After mediocre Monday, Broncos defense drops fangs, dominates practice

Von, Chubb cause fits for Bolles, Wilkinson
Posted at 4:15 PM, Aug 18, 2020

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — To boost their confidence, offensive linemen should block Von Miller on Twitter. It's way easier than doing it in practice.

A heavier, more motivated Miller served as a catalyst for a defense that dominated Tuesday's second padded practice. In particular, Miller and Bradley Chubb made life miserable for starting tackles Garett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson, fueling pressure that delivered three sacks in four plays during one stretch.

"I think (Von) had a good day today. I haven't watched the tape yet. I think he's in excellent shape," coach Vic Fangio said after a two-hour practice in the searing sun. "I think he's worked hard to get his body where he wants and it has shown some dividends on the practice field."

Summer practices create awkward moments. The Broncos need their defense to become elite to reach the playoffs -- that starts with more takeaways and sacks, and Von, for his part, believes he can win Defensive Player of the Year honors. However, watching the group maul the starters remains uncomfortable. It is a reminder that Denver's offense, in particular the offensive line, requires work and worry. During six team periods, Miller reached the quarterback roughly five times. Dre'Mont Jones also produced a strip sack.

Bolles looked solid in camp before Tuesday's hiccups. Wilkinson, returning from offseason foot surgery, remains inconsistent and was exposed against Miller. I asked Fangio about the tackles tough day, and he answered in general terms.

"We need to build a good fort for the quarterback to throw from. We can’t have cracks or leaks in the fort," Fangio said.

Fangio added that Drew Lock showed elusiveness, which could amplify in importance when the season starts, saying, "It's part of his game we like."

As for the offensive line, it looks like this from left to right -- Bolles, Dalton Risner, Austin Schlottmann (he continues work with No. 1 group ahead of Lloyd Cushenberry, but was beaten by Mike Purcell early in what would have been a sack), Graham Glasgow and Wilkinson. Veteran tackle Demar Dotson, who could compete to start at right tackle, is being eased in slowly after joining the team last week.

The Broncos allowed five sacks in Lock's five games a year ago. However, they protected the group with tight ends and chip blocks. In offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's scheme, he will lean on three-wide sets, placing more onus on the line and Lock.

There remains time to improve, but Tuesday was a sobering reminder that the line will be a concern until it is not.

There were some offensive highlights. The best play came when Drew Lock completed a beautiful over-the-shoulder touchdown catch to Melvin Gordon. Gordon was closely guarded by linebacker Alexander Johnson. Gordon had a good day running the ball, showing burst and the ability bump to the second level after initial contact. ...

Phillip Lindsay boasts intensity that is easily appreciated. But there is a balance between his intensity and turning every play into a referendum on his status. He looked to be pressing slightly on Tuesday, dropping a pass and fumbling. Coach Fangio isn't worried. "He’s very demanding of himself. If he doesn’t make a play he thinks he should have, he takes it personally. I don't mind a guy getting fiery at all." ...

Cornerback provided some eye-opening play. The Broncos are seeking a third corner to pair with A.J. Bouye, who had a pick Tuesday, and Bryce Callahan. De'Vante Bausby and Isaac Yiadom flashed at times. Bausby had an interception, and looked confident and comfortable after suffering a scary season-ending neck injury early last season. ...

The Broncos rotated receivers into the first group. Like safety Kareem Jackson before him, Bouye praised Jerry Jeudy, saying he will make the Broncos cornerbacks better. "Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, they are really polished in routes. Especially Jeudy. He keeps me true to my technique." ...

New right guard Graham Glasgow had a comedic moment in his presser. "I don't really have a lot of furniture in my house -- thanks a lot, COVID. I've got lawn chairs in my living room. Other than that it's going great." He said getting a new couch is his wife’s call. Time to get the big fella a couch.