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First of two joint practices equals 'good work' on offense, defense

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Despite some struggles for the Broncos offense near the end of practice Wednesday, Coach Kubiak and his players got a lot to take away from the first of two joint practice with the 49ers.

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While most of the hubbub of yesterday's Broncos news was the addition of Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis (who has his helmet on and is expected to practice today), the first of two joint practices between the Broncos and 49ers was also going on as the two teams prepared for their matchup Saturday night at Mile High.

And though practice reports were mostly good, offensive struggles to end Wednesday's work certainly made for an easy target in the press conference.

Peyton Manning at first deflected a reporter's question about "grading the offense" by saying he didn't know they were grading practices in August. When reminded that a year ago he had stated, "We stunk today," Manning added, "We did not stink today."

Regardless of the two-minute drill difficulty at the end, Manning told the press he's always liked joint practices.

"It just gives you a chance to see some different coverages, see some different blitzes, for receivers to go against a different defensive back who may play with a different technique, so it's always a good thing no matter when you do it," Manning said, noting that it's different than the upcoming game but still extremely useful. "They have an excellent defense. Guys like NaVorro Bowman are great guys to work against for our tight ends and running backs. ...I thought it was good work today, it'll be good tomorrow and it can help us be a better team."

Maybe it's ugly out here in practice, but if you can kind of learn about that play and get it figured out, that can help you when it gets to regular season.  -Peyton Manning on joint practices.

The quarterback added that it "is a real plus" to go up against a different defense that isn't the same group you normally practice against every week.

"When you have a chance to really practice, to work on something—and maybe it's ugly out here in practice, but if you can kind of learn about that play and get it figured out, that can help you when it gets to the regular season," Manning said. "I think that it is a good thing, especially when you're doing some new things and you have a lot of new players."

Coach Gary Kubiak reiterated this benefit, adding that he liked the tempo of the practice and the chance to create more game-like situations, such as the two-minute drill and red zone work.

"It's different because you're so used to working against each other and each other's schemes. All of a sudden, you see something different," Kubiak noted. "I think it's good. We as teachers can go back. There's a lot of stuff to teach off of today."

After last week's game in Houston, Kubiak said he was disappointed in short-yardage plays and third-down conversions. He considers the joint practices a great time to work out those offensive kinks this week.

"I just want to see us continue to get better," Kubiak said. "One thing about this league, it's probably always something every week. We need to go make some plays. We've been moving the ball. We need to stay on the field better."

Manning was disappointed in that statistic from last week's game as well, especially since the first-team offense punted on all four of its possessions.

Hoping for more time on the field this weekend, the quarterback is aiming to improve the chemistry he and the skill players have on the field.

"Obviously, it'd be nice to work on that chemistry as a unit and be able to move the ball, convert some third downs and obviously try to find a way to get into the end zone," said No. 18. "No matter how long you play, you want to be able to do that."

And Manning knows going against the 49ers will be a really good offensive test, calling the defense that is coached by Eric Mangini a "well-coached bunch."

"They've always been really sound in their schemes, and he's had good players," Manning said, highlighting Mangini's previous groups at the Jets and Patriots. "So I've always thought that it has been a challenge going against his defenses."

While the Broncos defense has been getting a lot of early media attention after two solid performances in previous weeks, players don't want to let down this week. Although the 49ers have lost a lot of key offensive linemen, they still have Colin Kaepernick at QB.

Von Miller, for one, considers that a good challenge for the defense this weekend.

"He looked great at practice," Miller said of Kaepernick. " I know he's been working really tough. He's just been grinding. You could tell. He looked poised out there. He looked like a leader out there. He looked like he had a good command of the offense."

All the same, Miller plans on attacking the quarterback the same way the Broncos have been doing, amassing 12 sacks so far in two preseason games.

"The same as every game: go out there and play hard - be the Von I know that I can be, inspire my teammates and go out there and be great," Miller said of Saturday's game plan.

The outside linebacker likes the joint practices too because it makes the time on the field more competitive - just like a game and just like he prefers it.

Practice is a lot faster, a lot tougher; it's more like a game. It's good for us. It couldn't be any better.  -Von Miller on joint practices with the 49ers.

"I like the joint practices. Practice is a lot faster, a lot tougher; it's more like a game," Miller said, adding that it's good for both sides. "We're going to get a good week of practice in against a team that we're going to be familiar with. It's going to be a great week of practice. It's good for us. It couldn't be any better."

Miller also pointed out that the physicality in joint practices is really on the players to control. Wednesday was a good day, and No. 58 anticipates a good one today.

"We have good guys over here, and they've got good guys over there," Miller said, adding that sometimes tempers escalate but Wednesday's practice "had a good vibe. It was great."