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Broncos use DeMarcus Walker at outside linebacker

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Posted at 3:12 PM, Jul 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-30 17:42:09-04

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Shaquil Barrett walked by Sunday, my first sighting of him at training camp he's missing because of a hip injury.

"It's getting better," Barrett said with a smile.

The reality, however, is the healing requires time. Barrett and Shane Ray (surgery on wrist) remain penciled in to return for the Broncos' third game Sept. 24 at Buffalo. The Broncos need reinforcements to keep the seat warm. Kasim Edebali, the starter, and Vontarrius Dora, the backup, continue receiving additional reps. Denver is also experimenting with defensive end DeMarcus Walker at outside linebacker. He was drafted to provide an inside pass rush, but brings versatility the Broncos might require early in the season.

"He looks a lot more comfortable than you might think," said defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who missed Saturday's practice to attend a funeral for a family member. "It's just something we are playing around with. He has to get a feel for how to play the NFL game. But he is a unique player."

Walker is driven to succeed, arriving in Denver with a chip on his shoulder because of his draft status. He bought his mom a house and car with his signing bonus and is determined to make an impact this season wherever the Broncos position him.

"Playing outside is something I did in high school and college. I am just trying to help," Walker said Sunday. "I have really been keeping my mouth shut and taking to the coaching (from teammates Von Miller and Derek Wolfe and coaches)."

Big hitter, that TJ

The Broncos defense boasts prideful veterans. Saturday was not a good day. The offense, much more diverse this season, had its way at times. There was no time Sunday when the offense looked comfortable. The Broncos produced three pick sixes with a sprinkle of violence. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who posted his two touchdowns on Saturday on Instagram, was on the receiving end of a hit from safety T.J. Ward.

Ward called it a shove. Given his catalog of rugged tackles, he did show restraint.

"It was kind of a push," agreed coach Vance Joseph. "It wasn't really a hard shot."

Run to the hills

By any metric, the Broncos proved fruitless throwing the ball Sunday. But the ground attack? That was more encouraging, and has been during the first four days. Joseph has repeated that it doesn't matter who the quarterback is if the Broncos don't improve upfront. Even with right guard Ron Leary out because of a groin issue and replaced by Billy Turner, Denver produced multiple good bursts.

"The one thing that I am really pleased with is the way we've run the football," offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. "We missed too many shots (in the passing game)."

Charles held out

By design, the Broncos held out veteran running back Jamaal Charles from Sunday's practice. The idea is to increase his reps gradually to improve the chances of him staying healthy this season. Rookie running back De'Angelo Henderson joined him on the sideline. He sat out with a low ankle sprain and could return Monday. Tackle Donald Stephenson, in a battle to make the roster, watched Sunday's practice because of a minor ankle issue, but is expected to practice Monday. Rookie cornerback Dontrell Henderson missed time Sunday, dealing with altitude and heat issues. 

Footnotes

In what he called "a man's practice Sunday," Joseph singled out Sanders, inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, and guard/center Connor McGovern for their work. ... Defensive tackle Tyrique Jarrett continues to open eyes as he bids to make the team as an undrafted free agent. ... Star power reigned Sunday as Hall of Famer Terrell Davis, of NFL Network, interviewed John Elway. Elway praised Davis for his toughness and turning the Broncos into champions in 1997 and 1998 after a string of Super Bowl disappointments. ... said Davis, who is finishing up his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, "If you are a betting man, I wouldn't bet on tears." ... Cornerback Lorenzo Doss on his two picks Sunday, "You listen to the coaches, and when the opportunity presents itself you have to make a play."