Training Camp

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Looking back at this year's Broncos camp standouts

Training camp was not perfect, and some questions remain unanswered with two and a half weeks left until the start of the regular season. 

But for the Broncos -- and especially the offense that struggled last season -- the quality of the day-to-day work and the contributions of newcomers like quarterback Case Keenum raised expectations.

"Sky's the limit," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said when talking about the potential of the offense. "We could put up a lot of points. But the main thing is -- it's gotta be all 11 guys. And if we can't get all 11 guys going as one, then it won't work. 

"You can have all the talent on paper, but you've still got to go out and put the work in and be able to go out and compete against other teams. If we can do that, we'll be alright."

The following players are just a few who stood out during camp:

RB ROYCE FREEMAN

Every positive attribute that Freeman displayed during OTAs -- particularly vision, acceleration, decisive cuts through fast-closing holes -- was on display during training camp and the Broncos' first two preseason games, each of which saw him run for a touchdown.

Freeman leads the Broncos in rushing through two preseason games, with a total of 58 yards and an average of 5.8 yards per attempt. He has also distinguished himself in pass protection, a difficult-to-master skill that will help him earn more regular-season snaps.

DL SHELBY HARRIS

The Broncos' defensive line goes at least two lines deep on the depth chart with quality, starting-caliber contributors who the coaches can utilize with minimal risk of a drop-off. One such reserve is Harris, who finished second on the team in sacks last year with 5.5 and was dominant at times during training camp, capped by his overpowering performance in the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

QB CASE KEENUM

His command of the huddle was high. His interception count was low. Keenum stepped into the Broncos' huddle and provided exactly what the team wanted: accuracy, presence and consistently catchable passes.

So proficient is Keenum that Thomas believes that his timing with the 30-year-old quarterback is approaching the level he hit with Peyton Manning.

"It ain't far away," Thomas said. "He throws a nice ball. Very catchable. And if you can't catch it, nobody else will; [he puts it] in that spot."

QB CHAD KELLY

Only five quarterbacks with at least 10 preseason attempts have a higher passer rating so far this summer than Kelly's 117.0 mark. 

While his play must be kept in the proper context -- particularly in regards to working with and against third-teamers until after the preseason opener -- his rapid progress, ability to learn from practice-field mistakes and willingness to accumulate extra repetitions after practice has helped give him a legitimate shot at being the No. 2 quarterback behind Keenum if he can maintain his momentum Friday night against Washington.

ILB JOSEY JEWELL

Jewell led the Broncos in total tackles during the first half of their preseason opener. His impressive performance came in spite of missing the first week of training camp because of a hamstring injury.

"Josey's extremely smart. He's a hard-working kid," inside linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "He's going to be a good player."

His play has advanced to the point that Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods suggested Tuesday that the defense could create some sub packages that use Jewell with Marshall and Todd Davis, the Broncos' first-team inside linebackers.

"You can tell that he’s an instinctive player," Woods said. "He gets it; he’s picking up the defense fast. So, if something were to happen, if he were to go in as a starter, I think he would play very well.”

RB PHILLIP LINDSAY

Lindsay's speed and quickness are obvious. But his fearless running style, tenacity and intelligence help set him apart. His ability to make plays between the tackles when asked helps keep defenses honest when he enters the game on offense, and his willingness to make stops on special teams gives his play an added dimension.

But it's his veteran-like understanding of how a running back must set up the defender to create a mismatch that gives him a chance to play extensively as a rookie.

"You've got to be smarter than the linebacker," he told Orange and Blue 760. "In this league, a lot of the linebackers are fast and they're smart. You've got to be able to out-smart them."

RG CONNOR McGOVERN

He quickly answered any questions about whether he could build off of his five-game starting stint to close the 2017 season, solidifying his place at right guard on the first team. A holder of multiple strength-room records at the University of Missouri, the third-year player has improved his footwork and quickness at the snap, helping him pull to create holes for the Broncos' running-back corps.

McGovern remains one of the offensive line's most versatile players. If Matt Paradis is injured, McGovern can slide over to center, returning to the spot at which he worked throughout the 2017 offseason and preseason.

WR TIM PATRICK

With a penchant for leaping catches over defenders, Patrick showed why he received a handful of first-team snaps during June OTAs, playing his way into a chance to make the 53-man roster after bouncing through three teams as a rookie -- including the Broncos, who signed him to their practice squad 

"It made me hungry, man, because I didn't feel like it had anything to do with my football abilities. It was just the business of the game," Patrick said. "Coming here just made me realize that anything could happen. I could get cut; I could be having the best camp of my life and I could get cut the next day.

"Being here and getting the opportunity to actually make the roster, I'm taking full advantage of it."

WR EMMANUEL SANDERS

The Keenum-to-Sanders connection was the most effective passing combination for the offense throughout training camp. The duo established a cohesion that led to several long gains as Keenum led Sanders perfectly, allowing him to turn intermediate gains into lengthy gallops downfield.

For Sanders, success started with the stability of knowing who the Broncos' starting quarterback would be.

“The past two years I’m standing in front of [the media] like, ‘Who’s going to be the new quarterback? Oh my God, guys, this is crazy,'" Sanders said. "Now it’s, ‘Hey, how’s Case doing?'

"Just knowing the direction we’re going to go [is helpful]. Staying after practice, getting the extra reps with the guy because I know he’s ‘the guy’ and I think that right there just translates positive energy and we feed off of that. We understand that. I’m out here having fun and he’s dropping some dimes."

WR COURTLAND SUTTON

The early star of training camp, Sutton wowed onlookers with a series of leaping catches, particularly in the end zone during red-zone periods.

"When we get Courtland in that red zone, that's going to be dangerous," Sanders said. "I'm calling it: I can see the guy being Rookie of the Year just based on the touchdowns he could have when we get down there and get in that red zone, because I don't see too many guys being able to body him out of the way, and he can go up and get it.

"That's going to be a huge addition, where those three points that we were getting last year, it can turn into seven points."

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