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ENGLEWOOD, CO - AUGUST 20: Denver Broncos quarterbacks Jeff Driskel #9, Drew Lock #3, and Brett Rypien #4 stretch as head coach Vic Fangio walks past during a training session at UCHealth Training Center on August 20, 2020 in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
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Mile High Monday: Notes from the Broncos first rookie minicamp

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos and the rest of the league kicked off rookie minicamp this week. Things changed a few years ago in rookie minicamp, and the players don’t really do what they used to do in terms of football activities on the field.

I like when the rookies show up to work for the first time. We don’t get to see as much football work as we used to in rookie minicamp, but you can still get an idea of who these players are and where they are at this early stage.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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It’s Never 50/50

Stop me if you’ve heard this before; the Broncos are going to have a quarterback competition and the reps are going to be split 50-50.

Drew Lock was the starter last year, but he performed poorly, so that’s why the team went out and traded for veteran Teddy Bridgewater. With an experienced veteran like Bridgewater, Lock will be pushed for the starting job in a way he’s never been before.

When asked if Lock was the incumbent, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio had this to say.

“It’s totally 50-50. Maybe I’ll flip a coin to see who takes the absolute first snap of the offseason and training camp. By the end of day, meaning by the end of training camp—before those guys make the decision for us with their play—it’s going to be a 50-50 proposition. It’s not going to be 50-50 every day, but over the course of this offseason and training camp, it will be,” Fangio said.

Fangio can say what he wants about the reps being equal, until they’re not equal. It’s going to be 50-50 even though some days it won’t be is code for this is not going to be an equal amount of reps. In fact, I think this situation favors Bridgewater.

If both quarterbacks play like they have in the past, Bridgewater has the advantage. First, he doesn’t have much to learn in the offense because he already knows most of it from working under Pat Shurmur in Minnesota. Second, Bridgewater has never had a collection of offensive weapons around him like he does in Denver and should be able to take advantage of that. Third, he should be more careful with the ball than Lock and that may end up being the tiebreaker.

Lock has a gunslinger mentality, although he has been working on the mental side of the game. Whereas Bridgewater already makes full field reads, Lock has a propensity to read one side of the field as over 68 percent of his passes went to the right in 2020 per Pro Football Focus (anyone who watched the film should have seen this).

Lock had the most interceptions of any quarterback in the league last year and needs to clean that up in a hurry. If he’s trying to be “safe” with the ball in practice, then he might not be letting it rip and playing naturally. His play style has been to take chances dating back to his days in college – but it’s that style that could end up costing him the starting spot.

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Gut Check

The Broncos have a fan favorite in “The Gut” rookie guard Quinn Meinerz. A third-round pick out of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, his internet training videos have made him incredibly popular in Broncos Country. In his first day of rookie minicamp, Meinerz was letting his gut hang out as he went through practice – and fans love to see it.

Meinerz is a huge prospect, but he actually dropped 20 pounds last year in preparation for the NFL Draft. That’s why you saw him working out on an island in Canada throwing around logs, propane tanks and whatever he could get his hands on. Meinerz was a starting guard who taught himself how to play center by snapping to a garbage can in these workouts.

The Senior Bowl gave him an invite, and Meinerz was a standout player at center going up against some of the best college prospects in the country. In his first week with the Broncos, offensive line coach Mike Munchak has put him at the center position as well – although he’s expected to learn both positions.

Meinerz is a player who won’t take anything for granted. He didn’t have football last year due to COVID-19, and he’s grateful for the opportunity now in front of him.

“It’s always a privilege to get out there and get on the field. Going back to college and having that season cancelled, the only time on field I had was the Senior Bowl. It always a great experience to jog back out on that field and get ready to play some football.” Meinerz said.

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Playing Faster

I was over the moon when the Broncos selected Ohio State linebacker Baron Browning at the end of the third round in the 2021 NFL Draft. I don’t want to upset starting inside linebackers Alexander Johnson or Josey Jewell, but the weak spot on the defense is at that position. Browning is here to upgrade the position and get the team a modern ILB who can tackle, rush, and cover.

I was a bit worried after the draft when Fangio was talking about cross-training Browning at inside and outside linebacker. Browning’s game at Ohio State was raw because he was moving between positions and never really got to focus on just one spot. The Broncos have made the mistake in years past of cross-training players and I didn’t want them to do that with a player who has tremendous upside like Browning.

Fangio responded to a question about Browning playing both positions and if it was like the Justin Hollins situation a few years ago.

“Not just with Justin. It’s happened with a lot of guys over the years, who had experience at both (inside and outside linebacker). Each individual is different as far as how quick they pick up two positions and which position is best for them, which position they’re most comfortable with and which position you need them at the most. It’s always different gymnastics every time you undertake a linebacker that has some versatility. We are going to leave him at inside linebacker here for a good bit, see how he does and go from there,” Fangio said.

Browning could start from day one for the Broncos at inside linebacker. While Johnson is a thumper, he’s a player you don’t want on the field in passing situations. Browning is the player you can leave out there on all three downs. He can rush the passer from the middle if asked, but his athleticism and football intelligence make him a great coverage player. The Broncos face some of the best tight ends in the league in their own division (Darren Waller, Travis Kelce) and having a player like Browning will help them slow down those type of weapons.

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The Last Don

Look up the word “hustler” in the dictionary and you’ll likely see a picture of Master P. The hip hop mogul has done it all, selling millions of records along the way and being one of the most influential rappers of his time.

On Sunday, I saw that Master P was trending and feared the worst. I thought maybe he was getting “cancelled” or perhaps something even worse. I was relieved to see that it was just people comparing current rap star J Cole and Master P. J Cole has just released his sixth album, but he signed a basketball contract with the Rwanda Patriots Basketball Club, which is part of the Basketball Africa League.

This had people of the internet going back to the time in the late ’90s when Master P played in the preseason with the Charlotte Hornets (and the next year with the Toronto Raptors). Master P never played in a regular season game for either team, but he was pursuing his hoop dreams after dominating the charts with his record company “No Limit.”

Did you listen to Master P back in the day? Hit me up on social media and let me know!

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