ENGLEWOOD • Joe Flacco steps up ... avoids Von Miller ... has a man downfield ... touchdown! ...
Big changes have come to Dove Valley. In a shock to the system, Flacco bombs now are a good thing. Moments after the highlight heave of an unusual Broncos minicamp, Flacco explained himself: “I would think in the air up here you actually can (wing it) a few more yards.”
“He threw it 80 yards across the field!” Von followed, as if this were a unique development.
If anyone still wonders how badly the Broncos long for a capable QB, there ya go. (Don’t forget, it was Von who came within a hair of batting away Flacco’s Hail Mary.) Memories of the Mile High Mistake are being swept under the orange-and-blue rug.
It’s true the big play of Broncos minicamp was a deep spiral from Flacco, the new starting quarterback, to Noah Fant, the new tight end. Flacco flung it, Fant found it. Fan-freaking-tastic.
Measure the optimism. The Broncos got after each other for two days in shorts, no pads, two-hand touch, no tackling. This Broncos camp was more about the Don’ts than the Do’s.
Don’t hit the new quarterback. Do know Denver will have its best quarterback play in four years, since Peyton Manning. It’s relative, and a low bar. Joe’s competition there is mostly average Joes (and Trevors and Paxtons and Cases).
What the Broncos didn’t do was more noteworthy. On the final day, they didn’t practice. Vic Fangio called an audible: Broncos field day. Drew Lock, a three-star basketball prospect at Lee’s Summit (Mo.) High, won the 3-point shootout. If the season began today, not on “Monday Night Football,” the QB rotation likely would look like this: Flacco, Kevin Hogan, Lock, Brett Rypien (practice squad).
Finally on field day, John Elway made a splash in the dunk tank, the second of this offseason (after Flacco).
The same day, while the Broncos raced toy cars and honed their short games in chipping contests, the New England Patriots eschewed a field day to receive their Super Bowl rings. Different strokes, I guess.
Fangio should be criticized for turning practice into playtime — if the Broncos stink up the joint in their final trip to the Oakland dump Sept. 9. If the Broncos win enough games to reach the postseason for the first time since Super Bowl 50, recess for everyone.
Here’s been the bright spot: Fangio’s Broncos haven’t shown the non-football nonsense that trademarked the previous era — players Snapchatting practice plays for the world to see, linebackers showing up 20 pounds underweight, as Brandon Marshall did last season. So glad that silliness is over.
The Don’ts implemented by Fangio and coordinators Ed Donatell and Rich Scangarello are promising. The millionaire athletes don’t have extra-long leashes anymore.
“It’s OK to make a mistake or two. It’s not OK to repeat it, and it’s not OK to let it draw into the next play,” Fangio said.
They don’t kiss the ring, even in jest. Archie and Peyton Manning attended Day 2 of camp.
”Archie .... he’s the best quarterback in that family,” Fangio said. “I always said if he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers back when he played instead of (Terry) Bradshaw, if him and Bradshaw would’ve switched spots, Archie would’ve had all those Super Bowl rings. Bradshaw would’ve had to go through all that agony of playing with the Saints in the ‘70s.”
They don’t give the impression of a team that will be unprepared on Thursdays (in Week 7 against the Chiefs), Sundays and Mondays (only one, that opener at Oakland).
“We’re going to be a great team at the end of both halves,” Donatell said.
Don’t tease us. The Broncos still don’t possess a margin for error. To that end, here are three more Don’ts worth adding — when the Broncos return for training camp in five weeks:
1. Don’t continue the tradition of rookie haircuts. It’s counterproductive. The Broncos don’t have enough dynamic players to introduce division in the locker room. Turns out, rookies Bradley Chubb and Phillip Lindsay were two top players. Courtland Sutton closed as the No. 1 wideout. Josey Jewell made nine starts, DaeSean Hamilton five. None needed hazing.
2. Don’t hold a players vote for team captains. Captains are obvious; coaches should choose ‘em. That way there will be no questioning the process, as Demaryius Thomas did shortly after he was traded to the Texans. “I go to the meeting room and everyone is like, ‘How are you not a captain? We picked you,’” DT said.
3. Don’t baby left tackle Garett Bolles. The three most important players are all on offense: Flacco, Bolles and Emmanuel Sanders, who showed on his Instagram page he is back to running routes after Achilles surgery — the best news of a minicamp he had to miss. If Bolles is not up to the challenge of left tackle, explore a trade for disgruntled Redskin Trent Williams.
Don’t believe the hype.
The Broncos have a long way to go.