Our second interview in our Beat Writer interview series was with Denver Broncos beat reporter, Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR on Twitter). The Broncos are coming off a 7-9 season, but have every reason to be optimistic about the 2020 season. They’ve brought in several new offensive weapons, which has made them one of the teams to watch during training camp. We discussed all these new weapons (and some old) and more…
1. We’ll start off with the most important question in our followers’ minds – How do you see the running back split between Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon playing out?
As Vic Fangio said during training camp, “I anticipate them both playing enough to where we really don’t have to designate a starter.” Through the first couple of weeks of camp, this truly has played out on the field where Gordon and Lindsay are sharing reps fairly equally. At the end of the day, I do expect Gordon to be the starter and to get a few more touches each game. They’ll use both in the passing game too, but Gordon has looked fantastic as a receiving back throughout camp.
2. It feels like Drew Lock has been up and down this training camp, but mostly up. How does he look compared to his Rookie year?
Overall, Drew looks great throughout camp. In the first 10 practices, he only had one truly disappointing practice. What I’ve been most impressed with has been his decision making. For being a self-proclaimed gunslinger, he hasn’t been throwing many risky passes. Despite being under pressure often in camp, he’s been smart with the ball. He is much more comfortable on and off the field this year than last.
3. Jerry Jeudy has been impressive. Do you think he can go over 1,000 yards as a rookie? If so, that likely means the Broncos will have two 1,000 yard receivers, which hasn’t happened since 2016 with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (side note – Sutton and Jeudy kind of remind me of the DT and Sanders duo).
Haha I see the similarities for sure! I do think Jeudy can have a 1,000-yard season as a rookie. I expect him to top 900 and get very close to that 1,000-yard mark. What’s impressed me the most about him throughout camp has been the praise he’s received from the Broncos’ veteran defensive backs. They’ve said they get better going up against him and Kareem Jackson said he gets in and out of his breaks better than anyone he has ever seen. Pretty incredible praise. He’s constantly open in camp against the highest-paid secondary in the league. So there’s no reason to believe he can’t top 1,000 yards.
4. Three part question – The tight end room seems loaded with Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Albert Okwuegbunam (I bet you hate spelling that), Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli, and Austin Fort. Who do you see as the odd man (men) out on cut day? How is Fant looking in practice? There are more mouths to feed on offense this year. How much, if any, do you see Fant improving his numbers from last year?
Austin Fort (injury) and Troy Fumagalli are the two who likely won’t make the final roster. If Jake Butt stays healthy and continues to prove he can be a dynamic receiving threat he has a chance to make the roster too, but if the team can’t afford to keep that many tight ends, Butt will also be an odd man out.
Fant looks solid in camp. He hasn’t received as much attention this camp compared with other offensive players, but I am not worried about him.
I still see Fant’s numbers increasing from last year, but only slightly due to all of the weapons Denver has. I would expect 600-plus yards for him this year.
5. One more question on the tight ends – Nick Vannett said Albert O is “going to be one of the best tight ends in the league” if he keeps “figuring it out.” What are your thoughts on this?
That’s pretty incredible praise! What was interesting about that was Vannett talked about Noah Fant (a first-round pick!!) right after and while he had high praise for Fant, he gushed even more about Albert O.
Albert O. has everything you want in a tight end — incredibly fast, big and a dynamic receiver. He needs to continue to develop as a blocker and become more consistent as a receiver, but if he develops he will look like a steal of the draft.
6. Tim Patrick is kind of the forgotten man in the WR room, but he has apparently been running as the WR2 for most of camp. Is that true? Do you see him and Sutton as the outside receivers with Jeudy in the slot? What happens when KJ Hamler comes back?
You nailed it! When the Broncos line up with three receivers, Tim Patrick has often been opposite Courtland Sutton on the outside with Jerry Jeudy in the slot. I can see this being the case early in the season while K.J. Hamler recovers from a hamstring injury and continues to learn the offense. However, when there are just two receivers on the field, Jeudy will bump Patrick off the field.
While Jeudy is playing in the slot a lot, he’s also playing outside. The Broncos will also line Fant up as a receiver as well as Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay.
So while Patrick is lining up outside as the team’s third receiver, I see Denver using many other options at receiver well.
7. Is there anyone impressing in camp that isn’t getting enough attention?
Jurrell Casey has been an absolute beast in the middle of Denver’s front seven. Casey has been to the Pro Bowl in each of the past five seasons and from the way he’s playing now, it looks like he’ll continue that streak this year. He’s consistently putting pressure on the quarterback and shutting down running plays.
8. Can you tell us a little bit about how Daesean Hamilton has looked in practice? Is he a roster lock?
DaeSean Hamilton has looked solid in camp. When Lock took over the final five games of last year, he and Hamilton developed a nice chemistry that has carried over into training camp. I wouldn’t expect a big role for him, but he will see the field sparingly and does appear to be a lock to make the roster as Denver’s fourth receiver with Hamler injured.
9. How does the offensive line look? Ja’Wuan James opting out was not ideal for a unit that had some turnover this offseason.
The offensive line has been the weakest part of Denver’s offense by far halfway through camp. When Ja’Wuan James opted out, Elijah Wilkinson swung back over to right tackle and has struggled. While he has been going against Von Miller, Malik Reed has also had a lot of success against him.
Denver is still rotating centers trying to find their starter (I think it will end up being Lloyd Cushenberry) and has had some issues on the interior because of that, but I would expect that to get better once they settle on one player. Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow have been very good and Garett Bolles seems to be improved from last year.
10. Last question – What is your W/L prediction for the Broncos?
9-7/10-6. For the first time since 2016, the Broncos will have a winning record. While Denver’s young offense has been the talk of the offseason, it’s actually the defense that will carry this team. Vic Fangio’s unit is the highest-paid defense in the NFL and will now be in their second year under the same scheme, which will help them significantly. The Broncos’ offense will be much improved and will flash their incredible potential often, but will also have growing pains.
Give Zac a follow on Twitter and check out him out at thednvr.com. Also check out his podcast, the DNVR Broncos Podcast – https://thednvr.com/category/podcasts/denver-broncos-podcast/
Here are some of his latest articles:
“How Jerry Jeudy went from “not that good” to Pro-Bowl receivers asking him for tips” – https://thednvr.com/how-jerry-jeudy-went-from-not-that-good-to-pro-bowl-receivers-asking-him-for-tips/
“‘The 60-yard checkdowns’: Drew Lock’s added dimension that he’ll be encouraged to use” – https://thednvr.com/the-60-yard-checkdowns-drew-locks-added-dimension-that-hell-be-encouraged-to-use/
“Can Jake Butt make one final push? There’s growing belief he can” – https://thednvr.com/can-jake-butt-make-one-final-push-theres-growing-belief-he-can/