There are plenty of unanswered questions heading into Training Camp and preseason, but one of them is not veteran leadership. They got that in spades.
Good morning, Broncos Country!
Training Camp has started, and the veterans immediately showed why experience matters -€” because they know how to set the tone for the long haul, not just day one.
Gary Kubiak told his Super Bowl-winning team that last season is over and it's on to a brand new challenge. And that means not just coming out with great energy the first 30 minutes but playing consistent for six months.
"I told the players after practice that I was really impressed with how our veterans came back," the head coach said. "To me, the guys that stood out at practice were veteran players. They're ready to go and take care of their business."
One of those is Mark Sanchez.
A veteran quarterback but new to the Broncos, Sanchez is coming in to one of the toughest scenarios a player can -€” following a legend while having a promising young gun chasing his heels.
But Sanchez has great perspective on coming to the Broncos after Peyton Manning and along with Paxton Lynch.
"You never want to be somebody else, you've got to be yourself," said Sanchez, pointing out that his rookie year with the Jets came after Brett Favre retired from football. "I'm not really worried about people saying what I can't do or thinking about what I can't do. That's not really in my make up."
And it's also not in his make up to avoid helping the other two quarterbacks through camp and the season.
After all, the point is to be on a winning team, and while experience gives Sanchez an edge, he's not trying to keep information from Lynch and Trevor Siemian.
"It's a competitive atmosphere, but it's a professional atmosphere," Sanchez said. "There's no shying away from helping a guy, at least in my opinion. I have no problem imparting any kind of wisdom or a situation I've been in. We're rooting for each other and we want to win. The best player will play. We're just going to try and help this team win."
Reports out of camp yesterday were exactly what you would expect from day one -€” more confidence and consistency from Sanchez but not without some timing issues. That's what camp is for -€” getting on the same page.
Sanchez thought he had a good start with good chemistry so far.
"I feel great. I'm speaking the language well, we're communicating well and we have guys that aren't afraid to speak up," he said, saying C.J. Anderson is "really on his game" with helping the quarterback, and Ronnie Hillman and rookie Devontae Booker have followed suit. "It's a good group."
Timing with the receivers was far from perfect, having a pass nearly picked off by Bradley Roby, but Sanchez believes that can get much better with more practice time together.
He connected with Virgil Green down the field, a nice pay-off from getting together last week to throw the ball around with several receivers.
"Naturally, there's some chemistry in general, but when you play with guys with this kind of talent it's pretty easy to feel good throwing to everybody," Sanchez noted. "That's really where we're at. Whether it's Jordan [Norwood], Bennie [Fowler], Cody Latimer, any of the tight ends, these guys know how to run routes."
Emmanuel Sanders would also be one of those. Noting that it was a little weird to not have Peyton Manning at OTAs, he said the first day of training camp "was back to normal."
"[Peyton's] my guy, you know, I love him to death," Sanders said, but noted that every year players retire or go to different teams and everyone has to adjust. "I've made the adjustment. Right now, we're searching for a new quarterback, and like I said, we're a new team, but still chasing the same dream."
"We're trying to be the best WR group in the NFL."@ESanders_10 wants to go back to back: https://t.co/jeOxh0uXdk pic.twitter.com/WUjUDk4IDq— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) July 29, 2016
But Manning's influence is still making an impact in Dove Valley.
"Peyton kind of left us the blueprint of how to go about doing it," Sanders pointed out. "I learned from Peyton that if you work hard, you can obtain anything, but it happens not just during practice, but also after practice. That's one thing that you see. You see a lot of guys out here putting in extra work, and all of that will pay off."
Defense ready to do it again
The veterans on defense also took charge of the tone of the first practice, bringing some swagger into camp but trying to keep it real too.
"That ‘mojo' we have just walking around in the way we work and the way we communicate," said T.J. Ward. "You can definitely feel that difference from last year, but it's not cocky. We're hunting. We're hunting for another title. ...We're just trying to go get it."
And Chris Harris, Jr. noted that the hunt is not going to be a problem for this group, which is returning nine starters plus some very experienced young players like Roby.
"We know the formula," he said. "The formula is play great defense. That's the key. We want to continue to be dominant on defense, and we feel like we can be."
DeMarcus Ware, not practicing because of lingering back issues, is making his leadership known even if not playing on the field yet.
"We're playing football and it's about the blood, sweat and tears. It's about getting out there and doing it, but they know I've done it for a long time. They know once I get out there and put the pads on, I'll make some noise," Ware said. "With the experience and maturity of guys, I think we can be better and a lot more consistent. That's what this league is about, consistency, not having any lull in the games and being full force the whole season."
Time.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) July 27, 2016
A big part of that consistency is going to be the Broncos' own Super Bowl MVP Von Miller maintaining -€” and even superceeding -€” his level of play at the end of the postseason.
"I said, if somebody pays you to do something, you have to take up the responsibility and be that leader for the team," Ware said of his advice to Miller. "That's just a title, but it's going to come with consistent play like you had the last eight games of the season when you were a monster out there. Let's start the regular season like that from the jump and see how consistent you can be."
Miller says he has every intention of doing just that.
"I've always held myself to an expectation that nobody else does, not even my teammates," Miller said. "I'm going to continue to beat my standard. I'm going to come out here. I'm going to work. I'm going to be the same type of teammate that I was in the locker room before."
Althouth Miller's performance in the Super Bowl and his new monster contract could easily make him the "face of the franchise," Miller thinks the "face" is much more than just one player.
"I feel like our locker room should be the face of this franchise. We got a great locker room. There's not a locker room like this in the National Football League," he said, adding that that will be the strength of the Broncos. "I'm a part of that. DeMarcus is a part of that. T.J is a part of that. We're all a part of it, and we're just going to keep it pushing."
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