ENGLEWOOD, Co.—It didn’t take long for the fanatic masses of Denver Broncos fans on social media to ready their pitchforks and lanterns, eagerly waiting for an opportunity to defend their preferred quarterback in this training camp competition. While it’s natural for fans to have preferences and favorite players, it’s equally healthy to disagree with one another.
Either way, Broncos Country is ready to return to winning football to the Mile High City but before that can happen, players must earn the right to step onto the field for the regular season. It starts with the dog days of training camp.
The first week of practice, in which fans have been allowed to attend, concluded on Friday. The burning question on everyone's mind: did Drew Lock bounce back from a tough Day 2? Or did Teddy Bridgewater stack another brick, providing further evidence that he deserves the right to be QB1?
Day three of Broncos camp allowed fans the opportunity to debate and banter over which QB is leading the competition in the first week. Both Lock and Bridgewater were virtually tied heading into the third day having each won a practice.
It’s time to review the QB battle, star players of the day, and my key observations from watching practice unfold.
QB Competition: Day 3
Bridgewater: ‘Steady” Teddy, Teddy ‘Covers’, Teddy ‘Two Gloves,’ whatever you want to call the man, make sure it’s as consistent as he's been thus far. Much like he’s done in the previous two practices, Bridgewater stayed true to his QB identity on Friday as he completed multiple passes to various tight ends in the flat.
While some will be critical of Bridgewater's short-to-intermediate throws, there were multiple plays in which Noah Fant and fellow TE Eric Saubert were able to extend the field and move the chains. By throwing his wide receivers open in the middle of the field, the 28-year-old veteran empowers his teammates to gain significant yards after the catch.
To some people, the short passes could be described as boring football and arguments can be made to support that theory. However, when Teddy gets rid of the ball in under three seconds, he empowers the dynamic playmaking ability of elite athletes like Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
There was also a missed opportunity with WR Tyrie Cleveland on two catchable deep passes, which has happened two out of the last three days. Nevertheless, Bridgewater has been a magnet to his teammates and coaches.
From defensive backs to defensive linemen and today the wideout core, Teddy is not only respected by his new teammates but is very well received as he continues to foster relationships on both sides of the ball.
Lock: After an abysmal performance on Thursday, Lock did exactly what I hoped he’d do on Day 3. He wiped the slate clean and embraced the third day of his QB competition. .
They say QBs should have short-term memories to prevent one small mistake from compounding into 10 big ones. Clearly, Lock has learned and developed the ability to shake off a bad day and start fresh.
The third-year QB from Mizzou connected with Jeudy on multiple mid-field routes, attacking defensive mismatches and showing trust in his second-year teammate. To add to his fast start, Lock also found the speed demon Hamler in the end zone on a 40-yard post route that saw the second-year wideout dive and haul in the accurate ball.
But just as fast as Lock started, he began to cool. Familiar mistakes from choppy footwork during 3-to-5-step drops and floating to his preferred right side of the field does him absolutely zero favors in this competition. Sure, he can scramble, and is athletic enough to gain yards on the ground with his feet, but it’s the lack of sliding and climbing the pocket that continues to rear its ugly head in live reps.
The fact of the matter is, last year Lock was one of the least-sacked QBs in the league, yet he had one of the longest times to pass (approximately 4.1 seconds). On Day 3, he once again held onto the ball for an extended period of time, hoping that improvision would get him his desired results.
While Lock had some nice splash plays today, his bad habits kept him from winning the day. Honestly, Bridgewater doesn’t need to do anything specific to win the starting job but Lock must undoubtedly prove to both his team and coaches that he can make all the throws, manage the game, and lead a football team in a manner that reflects the consistency of a franchise QB.
Three practices down and the clock is ferociously ticking. No decision at quarterback has been made, nor are coaches anywhere close to making one. Head coach Vic Fangio said earlier in the week that the decision could even stretch as far as Week 1 of the regular season.
While that prospect is less than ideal for anyone in that building it certainly allows time and opportunity for one of these two men to plant their flag in the ground and take the QB thrown.
Lloyd Cushenberry III Shines Bright in the Trenches
The second-year starter at center hasn’t only changed his game in the offseason, but he’s changed his attitude. The former LSU Tiger nicknamed ‘Cush’ has consistently been running with the starting unit and has seemingly taken ownership as the QB of the offensive line.
Just as he did in all 16 games of his rookie season, Cushenberry was consistently seen during the pre-snap communication with the interior linemen and the QB identifying the ‘Mike, Will, and Sam’ linebackers. But it was his low stance and powerful lower body that consistently drove significantly larger defensive linemen off the ball.
Not only that, but Cushenberry was working his way to the second level of the defense, scraping any defender in his path. He also got all of Broncos Country on its feet by delivering a nasty pancake block in the open field during team period.
All signs on Day 3 indicate that Cushenberry is not only stronger and more comfortable as the anchor of his unit but has embraced the nastiness offensive linemen are known for. Yes, rookie challenger Quinn Meinerz is an exciting prospect at center (I identified him as one of my favorite prospects at the Senior Bowl) but by no means does the addition of a talented draft pick mean that O-line coach Mike Munchak is willing to move on from an intelligent, nasty, and new-and-improved Cushenberry.
WR Trinity Benson Emerges as Darkhorse Playmaker
The 24-year-old out of East Central Oklahoma has been arguably one of the most consistent players in the first week of training camp. The last three practices Benson has not only been given a generous number of snaps with the first and second-team offense but has capitalized on nearly every opportunity.
The 6-foot, 180-pound wideout reeled in two touchdown catches to open camp, followed by scoring catches in each of the last two days. In fact, Benson has reeled in significant deep catches and touchdowns from all three QBs including Brett Rypien.
It’s easy to get your eyes caught on Benson’s quick feet, his willingness to dive, jump and throw his body in the mix, so he has impressed fans on the hill — and even defensive players on the field. His route running may be average, but this young man’s ability to separate from defenders half his size is turning some heads at UCHealth Training Center.
The key for Benson will now be to sustain his first week's success when the shells and pads come on next week because it’s a completely different game when defenders are allowed some contact. But if Benson can continue to make plays, there's little doubt in my mind that he’ll be in strong consideration to make this team.
Day 3 Notes
- LT Garrett Bolles run blocking looks improved and nasty. On more than one occasion Bolles properly set the edge with a low pad level, and even logged a vicious pancake to an undersized defender.
- The Belly’ Meinerz was taking snaps with the first- and second-string offenses. Specifically, snapping to Lock. Meinerz also been logging some time at the LG position where he played in college. He has the versatility to play all three positions of the interior OL.
- CB Parnell Motley bounced back after two rough days of practice today. He's sticky coverage and smacked the ball out of receiver’s possession causing incompletion.
- Safety Kareem Jackson and LB Von Miller were held out for a presumed veteran day.
- Saubert has caught a TD every practice and is making the case to be the third TE on the team.
- Bobby Massie started the day at RT after Calvin Anderson started last two practices.
- Anderson played LT with second-team offense indicating a possible swing tackle designation.
- Hamler exploited rookie cornerbacks on crossing routes, splitting zone coverage.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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