Englewood, Colo. — A lot has been said about Denver Broncos first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s practice schedule in the first two weeks of training camp. On one side of the coin, the notion of lighter workload days to supplement labor intensive practices make sense.
After all, this team can’t imagine another devastating rash of injuries to occur on the same day as it did with WR Tim Patrick and RB Damarea Crockett’s season-ending calamities earlier this week.
On the other, how much work is being really done to replicate the intense nature of regular season football games? It's the beginning of August and joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys will take place at UCHealth Training Center next week. Surely there will be some fierce competition, verbal jabbing, and tempers flying then.
I’ve been reserving judgment because this two-week training camp sample size is just too small right now. Yes, these public practices offer an up-close look for fans and media members alike, revealing how their favorite players are performing amid the position battles.
However, there’s a lot of work being done behind closed doors when the practice fields are empty later in the afternoon. We’ll find out whether Hackett’s scheduling madness has a wise method when the regular season begins. For now, we have breadcrumbs that we’re left to interpret and based on those, it’s crystal clear that Hackett is deliberate and precise when designating practice days that will likely resemble the routine game-week schedules of the 2022 season.
With Day 9 of Broncos training camp in the books, let's dive into what I gleaned from Friday's practice.
Jury's Out on Jerry Jeudy
Perspective is everything, whether that be in life or on the football field. Some folks in media have sworn that WR Jerry Jeudy has had a brilliant training camp. Others, like me, just haven’t seen it and are left scratching our heads over the Broncos' 2020 first-round pick.
Everyone knows that mistakes will happen in training camp, on the practice field, and even in games. But to start training camp by dropping a wide-open touchdown pass from Wilson on the first day is just inexcusable, as is quitting on his route in red-zone team drills on Thursday’s full-padded practice period.
The 23-year-old former Alabama star has been praised to the heavens for his superb route-running prowess and ability to get open. While that’s all fine and dandy, how much of it computes to winning football games and production on the field?
Bottom line: I’ve been extremely underwhelmed and frustrated with Jeudy’s inconsistencies throughout the first two weeks of training camp.
During the practice periods that are more or less walk-throughs when players go at 70 percent, I've witnessed some awesome flashes of athleticism and freakish talent in Jeudy. He has also had some nice team periods with his new QB and offense as well.
But in the wake of Patrick’s season-ending injury, Tyrie Cleveland’s multiple-week injury, and Kendall Hinton being sidelined the last two days, the Broncos need all hands on deck from their receiving corps.
Perhaps Jeudy is the type of athlete that doesn’t need to perform well in practice in order to ball out in games. I just hope that playing with a nine-time Pro Bowler, and former Super Bowl-winning QB can bring out the best in Jeudy, because I'm still waiting to see that prodigious potential being converted into production on the grid-iron.
Walk-Throughs Aren’t Fun to Watch but They Matter
Listen, I get that fans could be less than thrilled at watching wal-throughs while sitting in the 90-degree heat without any shade in sight on one the last days of their summer before kids go back to school and vacations end. That’s especially the case when your favorite players are purposely being held back from rigorous physical activity.
Fine tuning the mechanics of the Broncos' new-look offense with first-year OC Justin Outten and QB Russell Wilson is of the utmost importance. Sure, the offense has plenty of work to do, and it is nowhere near the desired product, but that doesn’t mean the Broncos are behind either. The most consistent piece of Hackett’s coaching has been how he teaches in the eight days of training camp, paired with his emphasis on communication.
The days of dog-cussing players for making mistakes are long gone at Dove Valley. That’s not to say there isn’t colorful language flying or loud voices, but it’s all about accomplishing the mission for the day.
On Friday, that mission was completing installation ahead of another hard day of full pads for Saturday’s practice, which is also open to the fans.
Ask yourself this, were you okay with Peyton Manning orchestrating walk-throughs to get the desired results? Because the Super Bowl 50 Lombardi Trophy proudly displayed at Broncos headquarters is the proverbial proof in the pudding of that coaching approach.
An ‘Outlaw’ Leading the Linebackers
It doesn’t take long to recognize Broncos' inside linebacker Josey Jewell working his tail off every day in the 90-degree heat at high altitude. The 27-year-old was originally drafted out of Iowa in the fourth round back in 2018 and has risen through ranks, going from being a reserved workhorse to a demonstrative, vocal leader in the Broncos' LB room.
Throughout training camp ‘The Outlaw’ has been coaching and working with teammates on and off the field. Jewell's meticulous preparation in film study and on the whiteboard have made him the go-to teammate when others need help, or assistant coaches need support.
Heading into his fifth season, Jewell has capitalized on his experience by attacking open-field space with angles rather than the natural speed that can at-times be noticeable. What he lacks in his 40 time, Jewell makes up for in assignment-based football as the inside linebacker of first-year DC Ejiro Evero’s defense.
The Broncos' base 3-4 scheme can translate quickly to nickel or dime packages based on offensive personnel, but it will undoubtedly operate through the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Iowa native. Jewell has lost some weight and came into camp in top-notch physical condition and fully rehabbed from last year’s pectoral injury that ended his campaign early.
Feverishly going through my camp notes from practice, I’m not running into many negatives from Jewell’s most recent performance. He’s been consistently improving rather than remaining stagnant and complacent with his tenure, demonstrating remarkable leadership.
Jewell is a beloved teammate and fan favorite because of his blue-collar work ethic and leadership, which embodies what a Broncos linebacker should be.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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