We have finally made it! Training camp officially begins later this week and the Denver Broncos 2023 season will get underway. This year, we have Sean Payton running the team and things are expected to look much different than they did last season. On top of that, we have key players returning from injury, position battles to watch, potentially some breakout stars, and more.
So, let us take a look at the five biggest storylines surrounding the Denver Broncos as they head into the start of training camp.
1. The Sean Payton effect
Last season, Nathaniel Hackett was the Broncos' head coach and took a rather different approach to training than we have seen in the past. Veterans received a lot of time off, there we no 7-on-7 drills, no one-on-one drills, very little contact, full-speed practices, and we will see the starters play in the preseason. This also carried over into the preseason where starters did not play a single snap of football. Well, now Nathaniel Hackett is out as the Broncos' head coach, and in comes Sean Payton. He is an old-school coach, who is going to bring intensity back to the practice along with everything that was missing from camp last year.
Payton’s training camp is going to look, feel, and sound different than anything we saw last season. Expect more hitting, longer practices(within the limits), more intense practices, and lest rest days and walk-through days. Like Payton said earlier this offseason, “I do know that we’re playing tackle football and you have to practice tackle football.”, and that is what we are going to see them do in the coming days and weeks.
We will also see a more organized practice led by coaches who know what they’re doing and what they want to achieve. Last year, on top of Hackett’s approach, the coaching staff had inexperience up and down the staff and this was the first training camp any of these coaches led. Payton leading the practice with a direction in mind on top of the experience up and down the staff should be beneficial for this team as we move forward.
I am excited to see these one-on-one drills come back, the seven-on-seven drills, a more intense practice, and just a more “normal” practice coming back. It improves the team and it makes these next few weeks even more exciting for us fans.
The differences between Payton’s practices compared to Hackett’s practices will be talking points as we progress through camp and the preseason.
2. The return of the injured players
Last year, we saw multiple significant and season-ending injuries to multiple key players on this roster. Now, these key players are coming back, are at or near 100%, and are ready to contribute this upcoming season for the Broncos
The biggest return will be running back Javonte Williams. He is coming back from a severe knee injury that many expected to sideline him into the regular season. Well, the Broncos back was back for OTA’s and is now avoiding the PUP list and will be ready for the start of training camp. All eyes will be on Javonte once camp opens and people will be looking to see how he runs, is he wearing a brace? Is he making cuts without issue? Has he lost any burst, speed, or acceleration, and how the team is easing him back into action?
Veteran wide receiver Tim Patrick is also returning from a torn ACL. He is further along in his rehab than Javonte and will also be ready for the start of camp. He participated during the OTA’a and minicamp practices and will now be a full participant during training camp. Before his injury, Patrick looked to be quarterback Russell Wilson’s top target. The two were making plays throughout camp before his injury and the offense and passing game really missed Patrick during the season. So, we will be looking to see if that connection returns this year and how Patrick looks post-ACL surgery
Another returning starter is left tackle Garret Bolles. The big tackle went down with a broken leg and had to miss the rest of the season. He is fully healthy now, but with the team putting an emphasis on the offensive line, run blocking, and protection, Bolles needs to show he is the same player he was before his injury and that he can consistently protect the quarterback.
3. Wide receiver battle
This may not be an important storyline for some, but I think it is one of the more fascinating storylines to watch in camp. We saw the Broncos' two top receivers surrounded by trade rumors before the draft, we have another key receiver returning from injury, two former Saints added to the mix, a second-round draft pick they traded up for, and a bunch of roster bubble guys fighting for a few roster spots.
Previewing the #Broncos wide receivers ahead of the start of training camp.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) July 12, 2023
It is a deep unit that will have plenty of competition for a spot on the 53-man roster. Who do you think makes the team and do you think we’ll see anyone traded from this group? https://t.co/iIfGBSZvw6
Jerry Jeudy will need to prove that he can be the number one receiver in Sean Payton’s offense and continue the play we saw at the end of last season. We need to see the Courtland Sutton of old show up while also watching to see if these trade rumors surrounding him begin to happen again. Meanwhile, we have Tim Patrick who some have called “the best football player in that receiving room” who will need to prove that he is fully healthy after tearing his ACL last season. He will also need to live up to the hype that began last season and picked up once again this offseason.
After those three, things get even more interesting. We have the rookie speedster Marvin Mims Jr. He was Sean Payton’s first selection as a member of the Broncos and will likely have a role in this offense. How will he look and what kind of role will we see him used in during camp? Then, will the familiarity with Sean Payton and his offense help Marquez Callaway and Lil Jordan Humphrey make the team?
Then you have the players on the roster bubble. Will we see former second-round pick, K.J. Hamler who is starting camp on the NFI finally stay healthy? Will second-year player Montrell Washington retain his returner job? Or are both of these players in danger of not making the team?
After those two, you have the underdogs. Those players are Jalen Virgil, Brandon Johnson, rookie Taylor Grimes, and Kendall Hinton (on the PUP). Can they impress the coaching staff and earn a spot on the roster?
There are questions up and down this receiving room and this unit will be a very interesting one to watch as we progress through training camp.
4. Which Russell Wilson will we get?
Before last season, Russell Wilson was viewed as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. That all changed after last season when he had the worst season of his career and now has people wondering if Russell Wilson is “washed up” or not. Now, with head coach Sean Payton running the team and offense, all eyes will be on Wilson to see how he looks, what type of plays Payton will run, or if his struggles from last season will continue.
More of this Russell Wilson plz— DNVR Broncos (@DNVR_Broncos) July 21, 2023
All eyes will be on Wilson throughout camp, into the preseason, and into the regular season, but first comes training camp. We need to see Russ make plays, look confident in the offense, and simply just look like the quarterback he used to be. The addition of Sean Payton should bring that out of him, but we shall see.
We have covered this topic a lot this offseason, but it is going to be a storyline we all keep an eye on during training camp.
5. Second-year breakouts?
The Broncos have multiple second-year players coming off solid rookie seasons who are looking to have breakout years this upcoming season. The most exciting one of the bunch is tight end, Greg Dulcich.
High praise from Sean Payton on second year TE Greg Dulcich and his possible role as the joker in this #broncos offense. A role filled by a RB or TE that creates mismatches on the field and has been filled by really talented players in the past for Payton. pic.twitter.com/hdlKygUiod— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) June 1, 2023
The highly athletic tight end is coming off a promising rookie season and could have an even bigger season in year two in Sean Payton’s offense. Earlier in the offseason, head coach Sean Payton said that Dulcich will play the ‘Joker’ role in his offense. We have seen running back Alvin Kamara, Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Jimmy Graham, and others fill this role in his offense and be highly productive. If that trend continues with Dulcich, he will have a breakout year for the Broncos.
Second-year corner Damarri Mathis held his own as a starter for the Broncos last season opposite of All-Pro Patrick Surtain II. Now, he enters his second season entrenched as the Broncos' number two corner. This means, there is a lot of pressure on his shoulders considering he will see a lot of targets with teams avoiding Surtain II as much as they can. If he can play at a high level, this will be a huge development for the Broncos' defense.
This next player is not coming off a strong rookie year but could be the most impactful player on this list if he has a breakout year this upcoming season. That player is outside linebacker/edge rusher Nik Bonitto. The explosive edge rusher will need to prove he can be an effective pass rusher off the edge during camp and earn himself a role on defense as a situational pass rusher. He struggled last season, but with a full offseason under his belt, hopefully, we see him grow and develop as a player and have a productive season in 2023.
Finally, we have two players fighting for a starting job along the defensive line. Those two players are second-year defensive linemen, Matt Henningsen and Eyioma Uwazurike. Neither had a great rookie year, but both showed flashes at times and could play significant snaps for the Broncos this season. Henningsen had flashes of good play and could be the favorite to take over DeShawn Williams spot along the defensive line. However, the massive Eyioma Uwazurike will get a shot as well and could prove to be a big run-stuffing presence along the Broncos' defensive line.
How all these second-year players look during training camp and into the preseason will be storylines we all follow in the coming days and weeks. Considering that most of these players will be starters or at least valuable role players make their potential development key to the Broncos' success this upcoming season.
Which training camp storyline are you most excited for?
This poll is closed
Sean Payton’s more intense training camp
The return of the injured players
Wide receiver battle
The Russell Wilson saga
Breakout second-year players
Other (List in the comments)