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Scangarello’s big test - keeping the Broncos’ offense on the field

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Rich Scangarello called a great game for Brandon Allen’s first pro start last week against the Browns. Can the offensive coordinator do it against a much tougher defense?

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NFL: Denver Broncos-Training Camp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

While Drew Lock has returned to practice with great fanfare and much attention on his limited snaps, Brandon Allen has quietly been getting his second week of full NFL practice before heading north to face a much bigger challenge than his pro start debut - playing on the road against a contender.

And even though he knows his chance to keep playing rests on having a damn-near perfect performance, Allen has been assuming that ever since bouncing around the waiver wire once making it to the NFL.

“This league’s so competitive and there are so many good players waiting for an opportunity that every week you have to be on top of your game,” Allen said Wednesday. “If you’re not, that next guy behind you is ready to get in there.”

Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello will be under the microscope again to see if he can work a little more play-design magic as his young quarterback goes up against a very stout Front 7, taking advantage of Allen’s ability to move out of the pocket if the play breaks down.

“You always want to build to a guy’s strength,” Scangarello said. “Brandon is smart, he’s intelligent and he’s tough. He hasn’t played a lot, but the game has slowed down for him in a lot of ways just being around guys, being around some good veterans and some good coordinators.

“I think that that, with the ability to know when to go off-schedule and to make a play with his feet or to use that to his strength, it definitely helps the offense.”

One thing that helped the offense last week was the “big play” - such as Courtland Sutton’s 21-yard touchdown catch or Noah Fant’s 75-yard catch and run touchdown.

Although the Broncos’ offense still struggled to score on every drive, Scangarello did not discount the “big play” as a fluke.

“That’s what makes great offenses, honestly,” Scangarello said, noting it’s hard to “earn” those scores. “That play by Noah could have been a 12-yard completion and we would have had to go 50 more yards to finish it with a score. Maybe you don’t score in the red zone and you’re kicking a field goal and we’re talking a different narrative. I just really feel like you get guys in a position to be successful, they learn to get confident, they take advantage of that and that’s what leads to great offensive play in the long run.”

Allen admitted that it took him a little time to get into a rhythm during the Browns game, and he’s hoping to improve on that in Minnesota.

“I think settling in sooner in this next game will be better for me,” he said. “I missed a few throws here and there I know I can make. Kind of cleaning up the little things will be better for this week.”

While Allen aims to extend his playing time at least another week, Lock is still unsure of his timeline. And head coach Vic Fangio hinted on Thursday that there’s no guarantee Lock will play this season - but that he definitely benefited from the time away from the field.

I think he learned a lot whereas when he was going through it in the spring and in training camp before he got hurt, it was piling up on him, I think,” Fangio said. “Besides learning the new offense and being under center which he had never done in college, etc., all those things were piling up on him and getting in the way of progressing the way you’d like to see him progress.”

The onus has been on Scangarello - and his quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney - to get both Allen and Lock ready in a short amount of time. With both Scangs and McCartney coming from the collegiate ranks, their coaching style is well-equipped to teach in a short amount of time.

“The college experience. It forces you to be creative teacher. I think the NFL is catching up now. I think for a lot of years, your players came in and they were a little bit more mature, they played in similar systems and there just was a foundation. I think now you’re starting at a lower level and to get a guy accelerated in his growth, learning and up to speed, you have to be creative with your teaching methods. I think teaching an 18-year-old it helps you do that.”

Scangarello noted that the key is figuring out what each player responds to for correction.

“It starts the day they walk in the door. It’s just a process of having a good teaching methodology and being creative because every learner is a little bit different,” he said. “How you attack it, each person I think is a little bit different. Whether they’re visual or audio learners and all that, that plays a factor….I think it’s reflected in Brandon’s play that [QBs coach T.C. McCartney] did a nice job with him.”

As anxious as Lock may be to get on the field, he insists he’s cool with whatever the coaches decide.

And how will they decide if he’s ready to activate? Lock has an idea.

“Being clean out here on the practice field—no fumbled snaps, completing passes, just showing that I knocked the rust off from not being around a team, not being in a pocket and not doing the basic football things that quarterbacks do for a pretty good amount of time,” Lock said. “Once they feel like that’s the case, then I guess they’ll have a decision to make.”

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