Why Nathaniel Hackett wants big plays every day in Broncos practice

Jun 10, 2022, 12:54 PM

Nathaniel Hackett...

(Photo by Andrew Mason /

(Photo by Andrew Mason /

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Some Broncos practices over the years pass by with nary a big play. If you’ve been to training camp, you’ve probably seen days like this.

But Nathaniel Hackett would prefer to keep those days to a minimum — and his players have noticed.

He wants explosive plays. But he also wants the energy they bring on a daily basis, breaking the monotony of summertime work.

“Sometimes in practice, he gets bored when big plays don’t happen,” cornerback Pat Surtain II said. “So, he’s all about the big plays.”

In the three OTA practices witnessed by Denver-area media in recent weeks — as well as other sessions shown in glimpses through the Broncos’ social-media channels — big plays have been on display. There are deep shots to Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick. Also, there was a pick-six by Surtain — who noted Thursday that he has two interceptions during OTAs. You have safety Justin Simmons taking one back through the offense, and you also have safety P.J. Locke zooming in to swat away a potential Russell Wilson touchdown pass in a red-zone period.

Occasional big plays were always part and parcel of previous years. But the frequency and emphasis on them is something new.

And when those big plays happen for the defense, that means they come against the offense for which Hackett calls plays.

So, Surtain notices a difference in the level of Hackett’s exultation.

“He’ll celebrate, but not as much as the offense, of course,” Surtain said. “He’ll still give us kudos and he’ll still run up to us and dap us up.”

But Hackett’s practice trash-talking — particularly with vocal veteran safety Kareem Jackson — has a way of bringing out the best in the defense.

“It brings all of our competitive spirits out knowing that the head coach will chip in with ‘K-Jack,'” Surtain said. ” That’s the energy that we need for us to have a great team. When your coach is that energetic and so much about the team, it only leaves a positive thing, so that’s great.”

The result? A team with big-play “juice.” Back in 2017, then-Broncos coach Vance Joseph repeatedly said that he wanted “juice.” What he meant specifically was players who can “take the ball … and go the distance with it.”

In other words, Joseph wanted big plays.

In practice five years later, the Broncos appear to have it.


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