This is a day late.
It’s supposed to be every Tuesday but we’re having some tech issues and I wasn’t able to get it out. Sorry. But here it is.
There’s a lot to dig into this week.
Tim Patrick tore his ACL. That sucks.
There are new owners. Which is cool.
We’re only a couple of days away from seeing the Broncos (well, some of them) take the field.
And this column got a little bit long, so remember the golden rule:
Read whichever sections sound interesting. Skip the rest. Or come back to them later if you want.
Two-deep through two weeks
I wrote this before the Broncos dropped their depth chart on Tuesday. I was going to delete it but I figured I might as well leave it in just in case you’re interested.
The Broncos are likely to release their first depth chart of 2022 sometime in the next couple of days, so I figured I’d take a stab at one of my own before the official one drops.
(Side note: The depth chart will be the first from Nathaniel Hackett and will give us our first feel for what his depth charts will look like. Will he take the Belichick route and share next-to-nothing by listing a bunch of co-starters? Will he actually give us a real look at where everybody stands? I’m excited to find out.)
The idea is to make a chart that reflects how things will shake out for Week 1. I’m not interested in who will make the roster or won’t (special teams value doesn’t matter here). I’m just listing out the players in order, even past the cutoff point in some cases.
Here’s what I’ve got.
QB: Russell Wilson, Josh Johnson
Brett Rypien has looked better than Johnson during camp but the margin has slimmed significantly in recent days.
RB: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone, Max Borghi
Borghi won’t make the roster but he’s put together a couple of solid practices. The practice squad would be a great place for the Colorado native.
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert, Eric Tomlinson, Greg Dulcich, Andrew Beck
The tight ends are the toughest group to place. They all do different things. They all will see the field. I tried to guess who will be on the field most when the season starts. Beck is probably too low considering he’s the starting fullback but I couldn’t put Dulcich last. The rookie will have a role even if he’s a couple of steps behind the others because of injury.
WR: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Montrell Washington, Kendall Hinton, Brandon Johnson
The Broncos have a clear big three after the Tim Patrick injury but everything else is up for grabs. Washington has easily been the best of the rest. Hinton is trustworthy but hasn’t made the plays some other depth receivers have. Johnson finishes sixth here but Trey Quinn, Seth Williams and others might be more deserving.
OL: Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Quinn Meinerz, Billy Turner, Netane Muti, Calvin Anderson, Graham Glasgow, Tom Compton, Luke Wattenberg
I’m banking on Turner being healthy by Week 1. It’s a bold bet. From there, everything feels pretty clear at this point. Compton finishes ahead of Wattenberg but is less likely to make the roster because of his age.
DL: D.J. Jones, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, DeShawn Williams, Eyioma Uwazurike, McTelvin Agim, Matt Henningsen
The top two are set in stone. The next two could be flipped around. The last three could go in any order.
EDGE: Randy Gregory, Bradley Chubb, Baron Browning, Malik Reed, Nik Bonitto
I’ll say that Gregory is back for Week 1. Baron Browning is winning the battle for the third spot, but Malik Reed is hot on his heels.
LB: Josey Jewell, Jonas Griffith, Alex Singleton, Justin Strnad
Jewell is the top dog but Griffith could take that spot soon. Singleton is firmly number three.
CB: Pat Surtain II, Ronald Darby, Damarri Mathis, Michael Ojemudia
Maybe Ojemudia has a case for three but this feels open and shut right now.
NICKEL: K’Waun Williams, Essang Bassey, Faion Hicks
The depth at nickel is concerning. Bassey and Hicks probably won’t both make the roster. Hopefully Williams stays healthy.
FS: Justin Simmons, PJ Locke
No questions here.
SS: Kareem Jackson, Caden Sterns
Once again, no questions.
P: Sam Martin, Corliss Waitman
Waitman may win this job, since the salaries give him a handicap. Martin still has the edge.
K: Brandon McManus
Roquan the Bronco?
Early Tuesday morning, 25-year-old linebacker Roquan Smith publicly demanded a trade from the Chicago Bears, the team that drafted him eighth-overall in 2018. Since that draft, Smith has earned two All-Pro nods while averaging 131 tackles per season.
Smith is one of the best linebackers in the game and the Broncos should absolutely make a move to go get him.
Can a deal be done? Maybe.
The Broncos are still missing some draft picks from the Russell Wilson trade, and giving up too many more would leave them severely lacking cheap talent in a couple of years. Plus, Smith is due a new contract after this season and it will likely take $20 million per year to lock him up longterm.
But the salary cap is easier to manipulate than ever before, especially with the big-money owners the Broncos will have by the end of Tuesday. And Smith would turn the one weakness of the Broncos’ defense into a clear strength.
With rumored interest in Anthony Barr and a workout with Joe Schobert in the last week, it’s easy to see the Broncos at least making the call to the Bears. (Second-year, second-round pick Teven Jenkins is reportedly on the block and would add talent to the Broncos’ right tackle competition. He would be a nice consolation prize.)
So what can the Broncos offer?
Malik Reed – The pass rusher is in the final year of team control and is unlikely to be around after this season. He’s a solid option in Denver but he’s also blocking some younger players. He isn’t a great scheme fit for Chicago. They may take him in place of Trevis Gipson on third downs, though.
Josey Jewell/Jonas Griffith – Sending back one of Denver’s starting inside linebackers probably makes sense in any deal for Smith. If Chicago isn’t interested, you’d probably still see one of these two (or maybe Alex Singleton) on the way out of town in exchange for a draft pick.
Netane Muti – The Bears need help in the trenches and the Broncos have some spare linemen on the bench. Muti leads the way, but Graham Glasgow could be an intriguing option for the Bears, too. Dalton Risner and Calvin Anderson could also be involved in these discussions.
Melvin Gordon – I don’t think the Broncos want to lose their two-headed monster in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, but maybe I’m wrong. Gordon would definitely be an upgrade over what the Bears have at running back.
Albert Okwuegbunam – The Bears already have Cole Kmet at tight end but the fanbase is split on him and two tight ends is never a bad thing. Giving up the speedster may not be easy but the Broncos have depth at the position and it takes good players to get good players.
Bradley Chubb – This is the ace in the hole for Denver. Both Chubb and Smith are playing on fifth-year options. Smith is better, in part because of his health, but Chubb would be a great start to any package, especially since retaining both Smith and Chubb after this season would be difficult. It would hurt to see him go before he returns to full-strength this season, but it may be tough to make a deal without him.
Draft picks – The Broncos have two in the third round, one in both the fourth and fifth rounds, and one in the seventh round this year. They’ve traded their 2024 sixth and added a 2024 seventh but have the rest of their natural picks in that draft.
An offer that should get the deal done: Bradley Chubb, 2023 third and 2024 fourth
A lowball that might get lucky: Netane Muti, Josey Jewell, 2024 second
Camp is almost done, so I graded the performance of the Broncos’ draft picks to this point.
Pick 64: EDGE Nik Bonitto (B-) Good bend and burst off the edge but not much notable from the Broncos’ top pick. Got into the backfield a couple of times but at least one of those was a blown blocking assignment. Flashes. Not much meat.
Pick 80: TE Greg Dulcich (D+) He’s hurt. His only team reps have come during a jog-through. Hopefully he gets the pads on soon because he has the potential to significantly improve this grade quickly.
Pick 115: CB Damarri Mathis (A-) Mathis has been sharp when playing downfield on the boundary. He isn’t just breaking up passes, he’s running receivers out of bounds and boxing them out so they have no shot at the ball. It’s beautiful stuff from a guy who I thought fit better in the slot, but kind of fits the Ronald Darby mold now that I see him play. He isn’t perfect, though. He’ll give up a catch or two underneath every day. It’s no big deal, this early on. The interception bumps him up into the A range.
Pick 116: DT Eyioma Uwazurike (C) The pads only just came on so evaluating the big guys is tough. It’s even tougher when the coaching staff doesn’t believe in one-on-one drills. And even tougher than that since he started dealing with an injury recently. Still, Uwazurike is in the process of carving out a role in the Broncos rotation and that’s a solid start for a fourth-round pick. A couple of flashes bump him up.
Pick 152: S Delarrin Turner-Yell (C-) I’m torn on this grade because a lot of it isn’t his fault. The Broncos have four safeties in front of him (Simmons, Jackson, Sterns, Locke) who are playing well. Turner-Yell is splitting the scraps and hasn’t made any notable plays.
Pick 162: WR Montrell Washington (A) Through the first week of practice, Montrell Washington is probably the top breakout performer (although Pat Surtain going from great to spectacular could give him a run). He’s made a play or two every day of camp and they all seem to be different. There was a touchdown as he ran across the back of the end zone. There was a toe tap on the sideline 20 yards downfield. There have been deep catches on slot fades and wheels. He scored a touchdown on an out route to close last Tuesday’s practice, then did a backflip in the end zone. For a guy who was expected to be the Broncos’ return man and nothing more, the well-roundedness as a receiver has been eye-opening. He’ll be on the field this fall. Nothing too notable this week keeps him from an A+.
Pick 171: C Luke Wattenberg (C+) The Broncos’ new center has a big body. It has stood out. But, like Uwazarike, there just isn’t a whole lot to grade him on yet. I think he’s competing for a roster spot with Graham Glasgow.
Pick 206: DE Matt Henningsen (B-) Big, strong defensive lineman. He isn’t carving out a spot in the rotation yet but he could be on the verge. A swatted pass and a couple of explosions into the backfield this week get him into the B range. Once again, small sample size for the big guys.
Pick 232: CB Faion Hicks (C) The Wisconsin grad has a chance to win best swag in training camp but he hasn’t done anything of note so far in camp. He’s battling well with the rookie receivers. He’s winning and losing just like you’d expect from him. He hasn’t made any notable plays.
Von Miller is getting toilet paper in the mail
So here’s a weird and short story about an old friend of ours…
Last week, Von Miller headed to St. John Fisher University for Buffalo Bills camp, where he stayed in the dorms with the rest of his teammates. He was asked by reporters about the setup and he broke down his room, including the fact that the “toilet paper is different.”
So Bills Mafia reached out.
“I just said like, ‘Hey, the toilet paper’s different,’ and like, boom, like boxes on boxes on boxes of toilet paper and wipes and stuff,” he said.
Buffalo is a strange place.
Trevor Penning won’t stop fighting
Left tackle Trevor Penning was one of the big risers of draft season, making his way into the middle of the first round out of FCS Northern Iowa. Teams were intrigued by his massive frame, dominant Senior Bowl performance and his mean streak.
Well, that mean streak has been an issue at Saints camp.
He started three fights in three days and was subsequently booted out of practice.
Marquise Brown arrested for speeding
The Cardinals gave up a first-round pick for Marquise Brown this offseason, but they could be without their new star receiver to start this season.
On Wednesday, Brown was arrested for driving his car 125 miles per hour. The arrest was made around 7 a.m., so a good bet would be that Brown was running late to practice or meetings or something.
Regardless of the reason, that’s just stupid.
Rich Ohrnberger intentional crashed his car
The six-year NFL vet started his career in New England in 2009. At some point while he was playing for Bill Belichick, his phone died overnight, his alarm didn’t go off and he was running late for practice.
When he realized he wasn’t going to be at the team facility in time, he intentionally ran his car into a church van in front of him. He wanted an excuse for his tardiness and photographic evidence. When he arrived at the facilities, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia told him “that stuff doesn’t work here.”
Ohrnberger told his story on his radio show on Xtra 1360 San Diego this week.
Dolphins lose draft picks
You wouldn’t know it based on their zero playoff wins in the last 21 years, but the Miami Dolphins are cheaters.
Miami trued to recruit coach Sean Payton and quarterback Tom Brady while they were under contract with other teams. The Dolphins will forfeit a 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick. Owner Stephen Ross was fined $1.5 million and suspended six weeks.
If you’re going to cheat, at least get some rings out of it like Tom does.
Kyler Murray calling plays
Two weeks after the NFL world found out about a first-of-its-kind clause in Kyler Murray’s contract that required him to study at least four hours per week, and one week after that clause was removed by the Cardinals due to public humiliation, Murray and the Cardinals are back in the news again.
Saleh: ‘Joe Flacco should be a starter’
Jets head coach Robert Saleh said this week that Joe Flacco should still be a starter in the NFL.
He’s wrong. Duh.
But I won’t slander him for this statement.
Before signing on with the Jets, Saleh worked for the Jimmy Garoppolo-led 49ers. Before that, he was with the Blake Bortles Jaguars. Before that, he was with the pre-Russell Wilson Seahawks.
The man must not know what an NFL quarterback looks like.
Nathaniel Hackett is a hugger
When Ben Braeden and McTelvin Agim traded swings during Broncos practice on Saturday, head coach Nathaniel Hackett made them hug—and then joined in himself—before he allowed practice to continue.
“I’ve been a hugger since I was born,” he said after practice. “I’ve been a hugger since I was born.”
Justin Reid has a boot
I, for one, was surprised when the Kansas City Chiefs decided to downgrade from safety Tyrann Mathieu to safety Justin Reid this offseason, while dishing out the same amount of cash.
On Sunday, I think I figured out why they pulled the trigger.
Reid hit a 65-yard field goal, proving he can provide some insurance in the kicking game if needed at some point down the road.
Rodgers does drugs
Aaron Rodgers shared this week that he did ayahuasca, a psychoactive beverage, while visiting the Amazon over the offseason.
This isn’t a surprise. To be honest, this probably shouldn’t be in the “wtf” section.
This is where we grade decisions coaches make.
Josh McDaniels: Running backs should get hit in preseason
Josh Jacobs was the star of the show when the Raiders took the field for the Hall of Fame game last week. That was odd, considering almost none of the other starters for either team played, but head coach Josh McDaniels explained his decision after the game.
“I always think it’s good for backs to carry the ball in the preseason,” McDaniels said. “There’s a lot of things that happen when you’re getting tackled and hit that you can’t simulate in practice. I think all our guys had the ball tonight. I think all our guys either caught it or were handed the ball and had to get tackled. We can’t really simulate that or rep that in practice.”
Honestly, I don’t mind it.
Health is the top priority in the preseason but running backs don’t get real reps during camp so giving them a handful of touches in the preseason makes sense. You want them coming out the gates running well in Week 1.
Plus, Josh Jacobs did not look close to injury at any point. He was tossing third-stringers left and right and none of them every got a hit on him.
Brian Daboll: Everybody will play in first game
This might be where I draw the line; playing your franchise quarterback in meaningless games might be an unnecessary risk.
But I do think everybody should get a little work and if you’re going to give them work, do it as far in advance of the season as possible to minimize the risk of missing games. Playing everybody Week 1 is fine but playing everybody in all three games is asking for trouble.
(Side note: Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said he’ll make decisions on who plays and when on a case-by-case basis. Getting everybody ready to go is important but the priority is evaluating the players who need to be evaluated. Some are starters. Some are fighting for rotation spots. Some are fighting for roster spots .I like this better than any sweeping decisions like “everybody will play.”)
Mike McDaniel: Marino better than Elway
The new Dolphins head coach said this week that he now believes that Dan Marino was better than John Elway.
Previously, he was Team Elway thanks to growing up in Denver.
We’ll give him a pass since he’s pandering to his new crowd and it’s clear what he believes deep down.
John Harbuagh: A 47-yard kick to end practice early
The Ravens head coach offered Justin Tucker a 47-yard field goal to end practice 40 minutes early.
He made it. Because he’s Justin Tucker.
I almost love this idea.
It’s a great way to simulate a pressure kick, but 47 yards is too easy for the greatest kicker in NFL history. Either make it 57 yards or make it to end practice 15 minutes early. Justin Tucker from 47 yards for 40 minutes off is too easy.
Carl Lawson: ‘Sauce’ must earn nickname
Lawson isn’t a coach but the vibe here is coach-y so I’m going to include him here.
New first-round pick Ahmad Gardner goes by “Sauce” but Lawson said the team isn’t calling him that until he earns his nickname. (Gardner has been a beast so far in Jets Camp but that doesn’t count when it comes to earning his name.)
Hazing in locker rooms is played out but I think I’m on board with the Jets’ decision to make Gardner earn his nickname. It’ll be a fun moment when he picks off the sideline and everybody calls him Sauce.
Mike Tomlin: The Steelers respect lightning
Here in Colorado, there’s no need to respect Lightning.
Buy or Sell
Buy: Frank Clark will return to form
Kansas City’s big-money edge rusher hasn’t had double-digit sacks in a season since 2018, but he’s changing his diet, working out more and has reportedly lost 35 pounds this offseason. I’m officially scared.
Buy: Isiah Pacheco is the Chiefs’ top runner
The rookie running back joined Kansas City in the seventh round but he is making a lot of noise. The bowling ball runner could be the starter—especially by the time the Broncos and Chiefs face off in January—and he’s a virtual lock to be the kick returner. Once again, I’m officially scared. Maybe Pacheco wearing No. 10 is getting to me. Andy Reid calling him a mixture of Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy but bigger definitely doesn’t help.
Sell: Mecole Hardman is taking the Tyreek Hill role
We’re sticking with the Chiefs here. I absolutely believe Hardman will be the guy Andy Reid turns to when he tries to replicate Tyreek Hill. But I don’t buy that Hardman can fill that role in a way that makes him look similar at all to Hill. Half of the Tyreek plays should be thrown out of the playbook now that he’s gone.
Sell: Jalen Reagor is ‘battling for a spot’ on the roster
Heading into Year 3, the former first-round draft pick has been a major disappointment in Philadelphia. But I’m not buying that he’s at risk of missing the team on cutdown day. Maybe the Chiefs should reach out if things don’t go well in camp.
Buy: Kellen Mond is battling for a roster spot
Why Mond was hyped up before the draft still doesn’t make sense, but after an incredibly poor showing as a rookie, some ugly comments from his coaches and a reportedly terrible camp, the quarterback’s time in Minnesota could absolutely be running short.
Sell: The Patriots are a mess
Bill Belichick made some bold decisions this offseason but I’m not panicking. Read into Mac Jones having a couple of bad practices in a new system if you want, but I’ll bet on the Pats solving their problems until I see them struggle on the field myself. Switching to a zone blocking scheme probably wasn’t a great idea though.
Buy: Jared Goff and DJ Chark can be dangerous
I’ve spent too much time trying to tamp down the Lions hype building inside me. It’s a terrible problem to have. As of right now, it’s still there and the debut of this season of Hard Knocks on Tuesday surely won’t help. Goff has been lighting up camp behind one of the league’s top offensive lines. Detroit doesn’t have the juice to do any serious damage, especially with first-round wide receiver Jameson Williams on the shelf for the start of the season, but six or seven wins seems manageable in a division with the Bears and Vikings.
Isaiah McKenzie – The 27-year-old former Bronco has taken over the starting slot reps for the Bills, knocking Jamison Crowder to the bench.
Baker Mayfield – Ian Rapoport says Mayfield has the “inside track” for the starting job at this point. The decision won’t be made until after the Panthers play the Patriots in Week 2 of the preseason.
Isaiah McKenzie – The former Broncos’ receiver is taking the starting slot reps for the Bills, pushing Jamison Crowder to the second unit.
JK Dobbins – The Ravens running back is off the PUP list but may not be ready for Week 1.
Ja’Wuan James – The former Broncos tackle is currently practicing as the starting left tackle for the Ravens while Ronnie Stanley is on the PUP list.
Derek Stingley – The third-overall pick is finally practicing with the Texans and he’s living up to the draft hype.
Justin Fields – The second-year quarterback will play in the Bears’ first preseason game.
Michael Thomas – The Saints’ wide receiver is back practicing and making noise.
Diontae Johnson – The Steelers’ wide receiver signed a new 2-year, $32 million deal after holding in during camp.
Anthony Barr – The linebacker chose the Cowboys over the Broncos and went straight to the PUP. His role is to play off the ball so Micah Parsons can rush the quarterback.
Justin Tucker – The greatest kicker of all time signed another record-setting contract for a kicker.
Tim Patrick – The Broncos’ wide receiver tore his ACL and will miss the season.
Melvin Gordon – The Broncos’ running back missed Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury.
Kareem Hunt – The 27-year-old running back is demanding a trade as he looks for a new contract, which the Browns probably won’t give him.
Mekhi Becton – The third-year Jets tackle went down with a knee injury and the current fear is that he’ll miss the season.
Grade the Takes
NFL.com: Russell Wilson already has a Hall-of-Fame resume
B+ – Wilson is probably a Hall of Famer if he retires tomorrow (though I really, really hope he doesn’t). More and more quarterbacks are getting into the Hall of Fame as the NFL makes it easier and easier to put up big passing numbers. I hate that. But Wilson deserves to be in, especially with the bar dropping lower.
ESPN: The Broncos’ have the 23rd-best core of under-25 players
D+ – Pat Surtain. Jerry Jeudy. Javonte Williams. Baron Browning. Quinn Meinerz. Albert Okwuegbunam. Lloyd Cushenberry. KJ Hamler. Caden Sterns. And all the rookies. There’s top-end talent and plenty of depth.
NFL.com: Bradley Chubb is the 22nd-best free agent in the 2023 class
A- – You could make the case that Chubb should be in front of David Montgomery, Saquon Barkley, James Bradberry or some of the others, but when you weigh his injury history, production and positional value, I think he’s in about the right spot. Dalton Risner is one of nine players listed in the “Just Missed” category, outside of the top 25.
CBS Sports: The Broncos have the eighth-best backfield in the NFL
B+ – At first glance, this ranking seems low. But Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are one spot in front of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. That’s probably fair. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard probably shouldn’t be in sixth, though. You could argue the Broncos should be higher, but they’re in the right range in my opinion.
Post of the Week
Derek Carr is playing on a $121 million contract.
Davante Adams just signed a new $140 million deal.
Hunter Renfrow has a new $32 million contract.
Mack Hollins is making $2 million this year, which doesn’t sound like much compared to the other guys but he’s still got plenty of cash in his pocket.
But when Renfrow ordered an Uber for the four of them, he chose the economic route.
Question of the Week
Where will Jimmy Garoppolo end up?
Answer correctly and you’ll get bonus points.