The Denver Broncos are back on the practice field today at the UCHealth Training Center as they report for mandatory minicamp on this Monday morning. What are some of the key storylines that Broncos Country should watch for as this week prepares to set the table for training camp in July?
One of the final phases of the Broncos offseason involves mandatory minicamp which will require every player on the roster to be there in attendance. Minicamp is part of Phase 3 of the NFL’s offseason program, which carries over the same rules the team followed during organized team activities.
Most players will fully participate in practice excluding players who are recovering or dealing with injuries. Last week during OTAs, Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy aggravated his groin, prompting him to leave the practice field.
It’s currently unknown whether or not Jeudy will actively participate this week in any positional or team drills.
“We’re going to play it by ear,” Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett said last week regarding whether or not Jeudy’s injury will hold him out of minicamp. “It just happened. It happened kind of early in practice, so I have to go find out more. We’re going to do some more tests, and we’ll see where we’re at.”
If Jeudy isn’t ready to return to the field, it would be smart for the Broncos to hold him out and preserve him for training camp towards the end of July.
Also, Broncos free agent acquisition Randy Gregory is not expected to physically participate during mandatory minicamp. And then there’s Jonathon Cooper, who is also expected to not participate this week as he continues to recover from finger surgery. He is, however, expected to be ready for training camp.
Denver Broncos mandatory minicamp: Offensive Storylines
Earlier in this offseason, Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett alluded to the possibility the team could embrace a by-committee approach when it comes to running back. Let’s dive into what that would look like.
Second-year running back Javonte Williams is expected to be the team’s premier back while Melvin Gordon is expected to contribute behind him. However, it’s worth noting that last season both Williams and Gordon had 203 touches each.
Could the Broncos add a third rusher into the stable? While it seems unlikely, if the Broncos were to involve a third back in the offense this year, one storyline to watch could be Mike Boone competing with Damarea Crockett for that spot.
Regardless of whether the Broncos actually utilize three backs this season, it’s expected that they will carry three rushers on the 53-man roster.
Another storyline to watch involves the various competitions the Broncos have on the offensive line. Garett Bolles has the Broncos left tackle spot locked in, while the belief is that the right guard spot is Quinn Meinerz position to lose.
At left guard, the Broncos are looking to have Dalton Risner and Netani Muti share reps while they compete for that position. For the center position, Lloyd Cushenberry and Graham Glasgow will compete with each other.
And finally, at right tackle, Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton, and Billy Turner will compete for the starting spot.
Now that the Broncos have entered their mandatory phase of the offseason, each rep matters as the coaching staff begin to compile the necessary data and evaluation that will lead up to the regular season to settle the various position battles that are ongoing.
One position to watch for the Broncos offense through minicamp leading into training camp will be the tight end position.
Will Albert Okwuegbunam secure the starting job or will Broncos rookie tight end Greg Dulcich be too hard to ignore? What role could Eric Saubert have in the Broncos new offense as he competes with offseason acquisition Eric Tomlinson?
Denver Broncos mandatory minicamp: Defensive Storylines
The Broncos defense returns in 2022 fully intact from last year, outside of several positions and offseason personnel decisions.
Right now, the Broncos almost certain starters at safety will be the veteran combination of Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson. The bigger question at safety is who will be the third option behind those two.
P.J. Locke, Caden Sterns, Delarrin Turner-Yell, Jamar Johnson, and J.R. Reed will all compete for a spot in the main rotation. Under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, the Broncos are likely to play a lot of their looks in dime personnel and an even front with four down linemen, one inside backer, and six defensive backs.
With K’Waun Williams projected to start at one of the slot positions, the Broncos safety group will be looking to compete to start in one of the other slot positions with Michael Ojemudia potentially being involved as well.
At cornerback, Ojemudia is anticipated to be the Broncos main backup to both Patrick Surtain and Ronald Darby. Behind Ojemudia, Bless Austin, Damarri Mathis, and Faion Hicks will compete for reps on defense and contribute primarily on special teams in training camp and the preseason.
With Williams as the Broncos’ primary slot defender, Essang Bassey will look to compete for the backup spot behind him with players like Austin, Mathis, and Hicks having the versatility to also work on the inside if called upon.
When it comes to edge rushers, the Broncos Week 1 starters will likely be Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory. But for mandatory minicamp, what might the Broncos pass rush rotation look like? Second-round draft pick Nik Bonitto, Baron Browning, and Malik Reed all will get consistent reps, but how will players like undrafted rookie Christopher Allen and Aaron Patrick get involved?
The Broncos defensive line will still have coach Bill Kollar around as he serves as a defensive consultant alongside new defensive line coach Marcus Dixon. The same intensity for the line will remain intact.
Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, and free-agent acquisition D.J. Jones are planned to headline the Broncos’ key players on the defensive line. Behind those three players, competition is wide open amongst other players.
McTelvin Agim, Eyioma Uwazurike, DeShawn Williams, Jonathan Harris, Matt Henningsen, Jonathan Kongbo, and Marquiss Spencer will compete for key roles in the defensive line rotation this season.
As the Broncos continue under a new coaching regime, players like Agim, and Williams, have higher expectations than Harris, Kongbo, and Spencer given they played more impactful minutes in 2021.
Which players will find themselves as impactful depth players behind key starters or could any of these players uproot any of the projected starters?
Lastly, Broncos Country should keep an eye on who gets reps opposite of Josey Jewell at inside linebacker. Jonas Griffith, Justin Strnad, and Alex Singleton are going to rotate and receive plenty of reps. How might players like Barrington Wade and undrafted rookies Kadofi Wright and Kana’i Mauga get the opportunity to maximize their reps?
The Broncos have plenty of storylines that will come under the microscope beginning this week, leading all the way up to training camp and the preseason. The amount of depth Denver possesses at nearly every position is a great problem to have.