ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Adaptability, aside from talent, remains the most important skill for NFL teams.
Normal became a stranger the past 14 months.
No OTAs in 2020 has evolved into an adjusted offseason program with reps this month, but fewer 11-on-11 drills as a concession to players' request and the novel 17-game regular season.
Everyone knows the Broncos' ability to end a five-year playoff skid and a four-year losing record drought hinges on a functional offense. Check that. It centers on significantly improved quarterback play.
The competition pits Teddy Bridgewater vs. Drew Lock. Two Men and a Maybe.
QB battles bring drama and often undermine teams, inadvertently dividing the locker room.
This situation features another layer — the most interesting potential contestant in the Broncos' QB equation is not in the building or on the mainland. Aaron Rodgers, who is enjoying a Maui vacation for the ages, is in play until he is not.
The Packers have shown no desire to trade the reigning MVP. However, there's been zero thawing in the frosty relationship between Rodgers and the Packers front office. As of today, the Packers could trade Rodgers with softer financial implications. If Rodgers is dealt, his cap hit charges become $21.2 million this season and $17.2 million in 2022. Not ideal, but manageable.
And yet, the situation demands no urgency. The Packers do not have to move Rodgers, and in talking to industry sources, they believe Green Bay will slow play this drama into training camp. If Rodgers declines to report, perhaps the Packers will relent in this game of chicken and move the superstar rather than see if he will sit out the season.
The Broncos are expected to be poised to make a bid if Rodgers becomes available, a package that likely starts with two first round picks, a pair of second round picks and multiple players.
For now, it amounts to educated conjecture.
That brings us back to Bridgewater and Lock. On a warm Tuesday as the diva sunshine decided to reappear, Bridgewater was better. He displayed his trademark accuracy and hit on a deep ball to Jerry Jeudy, as seen on Broncos Twitter, that proved the best play of practice. Lock showed flashes, but also had some errant throws.
It matters little on June 1. But this QB derby will heat up and play out a little differently than expected.
With the switch to three preseason games this year, I asked coach Vic Fangio how he would handle playing time for the QBs. As it stands, the Broncos have nine practices left: Six OTAs and three in mandatory minicamp.
"We'll try to get as many reps as we can on the field each and every day in camp and probably play them a little more in preseason than teams may play their No. 1 quarterback," Fangio said. "I did a mini study a few years ago and some of the veteran, best quarterbacks in the league were playing a lot of snaps in the preseason and some of the youngest that needed it weren't. To me that was telling. These guys need snaps, especially when we have a young quarterback like we have in Drew and a new quarterback like we have in Teddy. Hopefully, we'll give them a lot of reps and the decision will be easier."
Lock changed his diet, improved his footwork and learned film hacks from Peyton Manning. Bridgewater, discarded by the Panthers, is embracing the competition and relying on his past to secure a bright future.
Ideally, the Broncos make a choice after the second preseason game — there will probably be separation after the first exhibition game — to give the offense the best chance to succeed on Sept. 12 vs. the Giants.
The Broncos have not averaged 21 points per game since Manning retired. And no one wants to hear about the starter not being ready in the opener because he was splitting reps. That's why Fangio's decision to goose this race a bit makes sense.
Dropping the hammer
Jerry Jeudy displayed breathtaking talent last season, working better in space than NASA. However, drops, including five at the Chargers, clouded his rookie year. He went back into the lab, worked on his technique and returned to basics. His hands have been sticky during our brief media viewing periods this offseason.
"It is about focus and concentration. I have to catch the ball first, not try to make a play," Jeudy said.
Fangio has noticed, saying Jeudy is showing more "maturity." Despite criticism of Jeudy, he delivered decent stats, finishing with the second-most receptions (52) and receiving yards (856) ever by a Broncos rookie.
Cornerback Bryce Callahan admitted no one "is more frustrated by injuries" than he is. But he remains optimistic, especially since he's enjoying his first offseason in two years where he's not rehabbing a foot injury.
Linebacker Baron Browning (lower leg) did not participate and receiver K.J. Hamler (hamstring) was limited to side work on Tuesday.
Kyle Fuller and Melvin Gordon remained absent from the voluntary workouts. That has long been Gordon's plan. Fangio hopes to see Fuller before the mandatory minicamp later this month.