Englewood, Co.—The Denver Broncos opened their last week of training camp practice that’s open to the public on Tuesday morning at UCHealth Training Center. Following a weeklong joint practice in Minnesota and victory over the Vikings last Saturday, Denver will practice through Thursday before flying to Seattle to play the Seahawks on Saturday.
Broncos fans eagerly shuffled onto the hill to get a glimpse of quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater after the two played exceptionally well in their first preseason game. Broncos president of football operations John Elway was also in attendance on Tuesday.
Players around the league faced the first wave of mandatory cuts (90 players to 85) on Tuesday, beginning to reveal regular-season rosters. The Broncos waived six players and signed RB Adrian Killins.
How did the QBs respond in what is likely to be their last week of competition?
QB Competition: Day 9
Lock: Lock has Broncos Country buzzing all weekend after a red-hot performance in the preseason opener. He completed the game going5-of-7 for 151 yards, and two touchdowns. The 24-year-old from Mizzou had complete command of the offense and executed mistake-free football on Saturday night.
Because of this performance, many people feel that Lock has the unquestionable right to start against the New York Giants in Week 1. However, there are also those that feel Lock must string together consecutive practices and games to prove consistency.
Broncos coaches rewarded Lock’s performance in preseason Game 1 by allowing him to start the day in team period. There were many run plays called that he flawlessly executed, which was a sight for sore eyes after repeated fumbles between QB and center throughout camp. Lock found WR Jerry Jeudy multiple times on a deep route, and connected on a bullet crossing the middle of the field.
7-on-7 drills exposed some of Lock’s persisting bad habits once again. There were multiple underthrown and overthrown balls to various receivers and tight ends stalling any offensive momentum. However, the receivers didn’t do either QB any favors as I counted at least seven dropped balls on Day 15. Aside from short check-down throws, Lock failed to gain any chemistry with his WRs.
But when he continually took what would’ve been sacks — after hanging onto the ball way too long — OC Pat Shurmur had seen enough. The offensive coordinator pulled Lock from the drill and inserted Bridgewater who had just completed his series back into the mix.
Shurmur was visibly frustrated with Lock’s indecisiveness and seemed not only disappointed but angry with the QB's performance this practice. Lock ultimately returned to team period and completed the day, but the damage felt like it was already done.
We’ll have to see how Lock responds to what I’d call one of his worst practices despite not turning the ball over. He’s proven the potential to play well in games, but before he can get the chance to do that in the regular season, he must practice like a starting QB.
Bridgewater: The veteran played good football against his former team as well. Bridgewater went 7-of-8 for 74 yards, and a touchdown. He stayed true to form, maneuvering the pocket and showing athleticism on bootlegs and a would-be scramble touchdown that was called back (penalty). Naturally, the curiosity factor has increased for Bridgewater as head coach Vic Fangio previously anointed him as the starter against Seattle, last week.
Just because Lock had a terrible day doesn’t mean that Bridgewater was a ray of sunshine. While dropped passes plagued Teddy’s day as well, there were multiple occasions where the veteran failed to connect with receivers due to pressure. Rather than sliding around the pocket, Teddy seemed somewhat rushed and as a result, there were many off-platform and inaccurate throws.
Bridgewater delivered an absolute dime to Diontae Spencer in team period that was an incompletion due to the receiver not tracking the ball properly. On another play, Bridgewater threw a bullet to WR Courtland Sutton on what would’ve been the only red-zone TD of the day before Sutton dropped the pass.
The last highlight of Teddy’s day was the smart throw away on third down during a move-the-ball drill that resulted in a field goal. Overall, Teddy didn’t win today as much as Lock absolutely blew it.
This seems to be the trend here at Broncos camp and it’s getting old. Each day, a different QB gives the practice away more than the other guy absolutely wins it. Sooner or later, the coaching staff needs to make some decisions, just as Shurmur did by pulling Lock.
Rookie LB Baron Browning Makes Camp Debut
It felt really good to see the rookie third-round linebacker practicing with the team after passing his physical on Monday. After injuring his lower leg in minicamp, the rookie was removed from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and took both first and second-team defensive reps on Day 15.
While Fangio previously stated the former Buckeye would play outside linebacker, I observed him getting reps inside as well. I’m very concerned that if Browning is designated to the outside position, there could be another Justin Hollins scenario where Denver wouldn’t get the most of the talent, leading to him finding success elsewhere.
Clearly, Browning was on a snap count restriction as the medical staff and coaches continue to monitor his leg. Although it was his first day in shoulder pads and a helmet, he continually got in the mix during the run game by filling any open holes.
Browning's versatility to play both inside and outside makes him an athletic specimen for Fangio, but I still believe he’s best served on the inside. LB Josh Watson struggled against the Vikings last week, and with first-teamer Josey Jewell returning from a groin injury this week, Browning could see more reps in camp.
While his designated position is unclear, fans are definitely excited to see No. 56 in Orange and Blue. Heck, maybe rocking the jersey number of former Broncos linebacker and fan-favorite ‘Smoke dog’ Al Wilson will even give the rookie some good luck.
Albert Okwuegbunam May be TE2 but Not Second Fiddle
Okwuegbunam was one of the only players at practice on Tuesday that seemed to bring some energy to the field. Nicknamed ‘Albert O’ by teammates, the former Missouri Tiger was catching passes from both QBs and executed improved route running. His attention to detail became evident as he continually hauled in passes from the highest point where only his 6-foot-5, 258-pound frame could get it.
Not known for his blocking, it’s easy to tell that the 23-year-old is working on his run game blocks but often succumbs to bigger and stronger defensive linemen. Nonetheless, it shows that Okwuegbunam has committed to some of the finer points of football which was continually harped on by Coach Fangio last season.
While Okwuegbunam might not be the most flamboyant or flashy player, he is quickly becoming reliable. That's good as NFL teams rely on multiple tight ends in special teams and in the passing attack.
Traditionally, the Broncos have had many fantastic tight end duos and while they may not have all scored a lot, they won plenty of football games. From Shannon Sharpe and Byron Chamberlain, to Julius Thomas and Virgil Green, you get the point. But now, the Broncos have two players at the position capable of being dynamic hybrids.
Before you know it, Noah Fant won’t be the only Broncos' tight end that commands the attention of opposing defensive coordinators.
Don't forget to check out the video above for additional stars of the day!
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!