Englewood, Colorado – Day 2 of Denver Broncos training camp began on an overcast and cloudy Thursday morning at the UCHealth Training Center. Fans and players welcomed the pleasantly breezy 65- to 70-degree weather, with occasional drops of rain, as the venue for the Broncos’ second free public practice.
The defense might have won Day 1 of camp, but Thursday’s practice was all about the offense as QB Russell Wilson and company returned with fierce competition in team periods. From the offensive line to the receivers, tight ends and running backs, the new-look offense created by first-time coach Nathaniel Hackett is a welcome sight for the resurgent fan base.
That’s not to say the Broncos’ defense had a poor showing on the practice field by any means, as the defensive corps looked particularly locked in as a unit for coordinator Ejiro Evero. Not to mention, the Broncos’ talented reliever has been consistently opposing the offense and at times overpowering the team’s wideouts.
Competitive football is back in the Mile High City, so it’s time to get to what Broncos Country is buzzing about after the second day of training camp.
A principled and creative crime
When GM George Payton inked Wilson in a trade with Seattle, no one was happier than Hackett. Wilson’s elite talent, conditioning and leadership are available to Hackett and first-year OC Justin Outten.
On Thursday morning, in several team periods, Wilson ran a healthy mix of rushing and passing with setups. But the numerous formations called by Hackett showed his preference for player versatility and allowed his attack to have options. At one point, Wilson and the first-team players played the same game three times in a row from completely different personnel sets.
Sometimes there were jumbo, tight heavy sets, while other times the receivers were spread out. There was also general pre-snap movement from various receivers both on and off the line of scrimmage, forcing the defense to watch for a volley of traffic and offensive looks.
Day 2 featured a variety of schematic variations on play-action, which could essentially allow a seven-man defense to keep the play alive for longer. Or the receivers can be spread wide for the big splash or check in an open space. Either way, the Broncos’ new offense was efficient, energetic and looked primed.
I know it’s only the second day of training camp. But after being plagued with inept and pathetic offensive displays for years, I can’t help but be excited about the potential of this offense. Pair a future Hall of Fame QB with an offensive innovator bursting with energy, and a few sparks will fly.
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New durable O-Line scheme
While it was sad to see Mike Munchak and his assistant Chris Cooper leave the Broncos, a completely new offense was installed in Dove Valley due to the team’s coaching and philosophy change.
Former San Francisco OL assistant coach Butch Barry commands the Broncos’ O-line room and is tasked with converting the unit from its 2021 power-pass scheme to a modern zone-blocking philosophy. That’s why Denver let the respected Munchak go — because his dislike of the zone-blocking scheme is the NFL’s worst-kept secret.
Once again Thursday, a barrage of mixed offensive line units got reps with Wilson and the starters, backups and even the third line. Dalton Risner has put together two straight days of excellent performance at left guard alongside center Lloyd Cushenberry III. There’s no doubt that the zone-blocking scheme is more in line with Risner’s movement ability and athleticism as an interior anchor.
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Second-year Quinn Meinerz has had a balanced camp so far with some coaching moments, but has responded well as a competitor and coachable player on Day 2. The revolving door at right tackle currently features Calvin Anderson and Cameron Fleming rotating in and out behind each other at Billy Turner and Tom Compton opening camp on the physically unable to perform list.
That revealed that left tackle Garrett Boles is the steadiest of the front five — and the entire room. While I expect big things from No. 72 this season, I also expect natural regression due to the nature of Wilson’s playing style.
At times, Wilson has been known to fight and extend plays for what feels like an eternity on his O-line. This could catch Bolles in some hold or cut scenarios, but hopefully that’s not the case.
However, rumors suggest it may take some time for Coach Barry and the Broncos O-line to learn each other’s personalities and preferences. Not that it’s a bad thing, but sometimes bonding takes time, especially for the big bruisers in the offensive trenches.
The answer appears in the ILB
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the hype about a player in the offseason is legitimate. But for once the rumors were right about the hard work Jonas Griffith put into his craft.
The 25-year-old Indiana native had brief stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts before arriving in Denver last year. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, it’s pretty easy to pick No. 50 during position and team drills.
Griffith was fearless in taking on offensive linemen in tight lanes and stopped the progress of the Broncos’ rushing attack on more than one occasion. He also demonstrated fluid lateral movement when diagnosing the play (run vs. pass) and showed an exceptional level of preparation.
Coaches and teammates were constantly praising Griffith on Thursday.
Remember, the Herds’ second linebacker Baron Browning, who wore the green dot for Vic Fangio’s defense last year, moved to the emergency linebacker group after injuries to Randy Gregory and Jonathan Cooper. That puts Griffith more prominently in the mix after playing in 13 games (four starts) and registering 46 tackles, two QB hits and four tackles for loss in 2021. Griffith averaged over 10 tackles in the four games he started.
So far, Jonas has taken full advantage of every first-team representative and appears to be chasing the chance to start in Evero’s defence.
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