Good morning, Broncos Country!
Day Two of the joint session between the Broncos and 49ers was another rousing success, producing even better work than the first day despite practicing without pads, according to head coach Gary Kubiak.
"We got great work against each other," Kubiak said Thursday. "We had speed and went through a lot of situations, but I thought it was very, very good for both football teams."
Even The Duke weighed in on what he considered a very productive couple of days for his franchise.
"I thought they went great," GM John Elway said. "We didn't have the scraps that we thought we would have. I think everybody stayed within themselves and concentrated. I think it was great work."
Elway added that he always liked the joint practices as a player because it kept the work from getting stale.
"I think the concentration level goes up, you get different looks," he said. "When you practice against your own defense all the time, they have a tendency to know exactly what you're doing. You get a more realistic look from the quarterbacks' point of view. It raises the level of practice."
Offense makes strides
And it appeared that the second day already saw improvement by the Broncos offense (while the defense continued its dominating ways, but more on that awesomeness later).
Andrew Mason reported Thursday that Peyton Manning took his time getting in sync during another end-of-practice two-minute drill, but after three incompletes, the quarterback hit Demaryius Thomas with a 27-yarder on 4th and 10 before making four of his last five throws in the series. Two connected with DT, including a touchdown pass while another hit Andre Caldwell, and Cody Latimer snagged a 31-yard catch.
That big catch by Latimer represents what Kubiak is looking to see out of his second-year receiver.
"You just want to see him making plays. He's a hard worker. He does the right thing. He's in the right place, but it's time for him to start making plays on the ball, coming up with big plays," Kubiak said Thursday. "Everything's in place for Cody to grow up and have a big year. I like the way he works. [He] just needs to keep coming."
Elway noted that while the Broncos offense is certainly going to have its share of growing pains with young players and a new coaching staff, he's confident Manning and the offense will hit their stride - though, hopefully sooner rather than later, he admitted.
"We're not going to be kicking on all cylinders. We'd like to, but we know it's a work in progress for this offense," said a very realistic-minded Elway.
But the competitive-minded Elway added that the Broncos still hope to come out fast against Baltimore in the season opener.
"The goal is always to come out and play well and continue to build off that as the year goes through," he said. "There are going to be some growing pains early in the year. You just hope that it doesn't affect you enough where it costs you any football games."
One of the main keys to that is something the GM reiterated that has been said 100 times since January - Manning. Needs. Rest (even if the 18-year veteran quarterback isn't particularly fond of said rest).
"Maybe it's not what he's used to, but I just think at 39 years old, he can't work like he used to work. He's got to be able to say that," said Elway, who finished his career at age 38. "Even though he may not be as far along as he wants to be right now because he hasn't had that work, he'll be much farther along in December by taking this time off when he's really going to need it."
As for Manning's performance right now?
Well, he's still showing the kids how it's done.
Australian rugby-star-turned-NFL-running back was as impressed with how well Manning could read the defense as throw the ball.
"I watched one of his passes, and just the finesse on it was unbelievable. And the way he can read a defense," Hayne said to Broncos.com. "It's been great just being in his presence. I think he'll go down as one of the greatest of all time."
Adding Evan Mathis to the offensive line is obviously a move to ensure Manning's year is as good as can be, but both Elway and Kubiak emphasized his addition is no indictment on rookie Max Garcia.
"Max has got a tremendous career ahead of him. This had nothing to do with the way Max was playing. It was just more of we thought we needed a little bit more experience up there," Elway said Thursday, adding that Mathis will aid in Garcia's ascension. "I think with Evan there, he'll play great, but it will make us better on the offensive line with more experience. It'll be great for those young guys to learn from him."
Defense continues to bring it
When it was time for the Broncos defense to take the field during 49ers' the two-minute drill, Mason reported it was business as usual:
"The defense dominated all day, so its success in the two-minute period was expected. Pressure from DeMarcus Ware opened the series with an incompletion, and a tip by Brandon Marshall sent the football into Darian Stewart's grasp -- although he invited unnecessary risk by returning the football instead of taking a knee. Stewart fumbled on the return, but Malik Jackson recovered."
After the joint session, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips lauded 49ers' QB Colin Kaepernick.
"You can't help but notice his speed. The guy is a real athlete. A quarterback that can run like that can hurt you at any time," Phillips said. "He's an impressive guy."
But Phillips is confident in the group he's got going after Kap and Co.
"I'm pleased with our safeties overall," he said, pointing out three guys who can play strong safety alongside T.J. Ward - Darian Stewart, Omar Bolden and David Bruton, Jr. "We have three guys that make plays. That's a pretty strong group."
And then, of course, there are the linebackers - a position group Phillips has called among the deepest he's coached anywhere.
After Marshall's impressive return to the field in last week's preseason game, the inside linebacker will finally get to work in tandem with Danny Trevathan, who will play a limited snap count this weekend in his first game action since last December.
"Danny's moving well out there," Kubiak said. "I think Danny's working toward opening day. I think we're right on schedule."
Trevathan is most definitely ready for some real game action.
"It's going to be good for me to get the feeling to assure myself that I can still move, be confident and play with everybody, which I'm sure that I am," Trevathan said. "I know what it takes and I know the mindset that you need to go out there and play at this level. Come game time, I'm going to be ready."
But it wouldn't be the Broncos Defense without Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and even rookie Shane Ray bringing the fire from the edge.
49ers tackle Joe Staley certainly knows not to count them out - especially Miller.
"His speed and his power," Staley told Broncos.com. "A guy with such good get off, the power he plays with is pretty much unmatched in the NFL. It's been great work for us."
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