ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Not long after Wednesday's practice began the Broncos settled in for a special teams drill. Their kicker? A Jugs machine. It has been a process replacing Brandon McManus, but this was ridiculous. Sanity became restored moments later as new kicker Wil Lutz, wearing No. 16, arrived on the line.
It was a whirlwind for Lutz. He restructured his contract over the offseason to increase his chances of sticking with the New Orleans Saints. But despite his solid performance, he lost the kicking derby, leading the Broncos to acquire him for a conditional 2024 seventh-round draft pick.
Lutz, 29, is coming off his worst season, converting on 23 of 31 field goals. But he believes he will rebound under coach Sean Payton.
“He tries to get that best out of everyone. I truly believe my best years were with him because I was kind of scared and didn’t want to let him down. He’s a proven winner he’s won a Super Bowl,” Lutz said. “He’s a leader. Guys want to win for him.”
For Lutz, Denver represents a fresh start. He admitted that the last few years have been difficult. He didn’t kick in front of a crowd in 2020, and missed the 2021 season with sports hernia surgery, leaving his return in 2022 jarring.
“I have been working on the mentals,” explained Lutz, who was a Pro Bowler in 2018. “And for Sean to come get me like he did, it’s an honor. It’s great to be appreciated. It’s great to be wanted. Man, I am just really fired up to be here.”
Setting the tone
The Broncos feature uncertainty and injuries at receiver. They have three healthy players – Courtland Sutton, Brandon Johnson, and Marvin Mims Jr. Jerry Jeudy did some light jogging and resistance work Wednesday, encouraging progress as he aims to return early in the season from a right hamstring injury. The Broncos created a bridge of depth with the practice squad. Lil Jordan Humphrey, Phillip Dorsett, who should join the PS squad Thursday, and David Sills can be elevated to the active roster a few times to add depth.
The issues drive home the point that Denver must run the ball well. It starts up front with the offensive line. Expectations became elevated for the group with the additions of right tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Ben Powers and the healthy return of left tackle Garett Bolles.
Can this group set the tone?
“We talk about this all the time. Any football team and any good football organization will tell you that the attitude and mindset emulate from the offensive line,” McGlinchey said Wednesday. “Having an offensive line that sets the tone for this organization and football team is something we are working for and certainly something we want. And I think we are taking the steps to get there.”
All eyes will be on the group after their inconsistent pass protection. But that should improve if the ground game revs up.
Broncos practice squad:
The Broncos firmed up their practice squad, leaning heavily on players that were in their training camp:
- RB Tyler Badie
- WR Michael Bandy
- QB Ben DiNucci
- WR Phillip Dorsett
- CB Art Green
- OLB Marcus Haynes
- WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey
- DL Jordan Jackson
- OT Demontrey Jacobs
- DB Devon Key
- TE Lucas Krull
- DL Tyler Lancaster
- DL PJ Mustipher
- DL Haggai Ndubuisi (doesn't count against total)
- G Will Sherman
- WR David Sills
- RB Dwayne Washington