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Broncos Training Camp Takeaways: Smitten with Sanders

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 12, 2019

 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Another day, another Broncos training camp practice. On Monday, it was the team’s 16th practice of camp, to be exact.

Thanks to the Hall of Fame Game, which gave the team an extra week of practices, the Broncos are getting a jump start on the regular season by prepping for their opponents a month out.

As always, BSN Denver was on hand for Monday’s practice. Here’s what went down.

SMITTEN WITH SANDERS

Joe Flacco has fallen in love on the field. The experienced, flashy and talented Emmanuel Sanders has sucked up all of Joe’s attention when the two are together on the field.

Almost literally.

In fact, on Monday, Flacco looked Sanders’ way the first three passes of the day. Flacco wasted no time on the first, quickly zipping it to No. 10 on a slant. On the next play, the big-armed quarterback overthrew the speedy receiver on a deep out off a play-action boot.

The third, during 7-on-7s, was a perfect connection in traffic in the middle of the field as Sanders cut inside on a 15-yard in.

The first pass play that didn’t go to Sanders was, well, because Emmanuel wasn’t on the field. In fact, the next pass play that didn’t go Sanders’ way was because a low snap from Connor McGovern forced Joe to get rid of the ball in an instant. If the snap was on point, it’s safe to say No. 5 would have at least glanced at Emmanuel.

The next time the two were on the field, it looked like there was one read and one read only. That one read was, yep, Sanders, this time deep down the right sideline. Despite smothering coverage, Flacco dropped the ball perfectly in Sanders’ cradle as Emmanuel held it snug for a gain of at last 35 yards.

The best news for the Broncos was this happened for the entire practice.

“We’re still counting his reps. But they are going up and up every day,” Fangio said after Sanders practiced from start to finish, a step up from last week.

During an important move-the-ball drill near the end of the day, a drop, multiple low snaps, and back-to-back false starts derailed the offense so much so that Vic made them the team start the period over again.

Joe didn’t mess around this time. The first two passes out of the gate were both to Sanders. The first was a short completion, and the second was a deep shot that wasn’t catchable.

Although the team is still counting Sanders reps, there doesn’t appear to be any more limitations on the 32-year old. In fact, Fangio expects Sanders to play in the preseason at some point.

Since Vic wasn’t around Sanders pre-injury, he’s asked people in the organization how Emmanuel looks now compared to before the Achilles injury last December.

“They don’t see any difference from him,” Fangio said, adding, he “looks fine.”

As for what Joe Flacco sees from Emmanuel, well, he’s pretty much all he sees.

JOHNSON’S RISE

There’s been very little clarity with the Broncos’ linebacker spot since Todd Davis, Josey Jewell and Joe Jones have all been sidelined due to injury, although Jewell is slowly making his way back on the field.

Every practice, it’s been a new combination of linebackers getting the start for the injured top-three linebackers. But on Monday, there was a bit of clarity.

Alexander Johnson and Keishawn Bierria were Fangio’s starting inside backers for the first period of practice. Later in practice, it was Justin Hollins next to Johnson.

As linebackers filtered in and out, there was one constant on Monday—Johnson wasn’t going anywhere. No. 45 stayed put with the first-team defense for the duration of the practice when there were two inside backers on the field.

“I think A.J. Johnson has improved a lot. I’ve been pleased with his progress,” Fangio said following practice, singling Johnson out first.

One reason for that could be he no doubt fulfills Fangio’s No. 1 job description for an NFL linebacker—hitting people. In college, the 6-foot-2, 255-pounder racked up a whopping 424 tackles playing in the SEC. His tape during training camp practices would back that up, too.

THIS AGAIN?

After a rough start to training camp, it was smooth sailing for Connor McGovern shoveling the ball through his legs to Flacco in shotgun.

But that hit a pothole during Monday’s practice.

Instead of the hitting Flacco in the numbers—as McGovern’s done recently—or putting the ball on the ground—as he did during the first half of camp—he found a not-so-nice middle ground. Consistently on Monday, shotgun snaps were coming in right around or below Flacco’s knees, forcing the QB to start too many plays bending down and taking his eyes off the quickly-developing play.

In the final few team periods of practice, where the artificial crowd noise was cranked up and the stakes were higher, the snaps came in lower. If it wasn’t every snap, it was at least every other snap coming in low.

In fact, in a move-the-ball period, after McGovern’s snap came in at Flacco’s feet, Joe had to dump it off immediately to Devontae Booker on a quick slant. The next play, in a quick-moving, shotgun-heavy period, Rich Scangarello put Flacco under center. It was a very telling, and fitting, way for the practice to near an end.

ADDITIONAL TIDBITS

  • Drew Lock received the majority, if not all, of the team’s second-string reps, followed by Brett Rypien. Kevin Hogan took reps here and there but did not have as significant of a role as the other three quarterbacks. It was the same story as Sunday, where Fangio stated that was part of the plan all along.
  • After returning to practice on Sunday, Jake Butt and Josey Jewell both played a significant amount of reps in 7-on-7 drills, showing progress in their return from their respective injuries. Jewell was beat deep down the left sideline by Devontae Jackson on a nice ball from Hogan. Butt looked comfortable running live routes, although catches were hard to come by.
  • Will Parks got the start next to Justin Simmons at safety as Kareem Jackson missed his second-consecutive day dealing with a tweaked hamstring.
  • Josh Watson and Joe Dineen were Denver’s first set of backup linebackers running with the twos. Jamal Carter—who is temporarily being moved to linebacker—played with the third and fourth-string defense’s as he begins to learn his new position.
  • Bryce Callahan had an impressive pass breakup on a deep post in the middle of the field intended for River Cracraft. The incompletion drew an eruption from the crowd as it saved a potential big play.
  • With 10 days between their second and third preseason games, Fangio is using some of that extra time to prepare for the regular season by doing scout-team offense and defense. Denver kicks off the regular season against the Oakland Raiders in exactly four weeks.
  • Todd Davis, Joe Jones, Kareem Jackson, Horace Richardson, Theo Riddick and Andy Janovich all did not practice due to injuries.

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