Denver Broncos' playbook testing strategy includes Star Wars trivia, vintage photo identification

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett has looked for ways to keep his team engaged as the playbook is installed during his first season on the job.

Even if he has to look in his kids' bookbags.

This offseason, Hackett has implemented almost daily use of quick-hit Kahoot tests that have suddenly become another competition for players.

"There's a lot new, including the tests," guard Dalton Risner said. "Didn't expect those; we've had tests before to see how we were doing, what we knew, but not like these."

Kahoot tests -- as many parents will tell you -- are at-home online multiple-choice tests with the goal of making "learning fun, engaging, and impactful." That means they often include topics like Disney characters, NASA and fire safety as well as things like "Exploring by the Seat of your Pants." But the format can be adapted for specific groups.

Among them, a group of professional football players in suburban Denver who are keeping score on tests tailored for each position group or to the offense or defense as a whole.

"A lot of your kids do them in school," Hackett said. "That's where I found it. My kids were doing it in school. ... It's set up like bar trivia, but it's your own personalized one, so it's timed. The guys get competitive with it."

Second-year center Lloyd Cushenberry III has routinely aced the quick-hit tests -- "Cush just dominates," Hackett said. They mainly include unlabeled diagrams of plays that must be identified, but Hackett, an avid Star Wars fan, will throw in some questions about his favorite movies or occasionally decade-old photos of some of the team's current coaches with the challenge being to identify the coaches.

Each question has multiple choices for the answer, and it's all timed.

"It's cool, it's something we've never had before," wide receiver Tim Patrick said.

"I don't like the funny ones," Risner said with a laugh. "I want it to be all football. It's fun; I think we all kind of think, 'Hey we might have a Kahoot today, be ready,' but I don't think anybody is studying just to handle the Kahoots. … You better be studying a long time before that, but Cush, he's fast, man."

For Cushenberry, it's all part of a far more serious bottom line. Yes, he has started every game in each of his first two seasons since being picked in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft out of LSU.

He has spent offseason workouts getting most of the snaps with the starters, but there were times during the 2021 season when opposing defensive coaches believed Cushenberry could be overpowered at the point of attack in the run game. He didn't always maintain his footwork or positioning as part of a teamwide struggle in pass protection.

Cushenberry has also seen second-year guard Quinn Meinerz work some at center in the offseason workouts, and the Broncos used a fifth-round pick in this past April's draft to select Washington center Luke Wattenberg. So, the Kahoot tests might be a nice, somewhat lighthearted change of pace, but Cushenberry said he looks to take advantage of that opportunity as well, even if it means some extra study time.

"Every night, just [looking at] flash cards and studying and being on point," Cushenberry said. "As a center, a lot of people expect the center to know everything. You have to be smart. You don't get a pat on the back for being smart as a center. You're supposed to do that."

Most new coaches arrive with different ideas, signs on the wall or remodeling in a room or two. High-energy Hackett is no different in that respect and is enjoying some goodwill with the team's first game three months away.

But Broncos players have repeatedly said they like his attempts at new and unexpected things.

"These guys are young, man," Risner said of the new staff. "It's not just the Kahoot tests or shooting hoops between breaks. It's the way you talk, it's the way you walk into that building. These guys are hungry, this is their first shot [as a staff] … these guys are bringing the juice every day."