The Denver Broncos will have some folks making a regular-season debut in their new NFL jobs Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens. Some of those folks include rookie running back Montee Ball or defensive tackle Sylvester Williams or even Shaun Phillips, now in his 10th year in the league, but in his first in Denver.
And while Adam Gase has rolled up his sleeves to steadily climb the ladder in the NFL, Thursday will mark the first time he has been his team’s full-time play caller in a regular-season game. Gase was a key figure in the Broncos' transition from a traditional offense to make a read-option attack for Tim Tebow in 2011, and to re-work the offense again with Peyton Manning’s arrival last season.
Gase will be on the sideline during games, instead of in the coaches' box, because he believes being at field level will save a precious second or two for the Broncos to get the plays into Manning. And while former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy let Gase call plays at times during games to prepare him for the future, Gase said being ready to make decisions at high speed has been something he has worked on in the preseason.
“Mostly the tempo -- the tempo of how you have got to call it," Gase said this week. “How quick (the play) has to come out, especially with how fast Peyton does play. He’s ready for the next call, and trying to stay one step ahead. The hardest thing is probably to have two or three situations in your mind, and just be ready for when those pop up being ready to go to the call."
Gase did work with former Rams head coach Mike Martz in both Detroit and San Francisco, so there is plenty of play-calling, go-for-it aggressiveness in Gase’s football DNA. The Broncos also flashed in the preseason just how fast they can go with the starters on the field. They ran 49 plays in a half against the Rams, including 30 in the first quarter, in the team’s third preseason game. They also ran 40 plays in the first half against Seattle in their second preseason game.
“It’s a mental thing because once you get out of breath, it’s just a lot more thinking and you’ve got to hone in and focus," said Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. “It’s pretty tough, though."
• From the Broncos' perspective, one offshoot of the Ravens’ post-Super Bowl makeover is Denver won’t really be sure how all of the new faces will fit into the Baltimore lineup until the Broncos see for themselves. The Ravens, after all, had seven players start the Super Bowl who are no longer on the roster. Even a player they know well, like Elvis Dumervil who signed in free agency with the Ravens after seven seasons in Denver, is kind of a-wait-and-see affair. Asked if he believed the Ravens would use Dumervil, who has lined up at strong side outside linebacker for the Ravens after lining up on the opposite side of the formation for much of his time in Denver, Manning said; “It’s hard to say, that’s really somewhat of an unknown. We certainly know what a great athlete Elvis is, what a playmaker he is. ...It’s hard to say exactly how they’ll really use him." In the preseason, the Ravens used Courtney Upshaw on early downs and Dumervil in pass-rush situations at strong-side linebacker. Manning has spoken of the need to be able to adjust quickly when he and Broncos coaches see how all of the Ravens’ new faces are deployed on defense.
• Cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) may have had his helmet on for part of the Broncos workout Tuesday, but he did not take part in the practice after the team stretch. The Broncos will have a walk-through Wednesday, their last on-field work before Thursday night’s opener. They are expected to take any decision, at least publicly, with Bailey into the pre-game hours. If Bailey were to miss the game, it would be the first time he has missed a season opener in his pro career.
• Broncos coach John Fox when asked if he felt the team was ready: “We don’t have much choice. We’ve known about this for some time. We’re excited to play the game."
• With three players who have authored 1,000-yard receiving seasons at some point in their respective careers at wide receiver for the Broncos, the topic of who is getting the ball how many times a game is going to be a consistent one. And Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker know it. However, all three say they will live with the in-Peyton-we-trust mantra, the kind of attitude that is a must in any offense that can stress opposing defenses from so many different places. “The only thing that makes all of us happy is if we win games," Welker said. “That’s goal No. 1 -- let’s make sure we’re going out there and winning. Whether that’s blocking all day and having zero catches or whatever it is, I think we’re all on the same page with just winning ball games ... I think you’ve seen how well (Manning) has gotten around to all the guys but really we’re not worried about that. We’re worried about winning ball games, executing the offense and everybody being on top of their assignments and their techniques and being ready to play on Thursday night."