After four practices to begin training camp, the Broncos have reached their first off day of the summer. They'll be back at it on Monday, but before Denver hits the field again, it's time to take stock of where things stand.
QB BATTLE BEGINS
Drew Lock took the first snap of training camp, but both he and Teddy Bridgewater have shared reps over the first four practices. Each quarterback has had his strong day, and each quarterback has had a seemingly down practice.
Lock has recorded the two longest plays of training camp, as he's found both KJ Hamler and Courtland Sutton for long scores. Bridgewater, meanwhile, has largely shown an ability to find completions at a high rate.
Both quarterbacks avoided turning the ball over through the first three days, but Bridgewater tossed his first interceptions of camp on Saturday. Lock has yet to turn the ball over.
At least through the first few days, though, there's no sign that the competition is nearing an end.
"They've been pretty consistent, both of them," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Friday. "I see no separation, if that's what you're asking."
JEUDY SHOWS OUT, SUTTON PROGRESSING WELL
Second-year wide receiver Jerry Jeudy has been as advertised so far in camp, as he's shown off his dynamic route-running ability. He's been a constant target for both Lock and Bridgewater, and he has yet to have a pass slip through his hands after struggling a bit in that area in 2020. Nearly every player to speak to the media has had strong praise for Jeudy, who will aim to take the next step in his career.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Jeudy can have an All-Pro, Pro Bowl season this year," Justin Simmons said Wednesday. "He's just that good. Everyone wants to talk about what happened last year, but I'm not even worried about it one bit. I've seen the work that he's been putting in in the offseason. I saw what he did in OTAs. We only got a snippet of it today [of him] snagging passes out of the air way outside 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 for us. He's going to be big."
Courtland Sutton, who figures to be the Broncos' other top weapon at wide receiver, has also shown flashes in camp as he returns from an ACL injury. After catching short passes over the first few days, he went deep for a 45-yard reception from Lock on Saturday. He went to the ground on the play, but he popped right back up — which may have been even more impressive than the explosiveness he still appears to have.
As training camp continues, he should become even more comfortable with the physical aspect of the game.
"I'm seeing progress," Fangio said Thursday. "I [saw] yesterday and some today that he's still holding back a little bit. He worked in the offseason, but all his work in the offseason was on air. Now you put the defenders out there and it's a totally different ball game. He's got to react to where they are. He doesn't have clear paths all the time. He's got to change [things] unchoreographed and suddenly that he didn't think he'd have to change. I see a little hesitancy. I don't want to [sound] the alarm. It's not, but he's progressing. He's going to keep getting better and better."
DEFENSE HINTS AT POTENTIAL
The Broncos' defense has been as advertised through the first four days of training camp.
The unit has been stingy in the red zone, put consistent pressure on the quarterback and capable of making big plays. The defense was particularly strong on Saturday, as the group recorded two — potentially three — interceptions and did not allow a completion in a couple of red-zone periods.
"We've got to get to a point where it's consistent," safety Kareem Jackson said of forcing turnovers. "Every day we should come out here, that should be the main thing for us is to force turnovers, to get the ball. So, if we can come out here and consistently do it, I have no doubt that it will translate to game days."
INJURIES OF NOTE
Nose tackle Mike Purcell has suffered the most notable injury yet, as he exited Friday's practice with an ankle sprain. Fangio said he is expected to miss at least a week and will be day to day after that point. Fangio said the injury is not "too bad" — which should allow Broncos fans to breathe a sigh of relief. Purcell's return from a season-ending foot injury in 2020 figures to bolster the run defense.
Linebacker Josey Jewell (groin) missed the Broncos' last practice before the off day as a precaution, while outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (ankle) has yet to participate in seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 work. Fangio said he was hopeful Chubb could rejoin team periods this week but said there were "no guarantees."
Third-round pick Baron Browning, meanwhile, remains "stuck" in his rehab process from a lower-leg injury, according to Fangio. No updated timeline has been provided for his return. Browning and cornerbacks Essang Bassey and Duke Dawson Jr. remain on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
The Broncos return to the field on Monday, and they're able to put pads on for the first time during Tuesday's practice. The team's next off day is on Thursday, and Denver has a little more than a week to go before the team is scheduled to leave for joint practices with the Vikings.
It's possible the team's quarterback reps could change over the coming days. After a close to 50-50 split over the first four practices, Bridgewater and Lock may rotate days where they get the majority of the reps. Fangio said Tuesday that he may alternate days where the quarterbacks share a 70-30 split in snaps.