ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After four-and-a-half grueling months without any live action, the Broncos are finally back — to the practice field at least.
On Tuesday, the Broncos hit the field for their first organized team activity (OTA), inching that much closer to the regular season. During the next month, the Broncos will conduct many of these on-field practices that can include offense vs. defense, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11, all without contact.
In this time starters will begin to fall in line, rookies will start to integrate with the veterans and the quarterback battle between incumbent Trevor Siemian and former first-round pick Paxton Lynch will be in full force.
With over 100 days until the start of the season, two months until the kickoff of training camp and a month until the official launch of the summer months, one aspect that is certain is there will be many twists, turns and evolutions with how the team currently looks. But, as the expression goes, jobs cannot be won in May but they can certainty be lost.
So, without further to do, here are the biggest takeaways from the first “practice” of the Broncos 2017 campaign:
The quarterback carousel has begun
For the first time in his Broncos tenure, Vance Joseph had to give the nod to one of his two quarterbacks. After calling the quarterback competition between Siemian and Lynch “50-50” all offseason, Joseph went with the incumbent for the team’s first team period. However, Lynch was quick to take first-team reps the following period.
The first-team quarterback reps went something like this: Siemian, Lynch, Siemian, Lynch, Siemian, Lynch, Siemian, Lynch. After practice, Joseph said that the quarterback who will take the first rep with the first-team will rotate daily.
“It’ll be day-by-day. Today it was Trevor’s turn to be with the first unit. Tomorrow it will be Paxton’s,” he said. “It will be day-by-day. There are 10 OTAs, so it will be five and five, very even.”
On the field, both quarterbacks seemed more confident than last year. Since it was the first day of practice, each quarterback had their fair share of check downs and offline passes.
It was clear that Lynch felt more comfortable on the field, staying in the pocket and allowing routes to develop longer than he did last year, however, he did show off his mobility by scrambling a few times. The only major blemish on the day for Lynch was when Lorenzo Doss picked him off as he tried to go airborne over the middle of the field.
As for Siemian, it was obvious that his shoulder was in much better shape physically now than it was for much of last year. His arm power was impressive and he showed it off by zipping a few passes through the middle of the “No Fly Zone” to Demaryius Thomas.
On the day, Lynch threw one interception while Siemian kept his slate clean.
The fullback is not dead
With the departure of Gary Kubiak, and his run-heavy mentality on offense, there were questions about what would happen to last year’s sixth-round pick fullback Andy Janovich. After Tuesday’s practice, those concerns can nearly be wiped away.
During the first practice, new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy showed that Janovich will be a key piece to Denver’s offense, potentially even more than he was last season. Not only was Janovich used in typical fullback fashion, he was used all over the field in many different capacities other than just a destructive blocker.
New coaching staff is hands-on
In the debut for the coaching staff on the practice field, they waisted no time getting their hands in on the action. Typically, the head coach and coordinators take a backseat role in practice to get a full-scope of what is going on. This new coaching staff didn’t get that memo.
At numerous times Joseph, or the coordinators, were working directly with individual players on specific technique issues. During a special teams period, McCoy specifically sought out veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders to go over specifics on route precision.
When Isaiah McKenzie, Carlos Henderson and Hunter Sharpe were practicing catching punts, Joseph was the coach instructing them. In fact, after practice Joseph emphasized how this type of coaching will be the norm for this staff moving forward.
“I’ll help [Special Teams Coordinator] Brock [Olivo] out. That’s a critical role for your football team,” he said. “Especially when there are rookies involved with catching the ball. Catching the ball is everything, possessing the ball first, and then returning the ball is secondary to catching the football. It’s a huge role for us, so I’m involved there obviously.”
Near perfect attendance
While OTAs are 100 percent voluntary — except for the mandatory minicamp June 13-15 — attendance is highly recommended and encouraged. Fortunately for the Broncos, attendance on day one was nearly perfect as the only player to miss was rookie Deon Hollins.
However, he wasn’t even allowed to be in attendance as his college, UCLA, is still in session and NFL rules prohibit him from attending practice until school has finished. Outside of Hollins, everyone else was present, including Von Miller — who missed all of last seasons offseason training program, including OTAs, due to contract negotiations.
Players that were present but did not practice included rookie tight end Jake Butt, center Matt Paradis, receiver Kalif Raymond and quarterback Chad Kelly. Running back Jamaal Charles did participate in individual drills, but sat out every team period. Joseph confirmed that the timetable for Charles, Butt, Paradis and Kelly’s return is training camp. It is uncertain why Raymond sat out of practice.
-Demaryius Thomas looked like he was fully recovered from his hip injury that he dealt with for most of last season and back to the Pro Bowler that he has been for the last five seasons. Thomas was sharp in his routes and made a few difficult catches in the first practice.
-Every player that entered Tuesday healthy, left healthy. This highlighted one of Joseph’s main priorities for OTAs, “We want 10 practices where we can get better without losing anyone.”
-Finally, rookies Butt and Kelly were present in every offensive huddle to hear the play call. While neither will likely practice until training camp, these mental reps could benefit them greatly if and when they are asked to play this year.