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Broncos’ OTA Observations: Enter Case Keenum

Zac Stevens Avatar
May 22, 2018

Editor’s note: Welcome into one of many, many BSN Denver observation pieces to come this offseason. A fan favorite in the past, these stories will be posted anytime we get a view of the Broncos on the field between now and the end of training camp. Who is standing out, who is lagging behind and who is looking like the favorite in each of the position battles? Those questions and many more will be answered right here.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos are back.

On Tuesday, for the first time in 2018, the Denver Broncos took the field for the closest thing to a real practice they will have until the pads come on in training camp with the start of OTAs.

With Phase 3 of the offseason program comes the first time the offense can go up against the defense, or as it’s otherwise called: Football.

While it’s just the first of ten spring OTA practices the team will have over the course of the next month, the competitions are now officially underway, and the team will slowly begin to take shape.

As always, the BSN Broncos crew was on hand for the entirety of the practice. Here are our most noteworthy observations from the day.

Quarterback watch

Even though there’s no debate on who the starting quarterback will be, it wouldn’t be a Broncos piece if it didn’t lead off with this position.

Although Case Keenum had an up and down day — as is expected at this time of the year from nearly every player — one thing that stood out was his leadership.

From the moment he took the field to the moment he walked off the podium—after speaking with the media as the team’s starting signal caller—the veteran quarterback carried himself as the guy. From his command of the huddle to greeting every single skill position player with a high five before drills.

Behind Keenum, however, is where the fun began to take place.

During the initial drill period, Paxton Lynch received the team’s second-string reps followed by Chad Kelly taking the third-string reps. Over the course of the rest of the practice, Lynch and Kelly alternated who got the second-string reps and who received the third.

In an accuracy drill in which all four quarterbacks — including UDFA Nick Stevens — threw at a net which had three targets, Kelly led the field with the most “hits.” However, during team periods, Lynch had multiple impressive throws including a beautiful touch pass to Isaiah McKenzie off a play action rolling right. In a game, the play could have very well gone for a touchdown.

For the first practice of Phase 3, both backup quarterbacks had solid days.

The rookie treatment

On Tuesday, the highly-touted 2018 draft class took the field with the entire team for the first time in front of the media. One thing that was made very clear, however, was every single talented rookie will have to earn their playing time, including first-round pick Bradley Chubb.

With players such as Chubb, running back Royce Freeman and wide receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton expected to receive playing time this year, none started their Bronco careers with the first string. As it should be.

Shane Ray got the nod starting opposite Von Miller, Devontae Booker was the first running back out on the field and, of course, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders led the way for the receivers. Don’t count the rookies out, though, as they still have plenty of time to move up the depth chart.

Sanders looking fine

Less than three weeks ago, Emmanuel Sanders “thanked God” that the team had multiple months before the start of training camp since his ankle, which was hurt for a significant time of last season, was still in the process of healing.

On Tuesday, however, the nine-year vet didn’t show any signs of his ankle bothering him one bit. As a receiver known from his precise routes, Sanders put that on full display during individual and team drills, coming out of his breaks quick and explosive.

Through his actions on the field Tuesday, Sanders eased concerns about his ankle’s health moving forward.

Joseph playing it safe

Of the 90-man squad the Broncos currently have, only five didn’t participate in practice on Tuesday: Ron Leary (knee soreness), Jordan Taylor (hips), Jared Veldheer (foot), Troy Fumagalli (sports hernia) and Clinton McDonald (shoulder).

After practice, head coach Vance Joseph said the team is “being smart” with the way the team handles injured players and wants guys to be “totally healthy” before they participate in OTAs.

“Our goal is to get out of OTAs healthy,” Joseph stated. “We want every guy that we came in with healthy and to go to training camp with a full roster of healthy players.”

Outside of Taylor, who is expected to be back during the middle of training camp, the other four players aren’t expected to miss a significant amount of time.

Other tidbits

  • Along with rookie receiver Sutton — read below — another non-star player that stood out on the day was tight end Austin Traylor. Not only was the third-year vet targeted many times by nearly every quarterback, he was used all over the field by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
  • As was expected, at times during practice Von Miller wasn’t with the other outside linebackers, instead working with defensive line coach Bill Kollar and the rest of the defensive lineman. After moving on from outside linebackers coach Fred Pagac after last year, it was announced the star pass rusher would work mainly with the defensive line this year. Tuesday, that box was checked on the field.
  • With receiver and punt returner Taylor recovering from double offseason hip surgeries this offseason, the Broncos turned to four younger players to practice returning punts on Tuesday: Brendan Langley, DaeSean Hamilton, Phillip Lindsay and Isaiah McKenzie.
  • While many have speculated that his roster spot may be in danger, fullback Andy Janovich was very involved in the offense on the day.
  • While OTAs normally have a bit of a laid-back nature, there was tangible intensity on display from the team throughout practice.
  • Von Miller made a point to give guidance to Bradley Chubb multiple times throughout practice.

Play of the day

During one of the final team periods on the day, second-round pick Courtland Sutton capped off his impressive practice on a high note — literally and figuratively.

With Sutton streaking down the left sideline, Paxton Lynch tossed up a 50-50 ball 20 yards down the field. Despite cornerback Brendan Langley smothering Sutton in coverage, the rookie receiver high-pointed the ball up and over Langley’s head, securing the ball as his feet came back down to earth.

The “raw talent,” as John Elway described him after drafting him, showed off plenty of his talent on Tuesday.

Moment of the day

As Bradley Chubb made his way to the sideline after taking a rep on the field, waiting there on the 30-yard-line was a guy by the name of John Elway. After Chubb took off his helmet, the fifth-overall selection greeted the Hall of Fame quarterback, and his general manager, with an enthusiastic high five.

What took it over the top wasn’t the fact that it was a high five between Elway and his top pick, but more so the high-five was more of an embrace of old friends seeing each other than it was of Chubb seeing his current boss.

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