Share this story...
(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)
Latest News

Mile High Monday: Observations from a very positive rookie mini-camp

(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)

It’s time for another edition of the “Mile High Monday” and we’ve got quite a bit to talk about!

I’m super fired up because last Friday was the first day of the Broncos rookie mini-camp. Not only did I get to see all of Denver’s top rookies in action for the first time, but head coach Vic Fangio actually put them through a mild practice instead of an orientation, like we saw during the last few years.

Things are heating up around the NFL, and the Broncos are kind of an under-the-radar story for fans around the league to stay tuned to. In fact, things kick off on Monday with week one of the Broncos offseason training activities, affectionately know as OTAs.

My favorite time of year is the draft season from January through April, but I like when minicamp kicks off in May and all the news we get to gather at that time. I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ.

The following is a result of those trips during the week. Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

***

Where’s My Lock Jersey?

When the first day of rookie minicamp finished, I immediately checked the team store for a Drew Lock jersey. Part of me just wanted to see if any Lock jerseys were yet in stock, but there was also a part of me that was incredibly impressed by what I saw on the practice field.

I’ve talked to Lock multiple times about his footwork, whether it was at the Senior Bowl, the Scouting Combine or the day after he was drafted. He’s always insisted to me that was a part of his game he wanted to improve on as much as he possibly could.

It’s just minicamp, I know, but Lock’s footwork did seem much improved to me – even from his pro day. It’s plain to see from my perspective of watching him closely and in person through all phases of the pre-draft process that Lock has stayed true to his word and continues to turn a weakness into a strength.

“As a person and an individual, meeting him, getting to know him, all those characteristics, you add up the sum of it, you see a lot of upside,” Scangarello said. “That’s the kind of person you want to invest in.”

Thus far, the Broncos have invested the No. 42 overall pick on Lock. But if he develops into a true franchise quarterback, the investment will be much more than that.

***

Rypien Shows Well

Lock isn’t the only rookie quarterback to watch closely during practice. The Broncos added a nice player when they picked up Boise State’s Brett Rypien as a priority free agent after the draft.

Rypien does not have the rocket arm that Lock has. While Lock can throw it effortlessly on a rope about 70 yards, Rypien has to wind up to get his passes down the field. Rypien gets around this weakness by throwing with great anticipation.

He’s got the footwork to work from under center naturally, one of the many positives that stood out to me about his performance in rookie minicamp. Rypien is ready to run this offense true to design and will have a little learning curve just from what’s asked of his physically.

He did have a couple of passes that were off the mark high, but overall I liked what Rypien showed. He was consistent during the week of practice for the East-West Shrine Game in January, and I believe that’s the best way to categorize what he did over the weekend – he stayed consistent.

***

Yes, He is a Beast

After the first day of rookie minicamp, I said on the 104.3 The Fan airwaves that Dre’Mont Jones certainly looked the part. The Broncos third-round pick out of Ohio State looked like a beast on the practice field.

Now to be clear, there is no live tackling or anything like that during rookie minicamp, so we can’t truly tell yet how Jones is going to do transitioning to the pros. I can tell you this, though – the kid looked like he was in great shape.

Measuring in at 6-3, 281 pounds, I don’t think there was much bad weight on Jones at all. In fact, he looked pretty menacing in practice just with his natural physique. Most importantly, Jones looked like he could add 10 more pounds of muscle to his frame. That’s something I think the Broncos should strive for in order to get Jones more strength at defensive tackle without losing speed when he moves to defensive end.

***

Some will be naysayers about any reports or observations from mini-camp. I understand that boring, old and tired take – but here’s the best way to look at things coming out of UC Health Training Center in the spring: We are assembling clues as to what the team will look like come August and training camp.

If things looked bad (Lock’s footwork, Rypien’s arm strength, Jones weight) then that would be a concern – even at this early stage. The fact there are some positives to highlight here is nothing but a good thing. It doesn’t mean these guys are stars or the Broncos got it right, it just means we have more data points, more information to take with us as we ponder what this team can do when the pads come on and the games matter.

***

The Things We Do For Love

This weekend, I flew to Chicago with my family for my daughter Katarina’s 16th birthday. We did so because her favorite band, a Korean pop band called BTS, was playing at Soldier Field on Saturday and they were not coming to Denver on their latest tour.

Anyone who knows me understands I am not about pop music. I will listen to it sometimes because it makes my daughters happy, but if it were up to me I would be raising a couple of metal-heads or country girls (a 180, I know). K-pop is not my cup of tea, but the look on her face (with great seats; thank you, StubHub) when they performed was priceless.

This Mother’s Day weekend, I’m thinking even more about my mother. She passed away in December of 2017 and every day I think about her, struggling with grief (at times greatly) to this day.

Seeing Katarina light up when she got to see her favorite band live made me think of what my mom must’ve felt like when I would beg her to go see movies like “Conan The Destroyer” or “Red Sonya” when I was a little kid. I’m sure mom would’ve much rather went shopping, played Yahtzee or done just about anything else other than watch sci-fi and fantasy movies with me. But she did those things to make me happy and she never complained.

The things we do for love is amazing. I hope everyone out there had a great Mother’s Day!

***

That’s a Wrap

The Denver Nuggets fell to the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA Playoffs, so was this a good season or a disappointing finish?

As my good friend ZacH Bye always says, two things can be true at the same time – and the answer for this Nuggets question is both.

They are ahead of schedule in terms of how far they’ve gotten this year and how the team has developed under the guidance of head coach Michael Malone. After two seasons of just missing the playoffs, the Nuggets should have been on track to make it in this time as a lower seed. Instead, they won 54 games and earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The way they lost Game 7 against the Trailblazers is disappointing after they choked away a 17-point lead, couldn’t make critical free throws or hit three-pointers enough to keep their edge.

I feel the positives outweigh the negatives here, and the future looks plenty bright for the Nuggets. Oh yeah, Michael Porter Jr hasn’t played yet, either. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the Western Conference.