Day one of the first week of OTAs is in the books and by all accounts, it was a good one - a lot of energy and a lot of players trying to make a good impression.
Count Peyton Manning in that crowd. Yep, even the 14-time Pro Bowl quarterback is trying to impress his coach.
"I think you've got a lot of guys that are competing for jobs and making impressions on coaches. I'm not different. I'm in that category as well," said No. 18, who officially opened his 18th season in the NFL on Wednesday. "That's what these practices are for. Every day you are being evaluated. It seemed like there was a lot of energy out there and that it was a pretty good first day."
Denver Broncos (@Broncos) May 28, 2015
New head coach Gary Kubiak upped the ante for subsequent practices by calling it a "really good" first day.
"We had a good practice and had a lot of energy," Kubiak said. "Obviously the guys have been pinned up for a while - coaches and players. We got a lot of reps in. We need to have a good month. We need to get better."
Manning might especially agree with that given that the five-time NFL MVP was the first player to fall down in practice.
However, he's not owning up to that moment.
"I don't remember that," he quipped after practice, adding that he's already had a chat with the video guy. "That's the advantage of being tight with your video guys."
Probably the most newsworthy evidence of "getting better" was the fact that Manning was "under center" the whole day.
And he better get comfortable there because that's not going to change too much as Kubiak promised that his QB was going to stay under center for " a good three days."
"We know that the other end of the stick is fine," Kubiak said of Manning's ability to work from the shotgun. "We have kind of a nine-day teaching installation, so he's going to be under there for a good three days before we move back. He's been very responsive, and he's working extremely hard."
For Manning, being under center does have its advantages, particularly with reading the defense.
"It's always a little bit easier under center because you can be looking to the left and at a weak safety when the ball is being snapped," Manning said. "Whereas in shotgun, you're eyes have to be on the ball a little bit more."
Just who the center will be for Manning is yet to be determined, but Kubiak and Manning both say they are confident in how it will all shake out come Week 1.
"I know [Offensive Line] Coach [Clancy] Barone is putting different guys in different places and trying to see what we guys can handle and moving some guys around," Manning said. "I know once that Baltimore game gets here, we'll have the best five guys out there plus."
Despite the inevitable uncertainty of the offensive line, Kubiak is enjoying the competition.
"We're young and we've just got to keep going here," Kubiak said. "We're trying to find a center. We're trying to see who is going to step forward and run the group. It's an important month for those guys. I think the deeper we are and the more competitive we are, then the better we should be."
With this new offensive scheme, Manning has been busy asking a lot of questions - something the five-time NFL MVP considers just about the most important part of this time of the season.
"This is the time to ask questions. It you don't ask, that's kind of on you. That's your mistake," Manning said. "I ask a lot of questions and certainly appreciate any insight and feedback."
In fact, watch out if you don't give feedback to Manning.
"I love being coached. I get angry when I'm not coached," Manning added. "I think if you ever stop listening to coaching or stop asking questions, you probably need to be doing something else."
One guy who definitely doesn't want to be doing anything else is wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Though he knows it's unlikely this new offense will have two wide receivers making more than 100 catches each again (though he's "praying it will"), Sanders definitely still plans to be a major contributor to the team's production.
"It's definitely different. We can just get the run game going and use my vertical speed on crossing routes and all these different combinations of routes based off the play-action," Sanders said. "I think the offense will be successful, especially with Peyton Manning at the helm."
At OTAs last year, Sanders called playing at the Broncos "wide receiver heaven." Does he still think that with this new offense?
"[No.] 18 is still at the helm," he said. "You never know (laughing)."
That's good news for the rest of the wide receivers too, particularly young players who may be called upon this season and must be prepared.
"There are going to have to be some young receivers that will have to step up, and Cody is one of them," Kubiak said of Cody Latimer, the Broncos' second-round draft choice in 2014. "I think it's a very competitive situation right now. I want to see who is going to take advantage of it. Bennie Fowler practiced well today. That's really important. I'm interested to see how that pans out."
First day of OTA's was amazing!!! Ready to get back at it with the squad tomorrow #BroncosCountry— Cody Latimer (@CodyLatimer14) May 27, 2015
But I am drained though— Cody Latimer (@CodyLatimer14) May 27, 2015
On the defensive side of the ball, Kubiak thinks the team is a little ahead of schedule, and the coach is impressed by how quickly players adapted to it. But Kubiak is not surprised by that.
"We've got a good group back there," Kubiak said of his defense. "I think we've got a chance to be a very good and deep defensive football team. I think with what we do defensively, it won't take guys long to catch up."
Overall from day one, the thing that really impressed Kubiak was the "noise" (i.e., communication) between teammates.
"I told the team after practice, ‘It's a loud team—in a good way.' I love the way they talk on the field," Kubiak said, noting players talked a lot at the golf course yesterday during the Broncos' golf outing for team bonding. "They're very vocal and pushing each other every day. That's what we've got to have."