Former Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan visits practice. (Photo: Brandon Krisztal/KOA NewsRadio)
Day 3 of Broncos Training Camp 2019 had a nice buzz for a couple of reasons. The first, the team was in pads for the first time this season. The second reason Saturday’s practice was buzz-worthy, it was the first time Mike Shanahan had been back to the UCHealth Training Center since being relieved of his duties in January of 2009.
Vic Fangio told us after practice that he extended the invitation to the 2-Time Super Bowl winning Coach. “I was glad to have Mike here. I invited him out wanted him to come,” he said. “I invited him for the spring work and schedules never matched up, but I was glad he was here. I think it’s good he’s here. Mike’s got a big part in the rich history of this franchise. He’s welcome to come here anytime he wants.”
Then Fangio was asked how long he and Shanny have known each other.“Far as competitors, a long time, but not long as friends. We’ve just gotten to know each other the last, I don’t know, five-eight years. Something like that.”
There’s no telling if Shanny will make trips to watch the Broncos practice or play games a regular occurrence, but it’s worth noting a few things.
He’s definitely going to be a Broncos Ring of Famer. Secondly, he and his wife Peggy still live in Denver. And third, he’s likely going to become a big Vic Fangio fan. That’s because the entire league seems enamored with young Coaches, like his son Kyle and his former Tight Ends Coach, Sean McVay. As Kyle pointed out at the Combine, Matt Lafleur, like he and McVay, all worked for Mike in Washington, and thus, he should be getting the credit for his “Coaching-Tree.”
I have to think Shanny as well as another former Broncos Coach are pulling for Fangio, not just because of personal relationships, but because if he wins, and some of the young “whipper snappers” struggle, perhaps some franchises will look to take a final shot with a member of “old-guard.”
On the field a few things stood out, but nothing earth-shattering. Justin Simmons pointed out after practice that he thought the intensity ramped up a bit with pads on, but contact was still pretty limited.
Today was the first time that the offensive and defensive fronts squared off in pass-rush drills, but they are still easing into things on that front it seems, too.
We got more of the same from Kevin Hogan who seems to like throwing to the defense as much as the offense. He was picked off by Simmons. For the sake of fairness, Joe Flacco was intercepted by Will Parks on a deep pass down the middle and on a tipped ball that found the hands of Josey Jewell.
The first time we saw the 2nd team offense against the 1st team defense, we saw Drew Lock under center. And while the rookie still looked like a rookie throughout the day, in this period we saw a glimpse of what may be the Broncos future. After a handoff on first down, Lock took advantage of chance to show off his arm, hooking up with fellow rookie, wide receiver Juwann Winfree for a 50-yard pass down the left sideline.
It should also be pointed out that when the 1st team offense went against the 2nd defensive unit in the preceding series, Flacco and company looked really bad.
On 1st down the offense tried to run a screen pass to Phillip Lindsay on the left side of the field, and the pressure forced Flacco to adjust his throw, and Lindsay never saw the ball. On 2nd down, Ron Leary was beaten badly by defensive lineman Mike Purcell to blow up the play, and on 3rd down, we had an honest to goodness, DeMarcus Walker sighting as he sacked Flacco.
This early in the season, it’s not uncommon for the defense to be ahead of the offense, and that may be to Fangio’s liking, at least based on what we heard in the Spring about him extending a practice period that ended with a Flacco to Jeff Heuerman touchdown. Fangio made the team run the play again, so the defense could make a play.
I asked Heuerman about the notion that his Coach favors the defense over the offense at times. “I wouldn't say that he favors them a little more,” he said. “Some of our team meetings have been defensive-oriented a little bit. We've seen some defensive cut ups and stuff. It's like he said at the end of practice, he's got good news and bad news in one sentence and there were a lot of takeaways today on defense. It's good for the defense and not as good for the offense. There were also touchdowns. It’s football…he’s obviously a defensive coach, so you know (smiling).”
Speaking of Tight Ends, rookie 1st-rounder Noah Fant has caught some heat from his teammates for not completing plays. Emmanuel Sanders jumped on him Thursday and Courtland Sutton was on him today to “finish” plays.
Fangio seemed totally fine with his players holding each other accountable. “I didn’t particularly see it, but I like it,” he said. “Peer pressure is better than coaching pressure, and the game is played—like I tell the players, if you notice here, most of the drills the coaches are off to the side. I don’t want them screaming and hollering instructions to the players. In the game they’re out there on their own. We can’t help them in the game, so don’t be helping them in practice. Your leaders have to come from those 11 guys that are on the field for you at any given time. They’ve got to work through it. I like that.”
The quote(s) of the day came courtesy of another rookie, Dalton Risner, who yesterday explained he’s only talking once a week, until he “earns” the right to speak more as he put it. Well, he made the most of his lone media session of the week, sharing this insight about how much he is learning from the veterans around him.
“Going against guys like Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis,Shelby Harris, those are good players,” he said. “I am learning, and I am learning by failing. I am not failing every play, but I am learning by failing so it's going to be good. Just have to keep learning.”
“I just think it is really important to realize that I have no experience in the NFL. Ron Leary has about eight years, Ja'Wuan James is one of the highest paid right tackles in the NFL, Connor McGovern been in here for four years and Garett [Bolles] was a first-round pick two years ago. I am surrounded by a lot of guys that have played in the NFL for a while. I might as well soak as much of that up as I can. I think the great offensive linemen are the ones that can always get better and realize that they can always get better. That's my big thing. I want to soak in as much as I can from those guys, and I learn from them constantly. I'm sure Ron will tell you sometime, he probably gets sick of the questions, but I ask questions constantly. I'm going to abuse that. He tells me to ask a question and I'm just going to continue to ask him because I look up to those guys.”