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Broncos and Rams Joint practice: Day 1 news and notes

Today is the first of two joint practices between the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams ahead of their preseason finale game this weekend.

Denver Broncos 2023 training camp Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Day one of joint practices between the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Rams is in the books. Unfortunately, it sounds like the Rams “won” the day overall, but there were still some bright spots on this.

Today we have more on the Rams winning the practice, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam had himself a big day, Sean Payton praises UDFA rookie offensive tackle Alex Palczewski, news and notes, injury updates, notable quotes, and more!

Rams “win” day one of the joint practice

The common thought after today’s first joint practice between the Rams and the Broncos was that the Rams came away as the winner of the day. They were crisp on offense and their defense made life difficult for the Broncos on defense.

It was not a one-sided day but the Broncos had their issues and suffered with mental errors and fatigue.

Sean McVay and the Rams run an up-tempo practice and that led to the Broncos struggling with fatigue during this one. Also, mental errors, false starts, and other penalties really held back the team today. Payton told reporters that he was not really worried about today but that tomorrow will be a big practice for them because they have a chance to clean up their mistakes.

“It’s not what I’m hoping to see on film today, it’s what I’m hoping to see tomorrow with the corrections. I thought on the offensive field where I was, we had too many false starts. I thought we tired pretty quickly. They were [playing] a lot of plays, relative to maybe what they’re used to, and even more than what a real game would present. I think it’s good from a conditioning standpoint. Mentally, there’s some mental toughness that’s required to play—poise. All those things are required, not only to play, but to play well and to win. Those challenges came up a little bit. We’ll watch those on tape. The key is making the corrections, and hopefully not having to see the same mistake from the same player again.”

Another thing the offense struggled today with was drops. Payton noted that the mental and physical fatigue likely was a cause of this, but he still was not happy about it. He finished his answer on the subject by saying “If your job is a receiver, you’re paid to catch. It’s pretty simple.”.

“They’re probably a little bit of both. They come from fatigue, they come from concentration, and at some point, they have to go away. Periodically, I’ve had really good receivers that might drop a pass early in a game and then you wouldn’t see it again. [Former Saints WR] Marques Colston, once in a blue moon, would have an early drop, and he’d always exit the sideline wherever I wasn’t. But then he’d come back and catch 15 balls or 12 balls. There were a few out there today from a handful of different players. If your job is a receiver, you’re paid to catch. It’s pretty simple.”

From reporters on hand, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy had a couple while Courtland Sutton also had a drop. These mental errors need to be cleaned up and Payton clearly will not put up with them moving forward. How they bounce back tomorrow will be noteworthy and it sounds like Payton is expecting a bounce back performance from his offense. As for the fatigue, conditioning has been a big emphasis for Payton all offseason so he cannot be thrilled with them struggling with it in this one.

We shall see how tomorrow goes.

Tight end Albert O. has a big day

With the roster cut down only a few days away, some bubble players are fighting for their roster spot with the Broncos and potentially their future in the NFL. One player on that bubble who could be helping himself make the team is tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. The big and athletic tight end was the MVP of the Broncos offense today and caught multiple touchdowns vs. the Rams during today’s joint practice.

He was dominant in the red zone period today and caught multiple touchdowns from backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Albert Okwuegbunam capped off his day with another big gain when he caught a 40-yard pass from Stidham once again late in practice.

After practice, head coach Sean Payton was asked about Albert O. and he told reporters that he has made progress, has had a good two weeks, and that he hopefully he can continue that trend moving forward.

“He has. I thought he had a good week last week. He had one of his better weeks, so hopefully we can continue that trend.”

Albert Okwuegbunam is firmly on the roster bubble so he needs to have days like today to help himself make the team. We know what he can do as a receiver, but the fact he has been solid as a run blocker this summer is intriguing. He made multiple good blocks vs. the 49ers and could be pushing hard for a roster spot. Both he and undrafted rookie Nate Adkins are fighting for that final tight end if the Broncos do indeed keep four tight ends.

Sean Payton praises rookie offensive tackle Alex Palczewski

While all eyes have been on undrafted rookie running back Jaleel McLaughlin, and for good reason, another undrafted rookie has been rising up the depth chart as well. Offensive Tackle Alex Palczewski has gone from being a probable practice squad candidate to receiving some first-team work and looking like a real candidate for a spot on the 53-man roster.

The 6-6, 314-pound rookie out of Illinois has quietly worked his way up the depth chart after a solid showing in training camp and looking solid in two preseason games. He even has taken a handful of first-team reps at right tackle according to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold.

After practice, Broncos head coach Sean Payton was asked about Palczewski and had some glowing remarks about his undrafted rookie. First, he called him a tough and smart football player who has the quality of “he gets the job done” to him. He continued by saying that the team added a good group of undrafted free agent lineman who will help out the team this year and into the future.

“He’s tough and smart. He’s played a lot of football. It’s not always pretty, but there is this quality of ‘he gets the job done.’ I said this at the beginning of camp: after the draft, I thought we did a good job in that two-hour period of signing free agents. Sometimes offensive linemen are hard to get. We were able to sign a pretty good class of undrafted offensive linemen that has helped us and will help us, not only this year, but in the future. I’m encouraged.”

Palczewski seems destined for a spot on the 53-man roster, but his exact role and who he beats out remains the question. Veteran tackle Cam Fleming is viewed as the swing tackle and played good football for the Broncos last season and is likely making the team. Isaiah Prince, the other tackle expected to make the team received first-team reps at right tackle in place of Mike McGlinchey and started in place of him in the preseason opener. He has played well and would give the team another experienced backup. So, it’ll be interesting to see where Palczewski fits in this offense and if he costs any of these two veterans a job.

News and Notes

Injury Report

Notable Quotes

Head Coach Sean Payton what he likes about joint practices

“I’ve done a lot only because I’ve coached a long time. My early years—or our early years in New Orleans—we had a number with Houston because we were close. There are some cities—logistically, when you’re out west, there’s a handful of teams you typically get used to playing in the preseason that limit your travel. Houston was that for us in New Orleans because that was an easy trip. Then, [we had] a number of years with New England. I’d say we probably had five, both at home and in New England. Eventually, we came to LA quite a bit to get out of the heat. When we did it with the Chargers, it was always us coming to them—they did it last week—just to get a break from the humidity.”

What do we like? You get different looks. You get used to your own team, your own defense, your own offense, and you get a whole new set of formations and defensive fronts. Obviously, you get a whole new set of players that do things differently. In a game, you’re going to get things that maybe you haven’t covered. Today I’m sure we’re going to look at plays on both sides of the ball that we haven’t seen, because either our offense doesn’t run them, or our defense doesn’t play it. I think that variety is important. These are huge reps for so many players that are competing for roster spots, so these practice snaps are invaluable. This would be like a preseason game, really, when you look at the snaps.”

Head Coach Sean Payton whether QB Russell Wilson is comfortable with the quarterback sneak play and whether they’ve talked about it

“We have. I’m sure he’s comfortable—I know he is comfortable with running quarterback sneaks. We talked about it offensively when we were going through short yardage. We talked about how much do we want to dive into that and study it. You don’t get a lot of chances to replicate it and practice it. I think it’s something we can build on when the season starts. We’ll have a short yardage package and things we feel like we can go to when it’s third and a yard and you’re really looking to run it and everyone knows you’re going to run it. I think the key is being efficient. I know Philadelphia was very efficient with that [last year]. I do think ‘Russ’ (QB Russell Wilson) is someone that’s strong, athletic and has traits where he certainly could have success. The key would be, ‘Do we feel like it fits us right now?’ We’ve discussed it, but I don’t know that I could say that we’re going to see a lot of it. Certainly we’re going to discuss it more.”

Head Coach Sean Payton on his impression of T Mike McGlinchey’s first practice after recovering from a knee injury

“I’m anxious to look at the tape. It’s good to have him back out there. You feel his presence in the huddle, from a leadership perspective. Just being at field level, it’s not like I had a chance to just look at him. Typically speaking, if you don’t notice a tackle, sometimes that’s pretty good. I know that we’re better when he’s out there, and you felt his presence just in the team drills.”

Head Coach Sean Payton how much he knew about Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024 Senior Finalist OLB Randy Gradishar and the Orange Crush defense growing up

“He said, ‘None of you remember this,’ and I was thinking, ‘Ah, be careful.’ It was all during the seventies, and you can never forget a name like ‘[Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024 Senior Finalist Randy] Gradishar.’ You guys probably don’t remember, but 7-Eleven used to give you Slurpee’s and they’d be in these 7-Eleven NFL Slurpee cups. You’d collect them. You’d have [Pro Football Hall of Fame DT] Alan Page and Gradishar and you’d have a stack in your room. Then they were so sticky that your mom would just throw them away someday and wouldn’t tell you. I can remember those defenses very well. It’s interesting, because that’s a time frame where we can only watch what we were given. We were given ABC or CBS to put on, and then the only way to catch up on what happened on the weekend was you had to wait until halftime of Monday Night Football. That’s kind of amazing, really. In order to find out about all the other games that were played, you had to watch that eight-minute Monday Night Football halftime segment to get the highlights. Clearly, it’s a lot different now with our ability to watch any game we want and we get the highlights right away. You can’t lose track of a name like ‘Gradishar’ and you had Atwater. I remember those teams. As a young fan—I was an old 49ers fan, which was [former 49ers QB] John Brodie and [former 49ers TE] Ted Kwalick, [former 49ers WR] Gene Washington. I’m dating myself now. Those were a different generation of players. It’s great to see him. I made sure the players clapped when I introduced him before I told the players that he’s also the sideline equipment check guy that’s responsible for any fines. It was good for the players to schmooze up to him a bit today.”

Tweets from Practice