Well, that was interesting. The second day of Texans-Broncos practices nearly concluded with team-on-team fisticuffs on the opposite end of the field.
As I noted yesterday, it was percolating since the end of Monday's practice when Aqib Talib and
1. Somehow, I gravitate to watching the outside linebackers during practice so I can hear/see LB
2. I was shocked when the Broncos drafted Brock Osweiler in the second round in 2012 out of Arizona State. He towers over the other Broncos' QB, including Peyton Manning. But, he doesn't have the arm strength a guy of that size typically possesses. He certainly doesn't drive the ball but his accuracy has improved a bit from his college days.
3. Watching the nose tackles work with coach Anthony Pleasant,
4. The first drill of the day was a red zone 11-on-11. The Broncos first offense dominated the first two plays as Manning found Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas for touchdowns on those two plays. The next few though the Texans defense bounced back as
5. A Bronco to watch from afar this year is former Indiana product WR Cody Latimer. He caught a
6. Wes Welker did not practice today so the Broncos spent a great deal of time in 12 personnel, with tight ends Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme in the lineup with Thomas and Andre Caldwell.
7. The Broncos finished the drive as Osweiler threw consecutive touchdowns to the rookie from Fresno State Isaiah Burse. On the first one, Osweiler eyed Burse as his second read which was impressive as he beat the Texans safety for a TD.
8. When the third groups came on the field, Texans DB
11. After a few Foster runs, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick dropped a dime on Fiedorowicz for a touchdown. Pretty pitch and catch that got the Texans on the sideline hyped up.
12. After the first unit scored, the second group came on the field. Immediately,
13. The first play after Blue's run Keenum hit
15. What I took out of that entire drill was how excited the Texans sideline was after each successful play. More vocal outbursts than I can remember from this group. On Tuesday when the Broncos started making their presence known vocally, the Texans didn't respond either positively or negatively. Today, though, they were in it from jump.
16. When the Broncos started 7-on-7, Thomas beat one of the Texans DB. I'm struck by how big and nimble he is. That's an unique combination but he runs exquisite routes and gets open everywhere on the field. I can't imagine how much Thomas' talent was being wasted by Broncos QB prior to Manning that couldn't throw their way out of a paper bag.
18. I made it a priority to see the Texans OL in pass rush 1-on-1 against Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and crew. Overall, I'd say the Broncos pass rushers got the best of the Texans OL but the starting Texans tackles did a solid job.
20. That said, the Broncos star pass rushers did a better job frustrating Fitzpatrick in a blitz period later in the practice.
21. One of the most positive aspects of the 1-on-1 pass rush drills was
24. The Texans offensive 9-on-7 period was a rough one, in large part because one of the most underrated Broncos ran completely roughshod. Derek Wolfe, No. 95, is the one Bronco that the Texans consistently have struggled to block. He set the edge on the defensive left side about three times in a row that shut down runs that way.
25. Later in practice, during a blitz period, Ware and Miller lined up opposite Wolfe. So, the former Cincinnati Bearcat was alone on the left side and he completely powered through the Texans tackle on his way to what would've been a sure sack. That guy is almost as important as any other on the Broncos defense.
26. That said, the Broncos have speed throughout the defense and use it to their advantage. The Texans ran outside zone to the left and ILB Nate Irving took off like a shot from the backside. He "ran through" an open spot in the zone scheme to tag off on the RB in the backfield. There are a few ways to defend zone schemes but if a LB has that kind of speed and deciphers it quickly, he can run through the backside to make a play in the backfield. Irving had a pick later in practice as well and if he's fully healthy, he could be a key for a defense missing leading tackler Danny Trevathan.
27. One other player I'll keep an eye on Saturday night is Broncos DE Quanterus Smith. The former Western Kentucky star sat out last year with an injury and is fully healthy now. And, it shows.
28. During 1-on-1 WR/DB drills, Texans DB
30. J. Thomas then ran a fade route on
31. That period was filled with intensity and it was due to boil over at some point.
32. During the Texans offensive blitz period, the Texans missed a blitzer on the first play and Miller found his way into the backfield. But, on successive attempts, Fitzpatrick found Foster, Johnson and Grimes to move the ball down the field. With the way Foster, Blue, Grimes and Brown catch the ball out of the backfield, there's a ton of mismatches in the passing game and Fitzpatrick found them as he did on the two minute drive to end the first half of Saturday's game v. Atlanta.
33. When the Texans third group came back on the field, Savage played pitch and catch up the field. He hit Denham for one catch, then hit Denham again down the seam on the very next play. Then, he dropped a beautiful corner route on Labhart on the left sideline. It was one of the best periods I can remember Savage having since training camp started.
34. During the red zone period, I focused on the Broncos offense against the Texans defense in large part because
35. One interesting part of practice was after Manning threw a TD to Julius Thomas in front of
36. The Texans second defense, though, made a few plays when it came on the field. DE
37. After Latimer's tremendous catch in the end zone during the same drill, Mack intercepted Osweiler for a pick six...with a Texans sideline convoy, hooting and hollering the entire way. Mack's been brilliant this week, a vital one, to make a roster push.
38. When the third group came on, the most interesting play took place when rookie tackle Michael Schofield caught a
39. I didn't see the Texans offense during the red zone period but Posey made a tremendous catch during that period. I want so much for the new father and was excited to hear that he made another athletic play.
40. Then it was situation time...3rd downs. On the first Broncos offensive rep, Manning hit D. Thomas on an out route at the sticks on the sideline, right on the numbers. Just pretty to watch.
41. The Texans offense's was a disaster but on successive reps, Fitzpatrick found Johnson for a first down. Then he threw one low and away to Hopkins who made a great diving catch on the Broncos sideline. Fitz missed a couple of throws later in the drill, including one in which Talib and Posey battled for a ball on a go route down the right sideline. There was athleticism fighting for that ball, wow.
42. When Keenum came out for the third down situation, he threw an interception to Broncos DB Tony Carter as Posey slipped on his route and that got the Broncos defensive players excited. But, on the next series, Keenum hit Labhart for a first down. Then, he found EZ Nwachkwu down the sideline for a TD. Nwachkwu made his best catch of training camp as he laid out for the pass and held on for one of the best catches of the day.
43. Keenum doesn't have an exclusive agreement with Labhart though. Savage found Labhart open in the middle of the field later when the third group was at work.
44. Then, it was two minute drill time...oh boy.
45. The Broncos offense started with a completion from Manning to Caldwell which got the Broncos sideline jawing with Brandon Harris. But, a couple of plays later,
46. Then the Texans offense came on and started a drive down the field. After a few first downs, a Hopkins catch and then a
47. Oh, then
48. Through two days of mixed practices a few players have truly stood out in my estimation
a. Broncos DE Derek Wolfe is a mix of power and technique and he's going to have a stellar season.
b. Texans DB Kareem Jackson has made a few key plays, in particular against D. Thomas
c. Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas is just so impressive in every way, shape and/or form
d. Texans DB Elbert Mack made three huge plays that I've seen and there may be more I didn't.
e. Broncos DB Aqib Talib is a trash talker, but he's big and strong as an ox on the perimeter.
f. Texans WR Travis Labhart got open against anyone and everyone
g. Broncos DT Terrence Knighton is Casey Hampton/Gilbert Brown reincarnate
h. Broncos C Manny Ramirez and G Louis Vasquez excel inside.
i. Broncos ILB Nate Irving is fully healthy, finally, and it shows - loved this kid coming out of NC State but he was always in recovery mode.
Tomorrow, these two will back off a bit, in preparation for Saturday night, but it's been a competitive and testy couple of days. A fun pair of practices too.