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Fangio tempers enthusiasm as another week of Broncos OTAs kick off

(Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Broncos kicked off “Phase 3” of the offseason and began their third week of Offseason Training Activities at UC Health Training Center on Wednesday. The team has been practicing together for a few weeks and things are starting to round into form with player storylines and position groups. Before you know it, training camp will be here in the middle of July.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio has been monitoring the progress closely and Tuesday highlighted what he’s seen from the rookie class.

“I am (happy with the rookies). Obviously, some have done better than others. Some have more to learn than others. But overall, I think the guys are doing well.” Fangio said.

Here are my observations for Monday’s OTA as the team kicks off their third week of training together. I’ll have more observations as the week of OTAs goes on later in the week.

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Don’t Forget About Fumagalli

The Broncos tight end position is looking better now than it has in years. First-round pick Noah Fant is getting some first- and second-team work at practice; he regularly shows off his athleticism before and after the catch. He’s going to rightfully get a lot of attention leading up to the regular season, but there is one tight end who is a bit of a sleeper for the Broncos.

Second-year tight end Troy Fumagalli has put together three weeks of solid performances during this year’s OTAs. During this time, I have not seen Fumagalli drop a pass. In fact, he’s out there making some tough catches consistently, which must be earning him the trust of his quarterback.

Fumagalli did run one route incorrectly today in team drills and the ball fell to where he should have been. Other than that one play, Fumagalli has looked good and performed at a high level.

After practice, I had a chance to ask Fangio about the young tight end.

“Good. I think all of the tight ends have done well and I think Troy has surpassed some of our expectations already – that’s without pads on. We’ll see when the pads come on, but I think he’s going well overall,” Fangio said.

Fumagalli missed all of his rookie season dealing with a sports hernia. We haven’t seen very much of him on the football field for the Broncos, but so far this season he has been impressive.

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Shaping Up the O-Line

One of the biggest concerns for the Broncos this year is their offensive line. During the last two weeks, there have been a couple of different combination up front. But it seems like maybe things are settling in when it comes to finding the best starting five.

On Wednesday, we saw Ron Leary back in his spot at right guard. Leary was in that spot as the expected starter when OTAs first kicked off a couple of weeks ago, but last week, Leary was out and Don Barclay was in his spot. Barclay was seen working as a reserve on Wednesday with Leary playing first-team snaps.

Leary is their best option at right guard and it would be a big boost for the team if he stays healthy for a full 16-game season in 2019. As workouts have gone on, it looks like Leary is doing more.

“Ron was cut loose a little bit today on some teamwork. I’m not sure exactly how many reps we got him. We had a plan for him. Yes, he did do more today, and we’re optimistic,” Fangio said.

Elijah Wilkinson began offseason workouts as a reserve right guard, but hasn’t been in that spot for two weeks. It looks like the team likes him as a backup right tackle. On Wednesday, Wilkinson got in some work with the first team while Ja’Wuan James was held out of some drills. James was out there early for the Broncos, but when it came to team drills, he was not.

“Everything’s fine. He tweaked his hip working out over the weekend, so we just kept him out; (it was) precautionary,” Fangio said.

The Broncos made James the highest-paid right tackle in the league earlier this year in free agency. It’s a wise move if they take it easy on him at this point of the offseason so that there are no setbacks come training camp.

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The Return of CHJ

It felt like a normal day out at UC Health Training Center with the return of cornerback Chris Harris Jr. On Tuesday, the Broncos agreed to a contract adjustment for the Pro Bowl cornerback. In 2019, Harris will make $12.05 million and then hit the open market as a free agent in 2020. After missing two weeks of practice, Fangio laid out a simple plan for Harris upon his return.

“He just has to learn our system. We have to ease him back in, see what type of shape he’s in. Today, we limited him to two snaps at a time, so he wasn’t out there too much. He’s just got to learn and get into football shape,” Fangio said.

Harris actually feels good about his progress in learning Fangio’s defense.

“I think I learned a lot on the first day. I’m ahead of schedule on what I have to do out there on the field. I feel very comfortable for what he’s having us do,” Harris said.

Enjoy it while it lasts Broncos Country as this could easily be the final year that Harris plays for the Broncos. For all intents and purposes, Harris will play the best football he possibly can this season and let things fall where they may in 2020 as a free agent.

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Chomping at the Bit

It was interesting watching the body language of running back Phillip Lindsay at practice on Wednesday. He did run through the ropes clutching the ball in his left hand, but the team kept him out of most everything outside of stretching.

He’s still recovering from the wrist surgery he had early in the offseason, so Lindsay is not participating in any of the drills and it looks like that bothers him. After the running backs ran through the ropes, the team moved on to some handoff/pitch drills and Lindsay had to watch from the sideline.

As he walked past quarterback Joe Flacco as the drill was being set up, Lindsay’s body language looked like he would do anything to jump in just to take a handoff. It certainly looked like Lindsay wanted to participate in that simple drill in a bad way.

Maybe I’m reading things the wrong way, but I’m sure if you asked Lindsay, he wants nothing more than to get out there and work full-time with his teammates. His energy is infectious and I can’t wait to see what Lindsay can do for an encore in year two.