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Broncos Camp Day 4 report: Juwann Winfree turns heads

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Rookie wide receiver Juwann Winfree made catch after catch during the first three days of training camp, and that continued Sunday morning, as he punctuated his day with a grab of a short pass from Drew Lock that saw the quarterback fling the football under a pass rush and set Winfree up perfectly for plenty of yardage after the catch.

Denver's quarterbacks can trust Winfree -- and Denver's cornerbacks can trust him to be a difficult matchup. He's already caught the eyes of the secondary's resident Pro Bowler.

"Fifteen [Winfree] is nice," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "I see him every day catching a lot of balls, having great routes. He's stronger than a lot of people would think as a young receiver. I like 15's game."

When Winfree learned of the praise, he beamed.

"That's huge to me, man," he said. "That made me smile, just because I've grown up watching these guys. When I got here, I always thought I could succeed at this level, but actually finally doing it, working and being able to compete against these top guys, going against the ones, it's providing a lot of confidence for me, and it's improving my game just going against him."

Winfree has already learned an important lesson: You can't get away with shortcuts at this level.

"When I come to the line, I've got to slow the game down so much more now, because there's little things that you could get away with at the college level, but now I can't," he said. "So when I'm here, I've got to be patient at the line, take my time and scan the whole field."

So far, so good.

TAKEAWAY TOUCH CONTINUES

The tip drill was in play for the defense Sunday. It intercepted rookie quarterback Drew Lock twice -- with the picks for Will Parks and Dymonte Thomas both coming off of deflected passes.

Parks' seven-on-seven interception of a pass intended for rookie tight end Noah Fant gave him two consecutive practices with a pick.

"He's out here going crazy. I can't say anybody who's having a better camp than him right now in the backfield -- other than Justin [Simmons], Justin's having a good [camp]," Harris said. "But 'Philly' has been amazing every day.

"It's going to be hard to keep these boys off the field. I feel like we're loaded at safety."

That ample depth includes second-year veteran Trey Marshall, who forced a fumble from tight end Austin Fort. Linebacker Joe Jones recovered.

"After he caught the ball, he didn't really tuck it," Marshall said. "He was holding it loose, so I just came in and punched it out."

Marshall's strong day did not end with the forced fumble. He delivered one of the strongest hits of the day, rushing forward through the gap to stop running back Khalfani Muhammad in the backfield during a team period.

NOTES:

... Quarterback Kevin Hogan had some flashes, including a touchdown pass to Fant that saw him thread the needle past two defenders. Fant had position in the end zone to make the grab.

Later, Fant was able to turn upfield on a pair of passes in the right flat, allowing him to use his separation to rip off gains that would have covered at least 20 yards under game conditions. He also tacked on extra yardage after a reception by barreling through cornerback Isaac Yiadom.

Fant also nearly tacked on a second touchdown reception during a red-zone period late in practice. Fant motioned to the right, lined up inside and then found a gap in the zone, but as Flacco threw, defenders closed and the pass fell incomplete.

... Fangio's desire to mix and match and give players chances against higher levels of competition continued, as he inserted undrafted rookie quarterback Brett Rypien with the No. 2 offense against the first-team defense for one period late in practice.

"A lot of teams only have three quarterbacks in camp. We have four," Fangio said. "We are getting a fair amount of reps out there as it seems. Some days he's going to get more than others. That's just the way it goes, but I like Brett."

After taking a sack when Von Miller and Bradley Chubb exploded off the edges, Rypien settled in, hitting Brendan Langley and Kelvin McKnight.

The pass to McKnight saw Rypien stand in the pocket and deliver the ball despite pressure from DeShawn Williams, who closed on him as he prepared to throw.

"Brett, I think, maybe, he's got a future," Fangio said.

... With Troy Fumagalli not seeing team-period repetitions as he recovers from a hip injury, rookie tight end Austin Fort continued to see first-team repetitions.

"He's catching some balls. I think he's getting better," Fangio said. "He's a guy that kind of established himself here early that, ‘Hey, this guy's a prospect, not just an off-the-street guy.' We'll see. We have hope, but it's early."

... Rookie wide receiver Trinity Benson also continued to rotate through the lineup, seeing a handful of first-team snaps once again.

... The wide receivers and defensive backs went against each other in one-on-one work for the first time in this year's training camp.

There were some notable moments. Parks broke up a pass intended for DaeSean Hamilton. Lock had a well-placed pass to Fred Brown near the sideline. And Tim Patrick made one of the best individual plays of the day with a back-shoulder reception of a long Flacco pass.

But Fangio offered caution to avoid making too much of the drill, which usually favors the offense.

“To me, one-on-one's a teaching drill. It's really not football," he said. "I tell a story and it's a true story. In all my years as a coordinator, I've never watched a one-on-one drill -- I'm assuming you're alluding to wide receivers and DBs -- I've never watched it in person nor on tape because if you watch that drill, you'd be afraid to call man coverage."

... The offense eventually got going, but lurched from the blocks slowly, with two false-start penalties during its first period of practice.

"Both sides had [penalties] early. That's something that we just must eliminate," Fangio said.

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