Broncos answer the bell, pass test against Cowboys with flying colors
The Broncos faced a big test on Thursday. And they passed it with flying colors.
Around 11:50 a.m., the horn sounded to commence the joint portion of practice, as the Cowboys were in town for a day of work prior to Saturday’s preseason game. It was a “Here we go” moment, one that had even the most-optimistic members of Broncos Country feeling a little apprehensive.
It was hard not think about three years ago, when the 49ers rolled into town, punched the Broncos in the face, took their lunch money and laughed on their way out of Dove Valley. It was readily apparent at that moment which team was a Super Bowl contender (San Francisco) and which one was destined for 7-9 (Denver).
It was difficult not to wonder if the pace of Broncos training camp thus far would have the team ready for an opponent. Jog-throughs, re-gen days and other innovations introduced by head coach Nathaniel Hackett have been the topic of conversation the past two weeks, with the team’s lack of hitting during camp being a hot-button issue.
It was impossible not to be a little squeamish based on history. Denver hasn’t had a winning season since 2016; they haven’t made the playoffs since Super Bowl 50. So going head to head with a team that finished 12-5 last year was bound to produce some “Are they ready for this?” type of questions.
Not long after the horn sounded, however, those concerns all started to disappear. The questions were quickly answered.
The Broncos looked fantastic on Thursday against the Cowboys. Their offense was sharp. Their defense was aggressive. It was a dominant day for the orange and blue.
“It was a great day for us,” Russell Wilson said afterward. “We had a blast.”
Wilson had his best day of camp. The quarterback started off hot, diced up the Dallas defense in the red zone and generally looked like a franchise QB throughout the practice.
But as good as Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Albert Okwuegbunam, Javonte Williams and others looked while playing alongside Wilson, it was the other side of the ball that was the story of the day. The Broncos defense was sensational.
That’s not to say the Cowboys didn’t make some plays; they certainly did. But overall, the intensity and mindset on display from Ejiro Evero’s group was unlike anything seen at the UCHealth Training Center in quite some time.
Guys were flying around the field, celebrating big plays and chirping the Dallas offense. It had the feel of an opportunistic group, one that was going to make things happen on the field.
That’s a stark contrast to what fans have seen the past three seasons. Under Vic Fangio, the Broncos played a bend-but-don’t-break defense. They didn’t take chance, choosing instead to play conservative defense. As a result, they didn’t get to the quarterback much and they didn’t force a lot of turnovers.
This year’s group looks completely different. Bradley Chubb is all over the field, bringing an intensity that hasn’t been seen from the fifth-year linebacker. DeShawn Williams was causing havoc in the trenches, as was McTelvin Agim. And Dre’Mont Jones continues to look like he’s going to be a constant problem for opposing offenses.
Looks about standard for Zeke pic.twitter.com/M18zbLmjxJ
— Mat Smith (@RealMatSmith) August 11, 2022
As a result, the Broncos got under the skin of the Cowboys offense. It led to a few skirmishes.
Normally, those types of things might be frowned upon. But given how Denver has been picked on a pushed around in recent years, seeing them fight back was a breath of fresh air. Seeing them be the instigators was also nice to see.
Oftentimes, defense is about attitude. The Broncos have had a passive one in recent years. This season, it appears to be night and day. Denver’s D is aggressive, and then some.
Will it result in more wins during the season? Well, that answer is coming soon.
But based on the first test of the year, arguably the most-important day prior to Sept. 12 at Seattle, the answer will be yes. The Broncos looked like a completely different team on Thursday. And that’s a very, very good thing.