Training Camp Eve.
The Broncos will take the field on Wednesday for the first of 14 training camp practices. All of them start at 10 am. All of them are open to the public. I highly recommend that you get out there to catch a couple if you have the chance.
Early this afternoon, the Broncos held their media luncheon where Nathaniel Hackett, George Paton, Courtland Sutton and Justin Simmons took questions. The event wasn’t all that notable, but Zac put together all of the good stuff, which you can see here.
The next time I write this column, we’ll have a lot to talk about; five Broncos practices will be in the books and tons of rumors will have circulated through the league. There will be holdouts, new contracts, injuries and who knows what else.
It’s starting to feel like football season.
A few teams are already on the field but most of the league will open training camp in the next few days. I ranked the camps I’m most excited to follow.
Kansas City downgraded at one-third of the positions on their roster. If Mahomes strings together a couple of tough days in camp KC media will press the panic button. The Chiefs’ receivers are… uninspiring to say the least. Plus, star tackle Orlando Brown may hold out of camp. I’ll tune into the chaos.
Can Trey Lance overtake Jimmy Garoppolo? Will Garoppolo be traded? Four different running backs could win the starting job. Will Deebo Samuel actually find a way out of San Francisco? Plus, edge rusher Drake Jackson is a good bet to win Defensive Rookie of the Year with 30-1 odds. There’s a lot going on.
Drew Lock is taking on Geno Smith and the winner will face off against the Broncos in Week 1. (I’ll pull for Smith. the Broncos should be just fine against either but I don’t want to worry about the revenge game storyline.) Maybe not the most high-powered quarterback competition but there’s enough Broncos ties to rank highly on the list. Plus, will Kenneth Walker III continue his success from Michigan State? I wouldn’t be surprised.
If DeShaun Watson’s suspension is too short (I’d guess it will be) reporters will be out for blood. Plus, there are the football ramifications of the suspension. Jacoby Brissett will try to hold off Josh Rosen for the QB2 job, which will come with starting duties for the first few weeks at least.
Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold (vs. Matt Corral, too?)
Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback chosen in the first round but beating out Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job will be a challenge. The Steelers have a championship roster but poor quarterback play could sow the first losing season in Pittsburgh since Tommy Maddox was quarterback.
Lamar Jackson will not hold out of camp in hopes of a new deal, but he probably should have. A new deal is probably on the way before the season but who knows? And who will be his go-to target out wide? Rashod Bateman? Devin Duvernay? James Proche? Yikes.
I’m not drinking the Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid—why are we using a color named Honolulu Blue in Detroit—but there’s enough going on here to be entertained. Jeff Okudah is back with No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. Jared Goff has weapons that fit his game. But the real stories will come from Dan Campbell at the podium.
Houston isn’t inherently interesting but the owner, front office or coaches will make news for doing something incredibly dumb during camp. It’s what they do. I’ll give you $5 if you can predict what it is. Plus, Davis Mills doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
Taylor Heinicke will push Carson Wentz harder than most expect. Maybe Sam Howell will get in there too. Plus, there’s the off-field chaos that has followed Dan Snyder for the past decade. These are rankings of what I’m excited for though, and I’m just not that interested in the Washington drama anymore.
How will Trevor Lawrence fare in Year 2? Probably not well. But the journey starts in camp. Maybe Doug Pederson can unlock the talent.
Von Miller is a Buffalo Bill and that’s the only reason the Bills are this high on the list. I’ll be keeping an eye out for reports on Von and I’m curious what he’ll say about his new team. And his old teams too. Plus, Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and James Cook could all wind up with the starting running back job.
Maybe Desmond Ridder can push Marcus Mariota for the opening-day starting job but I’d guess he won’t see the field until the season is doomed. (Which could actually happen before Week 1, now that I think about it.) The real story here will be Drake London and Kyle Pitts lining up in the same offense. The hype for those two will be real by the end of camp. As will the hype for rookie linebacker Troy Andersen, who I think will surpass Deion Jones in the first month of the season if not sooner.
You’d think the clock is ticking on Kirk Cousins’ time in Minnesota but the Vikings just gave him an extension. Still, 2021 third-round pick Kellen Mond was bad last year and I think there’s potential for the floor to drop out from under him during camp. Mond is a niche topic, but I’m curious and these are my rankings.
What will Aaron Rodgers say? It’s anybody’s guess but he’ll steal a headline or two at some point. The Packers have more weapons at wide receiver than they get credit for, but how reps will be distributed to Christian Watson, Sammy Watkins and everybody else is still up in the air.
Davante Adams is in Vegas now. I think he’s the best receiver in the league. Plus the Raiders are in the AFC West. I don’t expect fireworks from Raiders camp, though.
I’m excited to see Jalen Hurts. I’m excited for DeVonta Smith. I might get excited for AJ Brown. I’m excited to see old CU friend Davion Taylor try to carve out a starting linebacker job. But I don’t see the Eagles as a playoff team and that knocks them down the rankings.
I’m a little fed up with the offseason Dolphins talk but there’s enough talent, potential and change in Miami for a sharp turnaround. You can’t put them any lower on this list. The defense has the talent to be one of the elite units in the AFC.
The quarterback is set in stone. The receivers are set in stone. The defense is filled with veterans who will be the key players. But I have a sneaking suspicion rookie running back Isaiah Spiller will make a name for himself in camp. He was my top running back in the draft. He’s the only storyline I care about here.
Justin Fields is entering Year 2 but there isn’t much going on in Chicago that excites me.
Zach Wilson, Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner are a bunch of fun young players. But the Jets don’t have enough talent to compete this season.
How excited can you be for a camp headlined by a tight end battle between Zach Ertz and Trey McBride? The Colorado tie-in moves the Cardinals up to 23. Some young edge rushers competing to replace Chandler Jones adds a little intrigue, too. The Cardinals could have been higher if they hadn’t signed Kyler Murray to the new deal. The drama is gone.
The Bengals just went to the Super Bowl, but is anything eventful going to happen in this camp? No.
Sean Payton is gone and Pete Carmichael will be the Saints’ new play-caller. The New Orleans defense has as much top-end talent as any but whether Carmichael can build a passing attack out of Jameis Winston, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave will define the season. I think he will. The work starts in camp.
I don’t expect much out of champ camp. The Rams have to replace Von Miller. They need to find a third wide receiver out of Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell. Meh.
Daniel Jones isn’t fun anymore. That ship sailed a long time ago. Maybe Brian Daboll can level his quarterback up but that won’t be enough to make the Giants relevant.
Indy added an MVP quarterback, an NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Phillip Lindsay. But, for some reason, the Colts just aren’t that interesting to me. Maybe some clips of battles between Stephon Gilmore and rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce will get me going, but I doubt it.
Like the Colts, the Titans are a running team with question marks surrounding the passing game. Treylon Burks and Robert Woods replace AJ Brown and Julio Jones, but this is Derrick Henry’s team. Titans camp is lacking juice.
I have Cowboys fatigue and I’m only 25. I don’t know how some of you have done it.
I’ve made my thoughts on Mac Jones clear: he’s a top-tier competitor and might have the talent to make a bunch of Pro Bowls. But Bill Belichick won’t let anything out of camp, making a boring team even more boring this time of year.
Do we care?
Russell Wilson has a store
Do we care? No.
Russell Wilson and Ciara launched the newest retail location of The House of LR&C in the Park Meadows Mall on Tuesday. It’s the fourth location but the Wilsons hope to have 10 by early 2023. The stores carry brands like LITA by Ciara, 3Brand and others.
It’s good to see a handful of Broncos show up and have a good time. It isn’t a surprise at all, though.
While my official stance is that I don’t care, I will be checking out the store next time I’m at Park Meadows.
The Broncos went to San Diego
Do we care? Yes.
Russell Wilson invited some of his teammates to his home in San Diego for another round of offseason work.
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Among those in attendance were…
Wide receivers: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick, Kendall Hinton, Tyrie Cleveland, Montrell Washington, Travis Fulgham and Brandon Johnson.
Quarterbacks: Brett Rypien and Josh Johnson.
Tight ends: Albert Okwuegbunam and Eric Saubert.
Center: Lloyd Cushenberry.
Workouts like this are normal; A quarterback should get a tune-up in with his receivers before camp starts. It would be a problem if he didn’t. For that reason, we care that the San Diego trip happened.
Kyler Murray has homework
Do we care? Yes.
Star quarterback Kyler Murray signed a new deal with the Arizona Cardinals this week worth $230 million over five years.
But the headline-stealing news isn’t the massive contract, it’s a clause that requires Murray to put in four hours of “independent study” per week.
Has Kyler been slacking on his homework? He wouldn’t be the only one.
The Athletic reported that the Browns grew tired of Baker Mayfield’s “childish” behavior before trading for DeShaun Watson. Rumors swirled about him playing video games instead of studying.
DeAndre Ayton, 24, of the Phoenix Suns told ESPN he often only sleeps for two hours because he stays up playing video games.
Can we blame the Cardinals for making Murray agree to a study hall outside of practice time? Absolutely not. But it’s interesting, so we care about this news.
Rating the Ratings
EA finished off the release of its player ratings for Madden 23 this week. Some were spot on. Others were way off. Here a few of the notables:
The wide receivers – Courtland Sutton at 84 overall (WR27), Jerry Jeudy at 82 overall (WR36), Tim Patrick at 80 overall (WR47) and KJ Hamler at 75 overall (WR85) is perfect. Basically, Madden says Sutton is a weak wide receiver one, Jeudy is a strong wide receiver two, Patrick is an average wide receiver two and Hamler is a below-average wide receiver three. Their production to this point lines up with those numbers. Most of those rating should go up over the course of the season.
Kareem Jackson – K-Jack’s 81 rating is right on the money. While he isn’t one of the league’s best strong safeties at age 34, he’s still a good player. This rating makes him a top-10 Bronco and the 15th-best strong safety. A one-point bump to 82 overall would move him into the top 10.
The offensive line – Take a look at these:
- Garett Bolles, 82 (LT11)
- Dalton Risner, 78 (RG10)
- Graham Glasgow, 76 (RG12)
- Quinn Meinerz, 73 (RG18)
- Billy Turner, 72 (RT21)
- Lloyd Cushenberry III, 72 (C21)
- Netane Muti, 71 (LG23)
- Tom Compton, 71 (RT22)
Maybe Bolles could be a point or two higher. Glasgow could be a few points lower. For the most part, though, the Broncos offensive line seems like it’s put together correctly.
Not Quite Right
Justin Simmons – The Broncos’ highest-rated player comes in at a 91, good for second among free safeties behind Kevin Byard. The 28-year-old All-Pro should be closer to a 93, in front of Byard.
The edge rushers – Randy Gregory is an 81. Bradley Chubb is a 78. Both have out-performed those ratings, though it’s easy to understand why EA would list them lower. It’s worth noting that Chubb’s 91 strength rating is second in Denver only to Netane Muti’s 96.
Caden Sterns – The 22-year-old safety clocks in at a 69, which isn’t that far off from where he should be. He played well enough as a rookie to be in the 70s, though. Especially with Jamar Johnson sitting at a 68 after not playing as a rookie.
The Jones’s – DJ Jones is much better than a 76. Dre’Mont Jones is better than a 75. It’s that simple.
Patrick Surtain – The second-year cornerback is one of the top cover guys in the league and a beast as a tackler. He shouldn’t be an 83, which is one point below Trevon Diggs. He should be closer to 90. EA seems to be knocking down second-year guys, as they also gave Ja’Marr Chase an 87.
Russell Wilson – Wilson’s 87 rating puts him behind Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow and others. That number is a little low, but it’s his awareness rating (which controls decision-making) that is egregiously low at an 81. Prescott, meanwhile, is sitting pretty with an 89 awareness grade. I don’t buy it.
Here’s what the Broncos think of their ratings:
All-PUP List Team
Most teams have submitted their list of players who are physically unable to perform and have been placed on the PUP list. The Broncos announced there’s on Tuesday: Randy Gregory, KJ Hamler and Billy Turner.
Players on the list aren’t allowed to participate in practices but can be activated at any time during camp. If they are still on the list by the start of the regular season, they can’t be activated until after Week 4, but they don’t count against the 53-man roster until activated.
I made an all-star team of players who are currently on PUP lists. It’s a solid group but I had to be flexible with some of the positions. The offensive linemen have been moved around a little and the depth at cornerback meant somebody had to move to safety.
The biggest problem is that there isn’t a quarterback on the list, so we’re running the wildcat. Even without a quarterback I think the strength in the trenches and on defense could carry this team to the playoffs.
QB: Jabrill Peppers, Patriots
RB: JK Dobbins, Ravens
WR: Michael Thomas, Saints
WR: Jameson Williams, Lions
WR: Christian Watson, Packers
TE: Robert Tonyan, Packers
LT: David Bakhtiari, Packers
LG: Elgton Jenkins, Packers
C: David Andrews, Patriots
RG: Alex Cappa, Bengals
RT: Ronnie Stanley, Ravens
DL: Dean Lowry, Packers
DL: Johnathan Hankins, Raiders
EDGE: Chase Young, Commanders
EDGE: Marcus Davenport, Saints
LB: Darius Leonard, Colts
LB: Deion Jones, Falcons
CB: Tre’Davious White, Bills
CB: Jalen Ramsey, Rams
NICKEL: Denzel Ward, Browns
SS: Jonathan Jones, Patriots
FS: Byron Jones, Dolphins
Will the Broncos add an alternate helmet?
Fourteen teams have announced a new alternate helmet, following the NFL’s decision to allow teams to wear two different helmets each season.
Will the Broncos?
I think they might. And I think they’ll have more than just new helmets to debut.
Right now, there isn’t an easy answer when it comes to adding a helmet to the current Broncos’ closet. You might be thinking they should add a royal blue helmet to turn their Color Rush uniforms into a true throwback to the style of the ’80s and ’90s. But there’s a problem; the current Color Rush uniforms include navy stripes to tie in the current navy helmet. A royal blue helmet with the current uniform would clash.
The Broncos are left with four options:
A) Add an orange helmet
B) Add a white helmet
C) Add an entire new uniform
D) Don’t add anything at all
Option A and Option B would create nightmare uniforms. I can’t think of a way to incorporate either without a truly horrific result. I pray that the Broncos don’t try to pull off an orange or white helmet with the current uniforms. You should too.
Options C and D are far more likely. I lean toward D because we’re so late in the offseason and the new uniforms haven’t been announced. If you’re going to announce something like new uniforms, you do it in the offseason when you can steal headlines when you wouldn’t normally.
On the other hand, this is America and if you can justifying adding another item to the team store you do it every time, so the prospect is till on the table. If the Broncos add a uniform, they’re virtually guaranteed to sell 100,000 jerseys. That’s tough to pass up.
If the Broncos do add a uniform, I’d guess it’s a true throwback. While the orange uniforms of the ’80s and ’90s will be tempting, I don’t think they’ll take that route. The Color Rush uniforms are so similar to the ’80s and ’90s uniform that you wouldn’t see much of a change, other than tweaking the blue stripe. That won’t drive sales. It won’t feel as fresh as it could.
The answer, in my opinion, is to create a throwback uniform based on the 1965 set. The crazy horse uniforms were short-lived but a sharp look. The Broncos used them as a throwback in 1994 for the NFL’s 75th anniversary.
The jerseys are solid. You see a surprising amount of people wearing them around Mile High considering how rarely the Broncos have worn them in their history. There’s nothing all that special about them but Nike can sharpen them up and make them pop.
The helmet is the driving force. It will be a hit when it drops and should look even better on the field. Like the jerseys, the helmet will need a couple of small tweaks—maybe enlarge the logo or change the stripe—but the uniform will be one of the best throwbacks in the NFL.
The Broncos are probably going to release their uniform schedule in the next week or so and, obviously, any announcement about a new look will come before then. It’s late in the summer to be announcing a new uniform but the Cowboys and Giants just announced new throwback uniforms last week.
The elephant in the room is that a full redesign of the Broncos’ closet is probably on the way in the next few years and there’s no telling what it will look like. But imagine this: the Broncos make a true throwback using the 80s uniform as the base look (essentially a tweak to the current color rush by switching the navy blue with royal blue) and the alternate is the 1965 throwback that I’m betting on the team debuting this year. That’s a solid look that capitalizes on the team’s history.
Josh Rosen – The 25-year-old signed with the Browns, who had also worked out AJ McCarron.
Aqib Talib – The Super Bowl 50 champion signed a deal with Amazon to be on the studio panel for Thursday Night Football broadcasts.
Lamar Jackson – The former MVP plans to report to training camp rather than holding out for a new contract.
Kyle Rudolph – The veteran tight end signed with Tampa Bay, where he’ll fill in for Rob Gronkowski.
NFL Plus – The NFL’s new streaming service will replace NFL Gamepass by offering live preseason football and replays throughout the year.
Matthew Stafford – The reigning Super Bowl champion has returned to throwing after an elbow injury kept him from slinging the rock over the offseason.
Kyle Sloter – The former Broncos camp arm signed a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars after a successful stint in the USFL.
Broncos Bus – The Regional Transportation District announced that its gameday buses will be absent for a third-consecutive season. More than 100,000 fans used the bus to get to the stadium in 2019.
Adrian Peterson and Le’Veon Bell – The pair of Pro Bowl running backs planned to meet in the boxing ring this weekend but the fight was postponed after the main event fell through.
Eddie Goldman – The 28-year-old defensive lineman told the Falcons he plans to retire. He signed with the Falcons two weeks before his retirement.
John Metchie – The talented rookie receiver announced that he was diagnosed with leukemia. He said he has the most curable form of the disease but expects to miss the entire 2022 season.
Chris Carson – The five-year NFL veteran is planning to retire because of a neck injury, leaving Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker to compete for the starting running back job in Seattle.
Grade the Takes
CBS Sports: Jerry Jeudy is one of 8 NFL players who need a strong camp
A – Jeudy is coming off a tough year but still has the talent to be one of the game’s best receivers. If he’s really that guy, we’ll see the signs when he works with Russell Wilson in camp.
ESPN future rankings: Broncos 12th-best team for next three years
B- – The Broncos have such a young core that I thought a rankings like this would favor them more. The biggest knocks are coaching and a lack of draft picks. I’m not too concerned about either. I’ll guess that the Broncos outperform the 12-place ranking.
Bleacher Report: Javonte Williams will be the Broncos’ biggest bust in 2022
D- – Wrong. The reason this isn’t an F is because the hype is so high for Javonte that a bust season would absolutely be the biggest bust season on the team.
Touchdown Wire: Bradley Chubb is Broncos’ most overrated player
B+ – There are a couple of candidates for this award but Chubb might be the best choice. He and Russell Wilson are the only Broncos to start in the Pro Bowl, he clocked in at 40 in the NFL’s Top 100 players ahead of the 2021 season. He’s only provided 8.5 sacks in the last three seasons.
ESPN: Broncos have 14th-best offensive weapons
B+ – This is probably the right spot for the Broncos. They’ve got talent at receiver, upside at tight end and a pair of good running backs. They just don’t have production to move into the top 10. I’d say the talent at running back should have pushed them up to 11, in front of the Seahawks, Steelers and Cowboys.
Davante Adams: Derek Carr is a Hall of Fame quarterback
F – Derek Carr is not a Hall of Fame quarterback. Maybe with a strong second half of his career he’ll get there, but he’s not close. I’m not going to blame Adams for saying this though. I like it.
Larry Holder: There’s a reason the Seahawks moved on from Russ
F – Was there a reason the Colts moved on from Peyton Manning? Was there a reason the Patriots moved on from Tom Brady? Was there a reason the Rams moved on from Matthew Stafford? Was there a reason the 49ers moved on from Joe Montana? Just because a veteran quarterback changed teams doesn’t mean he’s done.
Tweet of the Week
This is what camp season is supposed to look like.