The Denver Broncos put on a show for the crowd at the UC Health Training Center. It was a free but paid event, and over 7,000 fans watched the Broncos on a sunny but not too hot day. Some reports say it was the largest training camp (non-stadium training) crowd in franchise history, and I know the place looked crowded where the fans are seated. on the hill.
The team went light on Friday to speed things up on Saturday. For the first time, the Broncos were in shells and things were just a little more physical there.
Here are some of my notes from day four of training camp.
Jerry Jeudy shines
When the pads (sort of) came, Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy had his best day of camp. For three days, I watched Jeudy make crucial mistakes. On the first day, Jeudy had a pass snatched from him in the end zone. On day two, Jeudy dropped a pass that would have moved the chains. On day three, I only saw Jeudy catch three passes in team drills (not a mistake, but it shows how underused he was).
Saturday was Thursday. He didn’t lose his quarterback’s confidence, and Jeudy showed great focus as he fired passes that were in extremely tight windows. He can open up, he has moves after the catch, and if Jeudy gains more confidence, he could have the breakout year many predict for him. We haven’t seen much yet, and I hesitate to call Jeudy a “player”, but when the shells came he performed better.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was not known for using his running backs as receivers out of the backfield during his career with the Seattle Seahawks. As Shawn Drotar noted on air, Wilson’s combined goals for his first and second running backs averaged 58 times per year. That’s not much, especially considering the happy pass nature of today’s game and the way fullbacks can create instant lags by receiving threats.
I believe the Broncos will throw a little more to their running backs, but my favorite route for fullbacks — the Texas route — is not part of this West Coast offense. A Texas road is great because a fullback moves on the outside, forces the linebacker covering him to engage on the outside, then he quickly breaks him inside in the middle of the field. This Broncos offense works in midfield, but tight ends mostly do damage there and not running backs. As training camp continues and preseason rolls around, it will be interesting to see how these fullbacks continue to be used out of the backfield.
At the end of the practice, cornerback K’Wuan Williams made a deep touchdown against rookie receiver Montrell Washington (more on him in a bit). Reports indicate that Williams is having an MRI, and we’ll know more about his situation when the results are made public (or released to the public). Williams is arguably the best slot corner in today’s game when healthy, so he’s clearly and an important part of the Broncos’ defense.
While Williams is stoned, another player who may be healthier is rookie tight end Greg Dulcich. During the first four days of training camp, Dulcich worked on the side court to recover from the hamstring injury he suffered this offseason. However, on Saturday, Dulcich was able to take part in a walkthrough towards the end of practice. Wilson has made tight ends from star performers in training, so the potential is there for Dulcich to be a weapon when healthy. It looks like the team is relieving him while monitoring how his body reacts to more work.
Map of Washington
Speaking of rookie receiver Montrell Washington, it looks like the team has a plan in place for the small-school star. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, much to my chagrin, Washington was selected to be a dangerous comeback man. It was obvious on film that Washington could make plays as a returner like he did in Division II, but at the time I preferred other players (mainly big corners) to stay on the board.
Seeing Washington level with the field, his speed is breathtaking. He can reach top speed quickly and he doesn’t lose much speed when changing direction. I’m not saying Washington makes me a believer, like someone who would have drafted him later, but I do understand the form the Broncos are looking for. In addition to what he does on special teams, Washington also plays the “KJ Hamler role” on offense. There are game packages that seem to be designed for the quick rookie. When Hamler is healthy it will be how he looks, but it’s good to see Washington performing well when asked to do so on offense.
One of the best moves the Broncos made this offseason, not counting the trade for Wilson, was the free agent signing of defensive lineman DJ Jones. Ole Miss’ sixth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Jones made a name for himself with the San Francisco 49ers. Not only did he start for the 49ers, but Jones became one of their most important defenders in a unit known to be near the top of the league.
Jones signed with the Broncos this offseason, and he’s been everything and more than you’d expect from a player in his position. In fact, Jones isn’t just a run-packed defensive tackle as some thought when he was signed. I saw in studying the film — and everyone at camp sees it now — that Jones can experience inner pressure on a regular basis. Quarterbacks in today’s game can handle outside pressure, but inside pressure makes even the best look deadly. Jones is there to fill the run when the Broncos give up eight in coverage, but when tasked with rushing the passer, he can be one of the most disruptive players on this defense.