CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- They walked out of the locker room onto the field, not down the stairs to a glistening tree.
Yet, it felt a little like Christmas morning for Broncos quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch on Tuesday. They do not possess the hack codes to the offense, but they liked they new toy.
"It went better than expected today. It was a clean operation," said Siemian, who has no limitations after surgery in January to repair his left shoulder. "There are a lot of completions in this offense."
Lynch, light years ahead of where he was a year ago in terms of confidence in his press conferences, can see how this system can work for him. There are more shotgun formations, and he is picking up the plays faster.
"I thought it went pretty well the first day out," Lynch said. "It was a lot slower than last year. I am not as worried about every (five-step) drop. I have more a pocket presence and understand when I can pull the ball down and run."
Quarterback competitions boast no winners in April. These days are the equivalent of placing pennies in the jar. By training camp, there should be some real collateral, if not coin built up. That's when the derby will take off in earnest.
"They looked good out there," said first-year coach Vance Joseph, who insists he has no problem if the derby goes down to the wire.
The offense under Mike McCoy allows for more versatility. But Joseph repeated Tuesday what he emphasized to Denver7 in March: The Broncos reboot offensively begins with a physical presence upfront. There was no need to order the tackles in April, but Donald Stephenson received plenty of reps on the left side. The candidates, which could change after the draft, include Stephenson, Ty Sambrailo and Menelik Watson, who owns most of his experience on the right side.
"It's start Day One. We are making our running game more of a gap running game, downhill style, more of a power football style," Joseph said of the offensive line's philosophical shift. "It's huge for us. When you game plan, you can't allow a defense to just take you out of your plan. Loaded box or not, running the football is a must. We have to run the football. It is a must."
It starts, for now, with C.J. Anderson. Though the draft could change the complexion of the depth chart -- Christian McCaffrey anyone? -- Anderson resides as the main force. He said Tuesday he weighs 223 pounds, almost ideal given his preference for playing between 218-222 pounds. He insisted he was not bothered by criticism of his weight on social media in recent months as he rehabbed from surgery on his right knee. That's in the past. The present is that the leg is responding six months after the operation. He showed a bounce in his step and made sharp cuts in drills. He doesn't have a target date to be 100 percent, but he's close.
"I going full speed as much as I can," said Anderson, who sees a lot of similarities in McCoy's offense and the scheme run by former offensive coordinator Adam Gase. "I am excited about the progress. I am just continuing to push myself and get better."
The defense remains the backbone and the soundtrack of the Broncos. To a man, the players are encouraged by how free agent additions Damata Peko and Zach Kerr could help stop the run. Cornerback Aqib Talib put it simply that the Broncos now have beefier guys at the point of attack rather than players 20 pounds lighter than their competition. Talib provides a jolt to every practice and meeting. He is prepared to take on more of a leadership role, and clearly is grateful to have an offseason absent of distraction after he escaped NFL discipline for shooting himself in the leg last June.
"It's definitely a relief, man. I am glad I can put it behind me and move on," said Talib, who shared his views on the draft, saying he would like the Broncos to take a player who can do "multiple things" (McCaffrey anyone?) and predicted USC's Adoree Jackson would be best corner selected. "I can now worry about what I need to worry about."
Center Matt Paradis, who hopes to be full go in July, watched practiced following offseason hip surgeries. ... The Broncos' best first-round picks in recent seasons? Defensive players. John Elway moved up to select Shane Ray and Bradley Roby. Could a similar scenario present itself with Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Foster, considered a top 10 talent, is dropping because of an verbal altercation with a doctor at the combine and a dilluted drug test.