ENGLEWOOD -- Von Miller jogged from the locker room across the field Wednesday morning, delighting Broncos Country with his energy and presence. He began his customary rhythmic clap as the fans -- only 874 show up at UCHealth Training Center -- followed along before finishing with a roar.
The new Broncos are back. But their old problems remain. Denver practiced for the first time, showing improved athleticism, depth and confidence. And yet, they do not have a quarterback, a question that has hung over this franchise like an anvil in a Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner cartoon.
In that competition, there is no drama. The bird always wins. When it comes to Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, no separation exists, a pattern that continued Wednesday. Bridgewater showed off his touch, completing 8 of 9 passes in 11 on 11 drills. Lock delivered the day's best toss, as I expect he will a lot, a 35-yard touchdown strike to reserve receiver Trinity Benson, but held onto the ball too long on two occasions, sacked once by Von Miller. He connected on 5 of 7 passes.
"I thought they both did well," Fangio said. "They had more piss and vinegar (because of the competition of camp)."
Therein lies the issue with his derby. It remains unlikely one will sprint away and hide. In the end, this could become a philosophical choice. Bridgewater's steadier play -- his floor is higher than Lock's -- proven accuracy and willingness to climb the pocket weighed against Lock's bigger arm -- he has been nails on seam routes since early June -- fearlessness in taking 'calculated' chances and upside.
It could come down to ball security translating into job security. This coaching staff knows it needs a 3-0 or 2-1 September to turn the heat down on the Bunsen burner and provide an avenue to relevancy in December.
Lock received the first reps. Bridgewater walked to the podium first. While I saw Wednesday as a draw, Bridgewater delivered the quote of the day when asked why he thought he could claim the job after his losing it in other stops.
"I am a survivor," said Bridgewater, channeling Beyonce. "You can throw me in the jungle, and I’m going to come out with a fur coat, and a headband I made out of some leaves.”
What stuck out about Bridgewater now that a small group of vaccinated media is allowed on the field was his personality. He offered shades of Von in the way he chatted up players in all corners of the team. Before the 11 on 11s, as the first string defense gave each other hugs, Bridgewater walked over and joined the "dark side," as safety Justin Simmons put it, with well wishes. He smiles a lot, making it easy to believe he is helping Lock and Brett Rypien in an improved quarterback room.
"Teddy is a goofball," said receiver K.J. Hamler, one of the day's stars with multiple slippery catches, including a touchdown. "But he's one of the coolest dudes I know. Teddy's a leader. I am just learning from him and always picking his brain. He's always telling me how he wants the routes and what I should do and I listen to him. He's been doing this a lot longer than me so I always have to respect my OGs."
Speaking with Lock in person, humility and maturity resonated. Lock is no longer secure in his job as he was a year ago. Gone is the brashness -- at least publicly -- eschewed in favor of a focus on what he can control and helping this team win.
Does he think he should be the starter?
"I think am going to work my butt off every single day," said Lock, understanding the scrutiny of the competition, but not getting swallowed by it. "I feel like I’m a smarter player now. I feel like the chances I do take are more calculated. I do know when to check it down. The gunslinger mentality can still be there, but it’s got to be calculated.”
Lock weighs 228-230 pounds, roughly 10 more than a year ago when a right shoulder injury prevented full lifting. With his "grown-man strength" has come perspective.
If life is a highway, Lock wondered if his was going to end on I-70 a few weeks ago. As he was driving, he noticed a tire come off a car coming in the opposite direction. Thankfully it bounced past him, but a lug nut from the rim lodged into Lock's windshield, a harrowing experience that left him shaken.
"That was insane. I was extremely scared. I took a moment for about three minutes to realize what happened and how severe it could have been. Yeah, it was pretty scary. Props to the people there helping me, get me situated while I waited for my dad to come get me," Lock said. "I went back to Kansas City for a couple of more days. I was planning on being in Denver. But I went home to Kansas City and had a few more dinners with the family and relaxed with them for a couple more days. That was intense."
Calvin Anderson worked as first team right tackle during Wednesday's practice. He told me recently he was ready mentally for this challenge. Coach Vic Fangio told reporters not to "sleep on" Anderson on Tuesday. "I am happy to hear it. But this game is about proving your worth on the field. So, as much as people talk, it's about what I do between the lines. I am happy about the opportunities I am going to have, and I am happy to show everybody I am ready."
Added Fangio, “He’s a good athlete, he plays hard, he plays tough and I just like the way he plays. He got a couple of games in last year and I think he is a viable candidate for that job, I really do.” The Broncos will rotate first reps at right tackle with Bobby Massie and Cam Fleming getting their chance in the coming days. ...
All-Pro left tackle Garett Bolles agreed this offensive line can establish a physical identity. "We want to be nasty," Bolles said. I will continue to say it. This offense should create a run-first mentality to take pressure of quarterbacks, who, obviously, must be able to make enough plays, especially when trailing. ...
Rookie Patrick Surtain was second team at corner, but was employed in the dime package with Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. ...
Per the CBA, the Broncos will continue in helmets, then shells before their first full padded practice is allowed on the sixth day of training camp. ...
GM George Paton was an engaged viewer on field level, taking in drills and 11-on-11 matchups from all angles. ...
Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (ankle) will likely to be held out of team drills for another couple days. He worked on his conditioning and strength on the side field with trainers. Albert Okwuegbunam (knee) was a limited participant as he recovers from knee surgery. ...
Receiver Trinity Benson turned heads with a couple of big catches. He is one of the fastest players on the team. "He's got a shot," Fangio said. ...
Lloyd Cushenberry remains the clear starter at center. I asked Fangio if Quinn Meinerz was in the mix for the spot.
“I think Meinerz first has to show it has to be a competition,” Fangio said. Meinerz will also work some at guard.
Coach Fangio said a player's vaccination status would not figure into roster decisions. However, he admitted it has been a welcomed reprieve to return to normal with in-person meetings and eating in the cafeteria.