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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
Coach Vic Fangio has made it official: Teddy Bridgewater will open the season under center. “I have no doubt Drew will be again a quality starting quarterback in this league,” Fangio said last Wednesday. But at the moment, it appears he’s more comfortable with Bridgewater’s low-risk steadiness than Drew Lock’s occasional cannon-armed flashes. Bridgewater completed 22 of his 30 preseason throws, and while he’s no threat to attack downfield, he better fits the offense’s ball-control objectives. Of course, not everyone is on board with Bridgewater as the long-term solution, and it feels like a foregone conclusion Lock will work his way back toward the lineup. Lou Scataglia of Predominantly Orange still sees upper-tier starter traits in Lock and feels the team has “mishandled” Lock’s young career. “Do I think Teddy will be the long-term answer? No, I don’t,” Scataglia writes. “Cycling through the Keenums and Flaccos and Lynchs never brought me any hope that they could be the ‘guy’. Drew Lock was and is different than those before him, though.”
Rookie Javonte Williams has been a camp darling, with some calling for him to start outright immediately. But Melvin Gordon III returned Saturday from a groin injury and harkened back to his prime days, compiling 39 yards on six touches against the Rams while Williams sat. Perhaps Williams’ assumed promotion was premature – or, maybe, the team wanted to keep Williams in mothballs and push Gordon into an audition of sorts. If the team is looking to make a preseason deal, though, it seems more likely they’d move No. 3 Royce Freeman. Freeman should stick, at least until Mike Boone returns from his quad injury in a few weeks. Williams and Gordon enter Week 1 in a timeshare, with the rookie leading the way on early downs. But DenverChannel’s Troy Renck reminds us not to sleep on Williams as an every-down back.
Courtland Sutton told the world he would suit up and play snaps in the preseason, even as he worked back slowly from ACL surgery. True to his word, he played and was heavily featured against the Rams, punctuating his return with a difficult red-zone touchdown. Sutton is entering a contract year and has an endless motivation to prove his rehab was uneventful, and there’s no reason to doubt him. The team has been thrilled with his recovery and is glad to see his explosiveness remains intact. The coaches are also ecstatic with Jerry Jeudy’s praiseworthy camp, which hints at one of the league’s most dynamic receiver groups. After “dominating” a week’s worth of joint practices against the Vikings, Jeudy put a pair of colossal preseason plays on tape before taking a bow and giving way to the backups. Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler appear locked into the No. 3 and 4 roles – in some order. The team values both for their skillsets, even though Patrick missed chunks of camp and “didn’t do anything memorable when he was healthy,” according to the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran. Reportedly, the team shot down an offer from the Ravens for Patrick two weeks ago. As for Hamler, his blazing speed was evident in camp.
The team and fans breathed a sigh of relief last week when Noah Fant’s lower-leg injury turned up minor. “I don’t think he’ll miss any time in the regular season,” coach Vic Fangio said while Fant sat out practice as a precaution. Fant will be heavily featured, as he worked hard all summer to round out his game as an all-around weapon. That should help him in the pecking order as Teddy Bridgewater takes the reins at quarterback. The short-armed Bridgewater could look the tight ends’ way early and often as he aims to keep the ball mainly under the defense. Albert Okwuegbunam made his live-action return from ACL surgery Saturday, making a few short catches against the Rams. The team is bullish on the athletic youngster, and they may also find a spot for journeyman Eric Saubert, who’s drawn praise from Fangio as a versatile contributor.
Rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II introduced himself to the league with a pick-six in his preseason debut, and his long-term potential is all the rage in Broncos Country. “I mean, he’s lightyears ahead of where I was [as a rookie],” veteran teammate Kareem Jackson said last week. Even Hall of Famer Champ Bailey is in on the hype: “People are like, ‘He reminds me of Champ!’ Hell, he reminds me of me, too!” Surtain has excelled in coverage and even baited quarterbacks into throws he could attack in the air. He may not be an every-down player in Week 1, but he looks poised to contribute right off the bat opposite Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. Overall, the rebuilt (and expensively stocked) secondary showed well throughout the preseason. After a “suffocating” win over Seattle and their dynamic receivers, SI’s Mike Evans confidently called it “the defense’s center of gravity.” Evans also made sure to call out down lineman DeShawn Williams, a journeyman who has flourished as a playmaker and “a model of persistence every time he steps on the field.”
Diontae Spencer has been the return specialist for two years and is a good bet to make it three in a row.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
As camp wraps up, there’s no more clarity on the quarterback race than when it began. “It won’t be Sunday,” coach Vic Fangio said when asked when he’ll choose between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. “The earliest would be early [this] week, or we let it go another week. These guys, both of them, have done well, and they’ve made it a hard decision.” Those words came after a rollercoaster week that saw Lock praised, then underwhelm against the Seahawks, managing just 5.7 yards per throw and fumbling twice. Bridgewater continues to look like the safer, no-nonsense choice, hitting the short and intermediate zones with fewer mistakes. The fact that he’s consistently led scoring drives – no mere coincidence, according to Bridgewater – may give him the edge. “Some of his good plays were hard quarterback plays, where he had to manipulate the pocket, step up, step laterally, wait for something to come open late,” Fangio said of Bridgewater. “I thought he did really well.”
With Melvin Gordon III still sidelined by a groin ailment, Javonte Williams has taken the starting opportunity and run with it. He’s been called “terrific” and “has a bright future” per coordinator Pat Shurmur. “He gets it, and it shows up in his pass protection, it shows up in being able to get lined up, his awareness.” Gordon has seniority and a strong resume, but Williams has shown off the blend of power and quickness that typifies an NFL feature back. Broncos beat writers Ryan O’Halloran and Mark Kiszla both think Williams is destined for a 1,000-yard rookie season “as he gradually takes over the starting role from Gordon.” The possibility of letting Gordon go hasn’t been discussed much in the press, but it’s worth noting the team could save $2.4 million by moving on. Behind them, Royce Freeman looks likely to stick on the roster since preferred No. 3 Mike Boone won’t be back until Week 2 or 3 at the earliest. For all of Williams’ camp buzz, Before his injury, Mile High Report’s Scotty Payne called Boone “the Broncos’ most explosive and quickest running back.”