While Tuesday evening’s Broncos Plus Behind the Draft virtual event featuring General Manager George Paton focused largely on the 2021 NFL Draft, he also briefly discussed his thoughts on how the team is shaping up with OTAs nearly finished.
What he's observed so far, he said, has left him impressed with the makeup of the team.
"Last spring obviously we didn't have an offseason, so it's been fun," Paton said. "These guys are competing, they work hard. They like it, they embrace the work, they want to win. I'm excited for the young group and the veterans. They seem to be meshing together, and I think we have a really good group that really wants to win."
After all the changes made to the roster during free agency and the draft, Paton identified two areas that should be vastly different for the Broncos in 2021.
"We're going to be really strong in the secondary, and we're going to be healthy, I hope — knock on wood," Paton said. "If you have Von Miller back, that's a really good start right there."
Miller, who suffered a season-ending injury just days before the 2020 season opener, appears to be his normal self once again, Paton said.
"Von looks like he's in his prime," Paton said. "You watch him at practice — they run wind sprints — he wins them. He wins them all. He's 32 years old. He's a freak, he still looks like it. He can still play, he's in shape, he's working hard. I'm excited to see what he can do."
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos suffered a similarly devastating injury when the team's other 2019 Pro Bowler, Courtland Sutton, saw a knee injury end his season. His recovery has been lengthy, but Sutton appears to be nearing full health through hard work in his rehab, Paton said.
"Courtland Sutton, I mean, I've never seen someone work so hard in rehab," Paton said. "He's out there running routes now, he's almost 100 percent. I felt this team lost a lot when they lost him. On offense, he brings the juice. He's a competitor. He's a tough cover. So I think just those two guys and what they bring to the table, that's a really good start, to get those two guys back."
Beyond that, all eyes have been on the two quarterbacks competing for the starting role through OTAs, Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. Asked about his thoughts on the competition so far, Paton said he's liked what he's seen so far.
"I think they really complement each other well," Paton said. "Teddy's kind of the savvy vet, you know, and he's been in every situation you could be in. He's started in a playoff game, he's come off the bench with New Orleans and won five games — went 5-0 — he was a starter in Carolina. So he's seen it all. He plays the game really fast, he sees the field really well. … And then you look at Drew and Drew's still evolving. Drew's really talented, he's got the big arm, he's worked his butt off this offseason. He's had a really good OTAs, I look forward to watching him in minicamp. They're both playing well, they're both pushing themselves. Their games are a little different, which I think is good. Like I said, they're complementing each other well, they're working well together. I think they're just going to keep pushing each other and the Broncos will benefit in the long run."
With those two in the fold, Miller and Sutton back in action, a star-studded secondary and greater depth, the Broncos expect be in shape to compete for a playoff spot — and that's obviously what Paton wants for his first season in Denver.
"I'm just looking forward to seeing this team play on game day like they've been practicing," Paton said. "Just keep working, keep grinding. There's going to be adversity during the season; I just want to see them overcome it and take that next step. We have a lot of guys on this team that really want to win. We haven't won here in five years. We just want to get over the hump. I think we have the players to do it, I think we have the coaches, we have the infrastructure, we have the leadership — now we just have to do it. We have a lot of work left, getting through the rest of the OTAs, minicamp, and then once we get to training camp, that's where it all begins. This team likes to work, and I look forward to seeing them do so."
Below the Fold
Javonte Williams got some more love this week, as NFL Networks Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund placed him second on her top-five ranking of rookie running backs for the 2021 season. "The Broncos only scored 13 rushing TDs in 2020 (tied for 22nd)," Frelund wrote, "which means Williams has a real opportunity to establish himself as an instant red-zone threat."