BRONCOS

It’s no ‘joke’: Dulcich has made an impression on Payton at OTAs

Jun 1, 2023, 2:51 PM | Updated: 3:00 pm

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — ”He’s had a good day,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said of Greg Dulcich after Thursday’s OTA.

Payton worked those words in before I’d even finished asking my question regarding the second-year tight end, a query spurred by a downfield reception during a team period.

It was a morning of work that saw the flashes Dulcich displayed last year during the 10 games he played while navigating through a thicket of hamstring issues. Despite that, only Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy had more receptions of at least 30 yards for Denver last season.

“Well, look, he’s got [a] unique skill set. He’s got traits,” Payton said.

And on a day when the Broncos emphasized third-down work, those traits resulted in some standout moments.

“In the passing game, we use the term ‘joker,’ where we can get matchups,” Payton said. “The trick sometimes is trying to predict what you’re going to get defensively — if you’re going to get a nickel package or a base package.

“But man, he can run. He’s got good ball skills. He had one of his better practices today.”

And when you can add route-running savvy to that, you have a complete pass-catching tight end. In the low-contact environment of OTAs, that provides opportunities to make an impression.

“All his routes kind of look the same off the start,” observed safety Justin Simmons. “And that can be challenging when you’re trying to get a read in the first couple of steps — especially if you’re not really bringing pressure, you’re kind of just relying on playing certain leverages and things like that.

“I think Greg’s done a great job. It’s nice to see him out there. He’s healthy. He looks great.”

Being a “joker” means handling a hybrid-type of role designed to create mis-matches. It entails operating in open space as a threat with the football. The degree to which Dulcich masters blocking could determine just how expansive his role becomes.

“I think his menu is going to be lengthy in the passing game — and there’s enough stuff that we can do in the run game,” Payton said.

And Payton wasn’t shy about dropping some elite names when discussing Dulcich. In the course of his answer, Payton rattled off the names of Jeremy Shockey, Jason Witten and Jimmy Graham. He coached all of them — Shockey with the Giants and Saints, Witten in Dallas and Graham in New Orleans. Their skill sets varied. Their effectiveness in Payton’s offense was both consistent and prolific.

“And I’m not saying this young player [is like them],” Payton cautioned, “but he’s got traits that are exciting, and today was one of those days where you begin to have a vision.”

Indeed, it’s no joke: Dulcich has made an impression on the one whose opinion matters most.

“Reggie Bush was a ‘joker,’” Payton said. “Darren Sproles, Alvin Kamara, those were all unique players, not just in the running game, but they had passing-game skill sets that allowed you to do multiple things.

“I think Greg does, too.”

***

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It’s no ‘joke’: Dulcich has made an impression on Payton at OTAs