ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos inch closer to their season opener against the Giants on Sept. 12, they continue to emphasize situational football.
On Tuesday, a large portion of Denver's 11-on-11 work came in the red zone and simulating two-minute scenarios.
The Broncos were relatively successful in situational football on both sides of the ball against Minnesota. With Drew Lock under center, the team was 2-of-3 on third down, including a Vikings penalty,and 1-of-2 in the red zone. When Teddy Bridgewater took the reins, Denver went 4-of-5 on third down, including another defensive penalty, and also scored one touchdown in its red-zone opportunities.
The Denver defense was even better, as the unit held the Vikings to 2-of-6 on third down in the first half and allowed only field goals on Minnesota's two red-zone trips in the opening frames.
During Tuesday's practice, the Broncos' defense again held the edge. The unit did not allow a touchdown during 12 red-zone team reps and also held the Broncos' offense to a 53-yard field goal in a two-minute, move-the-ball scenario. In those reps, the Broncos' defense likely would have recorded a number of sacks, including stops by Bradley Chubb and Derrek Tuszka.
As Bridgewater led the offense, the Denver defense clamped down on two Courtland Sutton targets in the end zone during red-zone work and forced three consecutive incompletions during a two-minute period. With Lock under center, the Broncos' offense made some headway during a two-minute drill. Facing a seven-point deficit with 68 yards to travel, 2:10 on the clock and one timeout, Lock made his best throw of the day on fourth-and-2, rifling a 26-yard pass down the seam to Noah Fant.
Lock, though, did not reach the end zone, as Head Coach Vic Fangio blew the whistle to end practice before the two minutes were up.
If the Broncos' early training camp focus is any indication, these were likely not the last attempts Lock and Bridgewater will get to ace the game's most-important scenarios.
Denver held one-on-one drills during an early period of practice, and there were several standout plays. Defensively, safety Justin Simmons recorded an impressive one-handed interception while in coverage against wide receiver Kendall Hinton. Simmons reached back to make the play and was able to reel the ball in.
Cornerback Ronald Darby, who returned to practice on Tuesday, recorded a pass breakup down the field against wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, and rookie safety Jamar Johnson knocked the ball away while in coverage against tight end Shaun Beyer.
The offense did find its share of success, as wide receiver KJ Hamler caught a pass while matched up with cornerback Bryce Callahan, and tight end Noah Fant made a catch working against Johnson. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam showed off his speed to make a touchdown catch while working against linebacker Alexander Johnson, and Jerry Jeudy opened the period with a deep touchdown against Kyle Fuller.
Jeudy almost had another deep catch as he got a step on cornerback Pat Surtain II, but the ball was slightly overthrown.
.... Outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper made a strong pass-rush move in an 11-on-11 play, as he went right by the offensive tackle and would have recorded a sack under game conditions.
"He was a good player at Ohio State," Fangio said. "He played hard, he played tough. You can tell he has a passion for the game. He's a guy that's very coachable and he's fulfilled that so far. He had to overcome missing the entire offseason. We like where he's at right now."
.... One of Lock's best throws may have been during an early 11-on-11 session. From the pocket, Lock rifled a throw into a small window and completed the ball to Trinity Benson for a decent gain. The pass somehow got by rookie safety Caden Sterns, who was in tight coverage, and stuck to Benson's pads.
.... Following a practice in which the Broncos' offense had several drops, Fangio said the team's operation needed to be a little crisper.
"We have to focus," Fangio said. "We come back and get ready to do a normal training camp-type practice. We have to get locked in better. We have to catch the ball; we have to throw it better — all that."
.... In addition to his catch in one-on-one action, Okwuegbunam made at least four catches during seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 work.
His deepest play of the day came on a deep corner route to the sideline, as he caught a pass 20 yards down the field and got his feet in bounds to make the play.
The Broncos could soon see the second-year player return to game action after he was held out against the Vikings.
"I think he's close," Fangio said. "I mean, he's done great with his rehab. I think he could have played last week, but we'll consult with the medical people and him. We definitely want to get him playing before the first game."
.... Chubb showed off his Pro Bowl talent on one 11-on-11 play, as he looped inside and pushed the guard several yards into the backfield. Chubb then chased the quarterback from the pocket and may have had a sack under game conditions. Earlier in the day, Chubb may have had a strip-sack on another impressive rush.
.... With Melvin Gordon III not participating in 11-on-11 work, rookie Javonte Williams continued to flash. He had several impressive runs, including a couple that would have gone for substantial gains. In his first game action last week, Williams carried for 24 yards on his first two carries. He also bounced off a defender for a touchdown, but it was called back due to holding.
.... After working at guard in the early stages of the Broncos' game in Minnesota, third-round pick Quinn Meinerz again took snaps at the position during Tuesday's practice.
"He's got the ability to do it, for sure," Fangio said. "He has to master the mental part of it and the techniques, but I do think he can do it."