The Denver Broncos wrapped up their second day of mandatory minicamp on Wednesday in Dove Valley. One constant emphasis from Broncos head coach Sean Payton has stressed the importance of embedding situational football awareness in everything they do.


Whether that comes from individual drills, group periods, or team periods — everything the Broncos do on the field has a reason behind it that Payton believes will be the difference between the team winning games and losing games this upcoming season.

After the Broncos’ offense had a crisp day moving the ball effectively on Tuesday, the defense came out on Wednesday with high energy and responded.

Players like Justin Simmons, Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton, undrafted rookie free agent Seth Benson, and Ja’Quan McMillian were several players who made some plays throughout the day as the defense bounced back from Tuesday’s practice where the offense seemingly got the best of them.

One thing about organized team activities and mandatory minicamps that is important to point out is the number of reps every player on the roster received throughout this portion of the offseason program. High volumes of reps are valuable, especially heading into training camp.

Thursday’s practice will be the team’s final practice of minicamp before they are off until late July, presumably when they’ll report for training camp. With players having developed a routine during the offseason program, Payton described the importance of not letting momentum slip away — whether that be in training habits, studying the playbook or film, but more importantly finding balance to do those things and enjoy some downtime before the grueling grind of training camp begins.

“Let’s start with the players,” Payton said. “We’re physically at a point where these guys have done a lot of work. We talked to them today about how quickly it can dissipate. We kind of use the analogy if you’re climbing something, it’s much easier to repel down. It’s slow going up. The time away is healthy for them. They will all have a workout plan. We’ll have some players here that are still recovering from injuries. [For] myself—I said it before, I have a daughter getting married in a couple days. Then I’ll get away, and then come back and get ready for training camp. That part of the schedule really hasn’t changed much in 16, 17, 18 years. What is different is these guys have a better understanding scientifically of where they’re at [with] measurables regarding how they’re lifting, how they’re moving and how they’re running. We have data now that we never used to have that can reinforce, ‘This is where you’re at.’ They’re smart enough to understand the importance of the offseason and getting in a routine [with their] training.”

Courtland Sutton and Jaleel McLaughlin have been two consistent standouts
Even though the pads aren’t on and contact is non-existent during these practice periods in the offseason, several players on the offensive side of the ball have consistently impressed upon observation.

Courtland Sutton is one player who has been a consistent factor from the first day media was allowed to view practice to the present. One thing that has stood out in particular about Sutton is his level of explosiveness in situations where he’s been aggressive attacking the football in the air, in the middle of traffic, and when a defender has been tight in coverage on him.

On top of that, Sutton looks noticeably stronger and bulkier in his upper body, chest, shoulders, and arms. Once the pads come on, it will be worth watching if Sutton maintains the pace he’s been on in OTAs.

Undrafted rookie free agent Jaleel McLaughlin’s speed and explosiveness have also been eye-catching throughout practices including dating back to rookie minicamp. As the Denver Broncos prepare for training camp, there could be several roster moves still made between now and then, but all signs point to McLaughlin, Tyler Badie, and Tony Jones Jr. competing for the third spot on the depth chart come training camp and the NFL Preseason.

Jonathon Cooper continues to demonstrate consistent ability as a pass rusher
Anytime there’s been disruption for the Denver Broncos offense during practice the last few weeks, Jonathon Cooper has been a consistent standout upon observation.

With Baron Browning’s injury, Cooper has been an active participant working off the edge for the Broncos defense. Despite the addition of Frank Clark, Cooper is somebody who has been relentless in his pursuit to disrupt the rhythm and flow of the offense.

As Payton calls the Broncos offensive plays, he’s taken notice of Cooper’s performance, but so much of his further evaluation will come when pads come on during training camp. Not just for Cooper, but for every position that demands more from a physicality standpoint will be under the microscope when contact is permitted, but the third-year edge rusher is projected to be a big part of the plans defensively according to Payton.

“It’s difficult because those are the groups that aren’t in pads, but you certainly see the get off, the explosion and the experience,” Payton said regarding Jonathon Cooper. “I think when we get into training camp, you then get a better feel. I’ll get a better feel for a lot of these players that I still don’t know well. I know them now and I know their names, but I’ve just seen it so many times when the pads come on, and you get a completely different perspective from a certain running back or a certain someone who stands out. It becomes a little clearer, but he’s important to what we’re doing.”

Some chippiness in Wednesday’s practice
Football is an emotional sport that is played at a million miles per hour. There was some chippiness between several players on offense and defense which was observed during practice on Wednesday, but nothing significant.

There are 90 players on the roster actively competing to move up the depth chart, maintain their jobs, or fight for a spot on the roster.

“The message is we have to understand what we are trying to accomplish as a team,” Payton said on Thursday. “It’s always the challenge for the [offensive] and [defensive] linemen. We also have to be able to understand—discipline wise—how to get to the edge, but not cross the line. Games come up—we saw it last year [in] a playoff run; I referenced the Cincinnati Bengals’ penalty late [in the AFC Championship Game]. You have to train yourself mentally to get onto the next play. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

For the most part, the Broncos have come out of each practice relatively healthy which is a positive sign before the start of training camp. During Wednesday’s practice, running back Samaje Perine left with a trainer during one of the team periods where Payton said they believe it was a thumb injury, but he expects Perine to be fine.

This will be something to monitor in Thursday’s final minicamp practice.

What’s next for the Denver Broncos?
The Denver Broncos will be back on the field for their final minicamp practice on Thursday.