BRONCOS

What was learned from three weeks of Broncos OTAs

Jun 7, 2024, 7:19 AM

The Denver Broncos have wrapped up three weeks of offseason training activities. With OTAs done, the team will host a mandatory minicamp next week. After that, the Broncos will be on a break until training camp begins in late July.

I’ve been to every OTA that has been open to the media this year. After three full practices observed, here’s what I’ve learned.

***

Needs More Rehab

Zach Wilson does not look good. I’ve seen him work with the third-team offense two times, and this week I got to see him run the first team. Whether he’s going against the third defense or the first defense, Wilson has struggled mightily.

He’s holding onto the ball too long, throwing interceptions, running during passing drills, and generally Wilson looks uncomfortable. Now, it’s too early to write him off as he gets “football rehab” under head coach Sean Payton. However, I think it’s clear this is a two-man race for the starting quarterback spot with Wilson working to be a third-team or practice squad quarterback.

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Good Not Great

As Wilson struggles, rookie QB Bo Nix looks good not great. I’ve seen Nix run the first-team offense (against the top defense) two times, and I’ve seen Nix run with the third-team offense. No matter who he is throwing to (or throwing against), Nix looks good not great. I don’t want to go overboard, as Nix has a long way to go in his career, but his start in OTAs has been encouraging.

Nix stays on time and on rhythm as a passer. If the coverage makes him hold onto the ball too long, Nix will climb the pocket to buy more time. While doing this, Nix is solely focused on beating the defense with his arm. If all options are exhausted, Nix will use his legs to pick up yards in team drills. I like the way he learns fast, and Nix does not make many mistakes.

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McLaughlin Burst

One of my favorite players on the roster is RB Jaleel McLaughlin. He’s one of the favorite players for the coaching staff, and I think McLaughlin is the only running back you can put in Sharpie on the roster. While the rest of the group may be up in the air, McLaughlin seems like a lock to be the team’s primary change-of-pace back.

As incredible as it may sound, I think McLaughlin’s burst is better than it was last year. He’s already one of the quickest and fastest players on the team, but he looks even more dangerous this offseason. Perhaps it comes from him getting clean passes from Nix or Jarrett Stidham. Last year, McLaughlin had to work for too many poorly thrown short passes from QB Russell Wilson. Getting him the ball cleaner means he can use his elite burst to gash a defense faster.

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Better Than I Thought

I was not thrilled when the Broncos added veteran WR Josh Reynolds in free agency. He’s a seasoned veteran, but Reynolds dropped a lot of passes for the Detroit Lions last year. Reynolds especially let his team down in the NFC Championship Game when he had two key drops that could have helped the Lions get to the Super Bowl. Instead, they went home, and the Lions decided to let Reynolds leave.

Reynolds has not dropped any passes in practice from what I’ve seen. In addition to showing better concentration, Reynolds brings a better size/speed combination to the field than some may think. I don’t think he’s a no.1 receiver, but Reynolds can be a strong no.2 receiver and a reliable target for Stidham or Nix.

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Krull the Conqueror

I think TE Lucas Krull could be a breakout player for the Broncos this year. Krull looks like a stud on the practice field. He’s a huge target, and he can fly down the field. His skill set and size make him a difficult player to match up with. Krull could be a fan favorite in 2024.

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Baron is Back!

I have appreciated the skill set of edge Baron Browning for some time. Last year, I was expecting Browning to have a breakout season as a pass-rusher. An injury knocked his development off track, but it seems like Browning could be making that leap forward this year. Browning is clearly the team’s best pass-rusher, and in a contract year he could post career-best numbers.

***

Good to See Griffith

During practice, it’s difficult to tell what kind of tackling you’re getting from inside linebackers. Basically, I’m just watching to see how players at the position move in space and attack the line of scrimmage in team (running) drills. It’s good to see ILB Jonas Griffith back out there. He’s more athletic than some give him credit for, and I think he’s a two-down player and quality starting option.

***

Moss is Growing

We’ll see if CB Riley Moss can win the starting job opposite Pat Surtain in camp. The second-year player did not play much as a rookie, partly due to injury but also because he wasn’t ready for a larger role. He’s been a little banged up at OTAs, but what I’ve seen from Moss shows that he’s ready to be a starter. Moss is fast, and he does a great job of using his high football intelligence to diagnose plays as they unfold.

***

Locke’s Leadership

Without S Justin Simmons, the team is missing a leader in the secondary. That leadership is at least partially being filled by S P.J. Locke. You can see Locke is excited about the opportunity in front of him this year, and I think so long as he stays healthy the Broncos will get quality play from him. Replacing Simmons will take an aggregate of players, but Locke is one of the main players filling that hole – as both a leader and with his on-field play.

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