ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Joint practices create added intensity, increased volume and jarring illumination. The Broncos' first-string offense looked clumsy, if not awful against the 49ers on Friday. A confluence of factors contributed to the forgettable workout — poor pass protection, errant passes and drops — as the Broncos will look to regroup on Saturday.
"I don’t know if I can pick out grades very well. But we did below average for sure," admitted quarterback Joe Flacco when asked to provide an assessment. "But part of a being a good football team is responding."
Entering his 12th season, Flacco views summer practices through a broader lens. He understands the need for urgency, but also recognizes that a Friday practice in August is part of a collage. Still, the offense's struggles were alarming. The 49ers' movement upfront caused the Broncos fits. Denver was using its starting offensive line, save for right guard Ron Leary who remains on pace to play Monday.
Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who runs a scheme like the 49ers, credited the Niners' looks for creating issues. His goal moving forward: Adapt and adjust.
"We have to meet their intensity. They are playing a different style and doing a good job of it," Scangarello said. "It’s a mix of stuff and situational football. They play a completely different style than we play defensively. It's up to us to adapt and do better tomorrow."
Even the Broncos' best offensive player, Phillip Lindsay, suffered hiccups with a pair of drops. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders created separation in coverage, but few others did. Sanders spent a few minutes after practice working against 49ers veteran Richard Sherman. Viewed in a vacuum, it was one day against a team playing as if they gulped Pixy Stixs on the bus ride to UCHealth Center. However, it will take on significance if the Broncos fail to counter punch Saturday.
"It’s a 16-game season; very few teams can hold their head up everyday. You are going to have to learn to deal with the tough times and the adversity," Flacco said. "You get hit in the face and you have to stand up to it. It's all the process and how we respond to things."
Defensively, the Broncos held the edge. The final session of 1s vs. 1s featured plenty of jawing between players on the field and on the sideline. The Broncos showed force upfront. Defensive end Derek Wolfe anchored a line that looked strong. And safety Justin Simmons halted the 49ers march by picking off Jimmy Garoppolo on a ball down the right sideline.
"What I learned is that we are going to be physical," nose tackle Shelby Harris said.
Added safety Kareem Jackson, "It’s all in the name of getting better. Both sides were competing. It’s going to get a little chippy. You have a bunch of men out here who are all competitors. With Justin, man, he can do it all. He's one of the leaders of this defense. I am excited to play alongside him."
Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan attended practice. He pays close attention to his son Kyle's team, lending advice if needed. ... Broncos legend Peyton Manning stopped by practice. He spent part of the day talking with Broncos/ESPN broadcasters Brian Griese and Steve Levy. ... Justin Hollins continues to see more time at inside linebacker. Coach Fangio is encouraged by what he sees given that the rookie is playing multiple positions. "He's obviously going through a major learning experience, so he's got a lot on his plate." I asked Hollins about the adjustment. "My coaches and teammates are really helping me. There's a lot more going on inside."