ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos have only just begun training camp, but Jerry Jeudy is already making highlight-reel plays.
The 2020 15th-overall pick continued his strong offseason as he made a series of plays on Wednesday that suggested he can build on a productive rookie season.
Jeudy caught at least three passes on the day, and while one was just a routine catch across the middle, the other two highlighted Jeudy's potential as a receiving threat. The first of those two catches came in a third-down scenario, as he leapt into the air and made a reaching grab over his head with the Broncos' first-string defense in close pursuit.
"Jerry made a great play today," Teddy Bridgewater said after practice. "He put his foot in the ground. It's third down, he went up and made a tough catch and came down with it. Those are some of the things that we're excited about.
The second impressive play came later in the morning's session, as he created separation and again reached up to snag a pass on a deep route. Jeudy then put on the afterburners and would have scored in a game scenario.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Jeudy can have an All-Pro, Pro Bowl season this year," safety Justin Simmons said after practice. "He's just that good. Everyone wanted to talk about what happened last year [with some drops], but I'm not even worried about it one bit. I've seen the work that he's been putting in in the offseason, saw what he did during OTAs.
"We only got a snippet of it today, snagging passes out of the air way outside of the body frame. That's just the beginning. Competition is something that he never shies from, and I know he's going to be tremendous for us this year. He's going to be big."
BACK IN ACTION
The Broncos' other top pick from a year ago also posted a nice day.
After missing much of the offseason program with a hamstring injury, KJ Hamler returned to show off his top-end speed. Hamler flew by the defense early in a team period and hauled in a deep pass from Brett Rypien that would have gone for a score. A few minutes later, Hamler made an impressive catch by the sideline.
"It felt good just to see that I've still got it a little bit," Hamler told DenverBroncos.com's Sydney Jones after practice. "I know stuff's going to start ramping up and cranking up, so just got to stay up on my hydration so hamstring problems won't be a problem for me this year. Just being a pro this year is what I'm really focused on — having a routine, doing things at certain times of the day that I know I need to go out there and perform. Just trying to be the best man I can be."
Fangio said on Tuesday that the Broncos have "a lot of hope and a lot of expectations" for the second-year player, but he noted the team will have to manage the former second-round pick.
"We've got to do a good job of keeping him healthy," Fangio said. "He's had some soft tissue injuries. He reported to us last year with those prior to camp. He had one that nagged him some in camp and he had one in the offseason. We need to have a special plan for him to get enough work and still keep him away from those soft tissue injuries. [He's] very explosive, very quick and very fast. I think he's a guy that can make big plays for you. Once he does, I think he'll be a guy that the defenses have to deal with. It opens up other avenues for your offense. I personally have a lot of high expectations for him."
As a rookie, Hamler caught 30 passes for 381 yards and three scores, including a game-winning touchdown catch against the Chargers and two long touchdown grabs against the Panthers.
FINDING A RIGHT TACKLE
The Broncos' right tackle kicked off Wednesday with Calvin Anderson taking first-team reps.
"He's a good athlete," Fangio said after practice. "He plays hard and plays tough. I just like the way he plays. He got a couple games in last year. I think he's a viable candidate for that job, I really do."
Anderson started two games for the Broncos last season: the team's Week 10 game in Las Vegas and the Week 14 win in Carolina. Anderson said he found out about 30 minutes before getting on the bus that he would be starting against the Panthers. Garett Bolles dealt with an illness that day that shuffled the offensive line and inserted Anderson into the lineup.
"It was really helpful," Anderson said of the experience. "I think it was helpful in the moment because you have an opportunity to test yourself to see if you're really ready. I think mentally I had the challenge to decide if I was ready to play or if I was going to make excuses. It's a good thing to take back from when I look back in retrospect to kind of make myself know that I'm ready for any opportunity no matter how quick or how much preparation I had."
Fangio said a different player will work with the first-team at right tackle each day. Bobby Massie, Cam Fleming and Quinn Bailey also figure into the equation at the position.
The center competition, though, may not yet be a true battle. Fangio said Quinn Meinerz "first needs to show that it needs to be a competition" before challenging Lloyd Cushenberry III for first-team reps.
QB BATTLE BEGINS
Drew Lock took the first reps on Wednesday, but both he and Bridgewater had plenty of chances to show their ability on Day 1 of training camp.
Bridgewater strung together completions during his reps in team drills and limited seven-on-seven action. At different points in the day, Bridgewater worked the ball to Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and a host of others.
Lock, meanwhile, found his groove later in practice as he threw a 35-yard strike in traffic to Trinity Benson for a touchdown. He later found Jeudy twice for a pair of deep completions, the latter of which likely would've sprung Jeudy for a touchdown in game conditions.
At times, Lock held the ball and went through his progressions before scrambling out of the pocket. Fangio said after practice that it was by design that Lock would not throw at the end of one of those plays.
"I give him some time to make it a realistic scramble situation," Fangio said. "… But I don't want him throwing into a crowd to where guys collide."
• Courtland Sutton, the Broncos' Pro Bowl receiver, returned to 11-on-11 action on Wednesday for the first time since suffering his ACL injury last September. Sutton caught a couple of passes — one from each of the two quarterbacks battling for the job — and appeared comfortable in individual drills. Sutton wore a knee brace that Fangio said he would continue to sport until at least the end of training camp.
"Him and the medical people will make that decision and we'll see at that point," Fangio said. "But he's definitely going to start out here with a brace and you'll see it all during camp."
• Benson added to his day following the strike from Lock when he found himself alone in the end zone to haul in a deep pass from Brett Rypien.
"Trinity's fast," Fangio said. "He's always had good speed. He's getting more polished as a receiver. … Trinity can run and he's bearing the fruit and being on the practice squad and developing. He's in the hunt."
• Tight end Eric Saubert showed off his hands during a team-period play, as he extended with one hand to stab a pass from Teddy Bridgewater and make a reception across the middle of the field.
• There was just one turnover on the day, as Alexander Johnson forced a fumble and Justin Simmons hopped on the loose ball.
• Undrafted rookie Mac McCain had a nice pass breakup along the sideline during a seven-on-seven period.
"Mac's a young guy," Fangio said. "A limited college background in what he's been exposed to from a football standpoint. He's learning. He's a long ways to go to be a regular player in this league. We like his potential."
• Several of the team's running backs showed good burst on Wednesday, including Melvin Gordon III. He broke free off the right edge for a long run at one point in practice. Javonte Williams also showed toughness on several of his carries.
• Outside linebacker Von Miller hurtled through the pocket early in practice and would have had a sack in game conditions. Asked whether he ever has to tell Miller to tamp down his pace, Fangio said that wasn't his responsibility.
"I won't keep him from doing that," Fangio said. "It's the offense's job to do that."
Training camp is officially underway for the Broncos. Check out our photos capturing all the fun and hard work from Day 1 of #BroncosCamp.