The Denver Broncos have officially faced off against another NFL team!
The third and final week of camp was an exciting one as Mike McCarthy, Dak Prescott and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys came to town for a joint practice before their first preseason games this weekend.
Players are itching to get back on the field against real opponents, and that showed on Thursday with the Broncos showing far more physicality than their opposition.
While Thursday’s practice will dominate the weekly discussion, it is far from the only thing that took place this week at Dove Valley. The Walton-Penner ownership armada had their official christening as ‘Broncos Royalty’ (which I really have no comment on outside of, “cool”), the initial depth chart was released, and we continue to see players making names for themselves as possible contributors when the games start to count.
It’s an exciting time in Broncos Country and we’re so close to actually seeing the team take the field, but just in case you missed anything from last week, I’ve got you covered!
Melvin Gordon suffers foot contusion
A minor injury that will likely sideline Gordon for the preseason (as he should be anyways). While it isn’t overly concerning, it is a bummer to see Gordon take a ‘ding’ so early on and while this single injury isn’t major, it will linger throughout the season. This is the last thing fans should want to see as Gordon was looking great throughout camp and projected to have a similar share in the backfield to last season with Javonte Williams.
This is a guy who already has 1,500 NFL touches and is quickly approaching the age where most running backs begin to decline. I’m a huge believer in Melvin and hope this injury doesn’t hamper him too heavily going into the year, but small injuries like these can completely derail a back’s season and can even mark the beginning of their decline. Here’s hoping that isn’t the case with Melvin, and this is merely a slight hiccup.
In response to the Melvin injury, Denver signed Jaquan Hardy and Stevie Scott to the roster. Both are likely ‘camp bodies’ that can absorb carries while getting their tape out to other teams, but don’t project to make the final 53.
Expect a drive or possible full quarter out of Javonte with some Mike Boone sprinkled in, and then Borghi, Hardy, and Scott will be the backs.
The Initial Depth Chart was released
This week many NFL teams put out the first edition of their 2022 depth charts, and the Broncos were one of those teams.
Bear in mind, this is the INITIAL depth chart, and holds little weight towards what players will actually end up starting or playing key backup roles. It is simply a starting point to build off, but it does feature some interesting decisions along with some clear philosophies from the coaching staff as a whole.
First and foremost, they are prioritizing experience first and making young guys earn jobs. This was the biggest thing that stood out to me–the lack of jobs given to rookies and inexperienced players compared to veterans who may possess less upside.
Guys such as Baron Browning and Damarri Mathis, who by all accounts have been studs throughout camp, are slotted behind more seasoned Broncos like Malik Reed and Michael Ojemeudia.
While it’s fun to see the veterans and young guys duke it out for playtime, I personally hope Denver leans towards the high-upside guys over the safe options. The AFC will be a gauntlet, and Denver needs as much talent on the field as possible. We know what guys like Malik bring to the table, and our opponents will too. It’s time to give the new guys some run.
The other major thing that stood out was the tight end room, specifically Greg Dulcich in the second string spot. I liked Dulcich as a prospect, but he isn’t the most well rounded player for what you’d hope for as the backup to Albert. Compound that with the fact he’s been sidelined for a major portion of camp, the previously stated affinity towards veterans, and the options behind him, it’s a tad confusing to see him as the number two guy in that room. It could be a sign he’s made a major impact and looks to be a big player year one! Or, it could further emphasize the need to not read too heavily into the initial depth chart before a preseason snap is played.
Broncos CB4 is the Preseason battle to watch
We thought it’d be the right tackle spot!
But in true Broncos fashion, it looks like that position is all but fixed. I’m a believer in Calvin Anderson as the starter but the depth behind him and Bolles is absolutely frightening.
The TRUE position battle this year comes at one of the defenses’ more underrated positions especially in Evero’s scheme– dime corner.
Teams run more nickel and dime looks than ever before and in a division with Mahomes, Herbert and Carr, and at a position like corner where injuries are frequent, Denver will need more than just 3 talented corners on the roster.
Luckily, based on early reports out of camp, Denver may have as many as seven corners, all capable of making plays and providing stability in case of injury.
With K’Waun Williams recovering from injury and uncertainty as to his return, Essang Bassey has solidified himself as the backup nickel corner and could find himself starting, K’Waun should not be ready for the season.
This leaves Michael Ojemeudia, Damarri Mathis, Blessuan Austin, and Faion Hicks all competing for the backup outside corner job. Each is immensely talented in their own right and bring their own flavor to the defense when on the field.
Ojemeudia has been given the early opportunities and through the joint practice on Thursday was targeted often by Dak Prescott. He struggled fairly mightily, including getting absolutely torched on a dino route (vertical stem into corner post) by Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb.
Damarri Mathis has been the most impressive throughout the camp and offers the highest physical upside with his athleticism. He’s my favorite to win the job, but grabby hands are his kryptonite and something we’ve seen him flagged for early on. Good NFL QB’s will look to use this to their advantage often when Mathis is on the field.
Bless Austin is one of the more underrated signings of the Broncos offseason and brings with him the most experience of any of the four corners. Austin’s tape from his days with the Jets is solid and if injuries weren’t a factor looked like a starting caliber NFL corner. He compares to Mathis physically, and bullies receivers off the line with his press-technique.
Faion Hicks was a 7th rounder out of Wisconsin who has gotten his chance to play both inside and outside. Hicks has been more consistent than eye-popping, but the coach’s decision to utilize him in multiple spots seems meaningful. Does it mean they trust him to play multiple roles right away, or does it mean he isn’t very good at either, and they don’t know where to put him?
Only time will tell.
Broncos defensive front dominates joint practice
It was a bad day to be a Cowboys offensive linemen. Whether it was Dre’mont, Purcell, Chubb, Bonitto, Browning, DeShawn, Reed it just didn’t matter. The Broncos simply brought more physicality and it showed in every single team period.
Dre’mont Jones was the best player on the field from my eyes. The guy is unblockable.
He commented a few weeks ago how he’s excited to be utilized in the ‘Aaron Donald’ role in Evero’s scheme, but it wasn’t until yesterday I realized just how big of a leap we could see from him. He is going to be lined up everywhere, he’s going to be used frequently in stunts with our plethora of freak pass rushers, Dre’mont is going to wreck the league.
Mike Purcell brought out a 6-pack of whoop ass, and finished the whole thing before practice finished.
Big Mike is an animal and one of the most disruptive run-stoppers at the point of attack in the entire league, but on Thursday he showed he’s also an enforcer. Scrapping with linemen, chucking helmets, blowing up runs and getting in the face of his opponent. Purcell looked to be in his 2019 form again and with him, DJ, and DeShawn on run downs… good luck to running backs league wide.
Bradley Chubb was right up there with Dre’mont for best player, as he flashed everything we’ve needed to see and more even winning a few reps against Tyron Smith. The strength and speed are all there and he’s more honored in than ever on his craft according to Garrett Bolles.
Hopefully we see a major season out of Chubb and more highlight reel hits like the one he laid on Ezekiel Elliot!
Bonitto (four sacks), Browning, and Reed all found MAJOR success against the Cowboys backup tackles, and it was great to see the younger guys get home for some production. I’d highlight them as bigger successes of the day but I don’t believe the competition they faced is a fair gauge for their talent. Excited to see them dominate on Saturday, but it’s important to keep in mind just how poor some of the players they are facing truly are (I’m looking at you, Josh Ball).
Final note on the dominant defensive front is just how undervalued DeShawn Williams is. This is a guy with a ton of juice who will look to start alongside DJ and Dre’mont in three down linemen sets. A guy who has seemingly never gotten the credit he deserves, but I expect him to play a big role in eating blocks for our linebackers and pass rushers to get home. He had some very impressive reps against the Cowboys starting front and was a big reason Zeke couldn’t find any rushing lanes.
And that’s a wrap for Broncos training camp!
The preseason is beginning shortly and only a few weeks after that Denver kicks off in Seattle. Here’s hoping for as few injuries as possible and for the lesser-known players to make major plays in the preseason.
If Thursdays joint practice was any indication, this Broncos team could be damn good with an identity of outmuscling teams in the trenches. It’s important to not get too high off one practice, as they are designed for teams to work on the things they aren’t great at, but based on what we saw it’s near impossible to not be incredibly hopeful for this new era of Broncos football.
This team is a tight knit group of competitors who come to work every day hungry to get better. If they can remain somewhat healthy and we see the stars from camp continue to grow into key contributors, then the sky’s the limit for this Broncos team.