Expectations are high for the Denver Broncos offense this upcoming season, and the tight end position will play an intricate part in helping them get on track. As the team prepares to report for training camp, how the position gets utilized by Sean Payton is a question worth asking.

How will Greg Dulcich impact the Denver Broncos offense this season?

Greg Dulcich could have a massive impact in his second season in the NFL under Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos offense. After impressive flashes demonstrated throughout the midway point of last season, Dulcich has all of the athletic tools and football ability to emerge into one of the offense’s top players from a production standpoint.

What consistently stands out about his game is how fluid he moves for his size. His route running is crisp at 6’3 245lbs, but what’s even more impressive is how he creates separation. In Sean Payton’s ideation of the Broncos’ offense this upcoming season, he’s already projected that the second-year tight end could play the ‘Joker’ role which basically defines Dulcich as a positionless, do-it-all type of player.

Whether that involves him playing with his hand in the turf as an in-line option, flexed into the slot, placed on the outside, or offset as a wing in the backfield, the opportunities for him are endless. Dulcich stood out consistently during OTAs and minicamp and should carry that momentum into training camp, where he’s perceived as the team’s best option at tight end.

One question mark surrounding him coming into the offseason was whether or not he could stay healthy after dealing with a few soft tissue injuries last season, including a hamstring during his rookie year at OTAs, which subsequently held him out of action until training camp. During training camp, he suffered another setback, resulting in him being placed on short-term injured reserve, debuting in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers, where he hauled in a touchdown catch on Denver’s first game drive.

So far this offseason, he’s overcome that hurdle and made it through OTAs and minicamp with a clean bill of health which means that Broncos fans will get the opportunity to see him during training camp, which kicks off on July 28.

How will Sean Payton navigate the tight end room for training camp?

The only returning player at the tight end position from last season is Albert Okwuegbunam, who enters the final year of his rookie deal in Denver. He’ll be in the mix for a spot on the roster this upcoming season, and his athletic tools could allow him to become an effective duo alongside Dulcich this season.

At 6’5, 258 lbs, Okwuegbunam possesses legitimate speed, making him a yard-after-the-catch threat for the Broncos’ offense. Not only can he thrive across the middle of the field, but he could also become a vertical downfield threat under Payton’s offense.

After turning in an impressive offseason program, Okwuegbunam will have to carry that momentum into training camp after demonstrating the confidence to make big plays. During OTAs, he hauled in several downfield passes that would have been considered significantly big plays against the Denver defense.

“He can run,” Payton said during mandatory minicamp. “He’s athletic. I think consistency. He’s made progress. He’s at that stage where this is the time. He did make a few plays. I was encouraged with that. I think that as a teacher, our job is to hit the ceiling with these guys. He’s been very attentive. We’re not in pads yet, so that tight end position is interesting. Some of them are better run blockers, some are better receivers. He’s certainly athletic. I’ve said this a million times. Confidence is born out of demonstrated ability. We can wish for confidence, and you can say, ‘I’m confident.’ We’ve all seen moments where players do something in a game and all of a sudden—so it has to be born out of demonstrated abilities. There’s a catch he makes today that gives that young man confidence that he can do it again. That’s the growth spurt. It just can’t be wished for.”

He’ll have competition with several other tight ends currently on the roster heading into training camp. Tommy Hudson, Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, and Nate Adkins are other players competing outside of Okwuegbunam and Dulich.

Hudson was a late addition after the Broncos held their rookie minicamp. He spent last year with the Tennessee Titans and hauled in three catches on six targets in just five games last season. Hudson has a similar size to Okwuegbunam but doesn’t nearly possess the same amount of speed.

He’ll likely have to carve out a strong role for himself on special teams and demonstrate that he’s a consistent player as a blocker and an option as a receiver in the preseason.

Trautman comes over from the New Orleans Saints, where he spent two seasons with Payton. His advantage comes from knowing Payton’s offense and demonstrating the ability to produce in it, hauling in 42 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns while Payton was coaching him in 2020 and 2021. He’ll have to solidify his spot during training camp. Still, on paper, he feels like a lock to make the roster considering Payton’s familiarity with him and how consistent he has been so far throughout his career.

Manhertz also has previous familiarity with Payton and is projected to be an in-line option that will help the Denver Broncos rushing attack get going. He only has 24 career catches in his seven seasons in the NFL. With the Broncos playing in a division, conference, and schedule primed to take on several star pass rushers this season, having extra protection in the passing game and an extra body in the run game does nothing but benefit the identity that Payton wants to build for the team.

Manhertz is a great fit for that vision and could very well be a potential lock if he has a strong preseason.

Adkins is an undrafted rookie free agent from South Carolina who looked impressive during Broncos’ rookie minicamp. He earned himself a spot on the minicamp roster and will go into training camp with the opportunity to compete for a roster spot.

What’s interesting about Adkins is that he isn’t just a typical in-line tight end. He plays what Payton calls an F-back (not fullback), but a player type who can play both tight end and fullback if needed. That’s where veteran Michael Burton comes into the mix.

Burton signed with the Broncos in free agency and appears locked into that position, which projects Adkins to emerge as a possible practice squad mainstay on paper. A strong preseason performance or an injury can change the outlook of the tight end room entirely, but Payton has plenty of options he’ll evaluate as the team kicks things up a notch ahead of the season.

Denver Broncos tight end position overview

Greg Dulcich, Albert Okwuegbunam, Chris Manhertz, Adam Trautman, Tommy Hudson, and Nate Adkins make up the Denver Broncos positional depth at tight end heading into training camp.

Storylines to watch

  • Can Greg Dulich and Albert Okwuegbunam’s skillsets co-exist inside Sean Payton’s offense?
  • Will Chris Manhertz, Adam Trautman, Tommy Hudson, or Nate Adkins emerge as important depth at the position and on special teams?
  • Can the Broncos stay healthy at the position?
  • Will Dulcich become the Broncos’ offense’s Swiss army knife?

What’s next?
Broncos training camp kicks off on July 28 at the Centura Health Training Center, with every practice slated for a 10:00 a.m. start.