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Broncos Practice Takeaways: Jake Butt hitting his stride

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
August 21, 2018

Editor’s note: As the Broncos transition out of training camp and move toward the regular season, the team’s guidelines on what can be reported from practice understandably tighten up. With that in mind, our last few takeaway pieces won’t be quite as detailed as they were during camp, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still give you an idea of how practice went.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Game week practices don’t quite have the same feel as training camp practices. While guys are still fighting for roster spots, there isn’t quite as much heated competition on the field, it’s much more about getting ready to beat the opponent than it is about beating each other.

In camp, it’s almost like the opposing unit is your enemy, after camp, the team finally gets to be a team.

With that in mind, each unit still wants to win.

Here’s what we saw in what is likely the second-to-last practice the is open to media for its entirety.

Butt. Again.

For the first time in camp, Jake Butt has strung together two really strong practices in a row, and just might be moving up the ladder of quarterback Case Keenum’s favorite targets.

On the day, Butt hauled in at least four passes from Keenum, the most of anybody on the field—of course, Keenum’s BFF Emmanuel Sanders was right behind Butt with three.

At one point, the second-year tight end caught two in a row from Keenum, starting with a post that went for 20 yards over the middle and followed by a 15-yard catch that went to the right side of the field off of a Keenum bootleg.

When Butt attempted to come back last season off of his ACL surgery, he participated in a couple practices and simply looked slow. Now, almost two years since the injury, Butt looks like he is gliding on the field, even appearing to have found another gear since training camp ended.

Between Butt making big strides, Jeff Heuerman suddenly looking like a solid player and a quarterback who is actually interested in targeting the middle of the field, the Broncos’ tight end group may actually have a decent year.

Underappreciated

With all the changes that were made in the offseason, a new quarterback, a couple new receivers, new running backs, help with covering tight ends and so on, the narrative surrounding the offensive line—despite the addition of Jared Veldheer—was that not enough was done to solidify the unit.

What went unaccounted for in that narrative, though, was development. With three solid vets on the line, the biggest questions surrounded Garett Bolles and whoever was set to take over the right guard position. That was a fair concern because nobody could have predicted just how good McGovern would look.

This isn’t a knock on Ron Leary, but if you had no idea who was who and the Broncos’ offensive line and somebody showed you all of the tape from camp and preseason and told you to point out the highly-paid veteran, you would probably point to McGovern. The former fifth-round pick and weight-room Warrior has looked like a beast so far, and that alone should quell some of the concerns on the O-line.

On the other side, with Ron Leary now there to help solidify things, Garett Bolles has had a quietly nice camp.

Suddenly, the Broncos line doesn’t have so many question marks, and it’s certainly showing on the field, especially when it comes to pass protection. Tuesday was a perfect example as Keenum had plenty of time to survey the field and find guys like Butt and Sanders and it was just the latest example. In fact, in Saturday’s game, Keenum got great protection from his line.

They’ve still got work to do, especially in the run game, but line looks very much improved from last season.

Swag with the ones?

The internet conspiracy theorists will have a heyday with this one.

Chad Kelly, yes the same guy who was running with the third team just two weeks ago, took multiple snaps from Matt Paradis on Tuesday, you know, the starting center. Yes, Kelly lined up with the entire first team a couple of times on the day, just adding to the legend that is building surrounding No. 6.

“It’s good work for him, but it’s really card team. It’s really versus Washington’s defense,” head coach Vance Joseph said after practice. “That’s always good to be in the huddle with Matt Paradis and [Demaryius Thomas] and those guys because it could happen. As the backup quarterback, you want to play for being the starter. That’s always good reps for him to be in the huddle with those players.”

Some of the narrative surrounding the Broncos impending decision on whether or not to bring in a veteran backup has surrounded the idea that they can’t really know how Kelly would respond to being thrown in with the ones at a moment’s notice. With a veteran who has done it before, there is a bit more certainty.

With that in mind, maybe the Broncos are trying to get a better look at just how Kelly would respond. Heck, why not do it in the game and gain a better understanding of a question that you have the ability to answer?

Play of the Day

Courtland Sutton?

Yep.

In the latest edition of Sutton’s spectacular grabs comes a one-handed beauty.

With Chad Kelly under center and Sutton lined up on the left side of the field, the QB dropped back and tossed one up for the big rookie who had freed himself from the coverage up the right sideline.

As the ball approached, it began to drift toward the boundary and away from No. 14. It was no problem, though, as the deep threat turned his shoulders back toward the quarterback and reached one of his super-sized mitts into the air to bring it down.

Is there anything he can’t do?

Other Notes

  • The run defense looked strong on the day. After missing a couple of run fits early in the Vikings game, the run ‘D’ has looked back to its 2017 form.
  • The Broncos rookies got to shave off their horrendous rookie haircuts.
  • Chad Kelly completed a bunch of passes into tight windows on the day.
  • The wide receivers had an uncharacteristic amount of drops during a 0ne-on-one red zone drill. Other than that, though, the receivers had a great day.
  • DaeSean Hamilton continues to quietly impress. It’s unclear how many reps will be available to him this year, but the Broncos are going to be happy at receiver for years to come.

Injury and Availability Notes

  • Carlos Henderson was back in the building on Tuesday for a meeting with John Elway. Henderson wants to return to the team, but Elway and Co. want to take a couple of days to make the best decision regarding what to do with the former third-round pick who didn’t show up for camp.
  • Su’a Cravens was still out but did get some work on the hill before practice.
    • While there have been some questions as to whether Cravens is milking the injury, defensive coordinator Joe Woods confirmed after practice that he has not yet been cleared to return.
  • Troy Fumagalli (groin), Sam Jones (back), J.J. Dielman (knee) all missed practice.

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