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Broncos offense seeks to avoid dropping the ball by not, um, dropping the ball

Broncos receivers look to cure case of the drops
Posted: 6:52 PM, Jul 24, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-24 21:12:08-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos acquired 34-year-old Joe Flacco to snap a three-year skid of offensive ineptitude. His résumé boasts Super Bowl MVP honors, and 10 playoff victories. He can stand in the flames and make a pass. But it has to be caught for him to make a difference. Six practices into training camp, the Broncos continue to struggle with drops. In a recent practice, there were double-figure drops. Wednesday, rookie Trinity Benson, an intriguing undrafted player, dropped a pair.

There are reasons, of course. A new offense, a new coordinator and a group of receivers -- save for Emmanuel Sanders who has sticky fingers -- whose youth shows through inconsistency.

"Drops are unacceptable," said second-year receiver Courtland Sutton, who had a few tough early practices, but has rebounded. "And that goes from the top down. It's unacceptable and we understand what it expected of us. ... It comes down (to) focus. I can't be selfish. The Oline is blocking its butt off so Joe can get a throw off. The runningbacks are picking up linebackers. If it's the seventh or eighth play in a row, we have to lock in. We have to make the plays and keep the team moving forward."

Drops in a vacuum happen. But depending on the time and place on the field, they can be devastating. The Broncos offense is not good enough to overcome gaffes on on routine plays. With the early miscues, the Broncos continued stressing fundamentals. Receivers coach Zach Azzanni drew rave reviews for bringing along a young corps last season. He works the players relentlessly, coaching them on every detail while having them put in plenty of time on the JUGS machine. Doing drills is one thing. Doing it in practice with the eyes of the berm and the eyes on the sky on them -- that can create issues.

Stress is a great divider. Sanders has lived it and is practically immune to drops at this point in his career. He worked 7-on-7 drills for the first time this summer and will graduate to team work soon. He made a diving catch on his first reception Wednesday. It's what he does. So does he remind the young guys to relax and take a deep breath?

"Nah, I am not that kind of guy. I am more like, 'Get your (stuff) together," said Sanders after the Broncos 2 1/2 practice in 95-degree heat. "It is the youngest group I have been around. Just trying to get these guys right. They are trying to make a roster and there is a lot of pressure. Sitting on the sideline, it looks easy, like 'Oh, my grandma could have made that catch.' It's a lot harder than you think," Sanders said. "They are trying to get acclimated. I am pushing for them. We still have 30 days of camp. Hopefully we can get that turned around and stop putting balls on the ground."

The good news -- behind the calendar sitting on the Broncos' side -- is the type of passing game the Broncos will employ. Yes, they need receivers on point, but running backs lined up wide on linebackers and tight ends exploiting the middle of the field will help define this attack.

"Just efficiency," said coach Vic Fangio on what he's looking for from offense at this point in camp. "Guys running routes the way they are supposed to be, catching when they should catch it, runningbacks with proper reads. It's just efficiency and we haven't had that consistently yet. But that's what we are striving for."

Footnotes
The first skirmish of camp broke out. Defensive end Derek Wolfe and center Connor McGovern got into briefly, resulting in Wolfe tossing McGovern's helmet. Players understand tempers will flare. But Fangio doesn't want it. "There's no need for it. We need to refrain from it, and we've talked about it." ... Receiver Juwann Winfree (calf/ankle) is hopeful of participating fully in practice on Thursday. ... Tight end Jake Butt missed practice as he recovers from knee surgery. ... Receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who has had a solid camp, left practice early and will have his hamstring evaluated.