ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos are just five days into training camp, but there's already a lot to digest.
And as the Broncos enjoy their first off day on Tuesday, there may not be a better time to catch up on all that has happened during the first five practices — and what may lie ahead.
Below, you'll find just some of the storylines that have caught our attention during Vic Fangio's first training camp as the Broncos' head coach. With the Broncos just over a week away from their first preseason game, there's plenty to know.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED:
THE FANGIO METHOD
Through five practices, Fangio has left his fingerprints on this Broncos team. He got rid of the music during practice, told his coaching staff not to yell out instructions during plays and increased the length of practice. The Broncos also continue to wear their game jerseys during practice. Each choice was made to prepare the team for games. No music means it's easier to teach and prepare for games. The coaching staff can't communicate during plays in a game, so they don't in practice, either. Games tend to take about three hours, so training camp practices will be that long, as well. It remains to be seen whether Fangio's method will pay off with wins, but so far, his choices seem to make a lot of sense.
Through five practices, the Broncos have a few players on the mend. Starting linebacker Todd Davis suffered a calf injury toward the end of the Broncos' first practice and has not practiced since. Fangio said Friday he is expected to miss "at least a couple weeks." Tight ends Jake Butt (knee) and Troy Fumagalli (hip) have also battled injuries. The Broncos held Butt out of practice on Sunday and Monday and will see if he can practice Wednesday. Fumagalli, meanwhile, missed a practice over the weekend but returned to the field on Monday. Wide receiver River Cracraft picked up an injury to a muscle on Friday that will keep him out at least a week. Guard Ron Leary (Achilles) sat out of Monday's practice for precautionary reasons, while Juwann Winfree missed Monday's session with a leg injury.
A DOMINANT DEFENSE
Early in training camp, the defense has made its share of plays. The secondary, in particular, has picked off a number of passes.
"They’re coming together," Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said Sunday. "It’s really a good group of guys that — they are jelling, [it's] still very early. I just like the way they work together and the communication that we are seeing on the field.”
Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan and Will Parks are all players who have gotten their hands on passes.
A FIRST LOOK AT FLACCO
Though the offense likely wishes to find more consistency, it's clear that Joe Flacco is the unquestioned starter. His leadership, experience and arm talent have all shined early in camp.
“Joe’s got a calm demeanor about him, but he is still a fiery competitor," Fangio said. "I think Joe’s at a time in his career that he has that calm demeanor about him — and when things are going good, it’s ‘Joe Cool.’ And if thinks aren’t going, well, Joe doesn’t care that much — or he’s not getting fired up. That’s how Joe is. Joe is a competitor. He leads through example. He is not going to be a guy who loses his emotions—but trust me, inside his brain and belly, it’s turning for him.”
From a physical standpoint, the 34-year-old Flacco thinks he's delivering the ball better than he ever has.
"I think in terms of all of that, I throw the ball better," Flacco said. "Since the time I was that age [when he entered the league] and moving forward, it’s been the only thing I’ve had to do, throw the football. I think if anything I’ve gotten better. I don’t know about the arm strength thing. I don’t necessarily worry too much about how far I’m throwing the ball, but I think the rhythm of it all, the accuracy, all of that’s gotten better."
LINDSAY AND SANDERS RETURN
The best news early in training camp may be that running back Phillip Lindsay and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders have both been healthy and able to participate, although to varying degrees. Lindsay took his first team reps of the offseason on Thursday and looked like the same player that made the Pro Bowl last season. He said Monday that his wrist hasn't bothered him.
“My mind is not on my hand anymore, it's about making plays," Lindsay said Monday. "That's not really a problem anymore.”
Sanders has been limited to individual drills as he recovers from an Achilles injury, but Fangio said the veteran wide receiver is further along than the team expected.
“It’s a slow but sure process," Fangio said Sunday. "He’s out here working early in practice with guys. They take him in and do some more cardio with him. That way he doesn’t have to pound on the ground. Everything is good so far with him. He’s where we’re expecting him to be and even a little bit more.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
CAN THE 2019 DRAFT PICKS CONTINUE TO TAKE STEPS FORWARD?
Tight end Noah Fant has made an impact on offense, Dalton Risner has taken every first-team rep at left guard, linebacker Justin Hollins took a few first-team snaps at inside linebacker and Winfree has stood out at receiver. Can they continue to improve? And how will second-round pick Drew Lock progress over the next few days after an up-and-down start to his training camp?
"His college offense really had no carryover to pro offenses and he was under duress a lot of times at his college, so a lot of his plays he was running around," Fangio said about Lock on Friday. "I don’t think he’s far along being a ready NFL quarterback as he could have been. That’s what I mean when he’s got to get ready. He’s not a quarterback yet. He’s a hard-throwing pitcher that doesn’t know how to pitch yet, so the faster he gets that, the better off he’ll be and we’ll be.”
WILL THE OFFENSIVE LINE JELL?
Right guard Ron Leary made it clear that he and the rest of the offensive line are tired of hearing people question the group. Offensive Line Coach Mike Munchak has worked with them to silence some of the critics, and there have been positive moments during the first few days of camp. Can they find the consistency that they'll need during the season?
“It’s a day-by-day process, you know?" Leary said Friday. "I think you all know that. I don’t think nobody on this line has ever played next to each other before. It’s a process just like anything else, but we’re embracing it. We got a great man running the show in [Munchak] and he’s keeping us on our toes making sure we’re doing all right. I think guys – we’re really tired of you all bashing us. So, we just want to be good, man. We just want to change the narrative of the whole line around here. That’s the kind of attitude we have every day.”
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT UNDRAFTED STAR?
Linebacker Josh Watson, wide receiver Trinity Benson and tight end Austin Fort are among the undrafted players who made names for themselves during the first stretch of camp. Will they keep it up — or will another player surface and steal the spotlight? The Broncos have a long history of key undrafted players. Just ask Chris Harris Jr., Phillip Lindsay, Rod Smith or a number of others. As practice continues and the games approach, at least one of these young men could begin to separate from the pack.