The Denver Broncos finished up organized team activities Thursday and now set their sights on mandatory minicamp next week. In many seasons OTAs would barely even raise the pulse of Broncos fans, but this is a very different season. This season brings major changes to a team that is just two years removed from winning a Super Bowl. The head coach is new. In fact, much of the coaching staff is new. The offensive scheme will be new. There are also a number of new players that have been added to the current roster. So, while OTAs may not be much more than drills in spandex and helmets, we were able to garner a few things from all of these recent changes to the team. Here are a few takeaways that we have already spotted.
New head coach Vance Joseph is looking for energy
Spend five minutes with or listening to the Broncos’ new head coach and you will feel his passion for the game. He is a high-energy guy, and he expects the same from his players. Veteran defensive end Jared Crick has already noticed the change.
“The tempo. That’s really the biggest thing. We’re seeing the speed of how things are going to be run, and that’s good so far. Guys are really starting to grasp on and get the speed down and get the tempo that we’re running practice with,” Crick said.
It may seem like a small step, but something as simple as constant hustle and high energy can make an impact. When you think back to losses last season against the Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs and Titans, you have to think that more intensity from this team can’t possibly be a bad thing.
This a significantly bigger defensive line
We know that the Broncos wanted to beef up their defensive front. After a season in which they got pushed around at the point of attack, they had to get stronger in the defensive trenches. So, they signed Zach Kerr who weighs in at 334 pounds. They also got the 325 pound Domata Peko. Then Derek Wolfe, Jared Crick, and Adam Gotsis set out to add some weight, and get stronger. Wolfe packed on 20 pounds, with Crick and Gotsis adding around 15 pounds each. Crick spoke to the changes on the defensive line.
“We wanted to get bigger up front. We were undersized last year and we knew it,” he said earlier this week. “We just keep or tenacity up. Obviously, we’re doing some different things defensively this year to help out with that. Being bigger and stronger this year will help out with that. We also have to ask [Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods] Coach Woods what he wants to do to emphasize things we were weaker at. Right now, as defensive linemen, we’re just doing what we can, getting bigger and getting stronger. We’re just using the summer time to be better physically than we were last year.”
The Broncos defensive line is going to be significantly bigger this year, and you will be able to see it.
Get ready for the return of the tight end
New/returning offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is going to find ways to get some mileage out of his young athletic tight end group. Don’t forget the big seasons that the tight ends were having when McCoy was previously in Denver, and during his time in San Diego. In 2012, McCoy’s final season with the Broncos, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen combined for 86 catches. And he does have some talent with which to work.
A.J. Derby, Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Henry Krieger-Coble, and Steven Scheu were all getting catches during OTAs, and Jake Butt is hoping to be back by the regular season. Derby has liked what he has seen so far in McCoy’s offensive scheme.
“I think this is a great offense for tight ends. I think his (Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy) past record in San Diego shows that. The whole room is really excited to see what we can do this season,” Derby said.
Getting solid production from these tight ends could go a long way towards solidifying this offense and making the Broncos a bona-fide contender again.
The depth of this team is beginning to show
John Elway has looked at the makeup of this team over the past few years and decided that he needed more young talent. With the length and physicality of the NFL season, a team without talented depth, is a team without much hope. In OTAs, a number of the young players showed that they are going to be pushing for playing time.
Running back De’Angelo Henderson, wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Carlos Henderson, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, defensive backs Taurean Nixon and Justin Simmons, and defensive linemen Adam Gotsis and Tyrique Jarrett all caught the eyes of the coaching staff with their play during workouts. As good as the starters on this team might be, we all know that the backups are a snap away from being starters.
The Broncos are developing some talented young players on this roster, and that could pay dividends for them as the season unfolds.
This quarterback competition looks like it is going to the wire
For all of the work that the Broncos two quarterbacks received in OTAs, it doesn’t seem as though either is pulling away. According to Vance Joseph, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will once again split time in minicamp.
“We’ve got five opportunities next week – it’s really three practices and two walkthroughs. It will be equally split. Mike [McCoy] has done a good job of giving one guy the start, but inside of practice alternating guys per period. They’re getting fair reps and the same opportunity for situational periods like two-minute. Paxton went first today, and Trevor went first last week. He’s done a great job of keeping it pretty equal as far as the reps,” Joseph said.
This competition looks like it could be headed to the third preseason game to declare a winner, and that could make for a divisive outcome. It might be wishful thinking to hope that one of these young quarterbacks begins to step forward and take the reins of the Broncos offense very soon. This race looks like it is just getting started.