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Broncos offense racing against clock for season opener

Shurmur eyes offensive balance, while navigating challenges
Posted at 3:31 PM, Aug 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-23 20:07:16-04

ENGLEWOOD — Late in practice on a hazy, eye-watering Sunday morning, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock stepped up and lofted a rainbow suited for a box of Lucky Charms. It was deliciously good, snared by DaeSean Hamiliton for a long gain.

These are the type of moments that provide promise this season will be different. No more 17 points per game. No more Punt, Punt & Kick competitions. Considering this represents the eighth practice, the offense remains intriguing.

"I think Drew's done a good job," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "There are times, and this is part of his nature, I call them the 60-yard check down, he can break out of the pocket, and he does a good job keeping his eyes down field."

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Even as practice waxes and wanes, Lock never loses confidence. And you can't teach that. But the group, not surprisingly, lacks consistency. The defense won Sunday, fueled by an inside charge by Jurrell Casey, who sprays graffiti on game plans with alarming regularity.

Lock and crew failed to gain traction, and lacked the urgency expected after a sluggish Friday followed by an offday. Everything comes with context after the upended offseason because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We’re all going to have to grow," Shurmur said. "We have 22 days and we’re going to be playing a game. I think every offense this year is going to grow. Every team is going to grow from week one to week 16. It happens anyway. The important thing is, no matter what you choose to do offensively, you have to do what the players do best and what they can execute. I think that’s where we’re at and that’s where our focus is. By nature, I’m not a very patient guy, but that’s the way it goes (laughs).”

The prism widens when looking at any practice. A difficult performance for the offense also means it was another strong day for the defense. Von Miller, limited as a precaution with a sore elbow, provided the soundtrack for drills and 11-on-11s, hollering after good plays. There were plenty from Bradley Chubb, Christian Covington and Casey. Fittingly, practice ended with Lock scrambling and Bryce Callahan intercepting him as he sneaked inside of rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.

It was situational football tilted against the offense, but revealed room for improvement.

"Obviously, it was a tough there at the end. We had 40 seconds left offensively. We were down five with no timeouts," coach Vic Fangio explained. "The advantage is to the defense there, but those are situations we have to be able to come up with an answer and go get that touchdown.”


Rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry worked with the starters as he makes his push to win the job. He showed confidence in making calls and pre-snap audibles. ...

One moment opened eyes and singed ears. Center Patrick Morris engaged with rookie defensive tackle McTelvin Agim, and shoved him to the ground with unnecessary contact. Shelby Harris took exception as he watched, running onto the field and telling Morris the play was "B.S." (that's the edited version). Coach Fangio upbraided Morris for his contact, and the center sat out several drills before returning. "We threw guy down late in the down which is bad to do for two reasons. One, it’s a penalty. Two, we don’t throw each other down like that," Fangio said. ...

Injuries continue to grow for the Broncos. Promising rookie inside linebacker Justin Strnad left practice with an injured wrist that was being evaluated as of Sunday afternoon. The Broncos might have look for external depth at the position. Todd Davis is expected to be out for a week, if not longer, with a strained calf. ...

Rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia's chance of starting in the opener — and it was a longshot — all but disappeared as he will be sidelined with a quad injury. De'Vante Bausby, Isaac Yiadom and Davontae Harris are vying for the spot. ...

With K.J. Hamler (hamstring) out multiple weeks and Juwann Winfree (groin) not yet practicing, the Broncos signed rookie receiver Cody White. Rookie Tyrie Cleveland has taken advantage of additional reps, making a strong push to make the team. ...

In between his stints as a referee during practice, kicker Brandon McManus is enjoying a strong camp. He's determined to improve from over 50 yards this season. He is 12-for-26 from that distance over the past four seasons. Explained special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, "No doubt, B-Mac, he’s hitting the (heck) out of the ball right now to be honest with you. The ball is getting up. His ball rotation is never sideways. I love what he’s doing. His kickoffs are awesome. How he’s approaching, he’s just attacking. He’s doing a great job with these young snappers. His expectations are high."

Jerry Jeudy is catching punts, but would only be used in case of emergency. Jeudy has positioned himself to start as a rookie at receiver, though nothing has been declared on the depth chart.