Without drama regarding quarterback Jay Cutler over his head, or facing the task of overhauling a large portion of the team's roster, new coach Josh McDaniels can focus on what he was hired to do -- coach. The Broncos have used the up-tempo offseason practices to their advantage, figuring out a new 3-4 defense and McDaniels' offense with its multiple looks.
"I think we've become a team in a short period of time that really enjoys working with each other, works extremely hard, has great tempo, great enthusiasm, loves to come out here and competes and practices and as coaches we couldn't be more pleased with that," McDaniels said.
Based on where McDaniels spends most of his time during practices, getting the quarterbacks up to speed with the offense was his top priority before going to training camp. He isn't close to picking a starter between Kyle Orton and Chris Simms. Both quarterbacks are still splitting repetitions with the first team in practice. The competition will likely be settled in training camp.
McDaniels works diligently with them, however. He often spends time in their meetings, working on finer points of the game like footwork. He wants his quarterbacks to have an expert knowledge of his offense so they can execute it on Sundays.
While both quarterbacks looked a bit confused in the first offseason practices in April, they are grasping key concepts better as they get a chance to study the playbook and understand what McDaniels wants from them.
"They've been doing that every day, little by little making improvements and hopefully, eventually we have the whole thing in and they're able to run it like the back of their hand," McDaniels said. "We're certainly not there yet but that's what we're working towards."
Because the quarterback position gets so much attention, Denver has been able to start working on improving its defense in relative obscurity. Under new coordinator Mike Nolan, the team is getting up to speed running the 3-4 as its base look. Many players in the front seven are working at a spot that is different than what they are accustomed to, but slowly they are picking it up. The Broncos will figure out when pads are on during training camp who are the best fits along the line and at linebacker, but they need to be up to speed first.
After spending most of last season stuck near the bottom of most defensive statistics, the Broncos' defense hopes to carry its weight in 2009.
"We're going to be an attacking, swarming defense," linebacker D.J. Williams said.
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