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Mile High Morning: Key matchups to watch as Broncos attend joint practices with Vikings

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The Lead

On Tuesday, the Broncos headed to Minnesota for a series of joint practices and their first preseason tilt with the Vikings. As both teams look to slim their rosters down to the mandatory 53, there are a handful of matchups that are sure to test the talent and tenacity of both sides.

The revamped Broncos secondary will be tasked with containing a dangerous Vikings offense, which may be without explosive wide receiver Justin Jefferson as he deals with an injury (though Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday that Jefferson should be back "pretty quick"). But Minnesota will still have Adam Thielen at the head of their receiving corps – an assignment which will likely fall to newly acquired Broncos cornerback Kyle Fuller, who joined the team this offseason as a free agent. Thielen, who racked up a career-high 14 touchdowns in 2020, will probably be a go-to target for QB Kirk Cousins with Jefferson on the sidelines. Fuller, who was previously with the Chicago Bears, was a huge addition for Denver this offseason and is set to start for the Broncos heading into the preseason. As members of a deep Broncos cornerback group vie for starting spots, this top-level matchup will be one of the most intriguing this week.

The return of Von Miller is already an incredible boost for the Broncos defense, but it also marks a reunion with Bradley Chubb for a dangerous tandem on the outside. The dominant duo, who have not shared a field since early in the 2019 season, should prove to be a frightening tandem for opposing quarterbacks, and Minnesota signal-caller Cousins will be the first target. The combined pass-rush ability of the two should be more than enough to wreak havoc on Cousins and will be a welcome reminder for Broncos Country of what this vaunted Denver defense is capable of.

The Broncos' 2020 first-round selection, Jerry Jeudy, will bring his prolific route-running ability to the turf as he faces off against the Minnesota secondary this week. Jeudy, who is looking to make a statement in his sophomore season and build on his 856-yard, three-touchdown rookie campaign could receive plenty of attention from veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson during the joint training camp practices. Peterson will be another worthy test for the explosive young Broncos receiver, who has gotten open plenty of times so far in training camp despite battling it out with the top-ranked Denver secondary on a daily basis. The battle-tested veteran vs. the sophomore standout will certainly be one to keep an eye on.

Below the Fold

The Denver Broncos drafted players from the University of Alabama in the first round of the NFL Draft in back-to-back years – taking Jeudy in 2020 and cornerback Pat Surtain II in 2021. According to Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com, those two picks out of Bama could help to usher in a new era of success in Denver.

Jeudy is poised for a breakout sophomore campaign, if his success so far in camp is any indication of how his season will play out. The second-year wideout has already made quite a splash in training camp this year, and has garnered heaps of praise from teammates on both sides of the ball.

Broncos safety Justin Simmons was quick to hop on the Jeudy support train when asked about the young receiver's progress from Year 1 to Year 2.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Jeudy can have an All-Pro, Pro Bowl season this year," Simmons said. "I know he's going to be tremendous for us this year. He's going to be big."

Simmons is also high on the abilities of Surtain, a fellow member of the dangerous and revamped Broncos secondary.

"He's just a do-it-all type of guy," Simmons said. "He gets football and he understands it. He gets conceptually what we're doing on defense. It's awesome watching him play."

Should Surtain and Jeudy play to their potential for the Broncos, it would mean big improvements on both sides of the ball.

The Unclassifieds

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