Saturday’s Broncos intra-squad scrimmage was short and sweet – less than an hour and a half long. And in the closest thing fans will see to real football action during training camp, the vaunted No Fly Zone secondary made short and sweet work of quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch and the offense despite being a man down.

On Friday, veteran safety T.J. Ward left practice with what Vance Joseph described after Saturday’s scrimmage as “a minor hamstring injury.” He was held out of the scrimmage and will not play on Thursday against Chicago in the team’s first preseason game.

Still, the No Fly Zone did its damage against the offense during the scrimmage, led largely by the play of All-Pro defensive back Chris Harris.

During the scrimmage Harris made multiple disruptive plays, including what looked like it would have been a QB sack and later an interception (thanks to a possible assist).

Early in the scrimmage Harris pressured Siemian on a corner blitz and appeared that he would have reached the quarterback in time for a sack. However, Joseph was protecting his first- and second-team units and tackling was limited.

Later on, Harris jumped in front of a pass by Lynch for an interception that went for six points the other way, although earlier in the play it appeared Lynch would have been sacked.

Having faced the offense every day for over a week now, Harris is very familiar with what he’s seeing on the field. As a sixth-year pro, though, there’s not much Harris hasn’t seen.

“My man actually ran a vertical,” Harris said about the interception. “I kind of left him, let him go and jumped the route. That’s called route recognition. I’m just at that level of smart to be able to let my man go and be able to jump routes.”

While Harris no doubt read the play correctly, Joseph put much of the blame on Lynch.

“He held the ball too late in that play,” the head coach said. “He had a guy open in the flat early on, but he held the ball, held the ball, held the ball. It’s a time clock thing. As you hold the ball, the defense recovers. They did get the ball.”

As nice as it is to perform well against his own team, Harris admitted that he’s ready to face some new competition.

“I can’t wait to hit somebody else. I’m tired of going against [WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas] ‘E’ and ‘D.T.,’ and I’m pretty sure they’re tired of going against us. It’s at that time where you’re ready to see some other receivers and get ready for the season,” he said.

The absence of Ward did throw a little wrinkle in things for the first-team defense, and for Harris in particular.

“It definitely changes,” Harris said about playing without Ward on the field. “He’s one of our enforcers. He’s our starting dime so when we go to nickel, I work with T.J. a lot of the times. Now I’ve got to work with Will [Parks] or Justin [Simmons] and I’ve got to get my chemistry right with those guys, too. It changes a lot for me.”

What didn’t change on Saturday was the offense’s struggles against the elite Denver defense. On top of the plays Harris made, the offense also had some self-inflicted wounds that Joseph wasn’t fond of.

“What I didn’t like were the penalties on offense. We make our best play, we get past the 50-yard line for the first time [on that drive], and we get a push in the back. We get a holding penalty on the touchdown pass. I didn’t like those penalties,” Joseph said.

The push in the back he was referring to came against tackle Donald Stephenson. Joseph had private words with the veteran after practice and later told reporters what was discussed.

Joseph told him to “Be smart. It was our best play up to that point in the entire scrimmage, then we get a nonsense penalty of pushing the back after the play. He blocked his guy, he did his job. The play is over. Don’t be selfish and get a penalty and back us up by 15 instead of being up 20.”

Harris, too, knows that those kinds of penalties can be damaging in a real game.

“That’s something that we don’t have time for really,” Harris said. “We don’t need those penalties; we can’t afford them on the offensive side of the ball. We’ve got to play clean and be smart. We don’t want to beat ourselves so we’re not looking for that at all. We’re looking for those guys to make plays, get the ball down the field, make those good runs and put some points on the board.”

The offense will get its chance to put real points on the board and the defense will get its first test against an unfamiliar opponent on Thursday in Chicago.

The Broncos are off on Sunday, with practices Monday and Tuesday before a travel day Wednesday.

Kickoff for the first preseason game is 6 p.m. MDT on Thursday.

Featured Image Credit: Ryan Greene, 5280 Sports Network