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Top five takeaways as Broncos begin mandatory minicamp

Top 5 takeaways from first day of mandatory camp
Posted: 5:58 PM, Jun 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-04 20:29:03-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- NFL practices in June resemble MLB spring training in March. The workouts remain intriguing, but can be misleading. It remains wise not to overreact to things happening without players wearing full pads. "I will wait until the real games," a veteran told me after the sun-splashed afternoon practice finished.

OK, that's fair. So sprinkle optimism with water. No need for an extinguisher.

My Top 5 Takeaways from the first day of mandatory minicamp:

1) Flacco settles into new life
Three months into the second chapter of his career, Joe Flacco feels like the Broncos No. 1 quarterback. His increased comfort level with Rich Scangarello’s offense is there for all to witness. And Flacco continues to show calm while improvising on broken plays.

"I tell you what, I figured it would probably take a week or two to feel like part of the team in terms of -- not really on the football field. That stuff comes naturally. When you are on the football field, you just start playing. But building relationships with these guys off the field. We have a great goup," Flacco said. "It's a credit to them how comfortable I have felt since I walked into the building."

2) Flacco has his fastball
This much is known. Flacco has not eclipsed 20 touchdowns since 2014, his last playoff berth as a starter. He still, though, has his fastball. It sounded like Von Miller was talking about Uncle Rico from "Napoleon Dynamite" when discussing Flacco's arm strength.

"He looks like a Super Bowl MVP to me. Today, he had a play-action rollout play to the right, and he threw the ball from the opposite 20 to the opposite 15," Miller said. "I don't know how far that that is. But it was far."

For Flacco, his age remains a number he believes he can taunt. At 34, he is a decade older than most of his teammates, including his receiving corps without Emmanuel Sanders. "I don't see it as a problem. I really don't think I am 34. It really doesn't dawn on me. In this sport, age doesn't matter. It's about going out there and performing," Flacco said. "Being in an NFL locker room, you never grow up."

3) Von could actually be better
Von Miller wants to set a career-high in sacks this season. He told coach Vic Fangio he wanted to be coached by him. So far, he's embracing learning. Fangio has seen Miller make improvement in his pass rush, rush defense and in his drops in coverage. It's June. But Von is all in -- building off the energy from his pass-rushing summit in Las Vegas last weekend. Miller wrecked several plays on Tuesday. It means nothing now. However, it will matter if he has 10 sacks in his first eight games next season.

4) Running for daylight
The running game takes shape in training camp when pads are on and tackling restrictions are lifted. However, a couple of good signs emerged Tuesday. Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos' best offensive player last season as a rookie, participated in drills for the first time without a brace on his surgically-repaired right wrist. Royce Freeman, no longer bothered by an ankle issue, looks faster in his cuts and first steps this summer. Also, right guard Ron Leary practiced fully as he returns from Achilles surgery.

5) Defense has an edge
Vic Fangio wants to win practice. Peyton Manning said it last week about his former Colts defensive coordinator. It was evidenced Tuesday. The first-team group was getting after it. At one point, some of the first-stringers were told to move back from the goal line while they were on the sideline, and defensive back Kareem Jackson said, "Why should we move? They aren't going to score anyway."