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Mile High Monday: Lock moves up, options at FB, fantasy party and more

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Broncos continue to work in training camp after they played in their second preseason game of the year, a 22-14 loss to the Seahawks. The team cancelled practice on Saturday, but they were back to business on Sunday. With a week left of training camp, the Broncos still have plenty of work to do.

I like that we’re going to see joint practices at the end of the week with the 49ers coming to town. They will practice against the Broncos on Friday and Saturday this week.

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.

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Changing of the Guard

We’ve all been waiting for the day that rookie Drew Lock would take over for Kevin Hogan as the No. 2 quarterback for the Broncos.

That day may have been Sunday.

All observers at practice immediately noticed something different early on Sunday as the Broncos went through their team drills on offense and 7-on-7 drills: Lock was coming in as the backup to Joe Flacco and Hogan was running the scout team.

When asked whether or not we in the media could finally say Lock was the No. 2 quarterback for the Broncos, head coach Vic Fangio said “I’m not.”

I understand what the coach is saying here, but actions speak louder than words. Lock’s opportunities as the backup quarterback have been growing on a week-to-week basis. The rookie has looked far from perfect during the preseason but I believe we have seen improvements to his game.

Hogan is a nice veteran to have around as a camp arm, but we all know how this movie is going to end. Lock os the heir apparent to Flacco, and the Broncos need to get him ready to take that next step as fast as they possibly can.

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Butt and Howard Back, But For How Long?

The Broncos tight end group has gone from a position of depth to a thin position in the matter of a couple of weeks. Undrafted rookie Austin Fort was lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered against the Seahawks, leaving the position even more thin.

Good thing the Broncos saw the return of Jake Butt and Bug Howard on Sunday.

Butt has been out of action since the third day of training camp because of knee soreness. He has a ton of talent and could push for the starting job if he could ever stay healthy. Butt has had three major knee injuries during his football career and has only played three games for the Broncos during his two seasons as a pro. He was limited on Sunday and we’ll see how his knee responds to an increased workload, but it was good to see him out at practice.

Howard is a converted wide receiver who has been trying to make it in the NFL as a tight end. He’s big, swift and can be a threat after the catch – but Howard is far from a finished product at his new position. He has made a few plays during training camp, generally as a receiver down the seam where his size/speed combination is too much for linebackers tasked with covering him. He’s not much of a blocker and looked to be a player bound for the practice squad before a hamstring injury knocked him out of camp.

Now, Howard is back and the team needs him to stay healthy and perform at a high level. You never known when injuries are going to strike, and Howard may be more important to the construct of the roster than originally thought when training camp kicked off a few weeks ago.

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Block Like an Animal

The Broncos backfield lost a key cog against the Seahawks when fullback Andy Janovich suffered a pectoral injury. Janovich’s pec problem is not as serious as originally feared, but he still has a six- to eight-week timetable for his recovery. Even though Fangio says there’s a “grey” area to that timetable, the chances are good that Janovich will miss at least a couple of weeks of the regular season.

That leaves George “The Animal” Aston (thank Tom Nalen for that nickname) as the lone fullback on the roster. Could he actually make the 53-man roster to begin the 2019 season? With three preseason games remaining, Aston should have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.

Fangio commented on Sunday about what he needed to see from the undrafted rookie.

“Just to see if he’s worthy of fulfilling that role, and obviously he’ll get some reps here these next few weeks and we’ll have a decision to make once we get down to 53.” Fangio said.

The role Fangio is talking about features multiple responsibilities. Aston is known as a devastating blocker, as he led the way for two 1,000-yard rushers in 2018 playing for the Pitt Panthers in college. He can eliminate opponents in front of him, but Aston needs to be more well-rounded if he wants to make the team. The Broncos will ask their fullback to block, run and catch with consistency much like the 49ers use their fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

Aston does not have the all-purpose game like Juszczyk or Janovich, but he’s going to have to do the best job he can if he wants to make the final roster.

When asked if the team could get by without a fullback for a week or two, Fangio succinctly replied “Sure.”

It’s not as simple as believing that Aston is now going to make the team at the end of the preseason because of the injury to Janovich. In fact, the team might go without a fullback to begin the season if they feel Janovich can return after only a couple of weeks.

This offense looks different without a fullback, but there are other options – mostly H-backs like Troy Fumagalli – if the team wants that fullback look from time to time.

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Party With Me

It’s that time of year again, as fantasy football draft season is upon us, and I want you to come party with me! My annual Fantasy Draft Party is scheduled for Aug. 25, at the Blake Street Tavern and this is going to be the must-attend fantasy event of the year!

This is always one my favorite event of the season, and I know we’re going to put on another great time for those in attendance. Fantasy football drafts are always the highlight of the fantasy season. Sure, your league is not won at the draft and it takes great care and management during the season to bring home the title. But at the draft party, nearly everyone feels good about their chances to hoist the trophy at the end.

For the best draft prep, check out my articles and videos here on The Fan. Plus, download the free Draft Dominator app from Footballguys! I’ve worked for Footballguys.com since 2005 and can assure that no other site puts as much work in as we do to help you dominate your league.

I’m super excited to draft in my leagues this year, and I can’t wait for my draft party coming up later this month!