Broncos Training Camp Day 9 Report: Nathaniel Hackett and asking, ‘Why?’

Aug 5, 2022, 5:08 PM
Nathaniel Hackett...
(Photo by Andrew Mason /
(Photo by Andrew Mason /

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — “Why?”

One little word, three tiny letters. But in the NFL for many years, it was a word that could confound. For some in football authority in past decades, accustomed to having orders followed without question, to ask “why” was tantamount to myriad other offenses in terms of being perceived as a troublemaker.

But that wasn’t the case for Paul Hackett in his years guiding offenses as an assistant and a head coach in the college and NFL ranks. His son, Nathaniel, took note.

Paul Hackett explained the “why” — to the point where players — and his son — could visualize everything he explained.

“I look back to when I saw my dad install the first time, and it was something that I had never experienced before. When he got up there, he made a picture on a wall come alive. It was unbelievable,” Nathaniel Hackett said.

“And that was kind of one of those things — you all of a sudden realize, it’s not just why, but it’s almost feeling yourself running across the paper, or for offensive line, running a block.”

Or, as the cliche’ would go, “Run through that wall.”

Few motivational sentiments have been muttered more often in a football environment than those four words.

Nathaniel Hackett and his Broncos coaching staff perceive it a little differently.

“Everybody always says, ‘Run through that wall,'” Hackett said. “We want them to think about how they’re going to run through that wall efficiently.”

And for the Broncos, that means they often don’t have to ask “Why?” Hackett and his staff often delve into that of their own volition.

“Hackett’s pretty good at giving us the ‘why’ without needing to be prompted at all,” said right tackle Calvin Anderson.

And if anything is uncovered, some players will dig deeper. Starting with Russell Wilson.

“Russ is another ‘ask why’ guy. Any of the areas that aren’t addressed by Hackett, he might ask the question, and that might prompt Hackett to then give us the background and all that stuff,” Anderson said.

“So, he’s always willing to do that for us. That’s one thing that I love about Hackett. He’s not like one of these guys who’s like, ‘Just do it.’ He gives us the space to be thinkers ourselves and to understand, and I think that makes a better football team.”

And that back-and-forth can — and will — result in changes.

So, every single thing that we do, it’s hey, this is the place for this, this is for this, what is a priority of why we’re trying to call it, so they can understand if we don’t get that, then, it sucks, and we’d better do something else,” Hackett said.

“I think that’s what you’re always aiming for, because that’s when they start owning the system, when they know the ins and outs, and they’re calling out the plays — hey, I’ve got this technique, I’ve got this, can we run this. It might be something we [as coaches] missed, and that’s us working together and gaining an advantage.”

And as this evolves, the players will ask themselves, “Why?” and sometimes find the answers on their own.

“But I think understanding ‘why’ in the room when we’ve got our coaches in there is so that they can teach us the kind of thorough thought process that kind of goes into why we’re doing something, so when we’re on the field, we understand, ‘OK, this is why we’re doing this, as opposed to, ‘We do this when this happens,'” Anderson said. “If we can answer the questions ourselves, then we’re way better reacting to things changing on the field.'”

And that’s where the “why” becomes the “how” … as in how the Broncos can be more than they were during five consecutive losing seasons. They’re not just running a scheme. They’re learning how to massage it and take it to a level that suits their talents.

“We don’t want them just to run a play because we said it,” Hackett said.



No seven-on-seven repetitions also means no one-on-one work for the offensive linemen against their defensive front-seven counterparts. That’s because in a typical practice, the edge rushers, offensive linemen and defensive linemen go to a separate area while the skill-position players, inside linebackers, defensive backs and quarterbacks have seven-on-seven reps.

So, is something being lost?

Not exactly, maintains Anderson.

“We always get one-on-ones, because in the team settings, we’re always going to have situations where we’re isolated on one rusher. But the actual one-on-one drills, I had one time in college where my coach didn’t do it, and it was because we had had a bunch of injuries,” Anderson said.

“So, he shied away from it. But I think the mentality behind it makes sense to me. I think that Hackett’s trying to put us in real-life game situations, and so when we’re out there running team, we have a team play-pass period, we’re getting one-on-one reps. We’re getting a lot of real-situation, real-speed one-on-one reps. So, I don’t think we’re missing out, and I think we’re putting a lot of emphasis on things we’ll see in the game, as opposed to isolated drills.”


  • For the jog-through practice, the Broncos again divided into two fields — first-teamers and top rotational players on the south field, reserves on the north field.
  • Fourth-round pick Damarri Mathis worked with the first teasers on the south field. Mathis had a diving interception of a Brett Rypien pass during Thursday’s practice. “We kind of had to transition him to playing off coverage and learning those techniques,” Hackett said. “He’s really picked those up really well. He made an awesome interception yesterday, cutting across the field. It wasn’t just the technique, but that extra effort to continue to trust himself and run underneath the ball. That was great to see. He’s picking it up. It’s a little different for him because of how he’s played in the past, but he’s picking it up well.”
  • With wide receivers Kendall Hinton and Tyrie Cleveland watching from the sideline and Tim Patrick on injured reserve, Trey Quinn and Seth Williams worked on the first field with Russell Wilson.



  • Edge rusher Randy Gregory and OT Billy Turner continued working on a side field as they recover from their interviews. Hackett said that both are “right on track,” with the goal for both players to play in Week 1. “That’s what we’re aiming for,” Hackett said.
  • Safety Caden Sterns watched practice in a bucket hat. Sterns had a hip infusion Thursday.
  • WR KJ Hamler worked in the team jog-through periods. Hamler saw reps with the No. 1 offense.
  • After an injury scare at the end of practice Thursday,
  • Slot CB K’Waun Williams remained sidelined with a knee injury suffered last Saturday. “We’re just going to work him back in the right way, continually rehab him, and make sure he’s good,” Hackett said. “We’re hoping sooner than later.”
  • WR Tyrie Cleveland watched practice from the sideline. He took a shot to the throat earlier this week and could miss the next few weeks.
  • Netane Muti worked at left and right guard for some reps with the No. 1 offense. Graham Glasgow worked on the field with the reserves.



Once again, temperatures hit the 90s, rising from 84°F to 91°F during the short practice.



The Broncos hit the field again at 10 a.m. MDT on Saturday. They will practice in full pads for approximately two-and-a-half hours.


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