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Broncos OTA Day 1 observations
May 22, 2018 09:52 PM | Andrew Mason
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On the first day of OTAs, it is unwise to jump to conclusions.

But one thing that was evident for the Broncos as they began the third phase of offseason work Tuesday was the efficiency they showed in going about their business, particularly on the offensive side.

Quarterback Case Keenum certainly helps that. He had the No. 1 offense ready to go, and he showed the presence in the huddle the Broncos hoped to find when they signed him in March.

"Without a doubt. Case stepped up Day 1," running back De'Angelo Henderson said.

"He's smart. He's demanding, and he helps out a lot. He's real relaxed. He's not uptight. He's not an angry guy. He's , 'Hey, right here,' simple stuff like that."

Just as important in helping the offense work at a crisper pace is the simplification of the offense under coordinator Bill Musgrave.

"It allows us to play faster," running back Devontae Booker said. "The play calls come in quick, and they're not long like they have been in the past.

"Part of the reason is that once you've got a short play-call -- whatever it is -- you can go out there, you already know what you're doing, you can go out there and play fast. When you've got a long play call, it makes you think. Everybody's getting lined up in the wrong places and different stuff."

That wasn't the case Tuesday.

"When the play is called -- and they're pretty short and sweet -- you can go out there and play fast," Booker said. "So it's pretty cool."

The play calls and the relaying of them was so crisp that at times the offense was the first unit out of the huddle and ready to go for the next snap.

"Yeah, everybody's been playing fast. As soon as the play is called in the huddle, you get out there and lined up. Everybody's ready to roll," Booker said. "The defense was pretty slow coming out of their huddle, so we were kind of waiting for them a little bit."

And when the play began, the offense avoided giveaways. One pass was nearly intercepted by Justin Simmons, but Demaryius Thomas snatched it back for the catch. The defense generated pressure, but Keenum, Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly were all decisive and got rid of the ball quickly, leading to some solid gains through the air.

More observations from practice:

... With Jordan Taylor out following surgeries on both hips, Isaiah McKenzie saw extensive work on offense, catching passes from all three quarterbacks over the course of the practice, including a deep pass down the right sideline from Lynch late in practice.

"It was a great experience," he said. "I'm just coming in and doing my job, making the plays I know I can make. It was pretty fun today."

... When the first team period began, the Broncos wasted no time getting De'Angelo Henderson involved. Just 10 days after he was the victim of an automobile accident in nearby Parker, the second-year running back was on the field -- and got the call on the first handoff from Keenum.

"After everything I've been through the last week, surviving that crazy accident, it's a blessing to be here, a blessing to be out here with the guys," he said, adding that he was feeling "great," with no lingering soreness from the collision.

... Rookie WR Courtland Sutton had the catch of the day four snaps before the end of practice, leaping over second-year CB Brendan Langley for a grab from Lynch near the left sideline.

It was exactly the kind of catch the Broncos drafted Sutton to make, and it was similar to a slew of receptions he had at SMU. Perhaps that was why Sutton downplayed the reception after practice.

"It felt good, but it's one of those things I expect myself to do those things," Sutton said. "It's not one of those things that's a 'wow' moment for myself. Once you have high expectations for yourself, you just want to make sure that you're going out and doing that every day, because I know if I'm not bettering myself, then I'm letting the team down."

... It was a good day for both of the Broncos' rookie draftees at wide receiver. Sutton followed his big grab with another catch from Lynch down the right sideline. Lynch then hit fourth-round pick DaeSean Hamilton on two consecutive passes to close out the day's work.

... Lynch's final pass to Hamilton saw him place the football well, allowing the rookie to make the grab in the center of the field in stride despite tight coverage.

... Keenum cleanly fielded every shotgun snap, even some that were a bit high. During the first team period of practice, he snared one snap that was slightly high, rapidly got set and fired a quick strike to Thomas near the left sideline.

... Tight end Austin Traylor is known mostly for his blocking, but he got involved in the passing game early, catching a pair of passes from Keenum in the initial team period of practice. He caught one from Keenum, and on the other, from Kelly, he went low to snare the pass just above the grass, quickly turning upfield for additional yardage.

... Kelly did a good job placing his passes downfield. During the seven-on-seven period, he hit RB Phillip Lindsay deep down the right sideline, dropping in a pass that the rookie easily caught. Kelly later found rookie John Diarse up the left sideline, dropping in a pass past two defenders that Diarse nearly grabbed for what would have been a terrific one-handed reception, but Diarse lost the ball as he fell to the ground.

... ILB Josey Jewell and DE Derek Wolfe both knocked down passes near the line of scrimmage. Jewell leapt in the box and nearly reeled in a Lynch pass, while Wolfe swatted down a Keenum attempt.

... DE Zach Kerr's pressure forced a Lynch incompletion near the line of scrimmage. Kerr leapt, disrupting the timing and preventing Lynch from finding Hamilton for a short connection down the middle.

PERSONNEL NOTES:

... Max Garcia worked at left guard in place of Ron Leary, who watched from the sideline because of knee soreness. Billy Turner worked at right tackle while Jared Veldheer completes his recovery from a foot injury last year.

... Menelik Watson got a look at right guard, platooning with Connor McGovern, who started the final five games of the 2017 regular season at the position.

"OTAs, especially with O-line, are to allow guys to play different positions," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "We want guys to play left guard and right guard.

"We want guys to play tackle and guard. He's played tackle his entire career, so we're going to see how he plays guard. It just makes us better and makes him a better player."

... McKenzie, Langley, Phillip Lindsay and DaeSean Hamilton fielded punts during the special-teams periods.

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