Englewood, Col. – Day 2 of the Denver Broncos training camp started on a cloudy and cloudy Thursday morning at the UCHealth Training Center. Fans and players alike have welcomed the pleasant 65 to 70 degree windy weather, with occasional raindrops as the backdrop for the Broncos’ second free public training.
The defense could have won Day 1 of the field, but Thursday’s training was all about attacking as QB Russell Wilson and the company bounced back with stiff competition in team periods. From the offensive line to the receivers, tight ends and running backs, the new offensive look devised by first year coach Nathaniel Hackett is a welcome sight for a resurgent fan base.
This in no way means that the Broncos defense had poor performance on the training pitch, as the linebacking body seemed particularly stuck as a unit for coordinator Ejiro Evero. Not to mention the secondary talent of the Broncos that he constantly defied the attack and, at times, got the better of the team’s wideouts.
Competitive football is back in Mile High City, so it’s time to find out what the Broncos Country are teeming with after the second day of retirement.
A principled and creative crime
When GM George Paton landed Wilson in an exchange with Seattle, no one was happier than Hackett. Wilson’s elite talent, training and leadership are available to Hackett and first-year OC Justin Outten.
On Thursday morning, in multiple team bouts, Wilson performed a healthy blend of running and passing games with installations as well. But it was the multiple formations called up by Hackett that showed his preference for player versatility and to allow his attack to have options. At one point, Wilson and the first teams performed the same game three times in a row on completely different sets of staff.
Sometimes there were jumbo, heavy sets of narrow band, while other times the receivers were scattered. There was also a common pre-sprint movement from several receivers both in and out of the scrimmage line, forcing the defense to keep track of a flurry of traffic and offensive stares.
Several schematic variations on the gameplay were featured on Day 2, which can basically allow a seven-man protection front to keep the game going for longer. Or the receivers can be scattered around the big splash or checkdown in an open space. Either way, the Broncos’ offensive new look was efficient, energetic, and seemed prepared.
I know, it’s only the second day of retreat. But after being tortured for years with inept and pathetic offensive demonstrations, I can’t help but get excited about the potential of this attack. Pair a future QB Hall of Fame with an offensive innovator who is gushing energy and some sparks are bound to fly.
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Lasting O-Line new scheme
Although it was sad to see Mike Munchak and his assistant Chris Kuper leave the Broncos, a completely new attack was installed in Dove Valley due to the coach and the team’s philosophical change.
Former assistant OL of San Francisco Butch Barry commands room for the Broncos’ O-line and has been tasked with converting the unit from its 2021 gap power scheme to a modern zone blocking philosophy. That’s why Denver let go of the revered Munchak, because his distaste for the zone blocking scheme is the worst kept secret in the NFL.
Once again on Thursday, a flurry of mixed offensive line units received reps with Wilson and starters, reinforcements and even full backs. Dalton Risner put together two consecutive days of excellent left guard performance alongside center Lloyd Cushenberry III. There is no question that the zone blocking pattern aligns more with Risner’s movement skill and athleticism as an inner anchor.
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Second year Quinn Meinerz has had a balanced field so far with some coaching moments, but has responded well as a competitor and trainable player on Day 2. The revolving door to the right tackle currently sees Calvin Anderson and Cameron Fleming spinning in and out in the wake by Billy Turner and Tom Compton leading the way in the list of physicists unable to perform.
This revealed left tackle Garett Bolles as the most stable of the top five – and the whole room. While I expect great things from this season’s number 72, I also expect a natural regression due to the nature of Wilson’s play style.
At times, Wilson is known to scramble and extend games for what feels like an eternity to his O-line. This might catch Bolles in some holding or cropping scenarios, but hopefully it doesn’t.
However, rumors suggest it may take some time for manager Barry and the O-line of the Broncos to learn each other’s personalities and preferences. Not that that’s a bad thing, but bonding takes time sometimes, especially with the big bruises of the offensive trenches.
An emerging response to ILB
It’s sometimes hard to decipher whether the off-season buzz about a player is legitimate. But for once, the rumors were right about the hard work Jonas Griffith put into his craft.
The 25-year-old from the state of Indiana spent brief stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts before arriving in Denver last year. At 6ft-4 and 250lbs, it’s pretty easy to pick the No. 50 during positional and team exercises.
Griffith was fearless in tackling offensive linemen in narrow alleys and halted the advance of the Broncos’ hasty attack on more than one occasion. He also demonstrated smooth lateral movement during game diagnosis (race versus passing) and showed an exceptional level of preparation.
Coaches and teammates continually praised Griffith on Thursday.
Remember, second-year defender Baron Browning, who wore the green dot for Vic Fangio’s defense along the stretch last year, switched to the top lineback group following injuries to Randy Gregory and Jonathon Cooper. This pushes Griffith more prominently into the mix after playing in 13 games (four as a starter) and recording 46 tackles, two QB hits and four tackles for a 2021 defeat. Griffith averaged over 10 tackles across the four matches that started.
So far, Jonas has made full use of every repetition of the first team and seems to be chasing the opportunity to start in defense of Evero.
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