The Denver Broncos just wrapped up their voluntary OTA’s and mandatory Minicamp. There are some heated position battles happening, with a very crowded wide receivers room, and RB backfield.
There are some rookies and undrafted players making it a tough sell to keep some underwhelming hold-over vets. Oh, and we have a “new” QB that seems to be doing enough to make a decent impact this season, but another that has been taking huge leaps in his 3rd season and opening some eyes.
Rookie WRs Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are already making huge plays and wowing spectators on media days. Hamilton was already touted before activities started as a crisp route runner, who could make a day one contribution next season. What was not expected; however, was to see Sutton already pushing for massive playing time, with his huge catch radius and separation abilities.
There have been other standouts, as well, from rookies John Diarse and Tim Patrick, plus returning WR Isaiah McKenzie. He’s poised to make up for his fumbles and dropped punts last season by providing some slot routes as well as pushing for the punt or kick returning job. A huge question mark has to be placed on last year’s third round draft pick Carlos Henderson; Henderson missed all of last season with a wrist injury, and so far has not participated any meaningful time this offseason, leading HC Vance Joseph to say: “He’s got to get back on the field if he wants to make this football team.” Vance has really begun sounding like the leader of men he was sold to the fans as when he was hired.
Then there is the full RB room, with both Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson returning to form and hoping to be the incumbent starters. However, the Broncos selected two more backs in this year’s draft, who will undoubtedly be pushing both of those guys for serious playing time, making the decision on who makes the 53-man roster extremely hard on the coaching staff. Royce Freeman and Dave Williams were both drafted to push Hop and Book and make the backfield more dynamic than it was last season.
Along comes the undrafted Phillip Lindsay, though, to throw yet another wrench in that cog. Lindsay has been making play after play thus far, being a fantastic outlet for the QBs to dump passes to, as well as a threat in the running game. Just from the practices so far, it appears that OC Bill Musgrave is making an emphasis on relying on these dynamic playmakers to add a dimension to the offense that has been lacking for years.
There has been no competition put in place for the #1 QB position on the team, stated several times after signing Case Keenum to a two-year deal this offseason. Case has been praised for his leadership on the field, and it has been said that he’s been getting the ball out of his hand quickly. According to Musgrave,
“He approaches every day the same way—professional. Very much into it, and I think the guys have very much rallied around both on offense and on defense just because he’s the same guy every day. He’s consistent and definitely cares about his teammates.”
One player this lessened pressure has paid dividends for is the advancement of third-year player and former first-round pick Paxton Lynch. Paxton spent his offseason rehabbing an ankle that hobbled him late in the season, as well as his throwing shoulder he had hurt in the preseason of last year as well. That rehab was combined with working with QB guru Charlie Taaffe, and Tom Brady*s own Alex Guerrero of the TB12 Method, in an attempt to improve his health and his skills.
Based on many reports, Paxton has been the only QB that has not thrown an interception in team drills, which has earned him kudos from OC Musgrave regarding his improved play and the advancement in his skills:
“He really has. Paxton continues to make good decisions, which is good. We want those decisions, those habits to become part of his fabric so they can just be natural and reactive. The training of the quarterbacks has been really one of the highlights of this spring under Mike Sullivan and Klint Kubiak.”
A position that has been severely underutilized or highlighted in recent years has been the tight end. Not since Owen Daniel’s two TD explosion in the NE* AFC Championship has a TE really done anything. However, that could be a thing of the past, as Jake Butt has been making play after play after play on the field so far. The Broncos took a big risk drafting someone they knew would be on IR all year, but if he can emerge as that weapon much like Kelce or Gronk* have been, then that gamble will have paid off HUGE for them.
With Butt coming on, they haven’t had to rush this year’s pick, Troy Fumagalli onto the field. Not to mention returning Austin Traylor who came up huge that last few weeks of the season. The jury is still out on Jeff Heuerman, however.
One thing we HAVEN’T heard much on so far has been the oft-maligned offensive line. That’s most likely because what we’ve seen so far is not close to what we have heard will be the true starting line. Newly added right tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Ron Leary have been held out because of injuries suffered last year, as the team is being cautious and allowing them time to heal properly. We won’t have a true handle on what the line looks like until training camp time.
Hopefully, the Broncos keep this surging offensive momentum into training camp, where we will undoubtedly see these position battles heat up even more. Keep following us at DenverBroncosZone as we stay up-to-date with all the Broncos moves and shakes, and, as always, GO BRONCOS!!