ENGLEWOOD — The churn raised eyebrows. The Broncos remade the bottom of their roster with seven new players, or 13 percent of their 53-man squad. So it was a on surface-of-the-sun practice Monday -- the 100 degrees marked the hottest September Colorado day ever -- coach Vic Fangio began assimilating quarterback Brandon Allen, punt returner Diontae Spencer, linebacker Corey Nelson, tight end Andrew Beck, cornerbacks Duke Dawson and Devontae Harris and offensive lineman Corey Levin.
"It’s actually easier to come in and learn in a game week than it is in training camp because things are paired down and dialed in more," said Fangio, whose team lacked quality depth throughout the preseason. "We're not the only team that's had this roster gymnastics. It happens every year. (General manager) John (Elway) and his guys were keeping track of everyone around the league. We just felt that with each and every move it would make us better."
In one week, the Broncos face the Oakland Raiders. It's hard to overstate the importance of starting well in the division. Anything less than 3-3 in the AFC West spells trouble. And the Broncos have dropped three straight games in Oakland, outscored 78-48. Time to microwave the development of the new guys because all contributors are needed and necessary.
"It's going to get poppin'. We have to go out there and execute," Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay said. "One, you can't make mistakes. Crowd noise, you have to stay tuned in. You have to make big plays, you have to hold onto the football and your defense has to create some turnovers."
Eyes shifted to the quarterback drills because the position demands attention. Allen, wearing No. 2, is the new backup, someone who played against the Broncos in Los Angeles last month. He is not established, but was considered an upgrade over Kevin Hogan, who finished with four interceptions in the exhibition games. For Allen, the past 24 hours became a whirlwind as he was cut, claimed and cuddled up with a new playbook.
"A lot of the concepts are similar as far as terminology wise," said Allen, who called himself "a good luck charm" for quarterbacks because in his previous two stops in Jacksonville and Los Angeles the starters stayed healthy. "A lot goes into getting ready, especially in the huddle. You want to be familiar with what you are saying. There will be a lot of extra preparation for me, but I am not new to that so I should be fine."
So why Allen? Fangio explained the reasoning.
"He's a good athlete. Throws a good ball. We like the way he runs an offense," Fangio said.
One player walks from parking lot to the top of the depth chart. The plan is for Spencer, pictured above, to handle punts on Monday. Fangio cited Spencer's experience and his quickness. Spencer was claimed off waivers from the Steelers after posting a 14.7 average with a long of 38 yards this summer. Spencer returned a staggering 191 punts for a 11.3 average in the past four seasons for Ottawa and Toronto. He handled nine straight in practice during media viewing with no issues. Spencer remains motivated by the murder of his father in Louisiana during his college career at McNeese State, adopting his dad's motto "Can't Stop, Won't Stop."
"It's still pushes me. It always will," Spencer told me, before articulating what makes a good punt returner. "The key is trusting yourself, trusting the guys that are out there blocking for you. And you have to be consistent. That's the biggest thing, putting the offense in good field position, and if you can score, it's a bonus."
The Broncos rounded out their practice squad, adding lineman Jake Rodgers and former CSU star linebacker Josh Watson. ... Linebacker Corey Nelson returns to Denver with a new number (56), and a plan to contribute right away. He told me he should be ready to go on special teams and the defense, if needed. ... Receiver Emmanuel Sanders on what fans should expect from Joe Flacco this season. "He's a baller. He's probably one of my favorite quarterbacks to play with all-time, him and Peyton (Manning)."