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Broncos’ OTA Observations: Optimism running rampant as practices continue

Zac Stevens Avatar
May 29, 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. — Moments after the Denver Broncos left the field after their first practice of the second week of OTAs, star pass rusher Von Miller put everyone in their place when reminding them what time of the year it was.

“It’s OTAs; you really can’t put too much into OTAs. Last year in OTAs, I thought we were going to win the Super Bowl,” Miller half-jokingly led off his press conference with on Tuesday. “You really can’t put too much into it, but I like our grind, I like our work, I like the way we prepare here every day. It feels different.”

While it is just the fourth practice of the season for the 2018 Broncos squad, and conclusions regarding the team’s outlook can’t, and shouldn’t be determined yet, Miller’s last point about it feeling different is not only important, it shined through Tuesday on the field.

Here’s what BSN Denver saw, and learned, on the field during Tuesday’s OTA practice.


In order to keep, or make, the defense great, defensive coordinator Joe Woods is making it look different.

“We haven’t changed our scheme, but like most coaches, you add more to your scheme each year to make you better in all phases,” head coach Vance Joseph said after practice. “We haven’t changed our foundation, but we are going to add different deals to it.”

The “deals” that Joseph and Woods are adding to the talented defense are, well, exciting to say the least for Broncos fans. Last year, it was clear Denver used a 3-4 defensive scheme as their base and ran sub packages more than 50 percent of the time off that base defense.

Early into OTAs — while Joseph maintains the defensive scheme hasn’t changed entirely — the wrinkles the coaching staff are using are blatant and noticeable.

At times during practice, it was difficult to distinguish safeties from linebackers as everyone was playing so close to the line of scrimmage. On top of that, many times it was difficult to tell the difference between linebackers and defensive lineman as there was so much variation at the line.

Instead of playing the specific roles the NFL has labeled these players as, Woods appears to be using each player in a multitude of ways early on in OTAs, not letting a position limit him on where he can use players.

One thing that’s clear early on is Woods is doing everything he can to get as many defensive playmakers on the field at one time as possible.


It didn’t take long for John Elway’s first two picks in the 2018 draft to stand out.

On Tuesday, first-round pick Bradley Chubb and second-round pick Courtland Sutton not only flashed their talent, they consistently made plays during the two-hour practice at Dove Valley — extremely promising news for an organization that hasn’t received significant production from a rookie class in years.

It’s clear the No. 5-overall pick has already moved up in the eyes of the coaching staff. Playing both standing up — as he’ll do in Denver’s base defense as an outside linebacker — and on the ground — as he’ll do in the team’s sub packages as a defensive end — Chubb dominated Denver’s offensive line time and time again on Tuesday, picking on the first and second-team tackles.

Utilizing both inside and outside moves, Chubb looked like a top-five pick as a dominant pass rusher. His best play of the day came when he busted around the right side of the line and came away with the ball Case Keenum was meant to deliver downfield. After the turnover, the rookie playfully placed the ball back in his veteran quarterback’s hands.

On the other side of the ball, Sutton consistently showed all of the “raw talent,” as John Elway said, he posses on a consistent basis. Catching passes from all three quarterbacks during the team period, the second-round pick was all over the field — from playing and running inside shallow routes to lining up outside and going deep.

After practice, Joseph said Sutton still “needs some work” at route running, but added, “he’s so physically gifted, once he gets that part, he’s going to be hard to defend.” Tuesday, the “hard-to-defend” part was prevalent.

Sutton not only had catches from all three quarterbacks, he had impressive plays from all of them. From roughly 20 yards out, Chad Kelly zipped a pass No. 14’s way, but with tight coverage on him from Michael Hunter, Sutton had to reach his arms over Hunter’s inside position to snag the ball in the end zone.

Additionally, Sutton made an impressive grab on a pass from Paxton Lynch on the left sideline, extending his arms high and away from his body to come down with the ball. Sutton’s catch from Keenum came on a long ball — 25 yards or so — on the left sideline in stride.


A Broncos observation piece wouldn’t be complete without a look at the team’s quarterbacks, of course. In what was a rollercoaster day from the team’s top three quarterbacks, Keenum, Lynch and Kelly — in that order on the day — all had impressive plays and plays they wished they had back.

Last week, Chris Harris Jr. exclaimed Denver’s defense was “going to keep making it hard” for Keenum on the practice field. Less than a week later, the veteran corner did just that himself as he dropped a sure interception from the team’s starting quarterback after Keenum tried to go deep to Emmanuel Sanders. At another point in practice, Keenum and Demaryius Thomas weren’t on the same page, which led to a Brendan Langley dropped pick six.

Keenum’s best play of the day, however, was so good it earned Play-of-the-Day honors (read below.)

Paxton Lynch utilized his legs all throughout practice, taking off many times during the team period to gain yards on the ground. His best throw of the day came as he scrambled to the right and threw a strike across his body to the middle of the field where tight end Jake Butt jumped out of a crowd of defenders to come down with a 15-yard touchdown.

After practice, Joseph said he’s “proud of Paxton” and responded to his own comments made during rookie minicamp, saying Paxton’s “not relaxing” and that he is, in fact, “competing.”

Kelly, in competition with Lynch for the backup role, had a few errors himself on the day, but also had a vintage Chad Kelly play. Under pressure, the second-year quarterback scrambled to his right, directed DaeSean Hamilton with his hand on where to go and launched one down field, semi across his body, for a 40-yard touchdown, showing his playmaking ability didn’t go anywhere.


Denver’s unofficial injury report looked nearly identical to last week’s report. Ron Leary (knee soreness), Jordan Taylor (hips), Jared Veldheer (foot), Troy Fumagalli (sports hernia) and Clinton McDonald (shoulder) all did not participate in practice for a second-straight week, and there were no further updates on any of their status.

Last week, Joseph said the team was “being smart” with the injuries and wants players to be “totally healthy” before they participate in OTAs.

Outside linebacker Deiontrez Mount left the field on a cart after limping during practice, and cornerback Bradley Roby was not present at practice as he was sick. Veteran corner Tramaine Brock stepped up as the No. 2 cornerback in his absence.


  • In great news for the Broncos, and bad news for opposing defenses, Demaryius Thomas looks, and feels, healthy: “I can say I’ve felt my best since I’ve been in the league. I have been dealing with hip problems my whole career. Now it really doesn’t bother me anymore. So physically, the best, mentally, as well.”
  • Through the first two weeks of OTAs, Brendan Langley has proven he’s taken significant strides from his rookie season. While he did get beat a few times in practice, he had tight coverage and seemingly knew what to do on each play, including dropping what would have been a pick-six. After practice, Joseph had optimistic words for the second-year corner.
    • “He’s definitely getting better. He is such a talent,” Joseph said with excitement. “His problem is getting reps to know what to do, to have great technique every play. Physically he’s everything you want.”
  • Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is putting his tight ends to the test, using them all over the field — from traditional formations to filling the roles of other positions.
  • For a second-straight week, all of the Broncos’ big names were outside taking in practice, including John Elway, Gary Kubiak, Joe Ellis and Matt Russell, just to name a few.
  • The two practices that have been open to the media have look incredibly different than the practices last year. Along with new equipment — and more equipment — the practices are already more uptempo.
    • “You get in football shape by playing football. You want to play fast, obviously,” Joseph said. “Our pace is going to be fast to just get in shape to play football.”


As the defense showed an all-out blitz loading the line of scrimmage with defenders, Keenum barked out orders to his offense. Once he took the snap, he stepped up in the pocket amongst heavy pressure in his face and threw a bullet 25 yards down the right sideline to Demaryius Thomas.

With Tramaine Brock smothering DT in coverage, the veteran receiver turned to face Keenum. Thomas locked the ball in with his right arm as if it and Thomas’ bicep were both magnets destined for each other.


Much like last week, both moments of the day came on the sideline during practice.

During nearly the entire practice, when both Chubb and Von Miller weren’t on the field, the two were standing next to each other — occasionally just those two — chatting about who knows what. After practice, Von said his relationship with the rookie is similar to the relationship that he and DeMarcus Ware had when Miller was younger. The future-Hall-of-Fame pass rusher, Ware, took Miller under his wing both on and off the field, something Von hopes he can “pay it back” with Chubb.

The second moment of the day came when the team’s president and CEO Joe Ellis — a proponent for standing for the national anthem — stood next to Brandon Marshall — the Broncos’ most outspoken activist — during practice and chatted for a few minutes.

This came on the same day Ellis addressed the team about the new national anthem policy set by the league’s owners in which he represented the Broncos. Joseph described Ellis’ talk with the team as a “conversation” about what it means for the team moving forward.

Regardless of whether the two were talking football, anthem or another topic doesn’t matter, it showed there was no tension about this topic.


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