The Denver Broncos were back on the practice field on Monday ahead of their first NFL Preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, which kicks off on Friday evening.

Sean Payton hints at how much Broncos’ starters will play on Friday

Since taking over as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, Sean Payton has emphasized that starters will play in the preseason. Under Nathaniel Hackett last season, the Broncos didn’t starters in any of their three preseason matchups.

While wins and losses don’t matter during preseason play, Payton wants to see progress from the first, second, and third team units in their first game together.

“There is a lot,” Payton said. “This week, I’m going to cover the sideline. I’m going to cover the roles, how we are going to play guys, and what we are looking for in the game. It’s their first game, if you will, with this staff and me. There is a lot to cover—everything from when we are traveling, dress, meeting schedule, locker room and all of that. Then, I think more specifically to your question, you want to see guys who are playing full speed, they know what to do and you are able to evaluate them versus a different scheme. We’ve been seeing the same offense or defense, so now we get to see a different opponent. Hopefully, mental errors are reduced. It’s a game always with mistakes, so I keep talking to them about getting onto the next play. That’s important.”

The starters will play around 15-18 snaps on Friday, according to Payton. For some players, there could be certain limitations or restrictions regarding how many snaps they play, but that should be enough snaps against a different look to gain a general idea of the progress they’ve made schematically.

The biggest area of concern that Payton wants to eliminate is making sure they don’t have any presnap penalties and avoid plays that set them backward.

Offense has efficient day once again in red zone and third down periods

Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos offense were efficient during Monday’s practice. The theme for Monday’s practice emphasized third-down and red zone; where last season, they ranked 32nd in the league in third-down efficiency and 14th in the red zone.

During Monday’s practice, Payton put the offense and defense into simulated situations involving both units facing third and short, third and medium, and third and long scenarios.

Wilson used his legs on one third down play to avoid pressure and pick up the first down. He’d connect with receivers Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Johnson, and undrafted rookie Taylor Grimes as the offense converted three of their four third-down attempts into first downs.

The second-team offense led by Jarrett Stidham didn’t have as much success, with Jonathon Cooper coming up with what would have been a sack in a real game. Stidham connected with Greg Dulcich and Marquez Callaway on two plays, but only one of the catches moved the chains for a first down.

When the team shifted to their red zone period toward the end of practice, Wilson and the first team offense were efficient and decisive from 25 yards in.

Wilson found Jerry Jeudy on one play to open up the period with a laser pass for a walk-in touchdown. The first team unit moved from 10 yards in, seeing Samaje Perine get involved in the rushing attack.

On the next play, Wilson found fullback Michael Burton for a touchdown pass to cap off practice.

Other Denver Broncos news and notes

  • Ben DiNucci had himself an impressive day on Monday, finding tight end Greg Dulcich for a touchdown during the team’s red zone period.
  • Undrafted rookie free agent running back Jaleel McLaughlin continued his streak of having an impressive explosive run during practice, evading defenders. How he performs in Denver’s first preseason game will be an exciting thing to watch for on Friday.
  • The Broncos offensive line continues to gel together as they’ve improved day over day at camp. The interior combination of Lloyd Cushenberry, Ben Powers, and Quinn Meinerz has been physical against the defense. Communication on the OL has looked solid during camp.
  • Cornerbacks Ja’Quan McMillian and Delonte Hood had several good plays in coverage today during the Broncos team periods and one-on-ones.
  • The Broncos’ second-team defense made the second-team offense’s red zone period difficult, generating pressure with coverage leading to no opportunities for Jarrett Stidham.
  • Veteran safety Justin Simmons did not participate in Monday’s practice as Sean Payton noted that he’s dealing with a “groin tweak” and the team wants to be smart with it.
  • After missing Saturday’s practice, veteran outside linebacker Frank Clark was back on Monday.