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Fangio: It’s not just OTAs; it’s the beginning of training camp

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Broncos are getting ready for day three of OTAs after two days of what has been labeled ‘intense’ practice. Fangio’s response? “Good.”

denverbroncos.com

Good morning, Broncos Country!

I love OTAs. I love the optimism that comes with a new season. I even love the news conferences (I don’t love many of the dumb questions, but that’s a rant from another day).

But I love it because it is the first time we get a glimpse of how coaches are approaching the new season, how players are feeling about the upcoming season, how they made changes (or didn’t) since cleaning out their lockers after Week 17, what they’re looking forward to, what they think of new additions to the team, etc. etc. etc.

What I don’t love are all the comments complaining that “nothing players say right now can be believed” or that it’s all “just words” until they put the pads on.

Well, of course it’s just words.

But how do you hold people - coaches, players, scouts, GMs - accountable at all if you don’t first know their “words?”

Words give us insight into how this team is going to go next season.

Obviously it is important to take good passes and great interceptions in stride (and I would add taking bad passes and missed tackles in stride is crucial too) - but you have to start somewhere each season, and asking questions of coaches and players seems like a good beginning point.

There are plenty of PR-like answers to ignore (and I’d argue that’s often due more to poor questioning than anything), but there’s a lot to be gleaned as well.

Take some comments from the Broncos’ fearless new leader, Vic Fangio. By all accounts, he is a straight shooter - with his players as well as the media - so listening to his words can be extremely useful for insight into his plan to make this team better.

“OTAs is the beginning of training camp, albeit under a different set of rules,” Fangio said Monday.

And when he’s asked about the quarterbacks - after just one OTA practice - Fangio had a very practical answer.

“They looked fine.”

He entertained two questions related to the efficacy of practicing without pads - for guys like Royce Freeman and Von Miller - and Fangio once again emphasized his point that a whole lot of learning can happen without actually “playing” football.

“It’s valuable for [Freeman] and everybody. This is the start of the season. Just to go out there and execute a new system against 11 guys on the other side, albeit not with pads on, it’s just another step in the process,” Fangio said.

Moments later the coach addressed Miller’s progress.

“He’s got a lot to learn out there. Part of his job will be dropping sometimes and playing the run. He’s got to be sharp on that,” Fangio said, clearly not caring to laud unnecessary praise to the franchise’s star. “He missed a thing or two today that I noticed. So it’s valuable for him. All the guys up front, it’s not NFL football, but there still can be something gained from it.”

And while Miller is always going to bring the optimism and build up his coaches and teammates and scheme (I mean, he complimented Kyle Orton for crying out loud!), he also makes it clear when he’s unhappy. So if he says he likes the defensive scheme, my money is on him liking the scheme.

“It’s a great defense. It’s not all about the outside linebackers. You have to have pretty good outside linebacker play to make it good,” Miller said, adding that it’s not as dependent on great defensive backs as previous Broncos’ defense, which is noteworthy. “I’m excited about it. It’s not all dependent on ‘No Fly Zone’ or locking guys up one-on-one and playing man-coverage all game. We pass the [burden] all around and I like that. I like for it to be on the outside linebackers, the inside linebackers, it’s a team sport.”

Likewise, listening to Joe Flacco’s comments - if you could pull yourself away from the completely false “I’m not a mentor” narrative that caught fire Tuesday - we get a sense that the veteran quarterback and his new offensive coordinator are hitting it off.

And at this point in the offseason, that’s a key takeaway.

Nevermind right now how Flacco is throwing or whether he has picked up every detail of his new offense after two days of OTAs. If he is developing a good rapport with the OC, then there is great potential for a functional offense.

“I think, honestly, it’s a lot me talking and a lot of [Scangarello] seeing what I’ve done throughout my career and how that fits into this offense,” Flacco noted. “Obviously things get catered to the quarterback a little bit. Right now, it’s just trying to learn the rhythm of the offense, the timing of your feet with your arm and the guys getting out of their breaks. When you hear Rich talk about that and you watch it get done on film and you’re able to take it out here on the practice field, you can start putting it together in your brain and walk yourself through it, and it gets really comfortable.”

That detailed description of how the two are working together right now tells a lot about how Flacco is approaching his role as the starting quarterback - and it should be encouraging to Broncos Country.

“Listen, I think you are constantly growing in a system. You really are,” Flacco said, adding that players and coaches must constantly evolve with the game, so the system naturally changes with it. “I like to think I pick up offenses pretty quickly. That doesn’t mean that you have everything down and you’re as comfortable as you can be. There are always things that you can work on.”

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