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Russell Wilson vs. Broncos defense highlights next stage of OTAs

Receivers, tight ends, secondary all demand attention
Broncos Voluntary Minicamp Football
Posted at 5:57 PM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 08:25:25-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It's not time to Let Russ Cook. But for the first time against a defense, we will get a look at the chef's ingredients.

The Broncos begin a significant portion of their offseason program Monday, where 11 on 11 drills are permitted in full view of the media. The Broncos can practice 10 times in voluntary workouts leading into the June 13-15 mandatory minicamp.

The pause button then depresses — well, not for Russell Wilson, who plans to gather his receivers again — before training camp opens during the final week of July.

Wilson espouses the philosophy that doing small things well leads to big things. It's why he takes practice so seriously — he wears his game pants everyday — as he begins carving out the second chapter of his future Hall of Fame legacy while attempting to restore the Broncos' glory.

"Russell has had a great career, won a lot of football games, won a lot of playoff games, been in the postseason. And that's something Denver hasn't done much of over the last five, six years, since Peyton Manning retired," said ESPN's Troy Aikman. "He's much-needed. I expect the Broncos to be much improved."

Wilson makes the Broncos relevant again, as evidenced by the five prime time games.

The work, however, matters. Addressing the most important position in American sports does not mean the Broncos are without issues. They need to develop chemistry, iron out wrinkles and see how the pieces fit under new coach Nathaniel Hackett and his innovative, yet young staff.

Hackett, according to sources, boasts even more dynamic presentation skills than expected — and that's what helped him land his first head job. His energy remains infectious. These practices this week represent another step in blending his fertile offensive mind with Wilson's relentless ambition.

Going 11 on 11, 9 on 7 and 7 on 7 will provide a glimpse at where the Broncos are heading with their passing game.

What are some of the other questions lingering? Glad you asked:

—Will we see DNA-accurate passes and impeccable timing? Not necessarily. But the offense winning its share of the battles should begin to develop after six years of watching the defense dominate offseason and training camp practices. I cannot wait to see strong safety Kareem Jackson — the defense's soundtrack — jawing with Wilson with the type of intensity that will make this team better.

There are no excuses for the receivers. It's time for Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, in particular, to reach their potential. No wasted days for a team trying to snap a five-year streak of losing seasons.

—How will the reps split between the tight ends? Is Albert Okwuegbunam the leader to start? Or will he be pushed by rookie Greg Dulcich?

—The offensive line will not shake out until pads are on. This week, though, offers a chance to see how the interior battles could play out at center — Lloyd Cushenberry is the favorite, but Graham Glasgow is in the mix — right guard (Quinn Meinerz v. Glasgow) and right tackle (Billy Turner, Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton).

—New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero promises more pressure on the quarterback, more takeaways. With Randy Gregory out for the offseason with shoulder surgery, Bradley Chubb aims to set the tone as he's healthy for the first time in months. Nik Bonitto also will get looks vs the vets. He could become a situational pass rusher from jump.

—Rumblings remain that the Broncos will play more nickel and dime this season. It makes sense given the strength of the secondary. However, health presents challenges. The Broncos need Ronald Darby and K'Waun Williams on the field causing havoc with Pat Surtain II because the group lacks proven depth. Can they remain available?

—Special teams have been a tire fire for six years. New boss Dwayne Stukes features tangible fire that suggests he will hold this group accountable. Finding the right guys for the units begins this week.