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What the Broncos can gain from joint practices with the Vikings

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After 11 practices in which the Broncos' offense faced off against their counterparts on the defensive side, the opponents' faces will change.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Broncos will hit the practice field against the Vikings for two days of work that could be a tremendous benefit Head Coach Vic Fangio's team.

The point Fangio made before the team departed for Minnesota, though, was to not view the Vikings' players as opponents. Instead, they should view the two practices as an opportunity to work with another set of talented players. And there's plenty the Broncos can get out of the two practices.

"We're just going to practice against them," Fangio said. "Instead of having 90 teammates here, there's 180 teammates. We're all teammates for those two practices. We're just working against each other, and it's a tremendous opportunity to see different schemes, both sides of the ball, you go against different players, you have to cover different players, pass rush against different lineman, the linemen pass block different style guys. It's tremendous work if everybody has the right attitude and the right mindset, and we do. I feel very confident."

Fangio said he has already been in contact with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and that the two coaching staffs will talk again on Tuesday night ahead of the first practices.

"We've talked a few times and when we get up there tonight all the coaches and support staff are going to get together just to make sure everything [is] ironed out," Fangio said.

The Broncos will ensure ahead of the practices that they explain to their rookies the value of clean practices, and Fangio said both teams will meet to discuss their goals.

"We already have, [and] we will continue [to]," Fangio said. "What we've done with some of these that I've done — a couple of years ago I had to sit down and kind of count out how many of these I've done, and it was about 40. We've done this before. But about a half-hour before practice starts tomorrow, we're going to have a big group of their players and a big group of our players, we'll meet in a room and each of us explain to each other what we're looking for here."

Denver should get to see plenty of talented players, even if star wide receiver Justin Jefferson isn't able to practice as he deals with an injury.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen should all pose a good challenge for the Broncos' defense. And on the other side of the ball, cornerback Patrick Peterson, defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith should challenge the offense.

Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, in particular, should face a new challenge.

"Obviously I think games, these practices we have coming up [will be important]," Fangio said. "We had a really good practice the other day where it was upscale a little bit. They all factor in [to a quarterback decision]."

Regardless of the position group, the work for the Broncos should be quite valuable as they prepare for the regular season.

"I'm happy to do [joint practices] with Mike Zimmer," Fangio said. "I know he'll run a good operation up there. You always have to be careful who you pick, the teams to work against, and I think Minnesota is a great team to work against."

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