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Denver Broncos Training Camp Takeaways: A regular-season-like practice, and could there be a QB decision after Seattle?

Andrew Mason Avatar
August 17, 2021

Editor’s note: Welcome to one of many takeaway pieces to come during Broncos training camp. A staple of DNVR’s training camp coverage, these stories will be posted after each and every practice of 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. — There were no fans on the west berm at UCHealth Training Center on Wednesday. No music played as the players gathered before pre-practice calisthenics. At times, the most prominent sound was the flapping of orange flags symbolizing the Broncos’ Hall of Famers in the warm breeze.

It felt like a regular-season practice. And indeed, it followed the routine that will begin early next month.

Starting to mimic game-week prep

In training-camp practices, the first teams often go against each other. In the regular season, the major thrust of the practice is for the first-team offense to face a scout-team defense, and vice versa, with everything scripted off the cards, so to speak.

The pace was moderate, compared with camp work, and the Broncos ditched the pads for shells.

A “similar” practice to Monday’s will close training camp Thursday, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.

They will return to training-camp style practices on Wednesday and Thursday.

A QB decision after this week? “Possible”

That’s what Fangio said after Monday’s practice, which was the first since Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater posted lofty passer ratings while leading the offense to multiple scores. The offense generated 14 points in three Lock-led drives and 10 points in two series led by Bridgewater.

Fangio reiterated his sentiments from Saturday, that he thought both quarterbacks played well. But he also noted that he considered the entire three days of work against the Vikings — including two practices that saw both quarterbacks work against a Minnesota defense that sat 10 first-teamers, along with its No. 3 cornerback and playmaking defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who is considered a backup on the Vikings’ depth chart.

“When you talk about last week, you think about the whole week in its totality,” Fangio said. “The two practices against Minnesota were important because [it was] our [No.] 1’s against their [No.] 1’s for the most part, and then the game.

“To me, it was a three-day trip in that regard, and I thought both guys did well.”

Even though Saturday’s work carries a huge caveat, it did offer a hint that the Broncos could do some good things in the regular season with either quarterback.

“I think we can win with either one of them,” left tackle Garett Bolles said. “It’s up to whoever they want to separate themselves, and hopefully these next two games we find out who our starter is.”

Baron Browning makes his camp debut

Browning only had a handful of repetitions Monday, but for the third-round pick, Monday’s practice represented a good first step as he came off the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Having lost the last two-and-a-half weeks of on-field work due to a longer-than-expected recovery from a lower-leg injury, Browning has a lot of ground to make up.

“He just needs to get out there and play in our defense and execute,” Fangio said. “This is a guy that had two practices in the rookie minicamp, which in those rookie minicamps we were doing like 22 plays each practice. That kind of illustrates how far behind he is.”

Fangio said that he didn’t yet know whether Browning would see any action in the preseason.

“We’ll see how he proceeds. I’m anxious to go watch the video of the few plays we gave him today. That’s something we’ll evaluate each and every day.”

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The entire offensive line: When asked what caught his eye on his film re-watch of Saturday’s game, Fangio cited the offensive line. “I thought we blocked well, overall, up front,” Fangio said. “It was good to see, and it was consistent in both run and pass protection for the most part. You get a feel for that in the game, but then when you see it on tape, you actually see it.” Pro Football Focus made the Broncos their highest-graded pass-blocking unit in Week 1, with a 93.3 grade that was well ahead of the No. 2 Jaguars (82.0).

FB Adam Prentice: The only true fullback on the roster delivered some good blocks on Saturday, and saw plenty of snaps Monday while Andrew Beck watched from the sideline. “I think he’s done a good job. It can be an important role, but to carry a fullback for how little you play them at times, he needs to be a special teams contributor.”

Quote of the Day

“Teddy’s been Teddy. That dude is phenomenal. We went to dinner and he was telling me how his mind works in the backfield. It was very impressive of his reads and how he goes through his reads and how comfortable he feels back there.” — Bolles, on Bridgewater

Injury and Availability

CB Ronald Darby: He was ill Monday and did not practice, but his absence was not COVID-19-related, Fangio said.

RB Melvin Gordon: He was on hand, but did not see any snaps due to a groin injury he suffered last week in Minnesota.

ILB Josey Jewell: He returned to action after missing the last 16 days because of a groin injury.

OLB Von Miller: He received a day off for a “personal issue,” as Fangio termed it, adding, “I believe his baby is going to be born today.”

LG Dalton Risner: After suffering an ankle injury and being held out of Saturday’s preseason opener, Risner returned to action Monday.

WR Tim Patrick: He remained sidelined due to a groin injury. “Not a concern long term, but we just want to make sure before he goes back there [that] he’s ready to go,” Fangio said.

DL McTelvin Agim: He returned to practice after being sidelined because of a groin injury.

S Trey Marshall: After suffering an ankle injury on the opening kickoff Saturday, Marshall is expected to miss “1-2” weeks, Fangio said, “which usually means two in Trey’s case.”

RB LeVante Bellamy: Like Marshall, he suffered an ankle injury Saturday, but Fangio said he expects Bellamy’s absence to be longer than that of Marshall.

CB Mac McCain: The undrafted rookie returned from a hamstring injury.

OLB Andre Mintze: The undrafted rookie suffered a concussion and is in the league-mandated post-concussion protocol.

DL Marquiss Spencer: He was back in action after sitting out in recent days due to an ankle injury.

S Caden Sterns: He did not practice Monday due to what Fangio termed as “a little irritation in the hip.”

Name to Know

S Jamar Johnson — The fifth-round pick flashed during OTAs, but training camp has been a different story. First, he opened camp on the COVID-19 reserve list. Then, when he returned, he found himself struggling to gain traction as Sterns, his fellow Day 3 draft safety, had made his move. Sterns underscored that with a powerful hit on Vikings receiver Whop Philyor, providing the final blow that prevented a touchdown after Philyor bobbled the ball. With Sterns and Marshall injured, Johnson should have a greater opportunity this week. “He needs to get rolling,” Fangio said.

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