ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—Finally, it’s over.
The Denver Broncos finished their 2016 training camp with the second of two joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers, who they’ll be playing against this Saturday.
“It’s been good work,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “Speaking for us, we didn’t practice very well today coming off of yesterday, which was very physical. So, we’ve got to bounce back. Going against somebody else you find a lot more about your players, I think. So, I think our evaluation process this week has almost been through three games once we get through Saturday. Good work. I appreciate them coming in. I appreciate them making the effort to come here and work with us.”
Both of these practices have been incredibly physical. Today, five fights broke out over the course of what turned out to be no more than an hour-and-ten-minute practice. Things got so bad that Kubiak called a meeting with his offense during the middle of practice to try and simmer things down.
“I told them, ‘You wanna practice now, or do you wanna come back tonight?'” Kubiak said. “We were too busy with other stuff—personal agendas, instead of practicing football. We settled down and finished up.”
The physical nature of these practices could make for an interesting game on Saturday night. Two years ago, when the Houston Texans visited Denver for a similar set of joint practices before a preseason game, things got equally as scrappy and the game turned into one of more physical preseason games in Broncos history.
Siemian to Start
Second-year gunslinger Trevor Siemian will start Saturday night’s game against the 49ers, Kubiak announced after practice.
“Trevor will start,” Kubiak said. “He and Mark [Sanchez] will play consistently the same amount. I’d like to tell you it’s a quarter and a half. It’ll probably be more of a play-count type of deal, but Trevor will start, Mark will go, and Paxton [Lynch] will finish up.”
Siemian was the better of the Broncos quarterbacks during training camp. He showed command of the playbook, keen pocket awareness, and touch and accuracy beyond anything the Broncos had under center last season. He’s been locked in a competition with Sanchez, who many thought would be handed the job. Instead, Siemian is on the verge of winning it himself.
“They’ve been splitting it right down the middle, and Mark started last week,” Kubiak said. “They should both play with the ones somehow, someway this week, I would think. We’ll see how the reps span out.”
Siemian getting the start for this second preseason game isn’t indicative of whether he’ll be the starter on Sept. 8 against the Panthers, however. In fact, he may not even be ready to pick a starter after this weekend’s game.
“Would I like to? Yeah,” Kubiak said. “Will I? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
This is Wade Phillips’ world. We’re just living in it.
The Broncos’ defensive coordinator strutted up to the podium, sporting his trademark smile and a new pair of Oakley sunglasses with bright orange rims.
“How ’bout my glasses, huh,” Phillps said proudly as he stepped in front of the media. “DeMarcus [Ware] had some last year like this. He said, ‘you like those, coach?’ I said, ‘sure!’ He said, ‘I’ll get you some.’ So, he waited until after we won the Super Bowl. Then, about two weeks ago, he said, ‘Here’s those glasses!’ I appreciate it.”
Phillips’ defense is the heart and soul of this team. Last season, of course, they were essentially the sole reason the Broncos were able to win a world championship. During training camp, they’ve looked every bit as fast, athletic, and angry as they were during last season’s Super Bowl run. Phillips believes having the 49ers in town for these two days only made them better.
“I think anytime you’re competitive, you can work on things, show the players what they did well, but also show them what they need to improve on,” Phillips said. “So it definitely helped us.”
The Broncos’ defense hasn’t been without it’s challenges, though. Injuries continue to give them trouble. The defensive line, in particular, seems to be a question mark right now. Vance Walker, the defensive end that the Broncos had hoped would replace Malik Jackson, went down earlier this week with a torn ACL and will be out for the season.
Derek Wolfe, Denver’s other defensive end, was walked off the field yesterday by trainers with what turned out to be a sprained ankle. Phillips feared the worst when Wolfe went down.
“What went through my head when Wolfe went down? We don’t want to hear that in public,” Phillips joked. “You hope somebody isn’t hurt. Anytime a player—and any player, I don’t care if he’s a third-team player. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
After his defense recorded seven sacks last week against the Bears on plays many analysts incorrectly called “blitzes,” Phillips has gone on somewhat of a crusade to explain to the laymen in the press and the public exactly what a blitz is.
“If there’s a guy deep in the middle of the field, it’s not a blitz,” Phillips said. “The common term ‘blitz’ means somebody’s rushing. So, they say, ‘So-and-so’s blitzing, this is a zone blitz,’ well, it’s really just four guys rushing or five guys rushing. When there’s six—it’s pretty simple—when there’s six guys rushing, there’s five eligible receivers with five guys that have to cover all of those guys, so there’s nobody in the middle of the field. Anytime somebody gets sacked or whatever and there’s somebody in the middle of the field, it’s not a blitz.”
That set up a logical question from 9news’ Mike Klis.
“So, if you bring 10 guys and there’s one guy in the middle of the field?” Klis asked.
“It’s not a blitz,” Phillips said. “That’s also a touchdown if you throw it to any of the other four guys.”
Miller Knows His Quarterbacks…Maybe
Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller has been working his way back slowly after an offseason spent jetting across the globe. The star pass rusher started slow in training camp, but as the last three weeks have gone by, he’s shown signs of being the game wrecker he was during the past postseason.
Miller will get the opportunity to play for the first time this preseason on Saturday — and he couldn’t be happier about it.
“I’m pretty excited,” Miller said. “Football is my life. Football is everything. To get back out there and play, is very good. The last time I was in [Sports Authority Field at Mile High] there, we beat the Patriots. It should be some good feels and should be a good start. It’ll be my first game back at home. It’ll be pretty good.”
Miller has also had a front-row seat to watch the Broncos’ ongoing quarterback competition between Lynch and Siemian, but that doesn’t mean he’s an expert on it.
“I watched Peyton Manning for five years and before him I had Tim Tebow,” Miller said. “It’s not like I had a whole lot of quarterbacks to compare and contrast. As much as I admit I have all the quarterback knowledge, I really don’t. It’s really not much that I can say. Their arms look great and footwork looks nice. They throw pretty tight spirals. I like all of them. I feel like we can win with all three. Whichever one wins the starting position, we can win with. I’m comfortable and confident with all three of those guys. They are all great.”
While Miller may not have plans to be a quarterbacks coach in the near future, he does have respect for every starting quarterback in the NFL and discussed it in what might have been the best answer to a media question in all of Broncos training camp.
“In the National Football League, if the quarterback is starting, he’s pretty good,” Miller said. “He probably can do some stuff that you hate. As much as you’d like to have a slow quarterback with no accuracy that really can’t throw or read defenses, that doesn’t happen in the National Football League. If they put a guy out there as a starting quarterback, he’s going to be good. He is going to be good enough to win for them and that’s always going to make it tough for us.”
Thus concludes the 2016 Denver Broncos’ training camp. They’ll play the San Francisco 49ers this Saturday night.