TRAINING CAMP 2022

A dominant practice shows that Hackett’s message is getting through

Aug 12, 2022, 6:43 AM
Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wislon...
(Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)
(Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Nathaniel Hackett is the opposite of Vic Fangio. He’s an energetic, happy, offensive minded head coach. There have been questions surrounding Hackett’s overly happy demeanor, his inexperienced staff and the pacing of his practices. All of those unknowns have some questioning if the Broncos are ready to compete with the NFL’s best.

Well, on Thursday the Dallas Cowboys came to Denver for a joint practice and found out that win or lose, Nathaniel Hackett’s Broncos aren’t laying down for anybody. For the time being, Hackett silenced his critics.

In 2019, the 49ers came to Denver to share joint practices with the Broncos. The result was the 49ers body slamming the Broncos all over the practice field. The 49ers were tougher and better than the Broncos, and it appeared both teams knew it.

Joint practice for the 2022 Broncos went much different than it did for the 2019 Broncos. This year’s Broncos were willing to bully the Cowboys. They Broncos displayed an attitude that’s been missing since 2016.

Broncos edge rusher Bradley Chubb said to media members after practice “you gotta walk with that swag, that’s what this whole team is trying to walk with, it’s a different energy and a different culture.”

Rookie Nik Bonnito told reporters that the defense wanted to set the tone ahead of Saturday’s game.

Whatever Nathaniel Hackett and his staff are telling their players, the players are buying in.

Hackett is an offensive minded head coach, yet the defense has been flourishing throughout training camp. Much of that credit goes to new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. I have spoken with Michael Ojemudia and Dre’Mont Jones, and both expressed excitement about Evero’s defense and how player-friendly it is.

The Broncos coaches and players are empowered. Regardless of whether Nathaniel Hackett is hugging and dancing or giving his team a glorified walk through is irrelevant, what matters is that his players believe in what they’re doing. Hackett’s message is reaching the entire organization.

For obvious reasons, Russell Wilson is the main source for optimism in Broncos Country. But Hackett and his staff deserve credit.

In 2019, the Broncos players were demoralized by the 49ers. The 2022 Broncos were smiling after a practice that they physically dominated their opponent. The Broncos were ready to go on Thursday and excited to be able to compete with somebody in another uniform.

Maybe this practice with the Cowboys was an outlier. It’s possible the Broncos players were confident going into it because they dominated the Cowboys last season. Maybe the Broncos were just better on Thursday and we’ll see regression to the mean.

Yes, it was one practice, but it was something the Broncos didn’t take lightly. For all the talk of the pace of training camp, when it was time to be competitive, the players ran through a wall for their coaches.

It was one practice and maybe it’s nothing more than that. But remember, in 2019 the Broncos had their doors blown off by the 49ers in joint practices and that season the Broncos finished 7-9 and the 49ers played in the Super Bowl.

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A dominant practice shows that Hackett’s message is getting through