's what we do. We rotate them. I think it's going to be really good."

Derek Wolfe continued to turn in solid play, bursting into the backfield during the team period for what would have been a sack on Lynch. Wolfe did an outstanding job reading the play and did not bite on Lynch's playfake, continuing to attack.

The line in general did a better job of getting its hands up to try and deflect passes than it did last week, and that led directly to one interception off Siemian, when Taylor deflected the pass into Kilgo's grasp.

Kilgo has also received praise from coaches for his tenacious play over the last week.

"He's doing really well. He made a couple of plays today," Kubiak said. "He knocked a couple of balls down. I think Darius is going to be a really good player."

Rookies David Moala and Shaneil Jenkins each had some flashes, with Moala blowing up one handoff with an inside burst, while Jenkins had back-to-back explosions into the pocket on pass plays, first with an inside move and then with a sprint around the edge from the backside of the quarterback.


With Cody Latimer not at practice Tuesday, there were opportunities for young receivers to step up, and they took advantage.

One of Lynch's best passes came when he found college teammate Mose Frazier deep up the left sideline for a leaping grab during the move-the-ball period. Frazier is aided by the timing he has with Lynch, but has made some solid grabs in recent days from Siemian, as well.

Rookie Durron Neal had the catch of the day with a beautiful one-handed grab on a deep pass up the left sideline from Siemian. It was Neal's second catch in a three-play span of the seven-on-seven period.



Near the end of practice, the Broncos practiced one punt play, with Riley Dixon asked to punt with the line of scrimmage inside the defense's 50-yard-line.

Precision punting was Dixon's forte at Syracuse, and it was no different Tuesday, with his punt bouncing at around the 5-yard line. It nearly went into the end zone, but Taurean Nixon leapt near the goal line and swatted the football back into the field of play, allowing Kayvon Webster to down it at the 5-yard line.

This sort of placement punting was what made Britton Colquitt so effective in the postseason. If Dixon can crank out punts like this in the coming weeks and months, the competition between the two could be among the most spirited of the summer.

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