On Friday, things started to heat up even more in Broncos training camp. The players are getting used to their schedule for camp, and you can see a comfort level that wasn’t there early in camp when things kicked off.
This might have been the most balanced day of practice so far. Players on both sides of the ball were making plays, and I can’t say that the offense won or the defense won on Friday.
Here are my five biggest observations from day three of training camp:
Drew Lock had a terrible day on Thursday, but he came back with a solid performance in practice on Friday. I think it was another close day. In fact, I commented to several of my cohorts at The Fan that things felt like they did on Day 1 of camp — too close to call.
I’m going to give it to Lock on Friday, but not because of the big touchdown throw he made to a wide open K.J. Hamler. That’s the play most are talking about, but it’s not the reason I’d give him the nod in a close competition.
I feel Lock did more of what we haven’t seen him do enough of; He led his receivers properly. Lock has a big arm, and hitting a wide open receiver down the field isn’t overly impressive because we’ve seen him do that before. On short throws, Lock was more precise with where he put the ball. He still looks somewhat awkward throwing short, but at least he wasn’t making his receivers work harder to gather in the ball.
Broncos starting tight end Noah Fant believes the quarterback competition has been good.
“I think the quarterback competition is going good. I think both quarterbacks are doing great. Drew (Lock) is showing some really good things. Teddy is being a leader. Obviously, it’s not my job to choose which one wins the job, but I like catching passes from both, I’ll be honest with you. I think they are different in their own way, but they are both really good quarterbacks for us. That’s who we’re riding with. I couldn’t tell you which one it’s going to be, but it’s going to be one of them,” Fant said.
The quarterback competition will dominate the headlines until a starter is named. Even after that, I expect both quarterbacks to play at some point in the 2021 season. We’re just learning who will be the starter at the beginning of the regular season, and there is no guarantee the winner — no matter who it is — stays in that spot for 17 games.
Courtland Sutton is in a contract year with the Broncos. It’s the final year of his rookie deal, and he’s coming back from the knee injury that forced him out of action for most of the 2020 season. The Broncos are easing him into action, and he doesn’t quite look like his old self yet.
Sutton “is still holding back a little bit” and displaying “a little hesitancy” early in training camp, according to head coach Vic Fangio. That’s a fair assessment of what’s going on with Sutton, and he’s not trying to push things too hard at this moment. On the practice field, you’ll see Sutton working with his knee brace and getting used to moving with that new piece of equipment.
He doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness he used to. It’s early, and I don’t expect him to be fully back less than a year removed from his 2020 injury. I’m glad the Broncos are easing him back into action as you don’t want any setbacks.
Sutton is only going to play in one preseason game per Fangio. This means the Broncos will save up Sutton as much as they can, then put him out there for one game just to get him used to getting hit again. After three days of practice, you can see that Sutton is still on the road to recovery.
Pat Surtain II is a fine prospect, and he’s got the ability to start for the Broncos in Week 1 of the regular season. In addition to what he can do on the outside as a cornerback, Surtain can also play some dime linebacker if need be.
The tight end position is no longer a big-bodied blocker who lines up as an extra offensive lineman. Instead, these guys are athletic weapons who can attack a defense down the deep middle seam. Today’s tight ends are threats to score, and they are mismatches against most inside linebackers or safeties tasked with covering them.
While the Broncos inside linebackers Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell struggle in coverage, Surtain could be the “tight end killer” for the Broncos.
There is no rookie curve for Surtain according to veteran Ronald Darby.
“He has a lot of natural abilities like getting his head back for the ball, playing the ball, just focusing on the ball. He gets up there, compete, press, play off the ball. (He’s) patient, willing to learn, doesn’t complain. He works hard,” Darby said.
The Broncos picked up Surtain for many reasons, but shutting down tight ends will be part of his duty. Just like former Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib used to do when tasked with covering guys like Rob Gronkowski, Surtain will play a major role when it comes to stopping the new weapons of the NFL.
The Broncos don’t get to put on pads until Day 6 of training camp per the new collective bargaining agreement. That means we won’t see any fights until then, most likely. However, you certainly feel an energy brewing in practice without the pads.
Broncos starting guard Dalton Risner was asked about potential training camp altercations.
“Anything brewing? Something’s always brewing man. Something’s always brewing in the trenches. We haven’t had a full-fledged fight break out, but we’re Day 3. Usually about a week into camp everyone starts getting a little grouchy, coach says it’s going to be a two-and-a-half-hour practice, we throw the full pads on. You guys want to be there for that day. I’ll probably be in the middle of it, for sure,” Risner said.
Temperatures rise in August. On the football field tempers can flare and players can get into a shoving match when they’ve had enough. I want everyone to stay healthy and safe, but I am rooting to see some of that shoving when the pads come on.
During the first two days of camp, Calvin Anderson was starting at right tackle. This was a bit of a surprise based on the team’s moves in free agency to add both Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming. On Friday, it was Massie’s turn to start.
On a day where the quarterbacks had their best day collectively, it’s interesting to note that Massie was the right-side protector.
It’s only one day of starting, but Fangio likes what he’s seen because of the increased tempo.
“And again, I mean, the tempo of practice is a little more up than what you saw in OTAs and minicamp but still, we’ve got to get the pads on to make a true evaluation of the front guys,” Fangio said.
I think Massie is the starter for the Broncos. I believe Anderson is good enough to be the active swing tackle for the Broncos this year. I also believe that Fleming will be the high-priced veteran who makes the team but is inactive on gameday. We’ll see if that’s how things shake out.
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