ENGLEWOOD -- The calendar provides a flashing reminder to not overreact. It's June. No decisions happen.
Separation, however, can develop. Promises can jump from Zoom transcripts to practice reps, right?
So it was on a sun-bleached Monday at UCHealth Training Center, the focus narrowed on the quarterbacks. Not just because they man the most important position on the field, but because it offered the first look at Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock in 11 on 11 drills.
I won't bury the lead. Bridgewater won the day. And it wasn't close. More on that in a moment. More surprising is that Lock showed no progress based on his promising offseason. In his first pass attempt, Lock dropped back, surveyed the field for too long, raised his arm for flight and a parachute came out.
More accurately, the football slipped out of Lock's right hand and into the rushing Malik Reed's arms for a turnover. Moments later, Lock looked right and threw left without scanning the field and Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons corralled the pass that would have resulted in a pick six.
Lock appears to be pressing. It's not uncommon when an athlete is so concerned with making a mistake that he becomes robotic and loses the confidence and athleticism that provides an opportunity to win the job. Lock dealt with a blister on a finger on his throwing hand that likely affected him Monday. But it was a difficult day by any measure as Lock showed his frustration.
Bridgewater looked more comfortable than a week ago, gaining traction in an offense that he ran with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in Minnesota. On his first drive, he floated a touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy, who again was the best offensive player on the field (he had a contested catch on the sideline from Bridgewater where he showed emotion as well).
While Bridgewater's upside is limited based on his career, he brings accuracy as evidenced by his 66.5 career completion percentage. That was on display with several solid strikes before Two Gloves made a rookie mistake and tossed a ball up for grabs that rookie safety Jamar Johnson picked off in 7-on-7 work.
I asked coach Vic Fangio about his impressions with his quarterbacks, and whether the pressure was impacting Lock, who is a novice when it comes to competing for the starting job even dating back to college.
"You don't want guys pressing. Two players you don’t want as coaches — one, a player who doesn’t do what the coaches tell him. Two, a player who only does what the coaches tell him," Fangio said. "It's too early to come to any conclusions (on if Lock is pressing)."
Training camp brings real impressions and final choices. But, let's not pretend these OTA practices, especially next week's mandatory work, have no impact. The Broncos cannot afford another slow start as they aim to end a five-year playoff drought and four straight losing seasons. Fangio owns an 0-7 record in September. I bring that up because the quarterback who takes care of the ball figures to have a clear edge in this derby as the Broncos open with the Giants, Jaguars and Jets.
As for teammates, they watch and offer support.
"Competition brings out the best in everyone," linebacker Alexander Johnson said.
Added left guard Dalton Risner, who praised Lock's offseason work and Brigdwater's leadership, "I just want the team to win football games. If we’re in the playoffs, that’s all that matters to me.”
James files grievance
As expected, former Broncos tackle Ja'Wuan James filed a $15 million grievance against the team, seeking to claw back his 2021 and 2022 salaries after he tore his Achilles. The Broncos cut James, and do not intend to pay him. James got caught in the middle of labor strife as the NFLPA advised players to skip voluntary workouts, while the NFL issued memos saying players hurt training away from the team facility, as James was, would not have their contracts honored.
James is expected to contend that while he was not at the facility, he was working out in a manner authorized by the club. The club can point to the voidable language in the contract, and claim any workout plan provided to a player is voluntary. The Broncos will defend themselves in the grievance.
James signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Ravens on Monday.
"That is the business of football and not football business," Fangio said on why he was not commenting on James' situation.
Based on those who have received shots and others saying they would, Fangio expects roughly 70 players to get vaccinated. "The more that do, it helps us from an operational standpoint," Fangio said. ...
Right tackle remains another up for grabs, though I give an edge to Bobby Massie. He sat out practice with a pectoral injury. He is competing with Cam Fleming. ...
Left tackle Garett Bolles will return next week as he tends to a family matter. Quinn Bailey manned left tackle for part of Monday's work. ...
Veteran Kyle Fuller made his first appearance on the field. As Fangio noted, he will pick up the defense quickly given his experience with the coach in Chicago. ...
Rookie Pat Surtain II worked inside and outside at corner on Monday, showing versatility that should help him play quickly and often.