It was the NFL’s Back Together Weekend, and the Denver Broncos were back on the field for their fourth overall practice for training camp. Here are three key takeaways and deeper observations from Saturday’s Centura Health Training Center practice.

Russell Wilson has efficient passing day on Day 4 of Denver Broncos Training Camp

So far, through four days of training camp practices, the Denver Broncos offense continues to ramp things up as they further master Sean Payton’s offense.

Russell Wilson had an efficient day from a passing standpoint in the Broncos 7-on-7 and team period. In particular, Wilson threw the ball with good velocity on the afternoon in 7-on-7, where he found Tim Patrick on one play and running back Samaje Perine downfield on another.

The main emphasis for Payton and the Broncos’ offense has been working on mastering the foundational elements of their offense and how it plans to operate. That involves getting the play call, getting in and out of the huddle, diagnosing reads quickly presnap, and executing promptly while minimizing mistakes.

Payton’s offenses are designed to create a proper flow while testing and challenging the defense at various spots of the field. So far in camp, Payton’s concepts are incredible to see unfold. Without getting into specifics, Payton will maximize different personnel groups in various formations and finds ways to create play designs that test every area where coverage is needed.

If Denver’s key weapons can stay healthy, the Broncos’ offense may have a pick-your-poison formula going into the regular season. Historically, Payton’s offenses have thrived with a quick passing approach, and that’s been evident in Denver.

On the other hand, Payton also acknowledged how important it is for the Broncos’ offense to run the football effectively as part of their DNA and makeup.

“I think it has to be part of our DNA, and we felt that way in New Orleans, as well,” Payton acknowledged. “I think the two greatest allies for a good quarterback player are a running game and good defense. I think it’s a tough position to play if you’re not running the ball well, and then obviously it becomes tougher if you’re not stopping anyone. That’s going to be important to what we do as long as I’m here. I just think it’s that important to winning in our league.”

The Broncos have had spurts throughout the last several years where running the football should have been their identity, but they shied away from it. While Javonte Williams continues to make tremendous progress in his return from an ACL injury last year, Denver has pretty stable depth at the running back position here early on.

Damarri Mathis continues to make strides in his second season with the Denver Broncos

Around this time last year, Damarri Mathis began to turn heads during training camp practices. A year later, he’s in a starting role and has grown significantly as a football player.

I had a chance to talk with Mathis one on one following practice on Saturday for the NFL’s Back Together Weekend.

“College prepared me a lot for the league,” Mathis said. “My transition was a little different because we play more off coverage here. Getting more in-depth with playing off and just being able to switch my techniques, leverage has helped. I feel like I got a lot better coming into this year compared to last year. I feel like I’m way different, more comfortable. Getting that year under my belt helped me out and made me more comfortable with how I play out there today.”

So far, through four days of training camp practices, Mathis has broken on the football several times when thrown at, leading to several deflected passes. Last season he had seven passes defensed in the regular season and looks to generate more takeaways this year, opposite Patrick Surtain.

Having defensive backs coach Christian Parker return this season is huge for him and the defensive backs room.

“I feel like he’s got a lot of great relationships with our players,” Mathis said. “He knows our weaknesses, our strengths, and he’s just a great all-around coach. I feel like it’s good having a coach who understands you as a player, person, and man, so I’m glad to have him back.”

Last season Mathis didn’t necessarily get to go up against players like Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton as often in training camp as he gets to now in a starting role. Iron sharpens iron, and Mathis expressed that he loves the challenge of going against receivers like them.

“I love it,” Mathis said. “I love going against the top guys. Anybody who can play, I want to match up with them. That’s just how I take things, but you know, it’s a team game. Anybody that lines up in front of me, I’m going to do my job.”

Other news and notes from Day 4 of Broncos Camp

  • Saturday’s practice saw the return of left tackle Garett Bolles, who didn’t practice on Friday due to having a maintenance day.
    • Sean Payton revealed earlier in the week that players who suffered season-ending injuries or major injuries last season would go through periods of having maintenance days throughout training camp as needed.
    • Right tackle Mike McGlinchey was excused for the third consecutive practice while dealing with a personal matter.
  • Broncos third-round rookie cornerback Riley Moss was impressive during some of the team’s special teams drills on Saturday, taking appropriate angles in kick coverage that would have translated into stops in a real simulated game. He and fellow rookie Drew Sanders are expected to have significant roles on Denver’s revamped special teams units.
    • Speaking of special teams, the Broncos kicking competition continues as Elliott Fry and Brett Maher continued their perfect streak of kicking efficiency for two consecutive days.

I asked Sean Payton whether or not it’s easier to evaluate a kicking competition and position compared to any other position on the team.

“I would imagine so,” Payton noted. “You can just chart it and say, ‘This is what you’re seeing.’ That would be fair to say. I just finished talking to these guys though and not just the kickers. We want to make sure that we are not just paying attention to the depth chart in our room. In fairness to the process, they are competing with the players in their room and then the other 31 teams. We had a kicking competition in New Orleans between two guys that went all the way through training camp. I mean charted and everything. We finished the preseason, and I got a call from [Ravens Head Coach] John Harbaugh. They were releasing a kicker that he felt strongly about. We brought him in for a workout and ended up signing him and releasing the other two. All of these guys, you’re really trying to help them internalize the focus on their play and tune out trying to count the numbers. I think relative to watching those guys, it’s a little cleaner when you are watching them kick. Fortunately, I don’t know if we have missed one yet. We’ve had two good periods now, yesterday and today. Hopefully that continues.”

The Denver Broncos will be off on Sunday but will be back on the field on Monday for the first day of pads. Tickets for some of next week’s practices are available here.