The Denver Broncos were on the field on Wednesday for their final practice before taking on the Arizona Cardinals in Friday’s preseason opener. The team announced their first unofficial depth chart while Russell Wilson and the offense were red-hot once again as they continued to ascend this week at practice.

Denver Broncos release first unofficial depth chart

Ahead of their first preseason game on Friday, the Denver Broncos released their first unofficial depth chart on Wednesday. How hard is it to evaluate a depth chart that is written in pencil?

Sean Payton says Denver Broncos depth chart order isn’t set in stone

The first thing that stands out when looking at the Broncos’ depth chart is where tight end Greg Dulcich is listed. He’s listed just behind Adam Trautman, who the Broncos acquired during the NFL Draft, but the order itself doesn’t necessarily matter as much in Sean Payton’s eyes.

“The one thing that is interesting about this tight end group is that there are some clear roles that you can see,” Payton said on Wednesday. “Strengths and weaknesses that these players have. [TE] Adam [Trautman] is the one guy out here who does a good, solid job at blocking and he gives you some flexibility within the route tree. [TE] Chris Manhertz is someone who obviously we are comfortable throwing to, and yet, he is really good at blocking the D-gap. Then [TE Greg] Dulcich is someone who can really threaten [you]. You have these different traits for different [players]. We have to put together a depth chart, and then we have to give it to you guys. Then I have to answer questions about, ‘Why did you put him first?’ This happens over the course of the year.”

Payton mentioned that all of the tight ends would play, and it’s not indicative of how the depth chart looks.

“Those tight ends are all playing,” Payton shared. “I think it becomes easier for you all when you start looking at the play totals and you see how much they are being relied upon.”

Every tight end has rotated in with the first, second, and third team offenses all throughout training camp, which lines up with what Payton has suggested.

Denver Broncos offense continues hot-trend of efficiency

Another day, another efficient outing for Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos offense as they moved the ball without hesitation during crucial periods of Wednesday’s practice.

Offense thrives in down and distance emphasis in 7-on-7

The Denver Broncos usually transition into their 7-on-7 period early on into practice. Russell Wilson and the first team unit wasted no time getting to work.

Wilson and the offense saw four plays in this period where period emphasis was focused on down and distance. The offense would convert three of their four attempts in the period that saw Wilson connect with wide receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and running back Tyler Badie before his final pass attempt to Jeudy fell incomplete due to Damarri Mathis’s strong coverage.

The second-team offense led by Jarrett Stidham saw them convert two of their four attempts into completed plays, including a short reception from Jaleel McLaughlin and a 22-yard catch from Greg Dulcich, who did a terrific job driving back to the ball. Denver’s defense buckled down after that, forcing a coverage sack on Stidham and Delonte Hood coming up with a big play, knocking down a pass intended for Marquez Callaway.

An unsuspected receiving option emerges in the first team period

Sean Payton earlier indicated that all of the tight ends would play, and his consistent demonstration of rotating in every potential option paid off for an under-the-radar player on Wednesday.

Once again, the offense saw four plays during their first team period of the afternoon. Running back Javonte Williams had a nice springy inside run, but the next play by the offense was noticeably interesting.

Russell Wilson dropped back to pass and connected with Tommy Hudson for 15+ yards, fitting the ball into a perfectly tight window. Hudson’s 6’5 frame is bulky, and he’s been a physical component in the Broncos blocking game at the position, but this was one of the very first plays we’ve seen from him used in the passing game.

Several plays later, Wilson evaded pressure from the Broncos’ defense and delivered a laser pass to running back Samaje Perine, who accounted for positive yards after the catch.

The overall flow of the offense’s rhythm has been consistently quick for the last five practices.

Third-down dominance from Russell Wilson and the first-team offense

Payton has heavily emphasized working on areas the Broncos struggled with last season, especially third down and red zone situations.

Wednesday’s practice saw Wilson’s best overall period of training camp. The offense faced a 3rd and 2, 3rd and 6, 3rd and 8, and 3rd and 11 scenarios against the starting defense.

On 3rd and 2, Wilson took a chance and capitalized with a big play, throwing it to Courtland Sutton for 30 yards despite Patrick Surtain tightly covering him near the sideline. On the next play, Wilson connected with Jerry Jeudy, who was wide open for a catch and run of 20+ yards.

Denver’s defense sent pressure on the third play from scrimmage, forcing Wilson to scramble inside where the defense stopped him after a four-yard run on 3rd and 8.

Sutton’s dominant afternoon continued with a big catch on 3rd and 11 for a first down, despite Damarri Mathis being tight on his hip in coverage. Mathis nearly broke it up, but Sutton used his size to box out Mathis and secure the first down.

Other Broncos news and notes

  • The Denver Broncos received good news regarding the injuries to wide receiver Brandon Johnson (ankle) and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee).
    • “With him, it’s a knee sprain,” Broncos head coach Sean Payton said. “We will keep you abreast, but it’s all good.”

  • Punter Riley Dixon continued to show off his leg power and consistency during Wednesday’s practice with punts of 70 and 75 yards.
  • Quarterback Ben DiNucci has had a solid training camp. He’s been decisive and quick with getting the ball out of his hands, has taken some calculated risks that have led to touchdowns, and his ball placement has been consistent in most practices.
  • Offensive tackle Isaiah Prince stepped in and received reps at right tackle on the afternoon and held his own against several rushes from Jonathon Cooper and Frank Clark.
  • Justin Simmons, Aaron Patrick, Caden Sterns, Brandon Johnson, Mike McGlinchey, and Chris Manhertz were the only players who didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice due to injury or load management.