Denver Broncos: Bill O'Brien

Broncos, Texans want to work smart

August, 20, 2014
8/20/14
7:30
AM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- What the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are doing this week is rare and, in the end, took at least some risk-reward analysis before the two teams agreed to do it.

No, it's not rare that they'll have three days' worth of practices against each other before they play a preseason game Saturday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Teams have done it plenty through the years, the Texans are the sixth team the Broncos have practiced against since 1996.

But the Broncos and Texans are doing this in the days leading up to the third preseason game for both teams and just three weeks before the regular-season opener. And that takes at least some thought as the two teams try to balance the benefits of getting the work in they want without exposing everyone involved to unnecessary injury risk.

"I think we did a pretty good job -- both teams -- of respecting each other, but still having an intense practice and getting after it," said Broncos tight end Julius Thomas following Tuesday's practice. "So I expect more of the same (Wednesday).”

The two teams will practice together again Wednesday and Thursday. Originally the plan had been for the two teams to practice in full gear both Tuesday and Wednesday, but after the Broncos had played on Sunday afternoon with the Texans having played on Saturday an adjustment was made.

The players worked in shells, helmets and shorts Tuesday and are now expected to work in full pads in Wednesday's practice.

"We decided to go shorts today because we were a day behind them as far as the recovery," said Broncos head coach John Fox. "I thought it went well. ... I think it's a good look, new faces for the players. There are new schemes both offensively and defensively and even in the kicking game. All in all, I think it was a good first day."

It was also a departure of sorts for Fox, who did not practice against another team in training camp at any point in his nine-season tenure as the Carolina Panthers head coach. Fox said Tuesday the last time he had worked against another team in camp was in 2001, when he was the New York Giants defensive coordinator.

Fox believes the proximity of the work, on the calendar, to the opener could also help his team and that the Broncos, despite having finished their two-a-day practice schedule of the preseason, still have a training camp mindset going.

"Camp is camp, late or early," Fox said. "These guys will tell you they get paid to practice and they would play the games for nothing. I think they did good work. I think it's a good time actually because you've been banging on the same guys for three weeks -- besides the preseason games -- but I think getting someone different is good."

For their part the players behaved Tuesday. Though some words were exchanged at times, especially in a late two-minute drill, there were no major scuffles in the two-hour workout and the teams will not tackle players to the ground in any of the workouts.

Fox and Texans head coach Bill O'Brien had discussed how the practices would be conducted and both expressed confidence the work could get done without any unnecessary conflicts. That, in the end, the benefits simply outweighed any potential downside.

"I know it is great work ... especially when we put on the pads (Wednesday) to get more of a real look in person as far as with the pads," said Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. "Receivers benefit from going against different corners every day. I think there's a benefit.”

"It's the same thing we do every day," Fox said. "We are going to take the approach that we are going to treat the Houston Texans just like we treat our own team and we expect the same from them. I don't foresee any problems."

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Less than 48 hours after a 34-0 preseason victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning brought a little verbal rain after the team’s first of three practices with the Houston Texans.

The Broncos and Texans will practice together for three days this week at the Broncos’ complex before the two teams play Saturday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. And with a familiar face calling the shots in the Texans' defense in Romeo Crennel, Manning came away from Tuesday’s workout, shall we say, less than enthused about what he had seen.

“I thought our offense stunk today,’’ Manning said following practice. “Their defense totally kicked our butt. ... We’ll learn from the film, hopefully there is some good things to see, hopefully we come out and do a better job tomorrow from a player standpoint.’’

Crennel, after his time as the New England Patriots' defensive coordinator as well as Kansas City Chiefs' head coach, is a familiar adversary through the years. Crennel is in his first season as Texans defensive coordinator, joining the team after another former Patriots assistant, Bill O’Brien, was named head coach.

“Romeo Crennel is one of the best coaches out there, overall it will be a good week for us,’’ Manning said. “... But we’ve got to do better than we did today on offense.’’

Asked what the main issue happened to be, Manning simply said, “Were you watching?’’

“They executed better than we did,’’ Manning added. “... They just did their job a lot better than we did.’’

In reality, Manning and the Broncos' offense, while not at their best following a day off Monday, made their share of plays in both 7-on-7 and team drills. But the group also had some choppy moments against the Texans' regulars.

Manning may have had some other motives as well. The Broncos' starters on offense have played on four drives in two preseason games and the team has scored on three of those drives.

Manning is 22 of 27 passing for 180 yards and a touchdown in those two games and there has been at least some sentiment in and around the Front Range the Broncos' offense is ready to start the season. And that’s an idea Manning seemed to want to poke a hole in Monday.

“I think today that story ought to die,’’ Manning said. “Today’s performance out there on whatever field that is, field 2 ... I kind of call it like I see it. When you have a pretty below-average practice, you’ve got to call it a below-average practice. I think this team does a pretty good job staying pretty even keel. I don’t think anybody is overly excited about beating a San Francisco team that didn’t have Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, didn’t blitz us one time, kind of a pretty vanilla scheme. They will be a different animal when we play those guys in the regular season.’’
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – It will be a preview of things to come if it all goes as the Denver Broncos plan when they finish the current $35 million construction project at their team complex that will include an indoor practice facility.

The Broncos have, after plenty of back and forth between the two teams in this offseason, finished a deal to have the Houston Texans practice against them for three days in August before the two teams play a preseason game Aug. 23 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Texans and Broncos will practice together Aug. 19-21. This time around fans will not see the action as the Broncos have been forced to close training camp practices to the public because their on-going project will not be completed by the time the players report for training camp on July 23.

But there is every reason to expect the Broncos will be a popular summer stop in the future. The Broncos’ new indoor complex will include full locker room and training room facilities for a visiting team.

It would mean teams could simply bus their players to the complex and get ready for practice without using a hotel ballroom as a locker room or worry about other logistics. It will give the Broncos the kind of on-site facilities few teams can offer.

As a result, the Broncos expect teams to visit for training camps in the future.

As far as this August the Texans, with first-year coach Bill O’Brien, one of the league’s most dominant defenders in J.J. Watt and the No. 1 pick of this May’s draft -- Jadeveon Clowney -- it will offer the potential for some quality work.

“A good break for both sides to compete against a different style of offense and defense as well as different players,’’ Broncos coach John Fox said.

“It’s always good to do that when you can,’’ Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “Especially after a couple weeks of camp, you’re seeing the same things from your offense and they’re seeing the same things from us. It can be very beneficial as long as both teams work with the idea you’re going to practice and not spend the day being chippy.’’

The Broncos practiced against the Texans twice in the preseason during Mike Shanahan’s tenure as coach -- both in Houston, in 2003 and 2005. The last team to work against the Broncos at their Dove Valley complex was the Dallas Cowboys in 2008.

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