After a dominant performance on Thursday night against the Chicago Bears, the Denver Broncos returned to square one, A.K.A. the practice field. As they learned on Saturday morning, however, there's still no room to coast.
“We didn’t practice very well offensively," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "We’re less than 48 hours out of a game and to come back and practice is tough. We handled it defensively, but we didn’t handle it offensively. It’s disappointing for me.”
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1688594-mhh-premium-how-you-can-s...Practicing against the Broncos defense is never easy, but the offense saw its share of struggles today. There were turnovers as well as a general lack of rhythm. With a hungry home crowd waiting to see the defending champs in just a week's time, kinks still need to be worked out and progress needs to be made.
The rest of the week will leave plenty of time to catch up, but Saturday may have not been the best start. Let's see how it all went down.
Setback for Fowler
With a blocked punt that led to a touchdown and three catches for 18 yards, Bennie Fowler was one of the standout performers in the Broncos win in Chicago. Not everything went perfectly, however. It wasn't revealed until after the fact, but Fowler sustained a fairly significant injury on Thursday.
“He has some type of a small fracture in his elbow," Kubiak said. "He’s going to be a few weeks. The plan is kind of like with Ty [Sambrailo] from a standpoint of we have to stabilize it here for a few days. He should be able to do all the running and conditioning, but Bennie is going to miss a little bit of time. It’s disappointing. He’s really playing well, but we’re going to get him back. It’s just going to take a little time.”
The injury took place just after Fowler blocked the punt near the end of the first half.
He went to the ground, got blocked, put his hand on the ground and I think it dislocated or something," Kubiak added.
Fowler's injury is disappointing news, but his hiatus will allow the several receivers on the bubble to take advantage of new opportunities and increased reps. The biggest beneficiary of this all may be Cody Latimer, who put up a sensational seven-catch, 82-yard performance against the Bears. He may not be able to completely unseat Fowler, but if he can keep his current pace, he'll challenge for more targets come September 8.
Regardless of the news, Fowler himself is far from downhearted.
“I’m not really frustrated," Fowler said. "I still have an opportunity. I just got to get healthy and once I get healthy, just get back out there to pick up where I left off.”
He plans to be back by the preseason closer, and the Broncos will need his physical presence at the start of the regular season.
After constant railing and doubt by national onlookers during the first stretch of camp, the Broncos quarterback trio quieted some of the naysayers with a solid showing on Thursday, completing a combined 23-of-32 passes for 261 yards. The Bears secondary wasn't much of a challenge, but things slowed down when they returned to the practice field.
It sounded as if Kubiak wanted to knock the passers down a peg lest they get big heads after one strong preseason game.
"I’m not real happy with practice today, so I’ll go look at today," Kubiak said. "We’ll wake up on Monday—tomorrow is an off day—and Monday we’ll go back to work. We’ll keep plugging. We are going to find the right one.”
Rookie Paxton Lynch got some action with the first team in seven-on-seven drills, but failed to complete a pass and nearly threw an interception. He also fumbled a snap and had a pass batted down by Jared Crick, causing Kubiak to nearly lose his temper. It was a far cry from the efficiency of Thursday night.
Trevor Siemian's play was somewhat steady as he tossed a 35-yard completion to DeVier Posey and found Henry Krieger-Coble in the back of the end zone. The nifty passes were balanced out by a batted pass by Derek Wolfe and an ill-advised rushing attempt that stoked the ire of his head coach.
Quarterback competitions are more marathon than sprint. Sanchez may have a bit of an early lead, but Siemian is keeping pace not far behind. Lynch is lagging behind a bit because of a late start, but once he reaches full stride there's no doubt he'll take the lead.
All analogies aside, there's work to be done. Thursday was a nice start, but it won't mean anything against a more capable defense like the one the Carolina Panthers boast.
The Broncos rested key veterans on Thursday night, which opened the door for some players on the bubble to pick up some steam.
The first was the aforementioned Cody Latimer, who was a magnet for the passes of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. The game against Chicago wasn't just an anomaly though, it's been a trend in camp. Latimer attributes the success to the familiarity of being a third-year player.
“It’s because I’m confident," Latimer said. "I don’t have to do a lot of thinking. I know the offense, so I can just go out there and just run. I don’t have to think so much and worry about things. I just go out there with confidence and make plays.”
Latimer has looked comfortable with anyone the Broncos have put under center, which he credits to smart planning by the coaches.
“It’s just repetition, just going through OTAs and stuff," Latimer said. "The coaches do a good job of one day Trevor is with the ones, one day Sanchez. You never know who you’re going to get. Repetition with them, going through OTAs and having them switch it up every day.”
The rapport with all three quarterbacks will come in handy should the Broncos have to cycle through them during the regular season.
Another player, albeit not as well-known, made a splash in the windy city.
Undrafted rookie outside linebacker Vontarrius Dora recorded a huge milestone; his first two sacks as a professional football player.
“It was amazing," Dora said. "It was like a dream come true. First NFL sack, first game—a dream come true.”
“It was a great experience," Dora said. "With the help of my teammates, everything went well for me. I'm just blessed.”
It will be tough for Dora to crack a squad brimming with great pass rushers, but a few more performances like the one on Friday could get him an invitation to the practice squad or even a call from another team looking for a boost to their linebacker corps.
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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.