ENGLEWOOD, Co. — On Saturday, the Denver Broncos concluded their last practice open to the public at UCHealth Training Center. The team will practice at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday before flying out to Minnesota for joint practices with the Vikings.
Although the quarterback competition between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater has been anything but captivating, Broncos Country finally witnessed some spirit and fight from the team on Saturday afternoon.
Let’s review the biggest headline from Broncos Camp in addition to the QB performances and my star of the day.
QB Competition: Day 9
Note: Before the Bronco-on-Bronco dust-up went viral on social media (I'll get to that shortly), all eyes were on the QBs with an impending week’s worth of practice with the Vikings just days away. Just like Monday, the Broncos implemented one-on-ones between wideouts and defensive backs and the practice started fairly even. Both Bridgewater and Lock operated different offenses in 7-on-7 drills and team periods before one QB snatched the day.
Bridgewater: Teddy started the day by connecting with second-year WR KJ Hamler on a 20-yard pass. The impressive nature of this throw was how Teddy demonstrated the ability to throw to a specific spot ahead of the receiver. Oftentimes, he’s described as throwing blind, but I prefer the term throwing receivers open as a more accurate representation of Teddy’s game.
Bridgewater later connected with undrafted WR Branden Mack in the flat before really getting hot in team drills. The 28-year-old veteran found both of Denver's dynamic tight ends on back-to-back 20-to-30-yard completions.
Instead of always checking down to the flat, Teddy seemed to push the ball downfield with velocity, control, and accuracy. Much like previous camp practices, Bridgewater isn’t pulling away as the red-hot QB. Instead, he remains comfortable in his own skin with his limited skill-set that not only got him to the NFL but has kept him relevant.
Lock: Drew started the day off with an incompletion during one-on-ones to WR Jerry Jeudy because of a pass deflection from CB Kyle Fuller. But after the hiccup, Lock found his stride hitting multiple receivers from Jeudy to Mack. Lock connected with Hamler on a beautiful deep route in which Hamler sold the double move beating CB Ronald Darby.
The incumbent signal-caller later saw a pass batted at the line before being hauled in by LB Von Miller on what looked to be an interception. From there, things didn’t get any better for Lock who took multiple (whistle blown) sacks on the day largely due to holding onto the ball too long.
It was an interception thrown to CB Bryce Callahan that completely lost Lock the day as the QB has continually stared down the middle of the field and DBs have pounced. I can't help but be concerned because if Lock’s own teammates know his habits and tendencies after two weeks of camp, does the rest of the league have him figured out?
All-Pro vs. Pro Bowler: First Skirmish of Camp
Two of the Broncos' most high-profile and talented starters stole the show with an old-school training camp fight in the middle of practice. During team period, LT Garett Bolles and OLB Bradley Chubb engaged each other during a play and didn’t stop with the whistle. While it’s unclear as to which player got the best of the other, both men were observed grabbing and pinning one another on the ground, before the team intervened.
I’m using the term ‘fight’ rather loosely as it did not appear to have any punches thrown, nor injuries sustained. But for crying out loud, this was literally the first sign of 'fight' this team has shown through the first two weeks of training camp.
After being pulled apart and separated, Chubb went to the defensive sideline to take a knee and cool down with teammates. Meanwhile, Bolles, who was still fuming, paced back and forth before tossing his helmet on his way to the locker room.
Does this mean that the offense and defense are doomed to be divided for another year in Denver? No, but the optics of the dust-up are somewhat revealing. The catalyst that ignited this violent episode remains unclear.
However, it felt that HC Vic Fangio was more tolerant of his star pass rusher instead of the franchise left tackle that was recently inked to a four-year, $68 million deal. But then again, this could be much ado about nothing.
Players get frustrated in a contact sport, especially teams with a losing record. Broncos GM George Paton escorted Bolles back to practice, where he was later seen visiting with defensive teammates after a tough day.
Call me crazy, but I feel that Bolles and Chubb’s little skirmish could very well ignite a team that is in desperate need of some spirit.
WR KJ Hamler is a Speed Demon & Football Player
The former Penn State star is on pace to vindicate John Elway’s decision to select him in the second round last year. After a close encounter with COVID, the NFL's protocol kept Hamler away from one practice last week, but he has been a consistent playmaker for Pat Shurmur’s offense.
When Hamler was drafted, we all heard and knew about the speed. Fast forward to the present and I’m literally seeing that raw speed transformed into detailed routes in training camp.
Hamler has consistently demonstrated an increased awareness and willingness to lay out for balls, even going vertical, and has proven to be a sure thing when balls are thrown his way. Again, Hamler had an absolutely beautiful double move on Darby that allowed him to haul in Lock’s best deep pass of the day.
However, it's Hamler’s focus that seems to have changed the most for me. Rather than looking to hit a home run every play, he seems honed in on the intricacies of each snap whether that be on offense or special teams.
While his teammate and fellow 2020 draft classmate Jeudy is the camp MVP thus far, Hamler could very well put the league on notice this year because, well, speed kills.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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