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Broncos Training Camp Observations: A pattern in the offense

Zac Stevens Avatar
July 30, 2019

 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The next time the Broncos take the field, they’ll be opening the 2019 NFL season, even if it is just the preseason.

On Thursday, the Broncos take on the Atlanta Falcons in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio to kick off the Hall-of-Fame weekend with Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey’s induction into football’s most elite club.

To prep for their final practice before their first game, Vic Fangio took off the pads for the first time since the team put them on over a week ago.

As always, BSN Denver was on hand to take in all of the action. Here’s what went down on Tuesday, the team’s 11th practice of camp.

CHECKDOWN JOE

Short pass. Dumpoff. Quick toss in the flat. Repeat.

That’s essentially been the Broncos’ offense through the first two weeks of camp.

This, while it may seem boring, isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, on Tuesday, it’s what an optimist would call efficient.

In the limited reps No. 5 received during Tuesday’s practice, as the team prepared their backups for Thursday’s game, not a single pass from Joe’s hose hit the ground.

During team periods, Flacco started the day off hitting Kelvin McKnight on a short gain on the right hash. Then it was Emmanuel Sanders on a slant for five yards followed by Noah Fant in the left flat for a gain of a couple.

Then it was time to dial up a Joe specialty—a checkdown. That completion was courtesy of Royce Freeman in the middle of the field for positive yards.

The following series included catches by Tim Patrick and McKnight, both for, you guessed it, minimal gains.

There was one lone pass on the day from Flacco that picked up a first down as he hit Courtland Sutton for 15 yards on the left sideline.

With Sanders out, Flacco’s offensive identity has been either launching it to Sutton deep—which hasn’t happened as often as one would expect—or looking short time and time again.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, however. Although Flacco’s arm strength is talked about ad nauseam, to the surprise of many, he isn’t a consistent deep-ball thrower.

In fact, he’s the complete opposite. Over the past three seasons, 55.6 percent of Flacco’s throws have been short of the sticks—the third highest in that stretch, only trailing Drew Brees (56.3) and Alex Smith (55.7).

Yes, Joe can launch the ball over the Rocky Mountains. But that’s not his game. That’s been very clear through the first half of camp.

THE GAME WRECKERS

Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are playing like they were both top-five picks. Oh wait.

One of the biggest stories of camp has been Denver’s pass rush absolutely dominating Mike Munchak’s offensive line thanks in large part to terrific play from the former No. 2 and No. 5-overall picks. However, Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris and many others along the front seven have had significant contributions, too.

But over the last two practices, Chubb and Miller have absolutely wrecked entire team periods by themselves.

On Monday, the two got to go against backups. It wasn’t fair.

Von led off one series with a ridiculous jump where he had to pull the emergency brake or else it would have resulted in a quarterback decapitation. Then, Von would have again taken off Kevin Hogan’s head as he was right in his face when No. 9 came out of a play-action boot.

At that point, Chubb had enough of the 58 show and took over.

In back-to-back plays, No. 55 had back-to-back sacks, flying off the edge and around the corner making it look like sacks were easy to come by. Then, the two decided to team up combining for a strip-sack on Brett Rypien.

The damage continued on Tuesday, this time against the ones. Although Von and Chubb made them look like backups.

With Drew Lock running the first-team offense, Chubb flew around Garett Bolles for the near-immediate sack. Then, much like on Monday, Von and Chubb met deep in the pocket where Lock was, likely resulting in another sack.

That wasn’t the end of it as the second-year pass rusher again beat Bolles and was in the rookie quarterback’s face. For a second time in a row, Lock was forced to throw an incomplete dump off pass, but in a game it likely would have been another sack.

It all happened in the same series, too.

In camp, when Chubb and Von have turned it on, they’ve simply wrecked practice.

GAME TIME!

The Broncos will travel to Canton early in the afternoon on Wednesday following a brief practice closed to media and fans. They will then visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where Fangio joked Munchak will charge players to get a picture with him next to his bust.

On Thursday at 6:00 pm MDT, the Broncos will finally be back.

Being an extra preseason game, most of the starters won’t play. However, the left side of the offensive line will play, including Bolles, Dalton Risner and Connor McGovern.

Bryce Callahan, DaeSean Hamilton, Ron Leary, Ja’Wuan James, Jake Butt and Bug Howard, all players battling injuries, will not play.

Fans will have to wait a week to see Flacco debut, as Kevin Hogan will get the start. Lock will be the next quarterback in the game followed by Brett Rypien. Fangio gave no indication how long each quarterback will play, but it is expected Lock will get a significant amount of reps.

Fangio will be on the sidelines for one of the rare times in his career as he transitions from sitting in the box during games as a defensive coordinator. Ed Donatell will also be on the sidelines, but Rich Scangarello will call plays from up top.

Fangio made it clear winning is not his No. 1 priority in the preseason.

ADDITIONAL TIDBITS

  • After practice, Fangio kept the door open on a potential competition at left tackle.
    • “Right now Garett’s the starter. He’s the incumbent. Somebody’s got to knock him out, kind of like a heavyweight championship,” Fangio stated. “He’s had a great camp. If we were to play today against Oakland, he would be the starter, hands down. Unanimous decision.”
      • Elijah Wilinson has drawn high praise during camp, most notably from Scangarello.
  • Emmanuel Sanders continued his progress, catching passes from Flacco and Lock during 11-on-11 periods.
  • Lock threw two interceptions on the day. He was picked by Isaac Yiadom on an ill-advised throw. Rolling to his left, Lock threw across his body to the right directly into the hands of No. 26. He was also picked by Chris Harris Jr. on the right sideline as the veteran cornerback was all over the play and looked like the intended receiver. Lock, however, was running scout-team offense for the first time in his life on that interception.
    • “I was still pretty pissed at myself,” Lock said after practice. “I try to hold myself to a really high standard.”
  • The catch and throw of the day was courtesy of tight end Moral Stephens and Rypien. No. 88 snagged a ball thrown high from Rypien as two defenders nearly got their hands on it just in front of Stephens. It was either a brilliant pass or incredibly lucky.
  • Stephens, the newest addition to the team, not only brought in the catch of the day, but had multiple catches in the end zone during a goal-line period.
  • Chubb had the off-the-record catch of the day as he snagged a ball out of the air one-handed with ease after a play.
  • The backup quarterbacks followed Flacco’s lead on the day, hitting tight ends all day long. Austin Fort was the biggest beneficiary to the checkdown approach.
  • Todd Davis, Callahan, Hamilton, Leary, Butt, Howard and Jake Rodgers did not practice on Tuesday.
  • James returned to practice, although in a limited fashion.

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