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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos have hit the halfway point in training camp.
“You come in off the drills and you say, ‘What are we doing well? What aren’t we doing well?’” head coach Sean Payton said after practice. “That’s every period, and specifically, when it gets to the preseason and you’re playing a game. I think the easier thing for us is to look at what we’re doing well and what we’re not and the reason [why] as opposed to the sum total all the time. Especially in the red zone. Yesterday’s red zone period was average at best, so we’ll be back in the red zone again. I think there’s a little bit more of a journey to it. It’s not daily thing where you’re coming in and you have a crisis.”
Here are my biggest takeaways so far in camp:
- Russell Wilson hasn’t been a world-beater by any means. He’s thrown far more interceptions than touchdowns. But it’s still early, and Payton should put him in good situations during the season.
- The pass rush looks good. Jonathon Cooper and Nik Bonitto in particular have surprised me.
- The secondary might be the best in the league. The defense as a whole looks like it should be right up there, too.
Here’s what happened during Friday’s practice, which was in full pads for the fourth time…
- OLB Frank Clark arrived late to practice, but participated fully when on the field. He missed two practices earlier this week.
- DL DJ Jones missed his second-consecutive practice on Friday. He worked on the side field.
The Broncos held their first two-minute drills of camp on Friday, and the Broncos’ offense started slowly.
The starters took the field with 1:48 in the game, down six points with two timeouts and the ball on their own 25.
Mike McGlinchey was called for a false start, Greg Dulcich was called for a false start, and all of a sudden it was 1st & 20. Russell Wilson hit Samaje Perine in the flat and started the clock. On the next play, Jonathan Harris batted a ball at the line of scrimmage high into the air and Randy Gregory fielded the fly ball.
Sean Payton was not impressed by the pre-snap penalties.
“There is a point at which you pull the player out,” Payton said. “There is an emphasis to it, but it has to be more than just that. It has to go away.”
Right guard Quinn Meinerz agreed.
“It’s unacceptable,” Meinerz said of the two-minute drill. “That’s not the kind of offense that we’re going to be this year.”
Payton also shouted out Jonathan Harris for his drive-ending deflection.
“He’s a guy who has opened some eyes a little bit,” Payton said. “It was a good play. I think it’s harder for that group just because we are just getting going. We are getting into the inside run periods, and we are getting into these team runs. So far, I think he’s done a good job.”
The second-team offense took the field in the same scenario. Jarrett Stidham hit Tyler Badie for an eight-yard gain. Then he hit Marquez Callaway on the sideline on back-to-back plays.
Then the drive stalled. Callaway couldn’t haul in a low ball on the sideline on his third-straight target. Luke Wattenberg snapped the next ball too low, so Stidham had to fall on it. Then Albert Okwuegbunam false started. On 4th & 18, Aaron Patrick would have sacked Stidham in a game situation, but Stidham was allowed to scramble for a short gain.
Things picked up for the starters in their second and final two-minute drill, when they took the field with 1:29 left in the theoretical game, down three with the ball at their own 38. They had one timeout.
Russell Wilson hit Adam Trautman in the flat twice, setting up a 3rd & 6. Jerry Jeudy ran a hitch on the boundary and gained enough separation from Damarri Mathis to pick up up seven yards and step out of bounds.
With 50 seconds remaining and the ball at midfield, the defense sent a blitz. K’Waun Williams and PJ Locke made it into the backfield and forced a throwaway. Then Wilson picked up six on a ball to the sideline, which set up a Javonte Williams run up the middle and a quick timeout.
Wilson hit Sutton on an out past Pat Surtain and tried to do the same thing on the next play, but a blitz from the defense forced a high ball and Sutton couldn’t real it in. Another blitz forced another throwaway. The Broncos brought Maher out for a 52-yard field goal to force overtime as time expired, and he hit.
This won’t be the last two-minute work we see at camp.
“We just have to keep emphasizing the things that are important,” Payton said. “There is a two-minute drill at the end of every half. Someone is [running] two-minute to get a field goal before halftime and maybe a touchdown. At the end of most games, there is a two minute drill because most games end within seven points. When the season is over and you look at that cutup, there are over 120, 130, 150 snaps with two-minute offense and defense.”
Russell Wilson holds his own
The bulk of Wilson’s work came in short-clock drills. As you saw above, the results were mixed.
Up to that point, Wilson had been solid. The ball didn’t hit the ground in seven-on-seven drills. His big play was a ball to Greg Dulcich who split deep zone defenders on a seam route. Justin Simmons probably would have gotten to the tight end before he made it to the end zone. Wilson also hit short throws to Jerry Jeudy, Tyler Badie and Courtland Sutton on a comeback route past Damarri Mathis.
On the first play of team drills, Nik Bonitto flew around Adam Trautman for a sack. Since tackling the quarterback isn’t allowed, Wilson stepped up in the pocket and targeted Jerry Jeudy but the ball hit the ground a couple of yards short. Wilson stepped up in the pocket again in the second round of team drills and hit Jerry Jeudy across the middle for a gain of 12 yards. He also hit Brandon Johnson on a screen, but Pat Surtain blew the play up. His biggest play of team drills was a short throw across the middle to Semaje Perine, who had space to run up the sideline for at least 20 yards. Wilson also had a nice run and a good rollout that didn’t result in a completion.
Nik Bonitto and Frank Clark stand out
The Broncos’ edge rushers had a great day again on Friday.
Frank Clark made back-to-back plays in team drills, helping Zach Allen for a tackle for loss and then stuffing a run himself. Later on, he and Jonathon Cooper converged in the backfield to flush Russell Wilson from the pocket.
Nik Bonitto continued a great week of work with sacks of Jarret Stidham and Russell Wilson in team drills. He also blew by tight end Tommy Hudson for a tackle for loss, with Zach Allen also in the backfield.
The Broncos held one-on-ones for the third time during camp on Friday. The corners and receivers battled. So did the pass rushers and the offensive linemen.
“One-on-ones are a ‘Twitter drill,’ some people say,” Quinn Meinerz said after practice. “It really is working our craft, working something new. It’s not necessarily about the wins and losses. It’s about, were your feet in the right position? Were your hands working the right thing? It’s the same thing for the defensive line. They get an opportunity to work a pass-rush move that maybe they’re not working in team, because it is truly a one-on-one situation. There is some value when it comes to one-on-ones.”
Don’t forget that wide receivers have a massive advantage over defensive backs, since there’s no pressure on the quarterback and the defender is left on an island.
Here’s what happened…
- Jerry Jeudy stacked Pat Surtain and broke on a comeback route, but couldn’t bring the ball in as he went to the ground.
- Courtland Sutton beat Damarri Mathis on a comeback route and made the catch. Mathis was called for pass interference in the end zone on a deep ball to Jerry Jeudy.
- Ja’Quan McMillian was called for holding Brandon Johnson down the sideline. McMillian broke up a pass to Kendall Hinton later on.
- Nick Williams beat Fabian Moreau but the deep ball was underthrown and Moreau knocked the ball away at the last second.
- Taylor Grimes beat Justin Simmons on a slant. It’s the third time he’s beaten Simmons in one-on-ones camp.
- Jonathon Cooper beat Mike McGlinchey around the edge.
- Jonathan Harris beat Quinn Meinerz twice.
- Lloyd Cushenberry probably could have been called for holding PJ Mustipher but won the rep. Cushenberry stuffed Jonathan Harris too.
- Zach Allen pushed Ben Powers a couple of steps backward but couldn’t get around him. Their second rep was similar, and Powers might have been a little grabby.
- Randy Gregory beat Cam Fleming around the edge.
- Isaiah Prince stuffed Jonathon Cooper and Christopher Allen. Alex Palczewski also beat Allen, as well as a Marcus Haynes bull rush.
- Elijah Garcia and Quinn Bailey split their reps.
- Luke Wattenberg beat Jordan Jackson, but Jackson got by Henry Byrd with a nasty spin move.
- Matt Henningsen cooked Kyle Fuller and Henry Byrd. He also had a pressure past Luke Wattenberg in team drills.
- Thomas Incoom blew by Demontrey Jacobs with a swim move.
A few more things you should know…
- Sean Payton is happy with his offensive line. “I like where it’s at. Yeah, I like where it’s at a lot.”
- Kareem Jackson picked off Jarret Stidham during team drills. Jalen Virgil beat his man up the sideline, but Stidham left too much air under the ball and Jackson swooped in.
- Kendall Hinton joined Montrell Washington and Marvin Mims Jr. catching punts.
- Alex Singleton burst into the backfield for a tackle for loss during nine-on-sevens.
- Quinn Meinerz and Ben Powers combined for a pancake of Zach Allen during nine-on-sevens.
- Marcus Haynes had a tackle for loss on an outside run.
- Jaleel McLaughlin had the longest run of the day.
- Ben DiNucci hit Kendall Hinton across the middle 25 yards downfield during team drills. He hit Greg Dulcich for 20 yards down the middle a few plays later. Payton on Hinton: “He’s got good hips. He’s fluid. I think he can change direction pretty well. He does have some football instincts. This is an important camp for him. He’s got a chance to be a slot-type receiver. He’s smart.”
- Michael Burton had a great block on a power run to free up Tyler Badie for a decent gain.