We’re now officially into the thick of Denver Broncos Training Camp now.
On Monday, the players started throwing their pads on, and as a result, we were able to gain a better understanding of what the 2022 Denver Broncos look like.
With that in mind, we’ll look at the players that shined and the recent developments that could spell doom for the upcoming season, in this edition of the Broncos Stock Report.
Baron Browning & Nik Bonitto
With pads finally coming on, all eyes turned toward the trenches, as we finally got a solid opportunity to analyze how those players were performing.
Under that microscope, Browning and Bonitto have consistently played well. The speed the duo possesses has been obvious, and that gives the defense some exciting options to work with.
First, they operate as an excellent NASCAR package, that can give slower opposing offensive tackles fits. Browning has had multiple reps where he’s torn around Cameron Fleming or put him in a bad position from the snap. Second, they’re incredibly effective attacking inside, on different twists and stunts, thanks to their speed and the fact that both have experience attacking those interior gaps, dating back to their college days.
One of the major concerns surrounding Browning’s position change was how he’d hold up against the run on the edge, and the early returns have been promising. He’s put together a handful of strong reps setting the edge, and his ability to chase down a play from behind is something to behold.
Despite being one of the more lauded picks in the Broncos’ 2022 draft class, Damarri Mathis had a pretty slow start to camp. He wasn’t bad by any means, but he didn’t have the big flashes so many of the other young players had already enjoyed.
That changed on Tuesday, as Mathis was remarkable and helped ease the loss of K’Waun Williams for the defense.
With the pads coming on, Mathis was able to press receivers at the line more and disrupt their play even more throughout the rep.
This was on full display on back-to-back reps, which saw Mathis notch two pass breakups, against two of camp’s better performers.
First, on a quick slant to Montrell Washington, Mathis disrupted Washington’s release and then was right there at the catch point with contact, preventing Washington from hauling in a pass thrown behind him.
Next, Johnson targeted Trey Quinn down the sideline, with Mathis in coverage. Mathis squeezed Quinn out towards the sideline in textbook fashion, and then contested the catch beautifully, ultimately resulting in another pass breakup.
The Broncos will need Mathis to continue on this course, considering they don’t have many corners that project to be quality nickels. Mathis is one of them.
Last year, the Denver Broncos struggled mightily to defend the run, because once Mike Purcell was hampered with injury, they were left without a run-suffocating big body in the middle of their defensive front.
Now, they have three. Alongside Purcell and DJ Jones, Eyioma Uwazurike is a mammoth of a human being — measuring in at 6-foot-6 and nearly 320 pounds — and he’s been very impressive through the first two days of padded play.
For much of Monday and Tuesday, Uwazurike and Purcell formed a brick wall that Denver’s running backs were forced to run into repeatedly, finding little success along the way.
Uwazurike isn’t just an early-down player though. Despite Uwazurike’s lack of experience, the Broncos have already shown flashes of utilizing his rare traits in some creative ways. While at Iowa State, Uwazurike spent a little time on the defensive edge, and the Broncos tapped into that experience on Tuesday, with some positive effects.
On one rep, Bradley Chubb stunted inside, as Uwazurike twisted out around him, and immediately got in Wilson’s face, forcing a poor throw and ultimately, an incompletion.
It’ll be fun to see if that carries into the season.
With every passing day, the Corliss Waitman hype train picks up a little bit of steam.
Sam Martin hasn’t been bad, but Waitman has had some flashes of freakish ability, and anything resembling a tie is going to favor Waitman. The Denver Broncos stand to save $2.2 million if they part with Martin.
Today, Waitman boomed a punt that traveled somewhere north of 65 yards downfield and hung in the air for more than 5.3 seconds — an absurdly good hang time. 4.6 seconds is considered a high-end NFL hang time.
Compare that to Martin, who never topped 4.5 seconds on the day.
The offensive star of the first week of camp was Montrell Washington, but understandably, everyone expected that to dial back a little as he faced more contact, with pads coming on.
That has not been the case.
Once again, Washington has been a bonafide star and probably the team’s best offensive player in the camp outside of the obvious starters.
He catches one or two deep touchdowns every day of practice and has even been productive in the redzone and in contested catch situations, where one might not expect his style of play to flourish.
His high-end athleticism has also been on display regularly, even in more trivial ways. Following one of his touchdowns on Tuesday, Washington celebrated with a backflip that electrified the crowd.
Denver Broncos’ offense without Tim Patrick
The Denver Broncos suffered a devastating blow on Tuesday when Tim Patrick went down with what appeared to be a very serious non-contact knee injury. Since then, 9News’ Mike Klis has confirmed it to be a season-ending ACL tear.
This news has the potential to crush Denver’s offense before it ever even had a chance to take flight.
Patrick had an excellent chance to be the second-most targeted receiver on the Broncos’ offense and could’ve even been the team’s most productive pass-catcher for a third consecutive year, so the Broncos are potentially losing a lot here.
The pairing of Wilson with two skyscrapers that excelled at attacking downfield and winning in contested catch situations seemed like a match made in heaven, and although the trio of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler is very promising, it will be nearly impossible to replicate what Patrick brought to this offense.
His injury also severely lowers the floor of Denver’s wide receiver group. Sutton still has to prove he can return to pre-injury form, Jeudy has to prove he can be a reliable NFL target, and Hamler has to try and overcome both of those hurdles. Patrick was the surefire safety blanket that you knew could be an awesome No. 2 at worst. Without him, this unit has the potential to be problematic.
There also aren’t many great free agent options, meaning it will be on the aforementioned trio, as well as Washington, Kendall Hinton, Tyrie Cleveland, Seth Williams and Travis Fulgham to try and fill the void opened by Patrick’s injury.