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Broncos Camp Observations: Broncos put pads on, rookie running back draws attention

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The pads were back on Monday at Centura Health Training Center.

And to the Broncos' defenders, that meant football was officially back.

"Real football doesn't start until them pads come on," cornerback Pat Surtain II said.

In their first padded practice of training camp, the Broncos brought an added level of physicality. The team ran tackling drills, hit the sleds and held one-on-one reps between their offensive linemen and pass rushers.

And while the team didn't hold extensive live periods, there was a physical element of the Broncos' 11-on-11 work.

"It depends on the drill," Head Coach Sean Payton said of when the team will go live. "When we get to goal line or short yardage, we might have six-to-eight plays live. We are in full pads now, so it's full go. We're not cutting and we're not tackling to the ground. We have to learn to practice this way. Today, I thought they did a good job of it. They handled it well."

On one rep, cornerback Essang Bassey blew up a short pass to Montrell Washington. On another, the Broncos' reserve offensive line cleared a huge running lane to the left side of the line of scrimmage.


Behind Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine, undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin may have a chance to make a name for himself.

The Youngstown State product showed off his speed on Monday and may have recorded a long carry under game conditions.

"He has a little burst, and there's some toughness to him," Payton said. "He's the first one here. I don't know what time he gets here in the morning, but it's pretty early. He's a guy you root for. He's shifty, and he has good change of direction. It's funny. When you put the pads on players for the first day, then you really get an appreciation of how they look in pads. It's hard to measure that when they're not in pads. Today was that day where you're just looking around at everyone and how they carry the pads. It'll be a good stretch for him, though. He's a guy that it's really important to."

McLaughlin carried the ball 227 times for 1,588 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2022, as he averaged more than 144 rushing yards per game.


Second-year cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian has made his share of plays in training camp, and that continued on Monday as he posted a pass breakup in a late team period.

"J-Mac, he's playing at a high level," Surtain said. "You can see he's making plays all over the field. But not only that, he's very comfortable and very poised out there."

McMillian demonstrated some of that ability in his lone appearance last year, as he started the final game of Denver's season. He posted seven tackles and nearly snagged an interception.

"He showed that last year in the last game how comfortable he was out there," Surtain said. "… He's just very locked in. In the meeting rooms, perfecting his craft, he's just very locked in, in that aspect, as well."


… Wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. returned to action after rehabbing earlier in training camp, and he caught an early pass from Wilson.

"He's doing well," Payton said. "He's feeling good. You are going to see him more and more this week. He's going to be ramping up. We're encouraged."

… The Broncos' defense had a strong day, but the Denver offensive line largely held up well in pass protection. On several plays, the starting offensive line gave Russell Wilson a healthy amount of time to throw.

… Wilson's top moments came in a late team period as he found Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy for back-to-back first downs.

… Inside linebacker Drew Sanders knifed through the line of scrimmage in an early 11-on-11 play and had a chance to make a tackle for loss on running back Javonte Williams.

… Outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper likely would have recorded a sack on one early 11-on-11 rep. He broke through the line and had a free path to the quarterback.

… On the same play that Cooper brought pressure, safety Justin Simmons picked off a deep pass intended for Jeudy.

… Tight end Tommy Hudson had back-to-back catches during a late team period.

… Inside linebacker Alex Singleton may have recorded a sack on a blitz during 11-on-11 work.

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