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Broncos’ No. 1 offense big winner in first joint practice

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Case Keenum and Emmanuel Sanders appeared to have a day.

Casey Barrett - Mile High Report

Day 13 of Broncos’ training camp featured the first of two joint practices with the Chicago Bears, and by the most important measures, it was a success - no brawls and no serious injuries.

“It was a lot better than I expected it to be, honestly,” said guard Ron Leary. “It’s the first joint practice I’ve been a part of and there wasn’t a brawl. That’s a good thing. I think there are just pros out here that are just trying to work and get better.”

And on a few other measures, it was also a great day for the more than 4,000 fans on hand for the final public practice of training camp.

Mostly because Emmanuel Sanders put on a show.

First-team offense ‘sharp’ against Bears’ best D

During one-on-one drills, the Case Keenum-Emmanuel Sanders connection had Bears’ cornerback Kyle Fuller befuddled all day long.

But Keenum wasn’t content with just Sanders. He threw - and completed - to a host of receivers, including Demaryius Thomas, De’Angelo Henderson, Jeff Heuerman, Phillip Lindsay and Tim Patrick.

Ryan Koenigsburg of BSN Denver described the first two plays of the 11-on-11 period for the Broncos’ No. 1 offense:

Case Keenum dropped back, scanned the right side of the field, then to the middle of the field and finally, to his left, where Demaryius Thomas was cutting toward the middle of the field deep in the secondary. Keenum unleashed a rocket right onto the hands of Thomas—who was looking particularly spry on this day—who made the catch and took it the rest of the way for the score.

On the very next play, Keenum once again got great protection from his men up front, giving him time to find Jeff Heuerman running up the seam and connect on another big gainer.

“I will take away a lot,” Keenum said of his day on the field. “I think we communicated well. There’s still some things pre-snap I want to hammer down. I need to get better with that offensive line. Some different miscommunications and things like that. It’s on my plate, it’s on me. Then we’ll watch the film—I need to go watch the film—and see what we can get better at.”

Vance Joseph was also happy with his first-string offense, calling his quarterback “sharp” - a nice rebound from the weekend’s dismal showing by the unit.

For his part, Keenum definitely seemed to take Saturday’s lackluster performance to heart - making sure the first-team offense did not pick up where it left off against the Vikings.

“I think for me, the best part of adversity, the best part of not playing well is being able to get back out there and bounce back,” he said. “That’s what so tough about going those two series, is that we never had a chance to bounce back on Saturday. Getting out on the practice field, Monday, Tuesday, today versus these guys, I think it showed that we can bounce back, and I’m proud of the way we responded.”

The offensive line even drew some praise.

“I think they’re in a great spot. I think they’re playing well together as five. ...The offensive line I thought did a great job against some of those pressures that Minnesota does. And I think that we’re doing so much good stuff that, even the miscommunications that we have, we’re able to go talk about it. It’s pressures that we’re going to know like the back of our hand and in season we’re going to be able to see it, recognize it, and block it up. I think they’re doing a great job.”

As for the second team offense, Chad Kelly’s performance was “up and down,” according to Joseph.

“It wasn’t perfect, but he made some plays,” Joseph said. “They’re like Chad always does. He made some nice scramble plays. It wasn’t perfect, but I was OK with his performance.”

Defense ‘sharp’ ... unless pass went to a tight end

In general, the first-team defense was also highly effective - except when Mitch Trubisky threw to his tight ends, a.k.a the Achilles heel of the Broncos’ D.

According to Zac Stevens of BSN Denver, once Trubisky found his first tight end in the 7-on-7 period (after not throwing a single pass in the first team period), he didn’t let up.

The Bears’ second-year quarterback threw a quick pass in the middle to a tight end where Todd Davis had the coverage. From there it was just academic.

Six of Trubisky’s next seven completions were also to tight ends, including a touchdown pass to Trey Burton who could not have been more wide open on his way to six points.

“Trubisky’s connection with tight ends was so emphatic, it was almost like the quarterback didn’t even see receiving options that weren’t tight ends, or he was told to exclusively throw to tight ends.” - Zac Stevens

In goal line 7-on-7 periods, Trubisky targeted tight ends four out of six times, completing all four and hauling in two touchdowns in the process.

But the pressure on the quarterback was real, thanks to Von Miller - proving that even when he’s not going full-out, he’s still dangerous.

Miller denied doing any holding back when he’s on the field.

“No, I’m definitely trying to wreck it,” Miller said. “I think as a human being, we all struggle with consistency, and I’m the same as everybody else. ...I don’t come out here to practice with an agenda, I just try to practice hard and play. Sometimes it works in my favor and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Other than the tight end coverage, Miller was also happy with how the defense stepped up.

“We have to clean up our two-minute defense a little bit. We could use some improvement there. We talked about that as a defense afterwards. That’s the thing about this defense. We’re not going to let things just get swept under the rug. When there is an issue we’re going to address it, fix it and then come out and do that.”

Hopefully that is also the attitude among the second string defense - which did NOT have a good day against Chicago’s second-team offense.

Joseph noted that a big reason for the “terrible” performance was having “only six corners” and only “five safeties” - a few of whom just were added to the team this week.

“We’re just beat up. We’re down to five safeties - guys who have played in our system. We’re beat up,” Joseph said. “That being said, we’ve got a game on Saturday and those guys have got to do their jobs.”

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