The Denver Post
Here’s a rush (and pass) to judgment of minicamp
Broncos coach Vance Joseph had a six-goal checklist for the final portion of the offseason program this week.
“Just continue to establish our play style, to build our library (of plays) for the fall and a couple more that I won’t share,” he said.
Joseph said the Broncos “absolutely” accomplished goals 1-5. The final goal was to stay healthy. The Broncos lost linebacker Deiontrez Mount for the season (torn Achilles) and linebacker Shane Ray (wrist surgery) is out for several months.
Aside from Ray’s injury, it was a relatively tranquil five weeks of full-squad on-field work for the Broncos.
So, what happened? Here are five post-offseason program takeaways:
1. Case Keenum has command of the offense and the huddle.
Impressive during the six practices open to the media was how few operational errors the firstteam offense experienced under Keenum’s direction.
Yes, Keenum is 30 and has been in the league since 2012, but occasional hiccups such as false start/ delay of game penalties, players lined up in the wrong spot and fumbled snaps are expected when a new offense with a new quarterback is being introduced. But not with the Broncos. Keenum looked comfortable running the plays and has the respect of the locker room.
“It’s (a) priceless experience running so many different plays (against) so many different looks against a defense that’s really, really good,” Keenum said.
Said offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave: “I think the guys have very much rallied around
(Keenum), both on offense and on defense, just because he’s the same guy every day.”
2. Rookie receivers for real.
Yes, we’ll jump to a conclusion: Receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton were steals in the second and fourth rounds, and it will be surprising if they aren’t a big part of the passing game this year.
Sutton averaged one highlight catch per day during the open practices. He showed good body control and sideline awareness and should be a red-zone target right away. And Hamilton flashed on shallow crossing routes.
An aside: Let’s also include tight end Jake Butt, who is basically a rookie after spending 2017 on injured reserve. There were times the Broncos’ linebackers had no answer for him.
Because of the unsettled running back situation, the passing game should be viewed as the strength of the offense.
3. Pass rush should be elite.
If they can stop the run and get into pass-rushing situations, the Broncos can send waves of players onto the field.
Von Miller, Shaquil Barrett, maybe even undrafted rookie Jeff Holland and, when he’s healthy, Ray coming around the corner. Bradley Chubb, DeMarcus Walker and Adam Gotsis creating pressure from the defensive line.
The Broncos had 33 sacks last year (22nd in the NFL). Not substantially exceeding that total is inexcusable.
4. They’re not concerned about offensive line injuries … but should be.
Reacting to a dormant run game (eight touchdowns, tied for 25th in the league) and leaky pass protection (52 sacks allowed, tied for third third-most), the Broncos tweaked their offensive line during the offseason. They acquired right tackle Jared Veldheer from Arizona and moved Ron Leary back to his natural left guard position.
But the projected Week 1 offensive line did not play one snap together during 13 offseason practices. Veldheer is still rehabilitating from a foot injury sustained last December and Leary was held out with knee soreness.
Joseph expects Leary and Veldheer to be ready for training camp. But does “ready” mean they won’t have to be managed (an occasional day off)? Something to watch.
“We’re just being really, really smart,” Joseph said, citing the experience of Veldheer (101 starts) and Leary (58 starts).
But until those two players not just practice but practice 3 or 4 days in a row, they merit monitoring. Garcia at left guard and Billy Turner and Cyrus Kouandjio at right tackle better stay ready.
5. Joseph’s honesty revealed his comfort level.
Joseph appeared fed up with receiver Carlos Henderson on Wednesday when asked about his hamstring injury.
“It started in Phase 2 (early May) and hasn’t gotten better,” Joseph said. “He’s got to get back on the field if he wants to make this football team.” Whoa. And bravo.
It’s natural for a head coach to be more comfortable in his second year in charge, and if that means Joseph will occasionally be the bad cop at the podium as a way of holding players accountable and making them uncomfortable, it represents growth on his part. He’s not here to be the players’ friends. He is here to put the best 46 players on the field each Sunday regardless of their salary or draft status.