Training camp preview: 3 storylines to keep an eye on at Broncos’ practices

Sep 23, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman (28) celebrates with tight end Jake Butt (80) after scoring a first quarter touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The summer doldrums of football are almost over and before we know it, football will make its return to the Mile High City. Before the Broncos kick the season off in Canton, Ohio in a bout against the Atlanta Falcons in the annual Hall of Fame game, they’ll have to head to Dove Valley for training camp.

Ahead of training camp, here are the three storylines that will actually matter come September.

Drew Lock pushing Joe Flacco more than expected:

Barring injury, nothing will happen that could lead Drew Lock stealing the Week 1 starting job from Joe Flacco. General manager John Elway has made that much clear. That being said, don’t be surprised if Lock begins to challenge for the job a lot sooner than expected, by shortening the leash on Flacco in training camp.

While both quarterbacks have Howitzers that allow them to make any throw on the field, due to age, Lock’s should have more pop and he should make plenty of “wow” plays thanks to his incredible athleticism.

Adjusting to the speed of the NFL takes time for every rookie, but Lock should adjust more quickly than most. He was a four-year starter in the SEC at Missouri, and while SEC defenses certainly don’t have the same speed as NFL teams do, a quarterback can’t get any closer than yearly matchups against LSU, Alabama and Auburn.

The two biggest question marks surrounding Lock through the draft process was his lack of accuracy and his throwing mechanics. Now, after spending the past several months working with top quarterback guru and throwing mechanics wizard Jordan Palmer, one of those problems should be more polished than expected.

Royce Freeman getting more work in the backfield than Phillip Lindsay:

Phillip Lindsay shocked the football world last season when he went from an undrafted, unknown prospect to being the face and star of Denver’s offense over the course of two and a half months.

Now, Lindsay is ready for an encore season but will likely come out of the gates slower than expected as he is still nursing the wrist injury he suffered in Week 16 last year. As training camp gets underway, watch for running back Royce Freeman to get the majority of his work with the first team and for that trend to continue into the preseason.

It’s widely expected that Freeman will get the majority of the team’s carries in 2019, while Lindsay still might get the majority of overall touches. Envision a situation similar to that of what Vic Fangio saw every week in practice last year with the Bears.

Freeman will be the Broncos’ more dynamic and athletic version of Jordan Howard, while Lindsay takes on the mismatch nightmare role of a suped-up Tarik Cohen and is used heavily in the passing game.

Broncos offense looking better thanks to a wealth of young talent at receiver:

This current Broncos receiving corps has more talent and upside than any other group of receivers the team has had since 2013.

No one would rank Emmanuel Sanders in the elite range of receivers with DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, or Odell Beckham Jr., but he has been one of the best and most reliable receivers in the tier just below those guys. Even more important than Sanders though, is the ridiculous amount of young receiving talent on the Broncos.

Courtland Sutton should take a bigger leap from Year One to Year Two than any other player from the 2018 draft class on the Broncos. Sutton will not only have a full offseason under his belt but he’ll also be entering the season with starting experience following the Demaryius Thomas trade. Flacco and Lock’s style of play is also a much better fit for the former SMU Mustang than Case Keenum‘s dink-and-dunk approach.

DaeSean Hamilton was the best pure slot receiver in the 2018 draft and flashed in limited play last season. Now with more playing time, Hamilton’s numbers should get a hefty bump as he becomes the safety blanket for Lock and Flacco in 2019.

Tim Patrick is the most underrated receiver on the team by a country mile, and really, he’s among the most underrated in the league. Despite barely getting on the field for the Broncos in 2018, he consistently made plays and proved his hands to be among the most reliable on the team. Once the Broncos and Emmanuel Sanders go their seperate ways, don’t be surprised if Patrick quickly emmerges as the next man up.