The Denver Broncos returned to the practice field on Thursday as they continued their trek through training camp. The team wore shells as they continued to emphasize red-zone work, added a linebacker to counteract the loss of a key player due to injury, and Javonte Williams is set to play in the preseason.

Jonas Griffith will miss the 2023 season after suffering an ACL injury

The Denver Broncos lost a second player to a major injury suffered during practice this week. Earlier in the week, wide receiver Tim Patrick went down with a season-ending Achilles injury; several days later, they lost inside linebacker Jonas Griffith to a torn ACL.

On Thursday, Broncos head coach Sean Payton confirmed that Griffith suffered a torn ACL and would miss the season.

“He’s going to go to [injured reserve] with an ACL [injury],” Payton said. “It’s unfortunate because he was one of those guys who was rehabbing, too. I saw him a lot and we’re trying to keep his spirits up. That’s it from an injury standpoint.”

The Broncos lost Griffith midway through last season to a season-ending foot injury. Griffith’s impact extends just beyond the defensive side of the ball, where he’s demonstrated that he’s a starting-caliber linebacker. Still, his missing presence on special teams will be immediately felt.

The Broncos linebacker depth consists of Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton, Justin Strnad, Drew Sanders, Seth Benson, Ray Wilborn, and new addition Austin Ajiake, who was signed on Thursday.

Ajiake played his college football at UNLV where he tallied 132 total tackles in his final season with the Rebels. He had a season-high 20 tackles in the Rebels’ 42-7 loss.

He’s expected to play at linebacker in the preseason, but Sean Payton’s overall vision for him involves contributing on special teams.

Griffith’s injury allows players like Strnad, Sanders, Wilborn, Benson, and Ajiake to get more playing time with three preseason games approaching.

Broncos starting linebacker Alex Singleton told Mile High Sports that the loss of Griffith is a massive blow to their room, but it will require somebody to step up.

“That sucks,” Singleton said. “Jonas [Griffith] is a huge part of our team, great in our room. It just sucks losing a guy like that, I hate it. You know how hard he works and everything he puts out there; to kind of go back-to-back with injuries like that, it sucks. He’s a big part of our team. Guys are going to have to step up. Luckily in those situations at least it’s now and they get three to four weeks to prove who should be that guy.”

Javonte Williams will play in the preseason

Javonte Williams recovery from last year’s major knee injury has been impressive to see up close and in person. Throughout camp, he’s run very balanced between finesse and physical and hasn’t shown any signs of hesitation.

As the Broncos prepare for their first preseason game next Friday, the biggest question heading into that game revolves around whether or not Williams will play against the Arizona Cardinals.

“Yeah, he will get reps,” Sean Payton said following Thursday’s practice. It may be that we wait until Week 2. We haven’t gone through the outline of the plays yet, but I like how he is progressing.”

Even if Williams plays in Week 1 or Week 2 of the preseason, how many carries he gets, or snaps that he sees will be interesting to monitor. Last season, Denver gave wide receiver KJ Hamler several offensive series as he returned from an ACL injury to help him find confidence in a game-like environment.

Williams told local media last week that he’s looking forward to lowering his shoulder into somebody. Usually the NFL Preseason format sees starters playing one series or one quarter in the first game, and an entire half in the second game.

It’s unclear at this point what the true plan is for Williams or how much he will play when he gets on the field, but the fact that he’ll get reps is a great sign regarding the progress he has made.

What stood out during Day 8 of Denver Broncos Training Camp?

  • The Broncos’ first, second, and third team offenses each had success during the team’s first 7-on-7 red-zone period.
  • Jarrett Stidham threw three touchdowns in red-zone 7-on-7 on his first four throws, connecting with Albert Okwuegbunam, Marvin Mims, and Kendall Hinton.
  • Kareem Jackson and K’Waun Williams each had a veterans day off at practice.
  • Patrick Surtain continues to have an elite-level training camp, dominating reps in one on ones. He had a key pass breakup in coverage on Jerry Jeudy during the team’s 7-on-7 period.
  • The Broncos’ pass rush consisting of Frank Clark, Randy Gregory, and Zach Allen generated pressure on Russell Wilson toward the end of practice during their final team period.
    • Sean Payton touched on the pressure and how it’s impacted Wilson: “I think he’s doing well. I like what I’ve seen. I said it yesterday. There are times when you’re not seeing a clean picture and he’s scrambling. In a game-type mode, though, where we’re running the ball more and with the installations that we’re doing—I think he’s doing well. I like where he’s at.”
  • The Denver Broncos will transition back into pads for Friday’s practice, which starts at 10:00 a.m. MT.