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Training Camp 2021
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Training Camp Observations: The defense strikes back on day two

The weather was a little better for the Denver Broncos as they continued training camp on Thursday out at UC Health Training Center. It was still hot, but at least there was some cloud cover and a slight breeze to help cool things off and things heated up on the field.

Having one good day of practice is something to note. Having consistent performances every day is something else.

Some players who were standouts on day one did not come through on the second day. Some players who did great in day one followed that up with a strong performance on day two. Some players haven’t recorded a good day yet.

Here are my five biggest observations from day two of training camp.

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Inconsistency Again

On Wednesday, Drew Lock was the better quarterback – ever so slightly – over Teddy Bridgewater. On Thursday, it was Bridgewater who was the better player, and it wasn’t even close.

As expected, Bridgewater is steady with what he does every snap. He had the throw of the day early in practice, hitting wide receiver Tim Patrick on a deep toss to the left side of the field. Bridgewater saw the window open up, patiently waited to throw the ball and then deftly put the ball in a spot where Patrick could run under it and go into the end zone.

Bridgewater isn’t known for those type of big 40-plus yard throws, but he will take his deep shot if it develops. Lock is known for the big plays, but he failed to connect on any “wow” plays like he did on day one.

Lock was largely inconsistent – again – with his performance and he could not find a rhythm as practice went on. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but there were two passes that could have been picked off.

Lock was sprinkling some passes underneath at the beginning of practice, and I liked that he was taking what the defense was giving him. As the day went on, Lock tried to make some big plays but did not connect. He was holding onto the ball too long, and Lock was failing to see windows open up on the opposite side of the field (usually to the left). Like Wednesday, Lock did heat up late and in red zone 7-on-7, he did toss a couple of touchdowns, but it was a little too late to turn his day around.

He won day one – barely. But Lock won’t win the job if he can’t put back-to-back good days together at training camp.

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Middle Punch

The Broncos have a strong defense in the middle, especially on the defensive line. On Thursday, guys like Shelby Harris and McTelvin Agim made plays for their defense. This defense had some revenge today after letting the offense get them for a group of touchdowns on Wednesday.

Harris made sure to do what he does best – bat the ball down. There was one play that Lock wanted to hit the ball over the middle, but it was Harris who knocked the pass at the line of scrimmage. He was getting middle push and timed his leap just right to get his hand up and make sure the pass didn’t go anywhere. It was a great play for Harris and one of the more frustrating plays for Lock on Thursday.

Agim is a backup player for the Broncos defense, so his big play came against third-string quarterback Brett Rypien. He was one of my favorite players in the 2020 NFL Draft. I was impressed with Agim on film, but also during the week of practice for the East-West Shrine Game. I thought the Broncos picked up a value pick when they added him in the third round. While he rotated in for 141 snaps as a rookie, Agim is looking for more snaps in his second season.

Like Harris, Agim made his presence felt on the defensive line by pushing the pocket and batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage. It was a scrum after Agim’s batted pass and some fans in attendance say he came down with the ball. I didn’t see that, but I know Agim is athletic and could one day score one of those “big man touchdowns” from a deflection.

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Lindsay-like

Much to the chagrin of Broncos Country, running back Phillip Lindsay is no longer with the team. They parted ways with Lindsay earlier this year and he signed with the Houston Texans. The Broncos have a player who always reminded me of Lindsay in LeVante Bellamy.

It looks like Bellamy could make a strong push for the 53-man roster. The running back room is jam-packed with talent in co-starters Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. Behind those two, Bellamy is trying to work his way into the mix.

He must have impressed the team so far because he was getting some important work in certain drills. Per Broncos media policy, I can’t say what Bellamy was doing, but just know this team wants to highlight what he can do in space as both a runner and receiving option.

Like Lindsay, Bellamy is a smaller back who is an “inside/out” runner. He can lose defenders as he hides behind blockers and when there’s a bit of daylight Bellamy turns on the burst. Bellamy can eat up yards quickly and can flip the field in the blink of an eye. With more performances like he had on Thursday, Bellamy is going to make it tough for the Broncos to release him and try to sneak him on the practice squad.

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Timmay!

One of the best wide receivers on the roster is Tim Patrick – and he’s the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver on the depth chart. Patrick was a fine starter for the Broncos in 2020, but that was when Courtland Sutton was out due to a knee injury. With Sutton back at practice and ready to play, Patrick is now relegated to a reserve role and he shouldn’t be.

Patrick could start for many teams around the league. I’ve suggested the New Orleans Saints, down superstar wide receiver Michael Thomas until Week 7, should pick up the phone and call the Broncos for Patrick. The Broncos have no room for Patrick if everyone is healthy, and that’s a shame because his talent is so high.

Trading away Patrick would sting, but it would be so he can get a starting job elsewhere. Patrick made play after play in practice on Thursday. Not only did he make the big catch for Bridgewater early in practice, Patrick came through for Lock in the red zone.

Patrick has a fine size/speed combination and he’s one of the hungriest players in the NFL. I’m certain he’s not happy being a backup, and his talent makes him an intriguing asset that other teams would covet. I know Patrick can be a fine starter – everyone does based on what he did last year – I just think it might be best for him to move on. If you stubbornly keep him, then you’ll lose him and get nothing in return when he leaves in 2022 free agency.

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Love Tap

Kareem Jackson loves to hit. This time of training camp must be frustrating for him as they don’t have pads on, and he can’t hit or tackle his teammates.

That doesn’t mean Jackson won’t give out some “love taps” here and there.

When Gordon was running through the line of scrimmage, he met Jackson in the hole and promptly was stopped. Jackson didn’t do anything dirty or excessive, he just let Gordon know that he was there. He tapped Gordon on the helmet after the play, and I’m sure Jackson said a thing or two at the veteran back.

The pads can’t come on soon enough for Jackson and company. The Broncos defense was better today, and I have a feeling that most days at training camp they’ll get the better of the offense. When Jackson’s in pads, then “thudding up” his teammates will just be a thing. We got a glimpse of that today.