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#BroncosCamp Observations: Denver's defense stands tall in end-of-game scenario

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos near their Sept. 14 opener against the Tennessee Titans, the team prioritized situational football during their Sunday training camp practice.

During different portions of practice, the Broncos worked on stopping the clock with just a few seconds remaining, throwing Hail Marys, running red-zone plays and operating from the shadow of the offense's goal line.

Then, to conclude practice, the Broncos' offense tried to drive the ball down the field for a last-minute go-ahead score.

"Obviously it was a tough situation at the end there," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "We had 40 seconds left offensively. We were down five [points] with no timeouts. The advantage is to the defense there, but those are situations we've got to be able to come up with an answer and go get that touchdown."

The offense got close, as Drew Lock found Noah Fant down the seam for a big gain to bring the Broncos into the red zone. With two seconds remaining, though, Bryce Callahan picked off Lock in the end zone to end the drive and secure a win for the defense.

The veteran unit was largely successful Sunday against the young offense. During an earlier move-the-ball period, the first-team defense forced a turnover on downs.

CUSHENBERRY GETS HIS CHANCE

After the team's off day on Saturday, rookie Lloyd Cushenberry III worked extensively with the first-team offensive line on Sunday.

The LSU product held up well against the first-team defensive line and didn't allow much pressure. His snaps were on target as he worked with Lock for the most-prolonged stretch of camp.

During one-on-one drills, Cushenberry also held his own against different members of the team's starting unit.

And while Fangio said the Broncos will make a determination about who starts at center based on the practice tape, Cushenberry's experience at center in college can only help.

"I mean it's obviously an advantage for him personally that he's played center most of his college career," Fangio said. "He's played it at a good college. Obviously, they won the championship last year. He's played it at a high level of competition in the SEC. You can say he's more ready than some players are coming from certain programs."

Austin Schlottmann and Pat Morris are also in the competition, and Offensive Coordinator Pat Shumur did not give any indication Sunday when a decision would be made.

"Time will tell in terms of the center, but they're all getting work, they're all snapping the ball to Drew, and so the rotation in there has been good," Shurmur said. "Time will tell on that, and I'm sure you check back with Coach Fangio, and he'll keep you posted on all that."

FREEMAN RUNNING HARD

As Melvin Gordon III continues to recover from a rib injury, Royce Freeman took advantage of his added reps on Sunday. The former third-round pick ran hard and showed an enhanced burst of speed from the past two seasons.

He was also involved in the passing game a fair amount during Sunday's practice.

"I think Royce started camp off really good, hit a lull there for a day or two and I think he's back to playing really good again," Fangio said.

In Shurmur's offense, contributions in the passing game are both necessary and expected.

"I think the running backs have to be involved, first and foremost with protection," Shurmur said. "I think it's very hard to play if you can't protect the quarterback. I've been very pleased. I think [Running Backs Coach] Curtis [Modkins] does a great job of instructing them on what to do. I think top to bottom, they really do a nice job of being very, I would say, intense with their protection and making sure they get the right guy blocked. That's first. And then secondly, there are times when we want to do something with the receivers that gets taken away and the ball gets checked down, and they've got to be able to catch it and run with it and make yards. And then there's other times when they're primary and I think that's what they've done a good job with, as well."

QUICK HITS

  • Linebacker Justin Strnad left practice early with a wrist injury, but before he left he won a pair of one-on-one pass protection drills against LeVante Bellamy. The fifth-round pick continues to show good strength and athleticism.
  • Bradley Chubb was also dominant during the one-on-one pass-blocking drills. He later bull-rushed Lock on a stunt during a move-the-ball drill. His counterpart, Von Miller, did not participate in team drills as he recovers from an elbow injury.
  • Dre'Mont Jones provided a good rush early in an 11-on-11 period as he flushed Lock out of the pocket.
  • Courtland Sutton made a leaping grab during 7-on-7 work, and Jerry Jeudy later added a David Tyree-esque catch when he pinned the ball against his helmet. On Jeudy's deep catch, Justin Simmons was likely in position to apply a big hit in a game scenario.
  • DaeSean Hamilton dropped a couple of passes early in practice, but he responded by catching a deep pass from Lock in a move-the-ball drill. Hamilton, though, may have stepped out of bounds before reentering the field of play to make the catch.
  • Lock targeted Tim Patrick on three consecutive plays during an 11-on-11 session and completed two of the three passes.
  • Cornerback-turned-safety Alijah Holder continues to impress, as he laid a big hit on Freeman midway through practice and then provided solid coverage of Albert Okwuegbunam in the end zone during a red-zone period.
  • During the Hail Mary portion of practice, Lock completed the first 50-yard attempt to Kendall Hinton, was picked off by Justin Simmons on the second throw and completed the third attempt when Jake Butt caught the pass off a ricochet.
  • Malik Reed and Jurrell Casey both batted down passes during 11-on-11 action, and Reed nearly picked Lock off on the play.
  • Josey Jewell, playing in place of an injured Todd Davis, would've had a potential sack for a safety as he broke free toward Lock as the offense had the ball at its own goal line.

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