Today was the final practice before the Broncos preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings. This means that today’s practice was a non-padded practice to keep everyone fresh prior to Saturday nights game. Today we have wide receiver River Cracraft going off in practice, praise for rookie corner Isaac Yiadom, running backs Booker and Freeman will split first-team reps, tight end Jake Butt will see some first-team work, news and notes, an injury report, and more
River Cracraft went off today:
One more Denver Broncos Training Camp day in the books and we have another wide receiver going off in practice. Yesterday it was Tim Patrick, before that it was rookie Courtland Sutton, and now today it was River Cracraft.
Keenum deep post to River Cracraft— TD. Split Roby and Stewart. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 9, 2018
He saw a good amount of first-team work and was hauling in everything from quarterback Case Keenum today. In one instance, ‘Cray Cray’ as Keenum calls him caught a touchdown pass and split two defensive starters, cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Darian Stewart.
Yesterday, quarterback Case Keenum called the shifty receiver a “friendly target” and that he likes throwing him the ball. This quote ended up being some foreshadowing for today’s performance in camp.
“Cray-Cray? He’s playing well. He’s doing really well. I like throwing him the ball. He’s a friendly target. He’s learning too. He’s learning the NFL game. I think you like having a guy like that, you can move inside, outside, shifty. He’s got good separation at the top of his routes. And he’s learning too, just like a lot of those young guys. He’s continuing to grow, he’s watching the older guys, [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders], and watching what those guys do and trying to emulate some of that.”
Cracraft is in a competition with Isaiah McKenzie, Tim Patrick, John Diarse, and the rest of the remaining receivers low on the depth chart for the 5th and/or 6th spot on the depth chart. He is also in competition for the kick and punt return jobs as well. He will likely have to contribute at both receiver and returner to crack the Broncos 53-man roster.
Right now, I think the six receivers the Broncos will be Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, and River Cracraft. Both Patrick and Cracraft have out-performed McKenzie as a receiver and can also contribute on special returns.
Obviously, how all these guys perform during the preseason will ultimately decide this battle, but Patrick and Cracraft’s strong camps have put them in good position entering camp in my opinion
Isaac Yiadom has been having a good camp this far:
The Broncos third-round pick was expected to battle for the third cornerback job right away. That is why they added a veteran like Tramaine Brock to hold the spot for a year and allow a rookie like Yiadom develop a bit. However, with Brock missing time, Yiadom has earned some valuable reps in camp and appears to be ahead of schedule.
Rookie CB Isaac Yiadom ran with the 1s to start today. That third CB spot up for grabs this preseason.— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) August 9, 2018
Head Coach Vance Joseph was asked about the Broncos third-round pick today after practice and he had some nice words for the exciting rookie.
“He’s been really, really efficient with his technique. He doesn’t get beat deep and that’s critical for a young corner. Obviously, in the game, if you make one critical mistake at corner, it can be a big play. I want him to go out there and play with great technique and play with his brain. That’s what he’s done the whole training camp.”
Yiadom is a size/speed corner who is a physical player so the fact that his technique is being called efficient should be exciting news for us Broncos fans. This was an area where he needed to improve to make that next jump and it appears he is heading in the right direction there.
The number three corner job will come down to either Yiadom or veteran Tramaine Brock, but Yiadom has health on his side right now. Brock is dealing with a nagging hamstring injury and those can flare up again at any time so the door is wide open for Yiadom.
Joseph also commented on Brendan Langley, the Broncos other young corner who has fallen behind Yiadom already. Basically, he preached patience on Langley because of the development he needs to reach the potential they saw in him.
“He had an OK week. He’s working hard. He’s a young player that’s played receiver for half of his life. He’s learning how to play corner still, but he’s a talented player that needs more time to figure out how to play corner. I’ve been encouraged with his week. He’s worked hard and he’s excited about playing Saturday.”
The NFL is a tough league when it comes to patience. Your job can become quickly on the line and you can’t afford to wait for someone to develop, but that is exactly what you have to do with Langley. He is a big-time project who is still learning the position. If it clicks, he can be a damn good player, but will that ever happen?
We shall see.
Freeman and Booker to split 1st team reps:
The position battle I am most excited to watch during the preseason is the running back battle. It is a position that you cannot fully evaluate until they’re in game action. Even when they’re fully padded in practice, they’re not going to live and to the ground.
That will change come Saturday night.
As expected, veteran Devontae Booker and rookie Royce Freeman will split first-team reps with the first team. It is unclear if either will play after that, but we will see all five backs in some sort of fashion come Saturday night according to Vance Joseph.
“Everyone plays. Obviously, right now, Book (Devontae Booker) is the lead guy, along with Royce [Freeman]. Those guys probably will split the time with the first two series. After that, everyone plays.”
After those two, we’ll see De’Angelo Henderson come in and hopefully, he can continue his impressive play. After that, it will likely be big Dave Williams who is a bit of a dark horse to watch in this running back battle. Next, we’ll likely see running back/receiver Phillip Lindsay mixed in throughout the game.
I am hoping for a little bit more clarity from this position after Saturday’s game but with Book and Freeman likely only getting limited reps, we may have to wait one more week.
Jake Butt will see time with the first team offense
Just yesterday, Head Coach Vance Joseph wasn’t sure how much or even if tight end Jake Butt would play against the Vikings. Well, we got an answer there and we’ll see Butt with the first-team offense and likely a little bit after that.
I think we’ll see Austin Traylor start the game, but see Butt mix in on some two tight end sets/goal line situations.
“Yes, he’s playing. He’ll be with the first group probably for two series and maybe a little bit after, but not much more than that.”
Butt hasn’t played in a football since his final game at Michigan almost two years ago when he tore his ACL.
As we know, Butt who figured to be a day two player fell to the Broncos in the fifth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft which could turn into a major steal for them. He missed his entire rookie year and spent it rehabbing his knee and working back into football shape. Now, I think the Broncos will ease him into action throughout the summer.
With Jeff Heuerman struggling with injuries again and rookie Troy Fumagalli nicked up, Butt has a chance to really separate himself from his competition and potentially push Austin Traylor who I expect to “start” for the starting job.
News and notes:
- When asked if there was any update on wide receiver Carlos Henderson, Head Coach Vance Joseph said there was “none”.
- Broncos are “hopeful” that oft-injured tight end Jeff Heuerman returns to practice next week.
- Guard Ron Leary and right tackle Jared Veldheer will play Saturday night so we should see the Broncos entire starting offensive line out there Saturday night.
- Defensive lineman Clinton McDonald’s shoulder is acting up again and he is continuing to get it evaluated.
- Joseph reiterated that the starters will only get series at most come Saturday night.
- Nose tackle Domata Peko sat out practice today as he was given a veteran day off.
- Defensive lineman Clinton McDonald sat out practice with a nagging shoulder injury. He is still getting it evaluated and potentially could play Saturday night according to Head Coach Vance Joseph.
- Safety Su’a Cravens missed yet another practice with knee soreness.
- Tight end Jeff Heuerman was seen working on the side with Strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow. The Broncos are “hopeful” that he can return next week.
- Linebacker Joe Jones was also working on the sideline with Landow as he missed another practice as well.
- Menelik Watson sat out practice as well as he’s recovering from a triceps injury.
- Su’a Cravens, Jeff Heuerman, and Menelik Watson have already been ruled out of Saturday Night’s game. Defensive lineman Clinton McDonald, cornerback Tramaine Brock and Joe Jones are considered gametime decisions.
Tweets from camp:
Day 11 of #Broncos training camp is upon us! The first preseason game is just two days away! Can you feel it, #BroncosCountry?! Stay tuned to @OrangeBlue760 for all your Day 11 needs! pic.twitter.com/24nVGWYOSt— Anthony Rodriguez (@AnthonyRod33) August 9, 2018
Jeff Heuerman has a helmet on but is working with trainers on the side. Joe Jones is working on the side with him. pic.twitter.com/aJUMzj7AQC— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) August 9, 2018
#Broncos Heuerman getting closer to return. Joseph didn't say Heuerman had to make team in camp. Part of issue is lack depth to make that statement now. Month of August will bring clarity. Regardless he needs to get healthy to have role #Denver7 pic.twitter.com/tmY2rRHbLx— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 9, 2018
Andy Janovich’s helmet takes quite a beating pic.twitter.com/ncNZg5YSFB— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) August 9, 2018
Case Keenum's first throw of team period is tipped up front and picked off by Chris Harris Jr.— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) August 9, 2018
Phillip Lindsay is getting a heavy dose of first-team reps early in practice.— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) August 9, 2018
River Cracraft with a sick one-handed, left-handed catch on a nice touch pass from Paxton Lynch over the middle.— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) August 9, 2018
With Menelik Watson out, Billy Turner moved inside to No 2 RG and Andreas Knapp’s at No 2 RT. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 9, 2018
Courtland Sutton w/ what would’ve been an amazing play, but out of bounds. Case found Sutton in the end zone as Sutton went up and hauled it in w/ his right arm as he brought it into his body for the one-handed grab, but out of bounds. #Broncos #TrainingCamp @OrangeBlue760— Anthony Rodriguez (@AnthonyRod33) August 9, 2018
Actually offense running card plays. Who can run Vikings plays better than Case Keenum? #9sportd— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 9, 2018
Chad Kelly to Isaiah McKenzie for a wide open TD.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) August 9, 2018
After two drops yesterday, rookie phenom Courtland Sutton has had many great grabs from Keenum today.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) August 9, 2018
Keenum deep post to River Cracraft— TD. Split Roby and Stewart. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 9, 2018
Cracraft is putting on a show today at Broncos camp.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) August 9, 2018
Dymonte Thomas with a pick on Paxton Lynch. Lynch lobbed one up deep in the middle of the field and Thomas flew over for the easy pick. He had room to run, too.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) August 9, 2018
Mark Chapman with nice catch across middle from Kelly. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 9, 2018
Case Keenum with a 50-yard bomb over the middle of the field to a wide open John Diarse. Chris Harris Jr. was in coverage.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) August 9, 2018
Vance Joseph: “The first team will go two series max... Von is playing.”— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) August 9, 2018
Vance Joseph when asked if Paxton Lynch will only play w/the 2nd team & Chad Kelly w/the 3rd team— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) August 9, 2018
“We’ll see…There’s going to be some of the offensive lineman playing with the 2’s and 3’s, same with the receivers. It’s hard to say after the first group leaves who’s 2’s and 3’s”
Vance Joseph on what he’s seen from Menelik Watson in camp:
“Obviously, his size makes a difference at guard. He’s a big man that can really move. With double-teaming blocks and obviously blocking the A-gap, he’s huge for us. That’s what he’s really good at, with his size obviously being his strength, and his movement. He’s had a good camp. Unfortunately, he’s a little bit nicked up right now.”
Vance Joseph on what he wants to see on Saturday:
“You want to see if you’re in good condition, you want to see if you’re a disciplined football team—that’s important—and you want to see how tough you are. Obviously, you want to win the game, but I think inside of winning these games, you can get a lot done.”
Garett Bolles on having quarterback Case Keenum as the starter:
“It’s a blessing for sure. Having just one guy, knowing where he’s going to set up, knowing what he’s going to do every single day. The leadership that he brings, I keep telling you all this, but what happened last year to him was not a fluke thing. That’s who he is. He holds himself [to a high standard]. He’s a competitor—a guy who grinds through four different teams, and to finally get his chance to rise and shine is a man that I’ll put all of my arms and legs into and trust him. Let him fire the ball, let him hit the guys that he needs to hit. But just his leadership and the demand that he holds and the position he holds himself to be is awesome. It just makes us feel grateful to block for him.”
Sam Jones on the biggest adjustment from college to the NFL:
“I think it’s just the details. The little details matter. They’re at a premium when you get to this level because everyone is so good. It’s all technique and the details of the assignment and the scheme and everything like that.”