ENGLEWOOD, Co. — After observing an off-day on Thursday, the Denver Broncos resumed training camp for the team's eighth practice at UCHealth Training Center. This was the second to last practice for Week 2 of Broncos camp, with the team set to hold a scrimmage practice at Empower Field at Mile High this coming Sunday.
With many in Broncos Country eager to see which quarterback will get the heavy workload in Minnesota next week, all eyes were on Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater on Friday. How'd the eighth installment of the Broncos' QB1 battle unfold?
I'm going to break it down and highlight a couple of defensive stars of the day. Check the video above for the non-QB star of the day offensively.
QB Competition: Day 8
Note: Similar to my training camp journal on Wednesday when Bridgewater took the lion's share of the snaps, Friday was largely slanted toward Lock. Although I don’t feel that Lock received the exact same number of snaps that Teddy did two days ago, the offensive play selection and situational aspects of practice were geared towards the incumbent.
Lock: The third-year pro started his day as the second QB during team period and operated OC Pat Shurmur’s offense immediately from under center. The last two weeks of practice in addition to the offseason acquisitions of RBs Mike Boone and Javonte Williams suggest that the Broncos offense will emphasize running the football.
After all, shouldn’t the run set up the pass? Specifically, play-action passes, and Lock is comfortable in those run-and-gun situations. He executed flawless hand-offs and pitches while executing smooth footwork and attention to detail.
On his first passing play, Lock completed a five-yard pass to a running back in the flat and would later connect with former Mizzou TE Albert Okwuegbunam on a short bullet in the red zone. Lock also found WR KJ Hamler a few plays later for six.
But moments later, Lock had a pass batted up in the air by DL McTelvin Agim, before a linebacker (to be named shortly) secured the interception. In 7-on-7 drills, Lock began the series by completing a bubble-screen pass to WR Tim Patrick, then found WR Jerry Jeudy on back-to-back plays.
Much like he’s done all week, Jeudy has proven to be an absolute burner with significant yards after the catch in the middle of the field. However, Lock struggled on a few easy throws that were behind the intended receiver in addition to several overthrown balls.
While Lock's decision-making on Day 8 showed improvement from earlier in the week, he still tends to hang onto the ball and drift to the right way too much — something the second and third-string defense has already picked up on. For Lock to head into Minnesota with momentum, he needs to string together two-to-three such practices this week, or else the next guy could get the nod in a homecoming of sorts.
Bridgewater: Teddy started team period as the first-string QB and immediately connected on a 20–to-30-yard bomb to Jeudy, who beat CB Bryce Callahan one-on-one on the left sideline. But after that, Teddy struggled to find chemistry with teammates, throwing an incompletion to Patrick one play later an out route.
There were several catchable balls thrown to multiple TEs and WRs that were dropped or unable to connect for one reason or another, which isn't doing the 28-year-old veteran any favors. In addition to struggling with finding chemistry with his receivers, Bridgewater also overthrew several teammates before connecting with WR Trinity Benson on a deep go-route down the left side of the field.
Both team and 7-on-7 drills went about the same as they have the past two weeks for Bridgewater: nice and steady, but without any separation from Lock.
Teddy controls most of the practice with his short-to-intermediate throws, allowing his talented receivers, like Jeudy, Hamler, Patrick, and Courtland Sutton, to work in open field. Bridgewater also found multiple TEs for check-down completions in addition to connecting with the stable of RBs the Broncos have collected.
But as he's been wont to do, Bridgewater finished the day off as the presumed winner with a goal-line touchdown pass to TE Noah Fant — only to toss an interception to safety Justin Simmons.
While Friday's selection of play-action passes and bootlegs were more favorable to Lock’s style of play, Teddy choked at the end of practice and surrendered the day to his opponent. Chalk another one up for Lock.
Rookie S Caden Sterns Turning Heads Already
When the Broncos drafted Sterns and Jamar Johnson in the fifth round just a few months ago, GM George Paton showed he was planning for the future. Sure, Simmons has been inked to the most lucrative safety contract in the NFL, but Kareem Jackson was brought back on a one-year deal. Meaning, the door will be wide open for an in-house defensive back to fill the role of ‘K-Jack’ at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
Sterns began his first NFL training camp with an interception last Thursday and proved to be a ballhawk on Day 8 as well. Utilizing his smooth backpedal and lateral movement, the former Texas Longhorn intercepted QB Brett Rypien in 7-on-7 drills which excited his veteran teammates on the sideline.
Sterns also forced an incompletion during team period and was consistently rotating in with the second and third-string units. The young safety needs to show this coaching staff that he can consistently tackle, which he was criticized for heading into the draft. If he can do that, the rookie can be described as a ball-hawk safety with massive potential.
While Sterns is largely expected to contribute on special teams this season, it’s important to note that’s where several other safeties earned playing time including Simmons, and former Bronco Will Parks.
LB Josh Watson Earning Coaches' Trust
The first time I laid eyes on Watson was at the Broncos' local pro day back in 2019 when Watson was coming out of CSU. I noticed his attention to detail, impressive instincts, and overall potential as a linebacker prospect for the NFL.
Clearly, the Broncos felt the same way, signing the undrafted 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker that spring. As a Bronco, Watson has appeared in 17 games and totaled five tackles last year. With veteran LB Josey Jewell sidelined with a groin injury, Watson has been making the most of his reps.
Watson has been flying around all over the field trying to prove to coaches that he’s a three-down LB. On Friday, he consistently filled the hole, meeting a host of RBs and offensive linemen, and was seemingly the only player who initiated the ‘pop’ of what padded football practice used to be about.
In pass coverage, Watson batted down a ball in sticky coverage after also intercepting Lock’s tipped pass from Agim. I like Watson’s intensity and willingness to be aggressive in practice, while never playing reckless or ditching his assignments.
In a goal-line defense situation, the third-year linebacker absolutely stuffed RB Royce Freeman and refused to allow any sort of gain or offensive momentum. Watson, much like the second-year LB Justin Strnad, is sure to be champing at the bit for a chance to steal Jewell’s starting position if he's equal to his opportunity to do so.
Day 8 Notes
- Broncos not practicing: Jewell, WR Tyrie Cleveland, DB Mac McCain III, DL Deyon Sizer, and DL Mike Purcell.
- Rookie S Jamar Johnson activated/WR Amara Darboh waived.
- Rookie FB Adam Prentice pancaked Johnson to spring Boone for TD.
- Benson continued to be a consistent playmaker in practice.
- Agim with multiple pass deflections in camp.
- Simmons boasted back-to-back INTs in the last two practices.
- DL Dre’Mont Jones has made life tough for the interior O-linemen in pass protection.
- Broncos had referees to officiate practice for the first time on Day 8.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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