ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Out with the old option. In with the new no-huddle.
The Denver Broncos are getting their first taste of the hurry-up-at-altitude offense that Peyton Manning will unleash on the NFL this fall if everything keeps going well with his surgically repaired neck.
Although the full installation of the Broncos’ new offense won’t happen until summertime, Manning and his receivers are putting the foundation in place during the team’s voluntary workouts this month.
“You get a sense that that’s coming along,” receiver Andre Caldwell said. “We’re in the beginning process, but you can tell by the way they’re installing the offense that it’s going to be a lot more difficult and he’s going to be back to doing what he did in Indianapolis.”
When they signed Manning to a $96 million deal and dealt Tim Tebow to the New York Jets, the Broncos scrapped the option-style offense they had dusted off last season to fit the scrambling southpaw’s unique skill set.
Now, it’s all about the fast-paced switcheroo offense that’s the basis of Manning’s maniacal motions at the line of scrimmage as he deciphers defenses.
Coach John Fox spoke at Manning’s introductory news conference last month about how excited he was to have such an accomplished and cerebral quarterback running the no-huddle at Mile High.
“I’ve said all along, from having had to compete here, it might be the best home-field advantage in the NFL,” Fox said, “because, on an NFL travel schedule, you don’t have time to acclimate to altitude.”
Not only do Manning’s receivers, running backs and tight ends have to get used to a new offense, but they have to get ready to fast-forward, too.
Caldwell, a free agent who spent the last four seasons in Cincinnati, said he’s still getting his wind but he’s eager to see defenses get gassed in September.
“It’s going to be great, because I played here last year. I ran the no-huddle offense at Cincinnati, and I was dead tired,” Caldwell said. “So, I’ve got a feel for how the defense will react to it and how they will be feeling.”
Linebacker Joe Mays said the only defense that will appreciate the turbocharged no-huddle is Denver’s, which will have to keep pace with Manning every day in practice and be better for it.
“We’re all excited,” Mays said. “We’re looking forward to working with him on the field, looking forward to those no-huddle practices. But it’s going to be fun. You’re going up against the best quarterback who ever played the game — in practice. So, it should definitely help the defense out during the game.”
He can just imagine how opponents are going to feel sucking air in the fourth quarter after running up and down the field, often unable to switch personnel because of the Broncos’ pace.
“Oh yeah, we’re going to be in great shape. Peyton, he’s got those guys working hard right now, just preparing themselves for the season,” Mays said. “He’s going to have those guys ready to work, ready to get going and I’m just looking forward to standing on the sideline and watching.”
With Manning running the show in Denver, the Broncos’ tight ends will get a lot more action. Last year, Denver’s tight ends accounted for just 30 receptions and three touchdowns.
The Broncos brought in free agent tight ends Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme, who played with Manning in Indy, to go with promising second-year pros Julius Thomas and Virgil Green.
Tamme has 92 career receptions for 855 yards and five touchdowns. His best season was 2010, when he started eight games and set career highs with 67 catches for 631 yards with four touchdowns.
“In Indianapolis, the tight end has been a focal point,” Tamme said. “We’ve got a lot of guys around here that can catch the football. I think it should be a lot of fun. We’ll be able to do a lot of different things offensively.”
Dreessen, a former Colorado State University standout, has hauled in 110 passes for 1,364 yards and 13 TDs in six seasons with the New York Jets and Houston Texans. Last season, Dreessen caught 28 passes for 353 yards and six scores for the Texans.
Dreessen and the rest of the offense have been watching film of the Colts to see how Manning ran things in Indianapolis.
Most of the learning is hands-on, though, with Manning serving as both the coach and quarterback.
“The man is just a very gifted leader as far as organizing drills, organizing what we’re going to get done, being efficient with our time, moving at a fast pace,” Dreessen said.
Everybody’s curious about how Manning looks as the NFL’s only four-time MVP works his way back from a series of neck operations that sidelined him all of last year and led to his unceremonious release by the Colts.
“Outstanding,” Dreessen offered. “He’s putting it on the money.”
Tamme is the one Broncos player who has a baseline for comparison, having played in Indianapolis from 2008-2011. But he declined to share his opinion when asked how Manning has looked during workouts that are closed to the public and the media.
“Well, first of all, I’m pretty experienced with the Peyton question, so I’m going to let Peyton give updates on Peyton, but it’s been a lot of fun to get out there with him,” Tamme said. “I think everybody’s really enjoyed what we’ve been doing. This week has been a lot of fun to get out here on the field at the facility. Things are going well. I think it’s going to be a fun summer.”
Notes: The Broncos are also getting to know Jack Del Rio, the team’s seventh defensive coordinator in seven seasons. “Everyone’s excited about the Peyton Manning addition. I’m more excited about Jack Del Rio,” Mays said.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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