MILE HIGH MONDAY

Has Sean Payton found another late-round gem at wideout?

May 27, 2024, 4:00 AM

The Denver Broncos held their first round of Offseason Training Activities (OTAs) last week, and Thursday was open to the media.

I like watching practice. Yes, I realize it’s just practice, but important clues about the Broncos can be gathered at these events.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep Wrangler TJ! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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First-Team Learning

On Thursday, Bo Nix practiced with the first-team offense for the first time this offseason. Sean Payton rotated through the quarterbacks over three days of OTAs with Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson getting first-team reps on Tuesday and Wednesday. Payton chose to have Nix be the first-team guy on the only day the media was allowed to watch practice. I believe he made that choice for a reason.

I’m curious to see how quickly Nix can take over the starting job. The kid looks like the real deal. Nix is a perfect fit for Payton’s offense, and it’s fun to see those concepts return to the field. We’ll see plenty of short-to-intermediate passes with Nix running Payton’s offense, but the rookie has also shown the ability to stay calm under pressure and fire passes for big plays down the field. The rush can’t really get to Nix as he’ll get rid of the ball quickly. If the play is disrupted by the rush, Nix can step up into the pocket and find open receivers easily downfield.

This Thursday, I’ll be curious to see how Nix looks again – no matter which defense he’s playing against. He made mistakes against the first-team defense, but Nix learned quickly and did not make the same mistakes twice. Last week, Peyton Manning was asked by Andrew Mason what he thought of Nix. Manning answered that he felt experience was the best teacher, implying that Nix should start sooner rather than later.

All roads lead to Nix. The faster the Broncos can get there, the better it will be for their team. Simply put, the faster he can win the starting job the better it is for himself as he can learn from the world-class teacher, that is experience.

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He’s Not Marques Colston… but

I love late-round talent that proves doubters wrong in the NFL. Back in 2006, Payton found a gem in Hofstra WR Marques Colston. A seventh-round pick that year, Colston posted six 1,000-yard seasons in 10 years with the New Orleans Saints. Did the Broncos just find someone like Colston in 2024 seventh-round pick Devaughn Vele?

I think Vele could be better than anybody thought. So far at both rookie minicamp and the first week of OTAs, Vele has been a big-play receiver. Not only does he gather in tough catches and deep catches, Vele is consistent with his route-running on underneath routes. That could make him a favorite of the quarterback because his hands and effort are so reliable.

It’s super early, but the way Vele has been looking means he could work his way into a larger role than some thought. At the very least, if Vele keeps this up, the team is not going to be able to sneak him through to the practice squad. Just like Colston did in 2006, Vele could go from a late-round pick to a regular starter in the near future.

Can Vele be the Broncos’ version of Colston? The answer is unclear at this time, but I’m sure Payton will know it when he sees it.

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Simmons-sized Hole

There is a hole in the Broncos’ secondary without safety Justin SImmons. The team parted ways with Simmons, and they moved in a different direction when they added former Miami Dolphins’ safety Brandon Jones in free agency. While Simmons is still available to sign, Jones signed a three-year, $20 million contract with the Broncos.

I like the physicality that Jones brings to the field. The Broncos have a long history of big hitters at the safety position, and I think Jones could be the next man in that line. Jones started 34-of-60 games for the Dolphins after he was a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. While Jones can play near the line of scrimmage, you’ll also see him have some struggles in coverage. Simmons was great in coverage, so asking Jones to replicate what he did is an odd choice.

Jones is unlikely to get his hands on more than an interception or two. The aggregate is going to have to replace Simmons’ ball-hawking ability. That means guys like P.J. Locke, Riley Moss, Cody Barton and others are going to have to help with batted passes or interceptions. If the pass rush is better than it was last year, that should help these players in the secondary (and Barton at inside linebacker) make better plays on the ball.

Simmons will likely sign with a contender. The Broncos are going to miss him, but it seems like both sides have decided it’s just best to move on.

***

Go See Garfield and Furiosa!

I love Mad Max. I love Garfield. So, when both have movies opening on Memorial Day weekend, you know I’m going to be at the theater.

George Miller is an absolute genius, and watching the way this Mad Max world was built is fascinating. Furiosa is a prequel to 2015’s “Fury Road” and I loved learning more about the characters. The action is over-the-top in a way only Mad Max can bring to the big screen, but the story about Furiosa made this 3-hour movie well worth the price of admission.

Jim Davis created one of my favorite cartoon characters in the Monday-hating, lasagna-loving Garfield. This movie, like Furiosa, is a prequel or should I say an origin story for the fat tabby. Many say this movie doesn’t “feel” like Garfield because of the origin story, but I say this just gives us more insight into why he behaves in the selfishly loving manner he does. It’s fun, and there will be several laugh-out-loud moments.

You go to the movies for a thrill ride, and that’s what Furiosa does. You also go to the movies to laugh, and that’s what Garfield does. The critics are the critics, and I’ve enjoyed so many movies that were not received well by those who cover the movie industry. I enjoyed myself watching both movies, and it’s good to get back out to the theater to enjoy the experience!

What did you think of Furiosa and/or Garfield? Hit me up on social media and let me know!

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