BRONCOS

Three things to watch for at Denver Broncos minicamp

Jun 11, 2022, 10:02 AM | Updated: Jun 15, 2022, 10:32 am
DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 22: Melvin Gordon #25 of the Denver Broncos carries the ball for a touc...
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The Broncos’ 2022 offseason work ends this week, with the only three mandatory days on the pre-camp calendar looming.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Broncos will hold their minicamp. Thus, you can expect to see all healthy players present and accounted for — including running back Melvin Gordon III.

Gordon has been one of the NFL’s most durable running backs in recent years. Thus, it’s hard to quibble with his offseason methodology of working away from team headquarters in this, his eighth season. But how he fits into the outside-zone scheme will bear monitoring this week.

What else is worth watching at minicamp?

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1. WHERE DOES THE O-LINE STAND?

With two potential starters largely unavailable throughout the offseason, the line is in flux.

Projected right tackle Billy Turner continues to work his way back from a knee injury suffered in December; he watched recent OTAs from the sideline, taking mental reps. In the interim, Tom Compton, Ben Braden and Calvin Anderson all got some work at that spot during the open-to-media OTAs.

Graham Glasgow, the season-opening starter at right guard last year, saw his first team-period work since last November on June 6. Glasgow said he remains at “85 percent” as he continues to work his way back from a fractured ankle. His recovery left the right guard duties to Quinn Meinerz and Netane Muti in recent weeks. Muti, a third-year veteran, also saw some brief work at left guard during the May 31 OTA.

Obviously, training-camp work with full pads will reveal more. But what will Muti and the others continue doing with their opportunities? The competition for spots up front is likely to continue into training camp.

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2. WHO MAXIMIZES THEIR OPPORTUNITIES?

Muti has impressed with quick feet that belie his stout frame and power background up front. Lloyd Cushenberry, the incumbent at center, appears to have consolidated his position with a combination of intelligence and chemistry with new quarterback Russell Wilson.

But there are others on the roster carpeing that springtime diem, so to speak. Take safety P.J. Locke, whose fill-in work for Kareem Jackson turned heads, earning praise from Justin Simmons. Locke started OTAs strongly with a touchdown-saving pass deflection in a red-zone period and built his play from there. Wide receiver Kendall Hinton made himself into a trusted safety-valve target of Wilson after seeing more first-team work.

And with Ronald Darby limited to individual-period work, Michael Ojemudia shone in his place, appearing to recapture the promise he displayed in his 2020 rookie campaign. Ojemudia earned praise from fellow cornerback Pat Surtain II last week.

“He’s made plays throughout these OTAs,” Surtain said of Ojemudia on June 9. “He’s been ballin’.”

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3. WHAT HAPPENS ON DAY 3?

Vic Fangio treated his players to a pair of Field Days to conclude the offseasons he ran in 2019 and 2021. Vance Joseph wrapped up 2017 offseason work with a jog-through practice, although the final-day work was more earnest a year later. Gary Kubiak gave his 2016 Broncos a “hat day” — a practice without helmets — to conclude work that year. And John Fox called off the final day of 2014 offseason work entirely.

You can defend giving players an early respite. Even Mike Shanahan did that from time to time — although he famously called players back to team headquarters for minicamp in July 2007, just two and a half weeks before the start of training camp. That went over like a heavy-metal concert in a library with players, staff and even media.

But when it comes to this year, players gave the indication is that each day of offseason work is valuable. There is a hybrid offense to install. And Wilson operates with pace, accountability and attention to detail not seen in these parts since the salad days of Peyton Manning.

As wide receiver Tim Patrick noted, “Like you guys [the media] know, he offense is difficult, and just the regular routine practice is not going to be enough for us to get it down pat.” Thus, he said work away from the normal schedule is necessary — including extra meetings.

“So, we have to do things on our own, so we can get it,” he said, “because we don’t want to be one of those teams to make excuses: new coach, new quarterback, new offense, and we don’t get going until the end of the year.

“We want to come out there firing on all cylinders, because it’s Super Bowl or bust this year.”

If time is truly at such a premium, do the Broncos have a moment to spare? Can they scrap a day?

Whatever their choice, you know this will be a discussion topic in the wake of this week’s work.

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