ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Day 7 of Denver Broncos’ Training Camp featured a strong outing from the defense and up-and-down play from the offense, including the quarterbacks. After no fans were permitted at training camp practices in 2020, it was great to attend again. I missed Bill Kollar’s yelling, the crash and clanks of the blocking sleds, hearing the quarterbacks’ cadence, and the smell of football field grass.
I arrived about 15 minutes before camp and must have been living right that morning, because I was able to park in the paved part of the lot near the entrance. There were no lines to get into the lot or in making my entry to the grassy berm. I perched myself right in front of the Broncos Training Camp Live tent studio and was able to listen to Matt Boyer, Ryan Edwards, and Benjamin Allbright during their stream. I wish that Steve Atwater had been present, but he is obviously attending to a much more important, long overdue honor this coming weekend.
POSITIONAL GROUP PERIOD OBSERVATIONS
Defensive Backs: Patrick Surtain II—The “Real Deal” Holyfield
Following their stretching, the Broncos moved to a positional period. From where I was sitting, I had a perfect view of the defense backs. Patrick Surtain II looks nothing like a rookie. He is not only an elite athlete, but an elite football player and technician. Watching his footwork, him flip his hips, and get in and out of breaks is somewhat of a paradox. Is such talent and ability inherent, taught, or both? Judging from his bloodlines and willingness to learn, I’d say, both. Regardless, Surtain is looking more and more like a stellar selection at ninth overall. I am willing to put in writing that Surtain could be the best defensive back on the Broncos’ roster by season’s end, which is a bold statement considering that Denver already has Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Ronald Darby, Justin Simmons, and Kareem Jackson.
Tight Ends: Noah Fant—Ready to Breakout
The tight ends spent considerable time working with the quarterbacks on shallow ins and options routes during their positional period. Noah Fant looks ginormous but still plenty fast. Fant is primed for a season as big as he is, who would go on to have the play of the day on a 55-yard catch during a team period described below.
FIRST SET OF 11-ON-11 WORK
- This period started with Drew Lock as the first quarterback up, with Netane Muti starting in place of Graham Glasgow at right guard, as Glasgow was given a vet day. Calvin Anderson lined up to Muti’s right.
- On the first play, the offense false started. Vic Fangio was none too pleased.
- From under center, the Broncos ran an outside zone play to Melvin Gordon for a solid gain.
- From under center, the Broncos called a play action power run play, where Lock completed a slant to Courtland Sutton.
- From under center, the Broncos ran an inside zone play to Royce Freeman, who gained minimal yardage.
- From under center, the Broncos pulled Muti on a power run, where he created a sizeable hole, but Javonte Williams slipped, which minimized his gain. Had Williams been able to keep his footing on the play, he could have gotten to the second level and then some of the defense.
- From under center, the Broncos called a play action play, but Lock had nowhere to go with ball and threw it away out of bounds.
- From the shotgun formation, Lock had Seth Williams open on a seam route, but the ball was overthrown.
- From under center, the Broncos ran an outside zone play to Williams utilizing a heavy package.
- From under center again, the Broncos ran an inside zone play to Freeman, who gained minimal yardage.
- From under center, the Broncos deployed a play action counter run fake, where Bridgewater completed a slant to Jerry Jeudy.
- From under center, Mike Boone’s number was called for an outside zone play that gained four or five yards.
- From under center, Teddy Bridgewater scrambled up the middle for about 15 to 20 yards. In a real game, he probably slides down.
- From under center, the Broncos ran a counter to Damarea Crockett for minimal yards.
- From under center, Rypien faked a handoff and attempted a deep pass to DeVontres Dukes on a post pattern, which was overthrown and fell incomplete.
- From under center, the Broncos ran an inside zone LeVante Bellamy for no gain.
7-ON-7 RED ZONE SESSION
- From the 12-yard line, Bridgewater completed a slant for five yards to Jerry Jeudy.
- From the 7-yard line, Bridgewater went back to Jeudy on an out route for a touchdown.
- From the 5-yard line, Bridgewater completed a slant to Jeudy on a contested throw for a touchdown.
- From the 5-yard line, a pass intended for Fant on an out route fell incomplete.
- From the 10-yard line, Rypien completed an out route to Andrew Beck for seven yards.
- From the 10-yard line, Rypien completed a flat route to Freeman for what would have been very close to being a touchdown under game conditions.
- From the 10-yard line, Rypien completed a pass to De’Mornay Pierson-El. More than likely, this would have resulted in a sack or throwaway under game conditions, as there were no receivers open for at least five seconds on this play.
- From the 10-yard line, Dukes dropped a perfectly placed Rypien throw in the back of the end zone.
- Diontae Spencer was the first up in fielding kicks and did a nice job of cleaning fielding the kick, setting up his blocks, and being decisive in getting upfield.
- Bellamy was the next man up. He cleanly fielded the kicked and showed a nice burst.
- Trinity Benson’s name was then called. Nothing really stood out to me on his rep beyond cleanly catching the ball.
- Finally, Kendall Hinton got his shot, and he appeared to be the most indecisive of this group in setting up his blocks and busting a move.
SECOND SET OF 11-ON-11 WORK
- From under center, the Broncos called a pin-and-pull play to Gordon for a good gain.
- From under center, the Broncos false started.
- From under center, and two tight end formation, the Broncos ran a counter for a minimal gain.
- From under center, Bridgewater faked a handoff and threw behind Sutton, who made a sweet one-handed grab.
- From under center, a slip screen pass intended fell incomplete to Gordon, as the defense read the play well.
- From under center, Bridgewater executed a beautiful bootleg play action call and completed a long pass down the seam to a streaking Fant.
- From the shotgun in a three wide receiver set, the Broncos play faked an inside zone run, but the pass intended for Jeudy on a slant pattern fell behind him.
- From under center, Lock play action faked to set up an outside the tackle box screen pass the Freeman which gained ten or so yards.
- From the shotgun and three wide receiver set, Freeman had a good run on a counter.
- From the shotgun, Lock completed a wide receiver bubble screen to Sutton that was set up and blocked well.
- From under center, the Broncos called a fake power run, with great protection from the offensive line, which allowed Lock to go through his progressions for before dumping the ball off for a short gain.
- From under center, the Broncos ran an angle blocked play to Bellamy for a decent gain, especially if it had been a short yardage situation.
- From the shotgun, the Broncos deployed a four wide set, and Lock hit Dukes on a back shoulder route down the sideline reminiscent of Kyle Orton and another 84 in Brandon Lloyd from the 2010 season.
11-ON-11 MOVE THE BALL PERIOD
- From under center and a four wide receiver set, Bridgewater completed an out route to Jeudy for a first down.
- From under center, Bridgewater completed a slant to Sutton.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater connected with Fant on an out route.
- From the shotgun and three wide receiver set, Lock completed an out route to Eric Saubert, which featured good protection by the offensive line and Lock properly going through his progressions.
- From the shotgun, Saubert false started.
- From the shotgun, Lock’s pass for K.J. Hamler was placed too low and fell incomplete on a crossing pattern.
FIELD GOAL FUN
- Brandon McManus’ 58-yard field goal nicked the back end of the cross bar and was good.
- McManus’ next 58-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
- McManus then drilled a 58-yarder straight down the middle that would have been good from 65 yards out.
- McManus then made another 58-yard field goal and then was good from 48 yards, 43 yards twice, and 38 yards.
7-ON-7 SECOND SESSION
- Lock completed an out pattern to Tim Patrick.
- Lock completed a pivot route to Saubert.
- Lock completed an out to Jeudy.
- Lock completed a crossing route to Seth Williams.
- Bridgewater’s pass on an out route fell incomplete due to blanket coverage by the secondary.
- On a very well executed play to avoid offensive pass interference, Bridgewater completed a pass to Hamler on a rub route.
- Bridgewater overthrew a go route to Branden Mack.
- Bridge completed an out to Jeudy.
- Rypien completed a pivot route to Dukes.
- Rypien completed a post pattern that Warren Jackson ran well.
- Mack made a beautiful diving grab on a go pattern to which Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson vehemently objected to claiming that Mack had pushed off on the play.
- Austin Fort caught a Rypien throw on a drag pattern.
11-ON-11 RED ZONE WORK
- From under enter, the Broncos called a jet sweep to Spencer that gained minimal yardage.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater handed the ball off to Freeman on a zone read play for a good gain.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater completed an out pattern to Hamler for a gain of five or six yards.
- From under center and the 10-yard line, Boone carried the ball on a one back power play for three or four yards.
- From the shotgun and 10-yard line, Bellamy followed a pulling guard on the strong side of the formation for two yards.
- From the shotgun and 10-yard line, in a four wide receiver set, Bridgewater completed a crosser.
- From under center and the 20-yard line, in a three wide receiver set, Jeudy was handed the ball on a jet sweep for ten yards.
- From the shotgun, in a three wide receiver set, Gordon gained no yards on a power run play.
- From the shotgun, in a two tight end set, Bradley Chubb would have had a sack in a real game, as he exploded off of the edge into the backfield before the play could even be set up.
- From under center and the 10-yard line, in a two tight end set, the Broncos gained three or four yards on a power run to Javonte Williams.
- From under center and the 10-yard line, in a three tight end set, Freeman carried the ball for five yards on an angle block play.
- From the shotgun and 10-yard line, in a three wide receiver/two tight end set, Shelby Harris would have a sack in a real game right after the ball was snapped, as he busted through the middle of the formation.
MORE KICKOFF WORK
- Spencer, again, was the first man up to field kicks. He was praised by special teams coordinator Tom McMahon for cleaning fielding the kick, setting up his blocks, and quickly getting upfield.
- Hamler was the second player called to return kicks. He looked natural back there and was able to move up the seam his blockers created.
- Benson and Kendall then had their numbers called and cleanly caught the ball, but did not look as smooth as Spencer or dynamic as Hamler.
11-ON-11 TWO-MINUTE DRILL
- From under center and a three wide receiver set, Lock completed a crosser to Sutton. Sutton made a terrific catch on a ball that was thrown behind him.
- From under center, Lock completed a throw to Gordon on a leak-out, but Justin Strnad made sure that it went for no additional yards beyond the two or three that Gordon gained where he caught the pass.
- From the shotgun, Lock completed a check down to Gordon.
- From the shotgun, Gordon dropped a pass on an out pattern.
- From the shotgun, Lock completed a crosser to Hamler.
- From the shotgun and three wide receiver set, Boone busted out a big gain on a single back power play.
- From the shotgun, Lock completed a swing pass to Boone.
- From the shotgun, Lock completed a curl route to Patrick.
- From the shotgun, Lock play action faked a run, was pressured, and then threw an inexplicable red zone interception where no receiver was even close and there were two safeties sitting back at the goal line.
- From the shotgun, a play action pass intended for Seth Williams fell incomplete.
- From the shotgun, Hamler caught an out route but was ruled to not have control of the ball before going out of bounds.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater completed a throw to Benson for eight yards on an out route.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater completed another pass to Benson on a crossing pattern.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater looked Fort’s way down the seam, but the pass fell incomplete.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater completed a drag route to Shaun Beyer, who had a nice catch-and-run, but the play more than likely would have resulted in a sack in a game.
- From the shotgun, Bridgewater was intercepted by Rojesterman Farris. To me, it appeared that the intended receiver, Mack, ran the wrong route on the play.
OBSERVATIONS AND FINAL THOUGHTS
This practice ended around thirty minutes earlier than the training camp practice session that I attended in Vic Fangio’s first season. . . . Bradley Chubb looks big, strong, and ready to wreck havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. . . . In Mike Purcell’s absence, the Broncos utilized DeShawn Williams, Shemar Stephen, and as I thought may be the case last week, Isaiah Mack, at the 0 and 1 technique spot. . . . The Broncos practiced a lot out of nickel and dime looks, which coincides with what has been claimed by the coaching staff, and speculated by the media, that they will be playing more and more of during games. . . . Excluding the two-minute drills, the Broncos worked quite a bit from under center, as well as with two tight end sets, or one tight end and fullback or H-back, which bodes well for Andrew Beck. Judging from yesterday’s practice and formations, Beck appears to have a role in the offense as a hybrid FB/H-Back/TE. . . . Watching Jerry Jeudy run routes in person is mesmerizing. The separation and open space he creates is otherworldly. . . . Diontae Spencer looks like the best returner on the team again, which is no surprise, but will he contribute on offense and/or make a big enough impact as a returner to merit a roster spot for a team loaded at wide receiver? . . . I wasn’t overly impressed with Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater yesterday. Both quarterbacks have to do a better job of placing passes in stride to their receivers. Too many passes were thrown behind, low, or long where a receiver was open and could have gone for considerable yardage and/or yards after the catch. . . . I really want to see Lock and Bridgewater go against different defenses. I feel that the joint practice sessions scheduled with the Vikings for next week are imperative. Is Denver’s defense that good or is the quarterback position going to remain a thorn in the Broncos’ side again this season? As I have previously opined, this competition is going to come down to the preseason games at Minnesota and Seattle. Hopefully, the coaching staff can at least make a preliminary decision at QB heading into the third and final preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. . . . At the conclusion of practice, I spotted Brandon Stokley chatting with his BFF, Peyton Manning, and was able to snap some photos of the interaction. At the beginning of practice, Stokley was kind enough to stop and converse with a fan who was sitting about eight feet from me. . . . My next recap and report will come after attending the Aug. 11 joint practice between the Broncos and Vikings scheduled to take place in Eagan, Minn.