Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Denver Broncos Community!

Broncos OTA Observations: The first glimpse at a smothering Vic Fangio defense

Zac Stevens Avatar
May 20, 2019

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With summer right around the corner, it felt like November football on Monday for the beginning of the Broncos’ second week of OTAs.

With rain, sleet and snow—the weather everyone loves at the end of May—pummeling the outside fields, Vic Fangio moved practice inside. And on the field, it was a cold-weather type of practice.

Here’s what BSN Denver saw inside the Pat Bowl Fieldhouse during the team’s fourth OTA practice on Monday.


For the first time in the Vic Fangio era, the media got a glimpse of why John Elway hired Fangio. Last week, the defense and offense had a back-and-forth practice.

On Monday, there was no give in Fangio’s defense. Only take.

Whether it was Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Derek Wolfe or Shelby Harris, Joe Flacco was under constant pressure all day long. The havoc started on the first drop back of the day when Shelby blew up Connor McGovern in the center of the line to have what would have been an easy takedown of Flacco.

From then on, it was more of the same with “sacks” and constant pressure breathing down Flacco’s neck.

But the “sacks” didn’t stop even during the 7-on-7 period—where there are no lineman or pass rushers. That was because the secondary and coverage were absolutely smothering.

Despite no Chris Harris Jr.—and a secondary that would look foreign to most fans right now—open receivers were not to be found for much of the day. On multiple instances during the passing drill, the play was blown dead before Drew Lock could sling it because no one was open. The same happened to the veteran Flacco, too.

Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Bryce Callahan and De’Vante Bausby performed much like a secondary that used to have a pretty catchy nickname around these parts of town.

The run defense was stout, too, specifically when Rich Scangarello tried to stretch the defense to the sidelines. At one point, Bradley Chubb tracked down a run intended for the sidelines so quick that the defensive players on the bench exploded in awe and amazement at the speed of the 269-pound pass rusher.


It’s taken no time for the Broncos’ first-round pick to look like, well, a first-round player.

Fant—or as he should be called phantom—is getting open so often it’s like he’s a ghost.

“He’s a pretty fast tight end,” Josey Jewell, a teammate of Fant’s at Iowa, said after Monday’s practice. “His route tree is pretty good. He can flat-out run. He’s going to be a mismatch for some people.”

All of that has already been on display in the first few weeks Fant’s been in town, too. While he’s built like a tight end, 6-foot-4, 249 pounds, he runs like a big-bodied receiver, not only with his blazing speed but with his route-running abilities.

On Monday, Fant was a redzone favorite, hauling in back-to-back passes near the goal line, turning them both upfield into the endzone. Both were contested catches—a great unknown in his game as he rarely had those opportunities in college. He didn’t look uncomfortable for one second in the tight quarters of the redzone.

On the final play of practice, Fant hauled in a perfect throw from Drew Lock on an out route 15 yards downfield. Near the sidelines, Fant stretched his arms out to beat the tight coverage, crisply caught the bullet pass, secured possession and got his feet in bounds.

It wasn’t only the perfect way for the offense to end practice, with John Elway watching, it was what Elway hopes is the connection of the future for many years to come.

“He can run. We all knew that. That was easy. But now he’s got to learn to be a tight end in the NFL,” Fangio said, publicly challenging Fant as he’s done with multiple players. “He’s got tools, but I can go into Home Depot and walk out with a bunch of nice tools, but I’m not a carpenter. We got to teach him to be a tight end in the NFL. He’s working great at it.”

Fant spent a portion of practice with the offensive lineman working on his blocking. From the looks of it, he’s very willing and picking that part of the game up quickly.

“He’s kind of like one of those hybrid guys, but not a lot of people give him credit for his blocking, and I think he does a great job blocking, also,” Jewell said after deeming him “the dude.”


Last week, after looking like a rookie that needed time to groom, Drew Lock looked like an already-improved man under center on Monday.

The throwing off of the back foot, unnecessary scrambling and mindless decisions were improved from just one week ago.

Lock stood in the pocket calm and poised. Instead of taking off to the sidelines when pressure was in his face, which it was for a large portion of practice, he bounced around the pocket, keeping his eyes, feet and shoulders downfield in a set position.

Additionally, when he wasn’t forced to, he didn’t throw off his back foot as he did multiple times last week. Instead, the second-year player used a proper throwing motion and planted his back foot to deliver the ball.

This doesn’t mean Lock was perfect on the day, either, he was just significantly improved in key areas.

He overthrew and was slow to get the ball to DaeSean Hamilton on multiple occasions during individual drills. As mentioned above, he took multiple sacks, as did Flacco.

But the 22-year old also flashed.

He delivered a beautiful 25-yard pass under presser to Romell Guerrier after dropping back from under center. Lock also delivered a 30-yard completion to Juwann Winfree on the right sideline in smothering coverage.

But the throw of the day was near the beginning of practice, when No. 3 took a snap from under center, dropped back, felt pressure in his face, shuffled to the left as he kept his eyes downfield, then delivered a sidearmed bullet to the right side. The completion only went for five yards, but it displayed incredible poise, patience, footwork, pocket presence and his cannon of an arm.

Lock also showed off an impressive hard-count, getting DeMarcus Walker to jump on back-to-back plays.

Going up against the first-team defense, Joe Flacco was under pressure most of the day as noted above.

In the red zone, Flacco looked like a savvy veteran, looking off safeties to open up the back of the end zone, moving around in the pocket until he could find Troy Fumagalli for a touchdown and not making any poor decisions in the oh-so-important red area.

Flacco’s play of the day was when he picked up a low snap in the gun and instantly shot it to Courtland Sutton in the back of the end zone before McGovern even knew it was a bad snap.

At the end of practice, Flacco’s arm strength was on full display. On the first of two plays, Flacco overthrew a 60-yard pass in the middle of the field. Then, he overthrew an even longer 70-yard pass.

While the timing wasn’t right, Flacco’s arm strength sure was.


For a second-straight week, De’Vante Bausby benefited greatly from Chris Harris Jr.’s absence. Not only did the former AAF player get to play alongside Kareem Jackson and against Flacco, but he also looked the part.

On multiple occasions, No. 41 held his own going up against Courtland Sutton. The first instance, Bausby didn’t give Sutton any room in the back of the end zone, forcing Flacco to throw the ball away over the big receivers head.

Then, Bausby went step-for-step with No. 14 as the ball sailed over both of their heads.

After practice, however, Fangio challenged Bausby, instead of praising him.

“I think there’s been a time or two in Phase 2 where he’s let the back-to-back seasons—albeit shortened—give him a reason to think he’s tired, too, where he shouldn’t do that,” Fangio said, referring to the cornerback playing in the AAF this spring. “He’s got to overcome that. He’s got to overcome being his own worst enemy and show them the player he can be.”

Cornerback Issac Yiadom participated in 7-on-7 drills on Monday but did not participate in team drills, allowing Bausby to have an expanded role as he did last week.

“He’s been out there a lot since we’ve been doing this,” Fangio said on Bausby. “I wouldn’t read too much into anything as far as who is playing when or where or any of that. He’s going to be competing to make a spot on this team.”


  • Champ Bailey was elected into Broncos’ Ring of Fame on Monday, making him the first Bronco elected into the Hall of Fame and Ring of Fame in the same year.
  • Shamarko Thomas was at practice but only observing.
  • Dekoda Watson was all over the field on Monday, from getting to the quarterback to batting multiple passes away in coverage, leading one BSN Broncos reporter to deem him “The unexpected coverage linebacker.”
  • Jake Butt went through warmups without a brace and looked very comfortable. For the drill period, however, he put the brace on. The most encouraging part of practice for Butt was the blocking drills he did on the side as he was putting a significant amount of pressure on his rehabbing ACL. Of course, Butt looked just fine catching passes and running routes, too.
  • Kicker Taylor Bertolet was absolutely booming field goals. The further the field goal, the more accurate he was, too. He nailed multiple kicks over 50 yards and made some of them seem like they could go in from over 70 yards.
  • Phillip Lindsay participated in individual drills, looking just as fast as last year and even cooler as he rocked a smokey red visor. He held the ball in his left hand as his right hand is still covering from offseason surgery.
  • Devontae Booker had the catch of the day, jumping and bringing down a one-handed high pass from Kevin Hogan on the right sideline. The ball stuck to his left hand close to 10-feet above the ground before he came back to earth and officially made it a catch.


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?