ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Several of the Broncos' position groups have undergone significant overhauls in preparation for the 2023 season, but the wide receivers room is not exactly one of them.
Denver used its first 2023 draft pick on Marvin Mims Jr. and picked up former Saints in Marquez Callaway and Lil'Jordan Humphrey, but the group is led by an impressive cast of tenured veterans that includes Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick. The combination of experience, talent, toughness and, yes, some youth is exciting — especially to their new position coach, Keary Colbert.
"I love the group," Colbert said after a practice during mandatory minicamp earlier in June. "We've got a good group of receivers. They all have different skill sets and talents, but they work hard. As a collective, they're out there trying to make plays for one another. They're out there cheering on one another. So it's a great group to be a part of. I'm excited. I'm excited about the opportunity to work with them, and I'm excited to see them put it out there on game day."
Those different skill sets can particularly be seen in the Broncos' veteran trio of Jeudy, Sutton and Patrick. However, Colbert said, there's more than meets the eye for each of them.
"If you watch football, you study football, you know [Jeudy is] one of the better route-runners in the game," Colbert said. "But being around him for these couple months, the one thing that I've learned most about him is he's a really smart football player. He understands football. He's very savvy. His football IQ is very high, and I think those are little things that probably don't get mentioned enough. Everybody just talks about his ability to run routes and make explosive plays — and he's done that and he is that, as well, but the one thing I appreciate and I've learned being around him is he's very football smart."
The same goes for Sutton and Patrick, who are more than just big-bodied receivers who can make plays on jump balls.
"Both of those guys are kind of like the glue in the room," Colbert said. "They provide size and just toughness on the outside. … They move well for big dudes. I think a lot of times when you see receivers and size you see a big guy, you just think he's kind of lumbering, moving slow. But these guys can actually run routes and bend and drop their weight. They're strong at the point of attack and catching the football and stuff like that. I've been impressed and enjoy watching them practice and compete the last few weeks."
Given the continuity the group has, Colbert isn't focused on implementing any significant changes, he said. Instead, his goal is simply to continue honing his players' fundamentals and skills as the team works through finding its identity.
"I think we've tried to establish our identity as an offense and as a team and come out and compete and work hard and finish and do all the little things, and be about our fundamentals," Colbert said. "But at the end of the day, we want to control what we can control, which is our attitude and our effort. We come out and when we're in between the lines, we're going to run the plays that are called, we're going to try to execute them to the best of our ability, we're going to try to finish to the ball, we're going to try to get a block, we're going to try to spring a block, we're going to make a play, run after the catch — whatever it is, our job is just to execute whatever. It's not about tweaking [their approach]. I just think, again, it's the culture. It's what [Head] Coach [Sean] Payton has set out: how we're going to practice, how we're going to prepare, and I think that's what these last few weeks have been for us, being a new staff and a new program, so to speak. I think everybody's done a great job of learning how to practice and how to work together."
A former Bronco himself, Colbert brings a player's perspective to his coaching style — though he said he balances the finer points of that with the larger goals of the team as needed.
"I try to see it as a player and being between the lines," Colbert said. "There's certain things that I feel like I've been able to experience as a player, and you feel and you understand certain releases or leverages on certain routes. Little things. So, of course I've always tried to speak the language, so to speak, with the players and understand. But at the same time, as a coach, it's about the little things, the details, and it's [also] the big picture as a coach: how you fit within the offense and maybe where you are in the progression on a play, all the little things that you've got to do. So my job is to kind of help them see and understand that, as well, and give them techniques and fundamentals to play the position when you're going against a DB or a coverage. …
"It's been an easy transition for me, and the guys are receptive to the coaching and teaching. They're smart football players, they're talented. It's been a great group to be around. And I'm learning from them, as well. As a coach, you're always trying to pick up something or you see something from somebody and these guys area. Great group of receivers."