With three days down, the Broncos enter today with four practices to go until their first day off. They’ll only have two padded practices before Thursday, and yet we’ve already seen disputes about the quarterback battle, a rookie standout, and the promise of sophomore leaps. There’s two weeks until kickoff against the Minnesota Vikings, so the grind has only just begun. What follows are a few notes and musings as I’ve kept with all the reports coming out of camp.
The quarterback battle is as expected
Everyone loves a good rhyme, so don’t be surprised to hear about “steady” Teddy from just about every corner of Broncos’ Country. If you’re a fan of consistent ball movement, Bridgewater’s willingness to find the easy completion may feel like a breath of fresh air. When you count a Freeman drop on the second day of practice, only four of Bridgewater’s passes have fallen incomplete so far.
Bridgewater has had only four balls hit the ground in camp and two of them have bounced off Cleveland’s hands— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) July 30, 2021
If you’re drawn to flash plays, his affinity for check down passes may lull you to sleep. It certainly led to some controversy on the Broncos’ second day of practice when every reporter at Broncos’ camp except KOA’s Benjamin Allbright saw Bridgewater as the clear winner in the ongoing QB battle.
I think the thing you're seeing in disparity of opinion on Lock and Bridgewater is the lens through what people value.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) July 29, 2021
Is Bridgewater more efficient? Absolutely.
But you're going to be more efficient when 95% of your passes are within 5 yards of the LOS.
Keep in mind hypotheticals have a tendency to exaggerate what is real in order to prove a point.
Beyond the fact there’s multiple reports about Bridgewater connecting on deeper passes, we know he’s fully capable of hitting receivers at each level of the field. Pro Football Focus’ Tej Seth shared with me that Bridgewater had the 2nd best accuracy rate over expected on intermediate throws in the NFL last season. Only Drew Brees was better.
Without watching the individual plays, it’s impossible to tell if Bridgewater is checking down for the right reasons. He may be working off receivers who are covered and dumping it down to avoid the rush, for example.
here's each player's completion percentage over expected (CPOE) on different throw types according to the PFF model— Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics) July 29, 2021
CPOE still isn't a perfect way to measure a quarterback since it's just ball released -> ball caught but it's a start to see what quarterbacks are good or bad at pic.twitter.com/1h490pVagJ
I don’t consider it too notable that Bridgewater’s checkdowns seem to be a storyline so far in the QB1 competition. Anyone who’s watched him before the Panthers traded him to Denver knew he’s all too happy to take the sure thing if it presents itself. The hope here is Bridgewater starts to take a few more chances in the days ahead, however, and it sounds like Vic Fangio agrees.
“It’s good. There’s a fine line there. Checkdowns are good, but you need more than checkdowns. We need the right mix of that.”
If Teddy Bridgewater’s been a leisurely ride around the ferris wheel, Drew Lock’s been a roller coaster. His performance in 7&7s the last two days have led to whiplash in some corners of Broncos’ Country as reporters and fans talk themselves in circles about their importance, which may highlight two indisputable facts:
- By almost all accounts, Lock was abysmal during Thursday’s practice until the red zone period.
- Lock hit a long bomb to K.J. Hamler on Friday.
There’s never been a question about Drew Lock’s arm talent, so it should come as no shock he’s ripping moon shots. His aggressiveness and propensity to chase the big play was always going to make for the better highlights out of camp.
The gunslinger is well equipped to take advantage of bubble players like Parnell Motley who have no business covering K.J. Hamler. DNVR’s Andrew Mason pointed out that more than a couple of Lock’s best throws have come at the expense of the 2020 undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma who signed with the Broncos late last year. It didn’t hurt that Shelby Harris and Von Miller were both given a veteran’s day off on Friday, either.
Let there be no doubt, this Broncos offense will be better if it can flip the field with chunk plays. It simply can’t come with the mistakes that haunted Lock throughout 2020.
What remains to be seen with the Broncos’ 2019 second round pick is whether he can find some degree of consistency when the bullets start flying. With such a small sample size, it’s too soon to say.
“One shitty play, how many of the ‘wow’ plays do you need to wipe that one off the books?” — Fangio— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) July 30, 2021
Jerry Jeudy is headed for a breakout
All the work he put in this offseason seems to be paying off, because the hype over Jeudy is on another level. The only receiver who’s come close in recent years is Courtland Sutton. Melvin Gordon attributes it to Jeudy’s disappointment in his 2020.
“He’s hungry, man. He doesn’t feel like last year came close to anything he can show the world and what his ability is. He’s coming out here and he’s going to show everybody who he is. I had a similar experience my rookie year, so I know the feeling. I feel how he feels, too, and I’m sure a lot of other guys do. He’s going to come out and he’s going to give it everything he has—every practice, every day, in the weight room—regardless of where he is. He’s going to give it everything he has so when he gets on the field, he can show people who he is. That’s the same with me.”
Justin Simmons believes he could push for a Pro Bowl, or even more.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Jeudy can have an All-Pro, Pro Bowl season this year. He’s just that good. Everyone wants to talk about what happened last year, but I’m worried about it one bit. I’ve seen the work that he’s been putting in during the offseason. I saw what he did in OTAs. We only got a snippet of it today [of him] snagging passes out of the air way outside his body frame. That’s just the beginning. Competition is something he never shies from, and I know he’s going to be tremendous for us this year. He’s going to be big.
Surtain II is headed for a big role in 2021
It’s uncommon for a rookie corner to draw so many rave reviews in the early days of camp, but Patrick Surtain II isn’t a normal rookie. Throughout high school he received coaching from his father, who spent 11 years in the NFL and made three Pro Bowls. He became an immediate contributor to the Alabama Crimson Tide and years in a Nick Saban defense are clearly helping him to pick up the Fangio system quickly.
Multiple reports out of camp point to Surtain serving as the Broncos’ primary dime corner as Fangio looks to sprinkle in more six DB looks. When I spoke with The Gazette’s George Stoia III, he made it clear the rookie has more than held his own with his boundary snaps as well.
Still Grazing? A potpourri of things I have my eye on
- Bradley Chubb’s ankle, first and foremost. Mike Purcell’s too.
- Lock and Bridgewater haven’t thrown a pick yet, but they’ve come close a few times.
- Diontae Spencer doesn’t look like he’s set to lose his job as a returner.
- It seems Fangio has taken notice of Caden Sterns.
- Jamar Johnson’s return from Covid-19.
- Trinity Benson and Kendall Hinton are the bubble receivers who keep showing up in reports.
- Who comes off the field when Denver goes to dime personnel?
- Waiting for the pads to come on for real clarity on the trench battles.
- Ditto for the RB rotation.
- Calvin Anderson ran with the first team until Friday when Bobby Massie replaced him.
- It doesn’t look like anyone is challenging Lloyd Cushenberry at this point.
- McTelvin Agim had a nice Thursday. Can he keep it up?
#Broncos pass rush has been very good today. Multiple sacks and pass deflections from Shelby Harris and McTelvin Agim.— George Stoia III (@GeorgeStoia) July 29, 2021
Your Broncos’ News
Today was a good bounce back day for Drew Lock and another consistent day for Teddy Bridgewater.
Did Teddy Bridgewater make the first big statement in the teams’ quarterback competition?
In a stacked DB room, can Duke Dawson carve out a role on the roster?
The Denver Broncos have a quarterback competition going on during training camp. Can Drew Lock win the starting job in 2021?
Broncos training camp rewind, Day 3: Vic Fangio says “no separation” in Drew Lock/Teddy Bridgwater competition – The Denver Post
Recapping Day 3 of Broncos training camp on July 30, 2021 at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood.
Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater look even in first day of Broncos’ quarterback battle | Broncos | gazette.com
Lock took the first snap Wednesday because of seniority with the Broncos, and Bridgewater will take the first snap Thursday. Neither, though, will likely be named the starter until after the second preseason game against the Seahawks on Aug. 21, as Fangio hopes to give each quarterback one preseason start.
Bridgewater has yet to make a (bleepy) play. If this were Wall Street instead of UCHealth Training Center, Lock would be the growth stock — big returns but risky — and Bridgewater would be the value stock — efficient and steady but not spectacular.
Jake Butt, the once-promising tight end whose football career was waylaid by six knee operations, announced his retirement from the NFL on Thursday, saying he could no longer hide the fact that he’d lost his passion for the game he loves.
The Broncos open the season with the Giants.
The Broncos play the Jets in week 2
Lee: How the best offenses in the NFL are generating explosive plays | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
The NFL’s best teams overall are also the best at creating explosive plays, as expected. The Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were among the top squads to do so last season.
Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen just had the greatest third-year breakout in modern NFL history | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
When you look into the historical numbers, the more useful takeaway from Allen’s breakout isn’t opening up possibilities for others but highlighting the degree to which his improvement was an outlier in the history of the NFL
Report: Carson Wentz could need surgery, which would sideline him for start of season - ProFootballTalk
The Colts are holding their breath on Carson Wentz‘s foot injury as they brace for their starting quarterback possibly to require surgery, Mike Silver of NFL Media reports. That would keep Wentz out for the start of the season, though the injury does not look like it’s season-ending. Indications are that it is not a Lisfranc injury, per Silver.
“It’s not as much the athletic part of it as it’s just seeing in the field, understanding the formation, seeing shifts, getting the calls,” Bosa said, via the team’s website. “I got to call last year. It was my call. I line up and do what I have to do. Maybe there’s a couple of checks here and there. But, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of moving pieces. I think it’s great. It’s a dynamic defense. A good defense shouldn’t be easy to learn in two days, so it’s a fun challenge.”
After previously playing more on the inside, Jones is expected to play more as an edge rusher this season, and as a result he’s trying to get slimmer and quicker. Jones told reporters that he is doing pilates and has lost 15 to 20 pounds, according to Joshua Brisco.