Broncos Practice Report: Nathaniel Hackett does not like preseason
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Nathaniel Hackett doesn’t sound like a man who wants to play his core starters in the preseason.
First of all, start with this: Hackett is no fan of the warm-up slate.
“You know me. I don’t like the preseason. That’s just my philosophy, my upbringing, just seeing all of the different things that I’ve seen in the past,” he said.
And that past starts with being around football when his father, Paul, served as an assistant coach. During Nathaniel Hackett’s childhood, Paul Hackett worked on staffs of the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs.
“It starts with my experience in the past, from growing up as a kid and watching certain things happen that you’re just so frustrated about. You’re always judging that risk-reward factor,” Hackett said.
“And then my past experiences as a coach, you all of a sudden look at all the different things that you did — whether it was practicing every day, hitting every day nonstop. How many reps can you get in one day? I’ve been that situation. I’ve been in the situation when you barely get any reps because you’re over-protecting.”
And then came three years on the Green Bay Packers’ staff. In 2019 and 2021 — years in which the NFL conducted a preseason — most Packers first-teamers did not play a single snap. It was a philosophy that Matt LaFleur brought from his work with Sean McVay when they worked together with the Los Angeles Rams.
McVay kick-started the revolution of resting most starters in the preseason in Los Angeles. LaFleur followed suit in Wisconsin.
“I think it really opened my eyes with what we did in Green Bay. A lot of that stuff, knowing Sean and knowing Matt and seeing how they did it. I think it really opened my eyes because of how healthy we were able to be.
“In the end, that’s what we’re trying to do as coaches. We want them to be prepared for that Week 1. That’s all that matters to me.”
McVay has five consecutive winning seasons with the Rams, who had 13 consecutive non-winning seasons before his arrival. LaFleur has three 13-win seasons in as many years on the job in Green Bay; the Packers averaged 8.8 wins per year in the previous six seasons before LaFleur and Hackett came aboard.
So, with that sort of comparative success and Hackett’s beliefs on the value of the preseason … he doesn’t sound like a man who’s going to turn his first-teamers loose Saturday.
“There’s always that risk/reward [equation]. I think we’d all sit here and say, ‘Sure, we want the guys to go out there and do good and get reps and stuff like that,’ but in the end, we want to be smart with the guys,” Hackett said. “It’s a 17-game season.”
Now, if things go south, he has preseason reps in his back pocket.
“Now, if it gets bad, or anything like that, yeah, we might have to throw them in the games,” Hackett said.
“But in this situation, I think they’ve all stepped up to that challenge, and I think they’ve done a great job.”
And one point of emphasis for Hackett remains game-situation scenarios in practices with shells or full pads.
“So, those practices, we want them to be efficient, better, faster, just as game-like as possible,’ Hackett said. “So, I think that’s what we’re trying to create — and I think the more we do that, the better.”
WHICH IS WHY YOU SEE SO MUCH GAME-SITUATION WORK IN PRACTICE
And that didn’t change this week, although it led to a spot of controversy in the final seconds of practice.
With the clock going down to zero in the two-minute drill and the offense out of timeouts, Melvin Gordon took a handoff and went down at the middle of the field, at the defense’s 40-yard line. The clock drained to zero. The defense celebrated. But a moment later, with triple-zeroes on the clock, Brandon McManus kicked a 58-yard field goal.
So, I asked Hackett whether the clock ran out on the offense. He smiled.
But before he could reply, defensive lineman D.J. Jones — sitting in a chair in the second row of the Broncos media room, said, “Yes.”
“We know that they didn’t get that off,” Jones added a few minutes later, when it was his turn at the lectern.
His coach, guiding the offense, saw it a bit differently.
“Uh — not going to say anything specific,” Hackett said, smiling. “But we definitely would have gotten that one off if certain things might have happened. So, again, I thought the guys did a great job getting ready, getting set. I thought they were on the same page.
“We just took a little while to spot the ball. I don’t move as fast as I used to sometimes. But, no, I think we would have been able to kill that thing [before 0:00].”
Of course, Jones knows this sort of scenario well. He played for the 49ers last season, and saw a playoff game clinched when the clock ran out on the Dallas Cowboys. With 14 seconds left, Dallas QB Dak Prescott scrambled 17 yards … but the clock hit zero just as he spiked the football one snap later.
“Did you watch the Dallas-49ers game last year? Same situation,” Jones said.
- For the first time this summer, inclement weather forced the Broncos to practice inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. “We’ve got to be able to adjust,” Hackett said. “I’m not a big fan of the rain. Never really liked it. Sometimes, it takes away from the things that you can accomplish on the field. So, we wanted to be sure that we got great work today, and the guys did an excellent job.”
- The Broncos were short-handed at center Tuesday. Lloyd Cushenberry got a rest day, while rookie Luke Wattenberg is recovering from an ankle injury suffered during Saturday’s game. Wattenberg is day-to-day.
- Graham Glasgow continues to progress after spending the offseason recovering from a fractured ankle. “The biggest step he took was in the game,” Hackett said. “I thought he played really, really well in the game, and he’s just progressively gotten better. The more that he gets comfortable with coming back from the injury, the better he’s going to get.”
- Guard Netane Muti and inside linebacker Jonas Griffith remained out of practice. Muti recently underwent a knee procedure. Both have multi-week recovery timetables that could extend into the regular season.
- Edge rusher Randy Gregory and offensive lineman Billy Turner worked in the individual period once again. The Broncos activated them from the physically-unable-to-perform list Monday.
- DL Marquiss Spencer left practice on a cart after suffering an injury during a team-period repetition. KUSA-Ch. 9’s Mike Klis first reported that Spencer avoided a significant injury.
- Former Broncos QB Jake Plummer (2003-06) watched practice from the sideline.