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Vance Joseph settling in to Year 2

The inexperienced head coach enters his second season with the Broncos more confident in himself and more knowledgeable about the role.

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Vance Joseph has been a favorite punching bag around Broncos Country.

And that hasn’t been without merit. Going 5-11 doesn’t go over well in Denver.

But the scorn by Broncos fans was never completely fair either.

After all, it wasn’t like Joseph walked into a great situation. He walked into a floundering team that had barely escaped a losing record the prior season, had no clear direction at the most important position on the team, and saw the retirement of its two biggest locker room leaders - Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware.

So for a guy with no head coaching experience, handling those team issues while also trying to get a handle on the job of head coach was a formidable task that had a 50-50 chance of going poorly.

Adding Joseph’s indecisiveness - which is probably as much about his willingness to be John Elway’s puppet as it is his actual personality - there was really no way last season was going to turn out any other way than miserable for everyone.

But this season is already a different story.

For starters, the team has clear veteran leaders, and the quarterback is one of them.

The offensive coordinator seems to actually know how to work his scheme around the talents of his players.

And the rookie class is strong and will contribute throughout the year, providing a great mix of veteran talent and rookie promise for the coaches to develop.

But more importantly, our head coach is starting to act like a head coach.

He seems more comfortable in front of reporters, has apparently figured out the headset and definitely exhibits more self-confidence in his decision-making.

Just ask John Elway.

“The experience of that one year has helped him tremendously,” Elway told Dave Logan. “We’ve seen him take more control of the staff, more control of the team, get things done the right way, put his foot down a little bit more on discipline-type things - which has been important. He’s really made a stride, and I think he feels a lot more comfortable right now. This will be a good test for all of us this year.”

I’ve often defended Joseph because I don’t think his problem is not understanding the game or not getting football strategy.

In fact, I think he understands it quite well. When Joseph starts answering questions about Xs and Os in a news conference, it is clear he loves the game of football - the technique, the schemes, the strategy.

His problem has been handling the management part of being a head coach - organizing the process and being ready to make decisions when the going got tough, whether it was dealing with adversity in a game, whether it was benching a starter not playing well, whether it was being prepared in case of an injury to a key player.

He lacked any confidence in his decisions because he was overwhelmed that they were even happening.

But a second year in the job seems to have given Joseph a quiet confidence that has been revealing itself this preseason.

Joseph said himself this year is “a lot easier.”

“It’s a big job, and it takes time to digest it all,” Joseph said Wednesday. “Obviously, in my second year, I’m more comfortable with all of it — having a quarterback that I feel good about and having a better offensive line and those things, because players play. It’s a players’ game, and I’m a coach and I don’t play. But, it definitely feels better my second time around.”

Part of his adjustment this year has been figuring out better routines for his players - in meeting rooms and on the field.

“It takes time to figure out your players and what’s best for your players — how you practice, how you meet. All of these [things] matter,” Joseph said, adding that he’s running more efficient meetings as an example of one adjustment. “In my second year, I figured out routines to help our players draft a game plan quicker. That comes with time. I’m in a good place. Our team is in a good place right now, so I’m looking forward to Sunday.”

And for all the grief Joseph got for saying the team “had a good practice,” he’s also trying to make that work better too, which means Thursday practices will be in pads.

“The idea behind that - Wednesday, most guys are still sore, so our big day is going to be Thursday,” Joseph said. “Inside run, first, second and third down, a little bit of red zone— so it’ll be Thursdays with pads.”

Optimism always runs high before the start of the regular season, but players seem to be keying off Joseph’s confidence as well.

“I feel like we’re right on track,” said left tackle Garret Bolles. “The train is going to move. ...I can’t wait, I’m fired up. I know everyone else is fired up on the offense. We have a special group of dudes. Matt [Paradis] does a great job leading up and getting us in the right direction and doing the things that we need. Having him there at center and having Case back there is what we need to build something special.”

Demaryius Thomas and the wide receiver corps are certainly hoping so, but just knowing the starting quarterback throughout the entire offseason was a huge win already.

“It’s the best thing. You’ve got one quarterback you can go with,” Thomas said, comparing the chemistry between Steelers wide reciever Antonio Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They’ve been together for forever. That’s why they’re so good.”

Even the defense is fired up over the potential of the offense.

“I’m excited because they’re putting up points,” said Shane Ray. “They’re putting teams in situations to where we have the ability to rush, and our back ends can do what they do best and cover. I’m looking forward to it.”

Horse Tracks - docllv’s pick of the day

John Elway Is Looking for Himself |
He’s one of the best ever to play the game—but as general manager of the Broncos, he has yet to identify a young passer with the arm, the brain and the fortitude to take over the franchise the way he did when he arrived in Denver as a rookie in 1983. Are John Elway’s standards too high? Is his vision clouded by his own past mastery? Will he ever find his quarterback?

Horse Tracks

Could Denver see former All-Pro safety Earl Thomas on Sunday vs. Seahawks?
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Casey Kreiter's small gesture helps Iowa school heal after gun-related lockdown
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‘Just manage the game for us’: Broncos seek balance, ball security in Case Keenum’s first start – The Athletic
The big-game spotlight is hardly new to Case Keenum, who went 12-4 as a starter for the Vikings and peaked with the Minnesota Miracle. But the expectation in Denver is a bit more subdued.

Broncos assistant coach Tom McMahon brings new fire to special teams in 2018
One of the most important new pieces of the 2018 Broncos goes by the nickname “midge.” Quick, find it in the dictionary. Midge: A small two-winged fly, or informally, a small person.

A suggestion for gameday protests that move focus off anthem and onto what players are really fighting for – The Athletic
As long as the national anthem is involved, the real message of the protesters will always get lost in translation.

Colin Kaepernick Nike ad featuring Serena Williams, LeBron James will reportedly air during NFL opener - The Washington Post
The president says he finds it difficult to watch the NFL, while a new ad narrated by the former quarterback is reportedly set to air during Thursday night's Falcons-Eagles game.

Le'Veon Bell's agent -- Pittsburgh Steelers RB to protect long-term value
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Chicago Bears DE Akiem Hicks says Green Bay Packers can't block Khalil Mack
Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks couldn't contain his excitement about new teammate Khalil Mack. He said the Packers' line won't be able to block the one-time defensive player of the year, and that will give the Bears more opportunities for one-on-ones.

From jail time to ACL surgeries, no 'quit' in Browns' Devaroe Lawrence - New Orleans Saints Blog- ESPN
Cleveland's newest defensive tackle is the longest of long shots, and the 25-year-old rookie faces yet another challenge -- making it in the NFL.

Seahawks-Broncos injury update: K.J. Wright out, rookie Shaquem Griffin gets the start - Field Gulls
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Earl Thomas returns to practice for the Seattle Seahawks - Field Gulls
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Later that morning, Pete Carroll told reporters "We’ll let you know," regarding Thomas’s status for...

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Kelce and the Chiefs take on the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday at 3:05 p.m. Arrowhead Time.

Is this finally the right Chargers team? - Bolts From The Blue
Every year you hear it, will this time be different?

John Elway Is Looking for Himself |
He’s one of the best ever to play the game—but as general manager of the Broncos, he has yet to identify a young passer with the arm, the brain and the fortitude to take over the franchise the way he did when he arrived in Denver as a rookie in 1983. Are John Elway’s standards too high? Is his vision clouded by his own past mastery? Will he ever find his quarterback?

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New Broncos' offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has a history of creating quarterback-friendly offenses and has been open to new ideas that enter the NFL through college, such as the spread and run-pass options.