ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos have reached an off day of training camp after six consecutive days of practice, and we're here to get you caught up on the major topics of training camp.
From Drew Lock and a surprising offense to a borderline dominant defense, we cover it all in this edition of Catching Up on Camp.
EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF LOCK
The biggest storyline of August was always going to be how second-year quarterback Drew Lock looked in his first training camp as the team's starter. Through the first six practices, he's showed every indication that he's ready to continue the momentum he built during a 4-1 stretch to end the 2019 season. He's made good decisions, showed better footwork and accuracy and connected often with Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. His mobility has proved valuable against the team's strong pass rush, and he's largely kept the offense on track as it tries to learn a new system. Friday's practice wasn't his best from start to finish, but it was impressive in that he helped the offense rebound after a slow start to perform well in a drill that simulated a late-game scenario. He ended that period with one of his prettiest throws of camp, as he dropped a dime into Jeudy's hands over the receiver's shoulder.
"His mobility and scrambling ability are important," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Tuesday. "It's an added dimension to any offense. That's part of his game that we like. We encourage him to use it when the opportunity presents itself or when he's forced to. I know he'll make some plays off of that when he's scrambling around."
OFFENSE SHOWS POTENTIAL
Lock may be the main attraction, but the Broncos' offense has been about more than the quarterback. Sutton has picked up where he left off after a Pro Bowl season, Jeudy seems to be ready to make an immediate impact, Noah Fant has found separation and Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay both appear to be strong options at running back. The only true question mark is on the offensive line, where the Broncos must select a center as the competition rages on between Austin Schlottmann, Patrick Morris and Lloyd Cushenberry III. They also must prove they can hold up at tackle, as the defense has dominated at times on the edges.
"I see flashes," Fangio said Friday. "I see the potential, but flashes and potential doesn't win in the league. We have to feel the urgency of how close we are to this opening game and start looking really good."
DEFENSE HAS EYE FOR THE FOOTBALL
A year after finishing 31st in the NFL in takeaways, the Broncos' defense has been around the football a lot during the early days of training camp. The Broncos' secondary, in particular, has snagged multiple interceptions during nearly every practice. Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan lead a new-look secondary, and they've been quite successful. It's also possible that, in a game situation, the Broncos would've forced several fumbles. The Broncos' pass rush has been relentless, and Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have been near the quarterback on many of their rush attempts. The defense looks every bit like a unit that could finish as one of the best in the league.
"It's one of the things that we preach," Jackson said on Aug. 14 about earning takeaways. "We didn't do a great job at creating turnovers last year, so we've definitely placed a lot of emphasis on getting the ball and creating some more opportunities for our offense with the weapons that those guys have. For us, it's all about getting the ball. If we can get the ball, we feel like we can be a pretty good group."
The Broncos were struck a bit by the injury bug on Thursday, as Miller, Gordon and Todd Davis all exited practice early. Miller (elbow) and Gordon (ribs) are both considered day to day, while Davis (calf) will be out at least a week and then will be reevaluated. The Broncos' season opener is just over three weeks away. Tight end Nick Vannett remains out as he progresses through the concussion protocol, and wide receiver KJ Hamler is expected to miss multiple weeks with a hamstring injury. Tight end Austin Fort (knee) will be sidelined for the foreseeable future, while wide receiver Juwann Winfree (groin) has missed four of the last six practices.
The Broncos did receive some good news in regards to their roster; fullback/tight end Andrew Beck returned to the field Monday after he was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Broncos currently have no one on the list, which is intended for players that have tested positive for COVID or have been in close contact with an infected individual.
The Broncos will practice Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before another off day on Wednesday. As they inch within the three-week mark until the Sept. 14 opener, they'll need to finalize decisions at both center and the No. 3 cornerback spot, where De'Vante Bausby, Isaac Yiadom and Davontae Harris have competed for a role.
"Ideally, we'd like to make them as soon as possible, but we're not going to rush it yet," Fangio said Friday. "… The first game is close. We may have to rush it a little bit, but I don't feel that need right at this moment. As soon as possible but we want to make sure we're making the right decision."