Steve Atwater enjoyed seeing the Broncos’ defense “swarm” the offense during Tuesday’s fourth day of training camp, but the Hall-of-Fame safety was still pretty pumped about the offense.
Even on a day that Drew Lock & Co. got pushed around a bit.
In fact, Atwater thought the offense looked “further along” than expected when it comes to running plays smoothly, being on the same page, etc.
And the quarterback?
Atwater isn’t worried about a few interceptions.
“Drew Lock has been putting the ball on the money,” he said. “I mean, he’s thrown a few interceptions, but like Vic Fangio said, he doesn’t want [Lock] to be so afraid of turnovers he doesn’t push the field downfield. This is going to be an exciting offense to watch. It is going to be really fun to watch this team play.”
Broncos Country Tonight’s Ryan Edwards asked Atwater what Broncos Country should think if the Lock and the offense didn’t come out and show improvement Wednesday (and by all accounts, the offense did look better today), but Atwater wasn’t even worried about that issue on Tuesday.
From his perspective, Lock showed his competitive spirit in spite of the mistakes.
“Even though the defense got best of offense, Drew Lock still had the swagger,” Atwater said. “He wasn’t afraid the ball. When you’re doing anything, you will make mistakes, but the last thing you want to do is to be afraid of making them. Especially at this point in the process.”
The former Broncos’ safety reminded his hosts that camp is an ebb and flow for offenses and defenses. If the offense gets some ground on a defense, the D usually dials it up the next day.
“Sometimes coaches have some easier defenses called one day, and the offense will come out and score a bunch of touchdowns, start pumping their chests out talking some noise, so coaches go back to drawing board, and say ‘OK, they want to play like that, we got em tomorrow,’” Atwater said. “So the next day, the defense comes out and makes plays all over the field. That’s the fun part of it.”
Atwater also set some expectations that after several days in a row of hard practices, guys’ legs will get tired, and the mental errors will happen. But he’s still not worried about this offense because he sees great potential.
“It looks like this offense is an explosive offense with a heavy dose of runs and passes - and we’ve seen all the guys in on the action,” Atwater said, adding there’s nothing they could do - short of no longer throwing the ball or starting to run slow routes - that would make him think this offense won’t be up to par. “As long as they don’t stop throwing the ball, or running slow routes, they’ll put points on the board, and it’s going to be exciting.”
Although there was a lot of excitement over Lloyd Cushenberry being inserted into the starting lineup - and then a lot of concern that he hasn’t been in camp so far (until Wednesday) - Atwater cautioned against too much angst over that.
“Playing center is like playing starting quarterback. Getting reps with the ones is extremely unique, especially for rookie offensive linemen,” Atwater said, noting it’s more important “Cush” learns the offense and the calls before going with the starters. “It’s a very difficult task to come in and start. He’s an extremely intelligent young man and he’s going to get it down. But for me, it’s just ‘be patient, don’t get frustrated, don’t get down; don’t read the stories that you should be in there, should be doing this, doing that.’ Just keep grinding. By the end of the preseason, you never know what’s going to happen.”
But for all his excitement over the offense, Atwater is understandably hyped about the defense. And when it comes to the secondary, he’s not surprised that all the guys are living up to their potential so far, but he is relieved.
“I’m not surprised. It’s going to be a playmaking defense,” Atwater said, admitting he was a little concerned about whether Bryce Callahan would be healthy and playing full speed but that has been put to rest. “He’s running around making plays left and right, the young corners are making plays, A.J. Bouye is making plays, Justin Simmons and KJack are making plays. They’re feeding off each other, and it will just get better and better.”
Bouye has been everything the Broncos hoped in camp thus far.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) August 19, 2020
And it’s not just the secondary.
“Seeing Von Miller out there rushing the passer full speed, getting ‘sacks’ in the backfield; Jeremiah Attachou getting to the ball; Justin Simmons tipped the ball; AJ Bouye picked it off today,” Atwater said. “They’re having fun right now. This whole team is going to be better.”
No doubt having to cover speedsters like Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, along with the big guy Courtland Sutton is only making them better - perhaps even earning the secondary another nickname at some point.
“The ‘No Fly Zone’ is gone,” Atwater said. “It had a great shelf life, but that’s over with. Hopefully these guys will be great in their own right and come up with their own name.”
Edwards ended the interview by asking Atwater if at any point he could have covered Jeudy.
“Come on man, you make my knees hurt when you talk like that,” Atwater joked. “If coach put me on Jerry Jeudy, I’d say, ‘woah, coach, I need a timeout.”