BRONCOS

It wasn’t just Bo Nix who stood out on day one of rookie minicamp

May 12, 2024, 4:12 AM

The Denver Broncos allowed the media to watch rookie minicamp on Saturday. This was the first time we’ve seen the rookie class in their new uniforms, and the Broncos invited tryout players as well. It was a full field and a full day of action for the Broncos.

Can clues of what’s to come be gathered from one practice? Let’s take a look.

***

Better Under Center

One of my biggest issues with Oregon quarterback Bo Nix was his lack of work from under center. He operated the Ducks’ high-powered system from out of the shotgun, and when I saw him under center at the Senior Bowl it was clear he needed more work.

I can’t say how the team was helping Nix, but it’s clear that the team (and Nix) are working hard to get him comfortable under center. I don’t think Nix was perfect from under center, but I like his improved footwork and hip turn when throwing after dropping back.

Broncos HC Sean Payton seems comfortable with the way Nix looks under center.

“Well look, (former 49ers Head Coach) Bill Walsh used to believe – they were under center back then, three-step, three-and-a-hitch, five-step, five-and-a-hitch, seven-step and a hitch – one of the concerns he always had with the gun was that you have to then translate that. If I have a five-step drop under center, it’s a three big-and-a-hitch in the gun. If it’s seven under center, it’s five. So there’s some of those conversions that we’re working on. All of these guys in college now are in the gun, but (QB Bo Nix) took snaps under center,” Payton said.

***

Energy Was Better

The facility felt different on Saturday. The energy around the building felt improved, and guys were competing and having fun. The coaching staff seemed to have more bounce in their step, and the players seemed to respond to that guidance.

This team has been through a lot, but they believe in Payton. He’s working to build a champion in Denver, but rebuilding takes time. They’re not where they want to be, but the Broncos are getting on the right track. You can tell by how much energy they have on the field.

Payton broke down what he thinks of tempo in the offseason.

“There are really three tempos in our league: there’s walkthrough, then there’s this OTA tempo, which is always the hardest one to coach, and then full tempo. So we’re in that OTA mode. We show them video before we get started because they don’t even know what that is even, right? So we have to show them, ‘Here are the good snaps; here are the bad snaps from years past.’ Then, we even show them the walkthrough tempo and how that looks,” Payton said.

***

Plenty of Options

When dropping back to pass, Nix had plenty of options to throw to. We all knew he was going to have chemistry with college teammate Troy Franklin, and their connection was fun to watch on Saturday. However, it was Nix working with fellow rookie Devaughn Vele that really popped in practice.

Vele is a big-bodied target who reminded me of Tim Patrick on film at Utah. In person scouting is different, and I might have underestimated Vele’s speed. He’s got build-up speed, so it takes some time for him to be full throttle. However, he’s fast and moves with speed – like a smaller man. Nix found him time and time again all over the field.

Vele’s confidence is his quarterback is clear.

“(He’s) a great leader and we all look up to him. We understand the kind of caliber and competitiveness he brings. We’re all rallying behind him right now,” Vele said.

***

Can’t Yet Tell

There are certain positions you can’t really evaluate until the pads come on. Running back, linebackers, and safeties can’t do much in practice because there’s no live tackling. So, when watching practice you can’t take too much away from their performances.

I like rookie RB Audric Estime, and he loves to play with power. He’s a bruising back who wins with violence between the tackles. In practice, Estime can’t show off his trademark power.

Estime wants to impress in these practices.

“I want to show them that I’m a reliable person. I’m a hard worker. I’m going to be the same dude every day. I’m just going to be a team player, whatever the team needs, I’m going to do. I’m (going to) do my best ability to help the team win,” Estime said.

***

Out of Nowhere

I love watching football and seeing a player I wasn’t expecting “pop” in practice or on film. I saw a couple of those types of players on Saturday. Colin Wilson, Washburn wide receiver, was one of those unexpected players who popped. Frank Crum, who I liked on film and in person at the Cowboys’ pro day, was another player who popped.

With Wilson, it’s the way he moves in and out of breaks. He is quick, and I like the way he bursts after changing direction. He showed good hands and concentration as a receiver too. Crum’s game is all about athleticism. He’s a big man, and he moves so fluidly that he can mirror rushers tasked with getting to the quarterback. Crum is a player I’d love to see the team develop on the practice squad.

Crum feels a connection with Payton’s program.

“Coming from Wyoming, it’s gritty and blue collar. I can really feel that the vibe is the same here right now. I’ve really enjoyed these first two days and [I’m] just learning and doing what I can do right now.” Crum said.

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It wasn’t just Bo Nix who stood out on day one of rookie minicamp