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Early trends from Broncos’ Camp

What news and reports will have the biggest impact on the Broncos?

Catching up with all the news and noise out of Broncos camp so far.

Jerry Jeudy is the real deal.

It’s not a surprise Jeudy hit the ground running, but it’s wicked to see players like Kareem Jackson and A.J. Bouye rave about his routes. Rookies are bound to have a tough time adjusting to the NFL, but look for the 15th overall pick to make his presence felt against the Tennessee Titans.

Not a lot of news about Noah Fant.

While we’ve heard Noah Fant’s thoughts on the contracts handed out to George Kittle and Travis Kelce, there’s been precious little about his performance so far in camp. The optimist in me wants to believe it’s because the biggest news is how Pat Shurmur is moving him around to maximize his freaky athleticism and talking about it breaks the rules on media reports out of camp.

For now, we’re left with Fant’s own words on the new offense.

“I’d say my favorite thing with Coach Shurmur is just early on I’m moving around a lot. He’s moving me around, using me in different places. I’ll be in the slot, I’ll be in-line and I’ll be outside as a wide receiver. I think that’s what I love the most just being able to have a versatile game and do a lot of different things, take advantage of a lot of different matchup. Especially with as good of receivers as we have, it’s going to be a lot of fun to do that.”

Drew Lock is up and down, Jeff Driskel even more so.

QB1 has made some big throws and a few baffling mistakes so far. None of it should surprise or alarm you, as he’s still an inexperienced passer finding his way. The good news is oftentimes a quarterback will make some throws to “test the waters” in practice, as the reward greatly outweighs the risk.

The bad news is all reports suggest Jeff Driskel isn’t going to save the day if Lock gets hurt or sick. On the plus side, it could be feasible for Lock to succeed and the Broncos to remain in contention for Penei Sewell.

It’s only a matter of time ‘til Demar Dotson is starting.

The Broncos’ left tackle situation was the biggest question on offense before Ja’Wuan James opted out. On Sunday Garett Bolles had a great practice, but pads came on Tuesday and it seems both his and Elijah Wilkinson have proceeded to struggle.

Odds are the 2017 first round pick won’t leave the starting lineup until he’s unavailable or his contract runs out. The same can’t be said for the former undrafted free agent Elijah Wilkinson, who has Demar Dotson breathing down his back. Ideally the 12-year veteran can settle in, pick up the offense, and hold down the right side. I’m optimistic.

Lloyd Cushenberry’s getting work with the second team.

There’s been some frustration in corners of Broncos’ Country that Cushenberry hasn’t gotten a run with the first team yet. Pump the brakes, it’ll come. Center demands a lot from a player mentally, and for a rookie still adjusting to NFL speed and learning his first playbook, the coaching staff may want to practice caution. There’s no doubt the former LSU Tiger makes the squad, so in all reality Patrick Morris and Austin Schlottmann are competing for a spot on the roster. Reps with the first team help the coaching staff identify who makes the most sense.

While it’s fair to be concerned about the offensive line, Graham Glasgow believes the competition isn’t going to ruin the group’s chemistry:

“I don’t think it takes as long to develop chemistry as a lot of people says it does. I think you can kind of get that going in a matter of a few weeks, a couple weeks. The rotations are necessary. They’re battling for a job, and we’re just trying to put the best five out there. Until we find out who the best five are, I think we need to keep doing it and figuring out what’s best for the line and the team.”

De’Vante Bausby looks like he’ll be the CB3.

Jeff Essary and I have spent a lot of time discussing the cornerback room on Cover 2 Broncos. Both A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan have notable injury histories, so depth is going to be critical. Isaac Yiadom, De’Vante Bausby, and Davontae Harris all saw real action as a boundary corner in Vic Fangio’s scheme last season and have battled it out for CB3 so far in camp.

From the jump, Bausby’s gotten the first reps outside in nickel sets. If he can get back to the form he showed against the Packers in week 3 last year, it’ll turn the corner room into a strength of the Broncos.

Bryce Callahan’s healthy.

Bryce Callahan has played for Vic Fangio throughout his NFL career so it should be a surprise how he’s been a huge help to the rest of the secondary. A little over a week ago we learned Justin Simmons picked his brain during 2019 to get a better idea of his role. A healthy Callahan has caught the eye of A.J. Bouye.

“Bryce really knows the scheme a lot being in it. I think the first day we were out there practicing, the one thing I noticed was how he’s able to pass off certain routes. As soon as someone sits down, he’s just exploding out of it. He made an interception, he had a nice breakup and you can just see he knows the game. He knows where his help is going to be, where receivers are going to be and what routes he can play. Just watching him and how he plays certain things, that’s one thing I’m paying attention to because when he’s on my side, I’ll know how he plays certain routes which is going to help me.”

KJ Hamler has found his way to the first team.

In a normal year I would have spent an inordinate amount of time obsessing over how the Broncos got K.J. Hamler the ball in the preseason. He’s an electric waterbug who should become a dynamic player in space for the Broncos. Since Elway drafted him, I’ve believed Pat Shurmur would create a package of plays to get the ball in his hands with room to operate.

The fact that he’s found his way to the first team is a great sign for his progress, but Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy still look like they’ll start across from Courtland Sutton week one.

How does Jake Butt make the roster?

While Alex Smith should run away with the Comeback Player of the Year award for suiting up for practice with Washington, Jake Butt ought to get the silver medal if he plays this year. Drew Lock said it best:

“There’s nobody in our locker room that doesn’t want to see Jake Butt succeed. One of the best teammates that we have in this locker room. For him to push and grind through all the injuries he’s had. For him to come out—he reported early with us. Right from the get-go I could tell. He’s not 100 percent back to normal. Obviously, you can never get back to normal after a knee [injury], but he’s as close as you can possibly get after having those surgeries. The guy is playing some really good ball. He’s super smart and little more athletic than people give him credit for.

Pat Shurmur tends to carry four tight ends on his active rosters, so Butt’s fighting a numbers game to stick. Noah Fant is a former first round pick entering year 2. Nick Vannett is a recently signed veteran and cutting him costs $2.5 million against the cap. Albert Okwuegbunam is a size/speed freak, so it’s doubtful Elway would risk him to waivers.

The trade of Andy Janovich over the off-season seemed to signal Pat Shurmur’s faith in Andrew Beck or perhaps Troy Fumagalli to fulfill the H-back duties in addition to a depth role at tight end. There’s no guarantee that’s the case just yet, however.

If the Broncos can find someone else to play fullback, it’d give Jake Butt a way to outshine his competition at tight end. The last two years in New York, Pat Shurmur had such a back by the name of Elijhaa Penny. He saw about 200 snaps on offense and carved out a role on special teams. He touched the ball 32 times during that span. A big “early camp” caveat here, but there’s some reason to believe Jeremy Cox could fill a similar role. He may even offer more as a ball carrier than the bigger Penny did.

Don’t get your hopes up for an UDFA to make the roster.

On Tuesday A.J. Bouye was asked about how hard it’d be to make the active roster in the situation currently facing the NFL.

“It would definitely be harder. That’s one thing when I found out we had no preseason games—it’s a positive for the guys who’ve probably made the team because they don’t have to risk injury, but I look at the younger guys who’ve worked so hard. Even now the only way you can get evaluated is in practice and what you do on special teams and offense and defense. It’s definitely harder. The one thing that we’ve done in the room is just support each other. We know it’s a competition but at the end of the day you don’t know what’s going to happen. If somebody’s not here, they could take everything that they learned from here and take it somewhere else. For example, I told Bausby, he asked me about what was happening in Houston and how I was able to overcome that. I told him it’s just that you have to keep your head down and work and recognize the opportunity. No matter where you’re drafted or if you’re undrafted you’re always going to have that one opportunity you just have to take advantage of.”