The Denver Broncos are now more than halfway through training camp, and we’re now seeing some stars and some problematic areas rise to the forefront.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who’s rising and who’s falling in this edition of the Broncos Stock Report.
With padded practices starting, many players have surged ahead — now that they can use their physicality — while others have shrunk. With that said, none have seen a greater surge than rookie Damarri Mathis.
Mathis has been a stud all week during padded practices, and he showed up again in a major way on Thursday.
Mathis lined up outside, across from a training camp darling in Kaden Davis, and trailed him across the middle of the field as Davis broke inside on a slant route. Mathis stayed just behind Davis, allowing a window for Rypien, but was always in his hip pocket. Then, the moment Rypien uncorked a pass targetting Davis near the right sideline, at the end of his route, Mathis floored it, diving in between Rypien and Davis to make a diving interception on the sidelines.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 4, 2022
It was the best play anyone had all day.
Not only that, but a handful of reps later, Mathis broke up a shallow crosser intended for Brandon Johnson.
Watching him match up with the Cowboys next week should be a joy.
Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler…and Greg Dulcich?
The Tim Patrick injury put this team in a bad spot, and they’ll have to turn to an assortment of players to fill the void left in his wake.
First, that means his fellow starters, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
Sutton played like a man possessed on Thursday, including a pivotal 4th-and-4 during the scrimmage portion of the day, when Russell Wilson threw a jump ball Sutton’s way, with a first down and the game on the line, and Sutton came down with the difficult grab. That was just one of many impressive catches he pulled off though.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 4, 2022
Jerry Jeudy has also carried over his momentum from earlier in the week, turning in near flawless practices on Wednesday and Thursday. On one play, Wilson targeted Jeudy in the middle of the field, and watched him accelerate away from Justin Simmons and spin around Patrick Surtain II on his way to the end zone. In a live game, Surtain probably wraps him up, but it was an impressive display of athleticism nonetheless.
Second, it means some unexpected stars are going to have to step up.
K.J. Hamler returned to the practice field this week and has flashed some speed while running routes with the quarterbacks, but it will be a while before we see him in any scrimmage action. Nonetheless, he’s played well so far.
Greg Dulcich is also starting to get incorporated more into practice, after returning from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for much of the offseason. Dulcich had some nice moments during Thursday’s practice, and given his athletic profile and blocking prowess — relative to most wide receivers at least — could be a name to watch to help fill Patrick’s role.
Darrius Shepherd had a very memorable first practice with the Denver Broncos. Although he might not have had too many standout moments on Thursday, he did have the biggest play of the day, hauling in a 60-yard touchdown bomb from backup quarterback Josh Johnson.
Broncos Country will be hoping they get to see more of that over the coming weeks.
Star linebacker Josey Jewell is back for the Denver Broncos after suffering a season-ending pectoral injury last year, and he looks incredible so far.
As an observer, it’s been impossible to tell that Jewell is even returning from injury — which has to be promising considering how shallow Denver is at that position — and his elite football IQ has lept off the field on a regular basis.
That was beautifully showcased on Thursday, as Jewell sniffed out a wide pitch to Javonte, before the ball was even snapped, and instantly scraped across the formation and into the backfield, for a big tackle for loss.
Broncos Country is understandably sad about Alexander Johnson’s departure, but the linebacker pairing of Jewell and Jonas Griffith projects to be maybe the best ILB pairing Denver has had since Super Bowl 50.
Before we get into the fallers, let’s address the disparity between the number of risers and the number of fallers.
This is a team on the rise right now, operating in a controlled setting, which will help them look good. Also, the good things stand out a lot more than the bad things at camp, purely as a result of the nature of the setting.
We’re not being singularly focused, there’s just a lot more to talk about on that end of the spectrum.
Onto the offensive line, which has started to become somewhat of a concern since the pads came on, on Monday.
Now, they haven’t played terribly, but they’ve struggled with keeping Wilson’s pocket clean and paving a way for backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams.
Wilson has consistently had to scramble or step up in the pocket to buy him an extra fraction of a second, while the running backs haven’t had a bunch of clean lanes to run through, forcing them to duck, dive and weave to pick up yardage.
It should be noted though, that with the mentally taxing nature of the zone-blocking scheme, these growing pains were to be expected. That said, seeing that line look as leaky as it has, is definitely a concern.
Defensive Back health
The Denver Broncos defense faced a real scare last week when K’Waun Williams suffered a knee injury that removed him from practice, but fortunately, Williams didn’t have any structural damage to his knee and will return soon.
Nonetheless, that injury highlighted a lack of depth in the defensive backfield — specifically at nickel-corner — and now an injury to P.J. Locke could exacerbate this issue.
Locke went down on the last play of the day and was immediately surrounded by teammates. With Patrick’s injury still at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it was especially scary.
Fortunately, Locke would get up and walk off the practice field under his own power, but the Broncos have now lost two talented defensive backs over a span of five practices.