ENGLEWOOD, Co.—Day 2 of Denver Broncos Training Camp began with a marginal increase in fan attendance and cloud coverage that set the ideal weather for practice. When covering training camp, I try to allow a margin of error on the very first day as many players are shaking off some rust and combating initial nerves.
On Thursday, the overall intensity of practice and players' performance steadily increased — from tempo to playful banter between offensive and defensive players. Some of the more outgoing personalities on the Broncos' roster could even be seen challenging each other, igniting reactions from the fans on the hill.
So, what did we learn from Day 2's practice? While players and coaches review and learn from the film and work produced on the field today, here are three key storylines that jumped out from camp.
QB Competition: Day 2
Teddy Bridgewater: The vet began the day under center during team period. Wasting no time, Bridgewater connected with fan-favorite WR Tim Patrick on a 20-to-30-yard crossing route that immediately impressed the fans.
The 28-year-old signal-caller found second-year TE Albert Okwuegbunam and took control of the offense with poise. Teddy also manipulated a glaring defensive mismatch when he threw a dart to WR Courtland Sutton on a quick slant route to keep the chains moving.
In my Day 1 camp journal, I reported that Bridgewater was working with veteran defensive backs like Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons between drills, chopping it up. On Day 2, Bridgewater spent time with the defensive line and appears to be bonding with his new teammates.
Popularity doesn’t win starting QB jobs in the NFL, but I’d advise folks to evaluate the larger picture of what this team needs. Denver needs leadership, identity, and above all, a binding force to unite offense, defense, and special teams.
Drew Lock: After a slower start to practice on Wednesday, many fans expected Lock to bounce back on Day 2. But he continued to struggle with his footwork, specifically not climbing up or manipulating the pocket.
Lock's reads are progressing but holding onto the ball between 4-to-5 seconds busts the ability for receivers to get open. In several of those instances, he rushed the ball himself. At times, I wondered whether Lock got into his own head and one mental error turned into another, and so on, as we've seen from him throughout his young NFL career.
It wasn’t all bad for the incumbent as he connected Patrick and Courtland Sutton for multiple scores in the red zone. When Lock fired the ball into close quarters, he was on time and accurate. In fact, there were a handful of times that the crowd of fans could hear the thud of receivers' gloves and chest plate as the ball hit home.
Again, this is what happens in QB competitions. One guy wins this day, while the other wins the practice following.
Lock narrowly edged out Bridgewater on Wednesday, but it was the eighth-year vet who won Day 2 and overwhelmingly so. In this give and take, it’s way too early to predict which QB will earn the starting job.
Pat Surtain II Could Shatter the Rookie Mold
For all those fans in Broncos Country still pouting about Paton's decision to pass on QBs Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the first round of the NFL draft, I have good news. Surtain is proving to not only be the real deal, but this talented cornerback is poised to be a playmaker and starter in 2021.
The 21-year-old former Alabama star is not only running with decorated veterans like Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson, and Justin Simmons, but he’s proving to them that he belongs and is here to stop opponents from scoring. Whether it be stretching, individual positional drills, or even special teams, Surtain could be seen leading the position group as the first player in line and the last to leave.
While the NFL’s media policy prohibits me from disclosing Surtain's utilization on defense, let’s just say the man is versatile. Don’t expect to see the rookie holding down just one position on the field or being designated to strictly a single role.
Surtain’s physicality, preparation, and football acumen allow him to compete with bigger, stronger receivers and communicate with his teammate’s pre-snap. It's easy to see why Hall-of-Fame corner Champ Bailey has already pegged Surtain as a future Pro Bowler.
So, while it’s fair to be critical of draft selections, with a little patience from fans, Surtain’s performance will quickly reveal his quality to all of Broncos Country.
Alpha WR Duo Emerges but Which Earns a Second Contract?
Speaking of Sutton and Patrick, without question, they were the two biggest stars of the day on the Broncos' offense. Here's what I saw.
Sutton: On Wednesday, the second-year Jerry Jeudy was the star of the day while Sutton was eased into practice with minimal reps as he returns from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 2 of last season, to go along with a shoulder that kept him out of 2020's season-opener. On Day 2, though, Sutton proved to his teammates and fans in attendance that he can still dominate defensive backs.
Against sticky coverage, the former second-round pick out of SMU was springboarding himself vertically to bring down passes, snatching up nearly every pass that came his way. Whether it was catching bullets from Lock or deep balls from Bridgewater, Sutton energized the fans on the hill in addition to his own position group.
While I expect Sutton to have an incredible season, it’s important to note that the 25-year-old wideout will likely command a hefty contract in the near future. And with the immense talent and depth of the Broncos' wideouts still playing on rookie contracts, GM George Paton will need to make a decision about the future of the Pro Bowler.
Patrick: He hasn’t missed a beat since his underrated 2020 campaign in relief of Sutton where Patrick caught six touchdowns for 742 yards. On Thursday, Patrick ignited the beginning of team period by catching a beautiful pass from Bridgewater on a crossing route.
Patrick also did some of the dirty perimeter work of blocking on the edge for running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, proving his worth as a complete football player. However, it was Patrick's ability to be a playmaker for both Lock and Bridgewater that impressed me the most.
The 27-year-old former undrafted rookie out of Utah caught two red-zone touchdowns from Lock and became a big-bodied security blanket for both signal-callers eager to score. Patrick is in the final year of his contract and will undoubtedly command substantial interest from a host of NFL teams when his time comes.
But just as some have suggested in the NFL rumor mill already, perhaps trading Patrick to a WR-needy team would be the best-case scenario for both parties. That is, of course, if the Broncos don't view Patrick as part of the team's future beyond 2021.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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