The Denver Broncos wrapped up OTAs last week. All that's left before training camp begins at the end of July is the team's mandatory minicamp, which kicks off June 15-17.
Although OTAs are always bland, relative to what insights can be taken away from unpadded practices, there's always a little something to be gleaned. This year's OTAs were atypical of what is tradition, even under the new CBA, as the Broncos didn't even hold 11-on-11 team drills until the final week.
That was head coach Vic Fangio acquiescing to the demands of the players' union but thankfully, the Broncos did run some 11-on-11 and those drills were the closest thing to a litmus test fans will get this time of year.
With OTAs in the books, here's a look at the biggest winners and losers. But, and I stress this, this should be taken with a grain of salt as the true measure of each player's trajectory won't be known until the pads come on, the hitting and popping commences, and the intensity rises.
Winner: Teddy Bridgewater | QB
Speaking of salt, this one, in particular, should be viewed with extreme caution and skepticism. But of all the positions that 11-on-11 team drills can bring into focus with a modicum of accuracy, the quarterback is it.
Based on the outside view from media in attendance, Bridgewater seemed to out-duel Drew Lock early on at OTAs. Almost without fail, anyone who watched an 11-on-11 practice opined that the veteran seemed to have the better performance.
Although Bridgewater wasn't perfect and did give the ball away a time or two, he seemed to be quicker on the draw, getting rid of the ball faster, and connecting on some highlight-reel plays. He seems to have already established a good connection with Jerry Jeudy.
That's the outside view. Internally, GM George Paton and Coach Fangio both were loath to acknowledge any separation in the competition between Lock and Bridgewater. Paton said both are doing "good" while Fangio refused to acknowledge that even a small takeaway can be gleaned from OTAs.
Loser: Drew Lock | QB
I list Lock here only because whenever there's a winner, there's a loser, too. The difference between Bridgewater and Lock at this stage — if there is one — is negligible.
However, Lock made a splash, in a negative way, in Monday's practice by getting picked off twice and purportedly having two additional interceptions dropped. The feedback from Tuesday and Wednesday was mostly tepid on both QBs but that Monday practice seemed to confirm the bias of those looking to see Lock struggle, while having the opposite effect on those expecting to see him hold his own.
Such is the nature of human beings and preconceived notions. Lock is hyper-scrutinized while Bridgewater is given the benefit of the doubt. Wake me up when the preseason hits because that's when we'll all be able to see with our own eyes where these two signal-callers ultimately stand in the competition.
When asked whether Lock was "pressing", Fangio refuted the claim. Take that for what's it worth.
Winner: Javonte Williams | RB (R)
With the Broncos drafting a running back in Round 2, someone forgot to mention to Melvin Gordon that it would be unwise to relinquish any additional first-team reps to the rookie.
Meanwhile, Williams garnered a lot of reps in the Gordon vacuum and had many media onlookers oohing and ahhing with his playmaking ability. The rookie most definitely has impressed early on and might be a few steps closer to the starting job as a result. Again, though, camp and preseason will tell the ultimate tale, especially at a position where sans pads, everyone looks really good.
Loser: Melvin Gordon | RB
Gordon was a no-show to the voluntary OTA practices but next week's minicamp will likely see him arrive. Although his guaranteed contract has likely given him confidence that his roster spot is safe, his starting job most certainly is not.
Winner: Patrick Surtain II | CB (R)
The early returns on the Broncos' first-round pick have been nothing short of sensational. Surtain looks the part but more importantly, plays the part of a No. 1 pick.
That's got to be encouraging for a team that was heavily pressured to draft a quarterback but instead opted for a shutdown cornerback. Surtain will factor into the playing time pie this year but it's too early to know just how.
Loser: Kyle Fuller | CB
Fuller was a later shower to OTAs but he did finally arrive last week. That means the Broncos got to see their presumptive top-3 cornerbacks out on the field for 11-on-11 team drills, going against the offense's vast array of talented wideouts.
Fuller did fine but those reps he relinquished during his no-show only cracked the door open a little wider for Surtain.
Winner: Courtland Sutton | WR
I'm placing Sutton here as a winner simply because the talented wideout seems to be on schedule at worst and maybe even ahead of when the team expected him to be running and cutting post-ACL surgery.
Regardless of which QB wins the competition, having Sutton in the lineup will take a massive amount of pressure off that guy's shoulders. Sutton isn't just a 50/50 ball guy; he's an 80/20 receiver.
Throw it up there and eight times out of 10, Sutton will be the one to come down with it. That's a fortunate boon to Lock and/or Bridgewater.
Winner: Jerry Jeudy | WR
After a solid rookie campaign negatively weighed down by a bad case of the drops, Jeudy has started off Year 2 on solid footing. Working on his hands and concentration by taking additional reps on the Jugs machine, the former Alabama star hopes to put his drops behind him.
So far so good. Jeudy made multiple big plays in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team drills and has connected well chemistry-wise with Bridgewater early on. Perhaps the most heartening aspect of Jeudy's OTAs was his interview with the team site in which he came off as a significantly more mature player with an affable and optimistic mindset.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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