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Devontae Booker continues to impress Broncos teammates, staff

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The pass was well overthrown.

The throw had more power than necessary for a simple dump-off pass, and the Broncos defense looked like it had racked up another stop during Monday's training camp practice.

That's when the rookie running back planted his foot in the grass and exploded upward to the football.

Devontae Booker – all 5 feet, 11 inches and 220 pounds of him – flung his hands above his head and the ball stuck. What should've been a pedestrian incompletion became an instantaneous example of why the Broncos drafted the Utah product in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

"He's impressive," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "Today, he was really doing some great stuff. He's right there. We know how he's pushing our veteran players. The thing that's been impressive with Booker is how well he's done mentally, football wise. He's keeping up on third down. We have a really good player there, so we'll see how far he can come. We'll play him a lot in the preseason. It'll be up to him. We'll see."

The injury that kept him out of most of OTAs -- a torn meniscus in his left knee – seems like a distant memory. Booker was listed alongside Ronnie Hillman as the second-string running back when the Broncos released their first depth chart of the season on Monday.

Since his return to the field, Booker has impressed a slew of teammates that includes fellow running backs and the three players vying for the starting quarterback job.

"He's pretty shifty eyed," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "He picks up protection pretty quickly. He's very quiet. He'll crack a smile every once in a while, but you kind of have to push it out of him. He's a little different than [RB] C.J. [Anderson] and [RB] Ronnie [Hillman], but everyone's different."

Booker may not make a ton of noise inside the locker room, but his teammates have noticed him plenty on the field. Similar to many other players competing for roles, he has gotten reps with all three lineups on the depth chart. No matter the lineup, though, he's showed flashes that range from his reception on Monday to bursts of speed when he turns the corner.

"He competes hard," Sanchez said. "He wants the ball and he wants to nail the protection. He doesn't just want to be in the right position; he wants to flatten that linebacker. He wants to be in the right spot, in the flat route and catch that ball and go. He doesn't just want to catch the ball and fall down. He's trying to make that big play all the time. He's doing great. He's everything you could ask for in rookie."

With only one day of practice remaining before the Broncos head to Chicago, Booker will finally get the chance to play against another team for the first time since he left Utah's game against Arizona in November, 2015.

And that's when Booker's full skill set should be revealed — Those hands. Those cuts. That speed.

The Broncos can't wait to see what he's got.

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