Saturday was the tenth overall practice for the Denver Broncos as they push toward the regular season. While the defense has had success through the early stages of camp, Denver’s offense stacked two strong performance days in a row.

Russell Wilson and Jerry Jeudy end practice with a bang

After a solid performance on Friday, Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos offense ended Saturday’s practice with a bang.

In Sean Payton’s “need a touchdown” period, Wilson and the Broncos offense were down 6-0 in the simulated fourth quarter period with under one minute left on the clock.

Wilson continued his streak of throwing in rhythm on the afternoon, connecting with wide receivers Brandon Johnson and Marquez Callaway to set themselves up on the drive against the Denver defense.

With the ball on their own 47-yard line, Wilson uncorked a deep pass to Jerry Jeudy, who had cornerback Damarri Mathis tightly on his hip; Jeudy dove forward and hauled in the pass for a touchdown in front of 3,000 Broncos fans who erupted in celebration.

The response by the offense was necessary, considering their rough start during Friday’s two-minute move-the-ball period. Wilson was efficient throughout the entire day of practice on Saturday, which is a promising sign considering the defense had gotten the best of the offense for the first several days of practice.

“It was more encouraging than the way the two-minute drills started,” Payton said. “Again, we had penalty, penalty. We’re working through some of that. I’ve said this repeatedly—there are ebbs and flows to some of these drills. The first set of two-minute reps were [that we] need a field goal and then the last role was [we] need a touchdown.”

Earlier in practice during the Broncos’ red-zone period, Wilson helped orchestrate a touchdown drive there as well. On one play in particular, Wilson evaded pressure from outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper and threw on the run, connecting with Brandon Johnson for a touchdown.

As Payton always says, confidence is born from demonstrated ability, and the Broncos offense had momentum on the afternoon.

During 7-on-7 near the start of practice, Wilson and the Broncos receivers sharpened their timing and chemistry with a perfect period. Wilson connected with Courtland Sutton, Albert Okwuegbunam, Kendall Hinton, and Jerry Jeudy without a single miss during the period.

Sean Payton embracing roster evaluation in-house and across all 31 other teams

The NFL’s transition to three preseason games from four has reduced some of the opportunities teams get to evaluate in-house players in-depth. Still, Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton has emphasized that 31 other team’s rosters are being evaluated by NFL team’s around this time of the year.

Even though the NFL has cut-back roster cutdowns from three separate events to one, Payton and his coaching staff are constantly monitoring the situations of their own team and every other team around the league as the first week of preseason approaches.

Building the right 53-man roster is the primary focus for Payton.

“I think what you are referencing is we are back to one cut down, which is kind of what I’m used to,” Payton said. “I know that there have been years where we went to 70, 75 and then down to 53. I think the key is when you get to 53, there are a lot of players. Thirty-two teams are going from 90 to 53. Now I know a lot of the players are going to go to the practice squad. I don’t know the math between 53 and 90—37, so 37 times 32. Immediately, that’s a lot of players that are available. I don’t mean there is stress that way, but man there are players when that happens. That’s how we found [Saints TE] Taysom Hill. He was one of those players and at midnight, we are looking at film and we keep looking and we’re looking at another player—[former Broncos WR] Ed McCaffrey’s son was who we were looking at, Max [McCaffrey]. We see this other guy and then we look at more film. By the time it’s one in the morning, we are going to put a claim in for him and we get awarded a really good football player. I would say a lot of time and energy is spent on the right 53—that’s what I think about, the right 53. We try to educate our players not to just look at the line in front of them. If you are a receiver, you’re competing against the other 31 teams’ depth at receiver as well. That’s important. It’s hard for them to understand that.”

The Broncos have had success in previous years finding potential talent that could help them in the regular season and with Payton’s emphasis on finding the right group of players for the final roster, several positions and pieces from a personnel standpoint could look entirely different before Denver’s Week 1 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Denver Broncos news and notes from Saturday’s practice

  • The Broncos signed former Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Forrest Merrill on Saturday and placed a waived/injured designation OL Yasir Durant.
  • Outside linebacker Randy Gregory was a limited participant on Saturday after he ‘tweaked’ his ankle on Friday during his pick-six in practice. “Just being smart,” Payton said. “[OLB] Randy [Gregory] kind of tweaked an ankle a little bit on his interception and he came out and practiced, but we were just smart about how much we were going to do with him. [S] Justin [Simmons] was doing well. We’re going to do that this throughout this camp.”
  • Jaleel McLaughlin had another impressive big run during the Broncos team period early in practice.
  • Defensive end Zach Allen continues to create intense pressure looks for the Broncos’ offense and has been a consistent disruptor throughout training camp.
  • Broncos cornerbacks Delonte Hood and Fabian Moreau had impressive performances on Saturday; both players had key pass breakups.
  • The RB3 competition is heating up as Tyler Badie, Tony Jones Jr, and Jaleel McLaughlin continue to have strong training camp practices.
  • Sean Payton acknowledged that starters will play on Friday against the Arizona Cardinals.
  • Kicker Elliott Fry saw most of the kicking attempts on Saturday going 7/8, including a made field goal from 55+ yards.

The Denver Broncos will return to the practice field on Monday as they approach their first NFL preseason game.