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(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)
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Mile High Monday: Lock shines, Fant struggles and more

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

Broncos Country got a treat on Saturday with the training camp practice held at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. It was a fun event that drew more than 20,000 diehard fans to see their favorite team run through some drills.

I like what the Broncos showed on Saturday and there are several hints as to what the future could hold for this team we have to go over. 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.


Lock’s Best Day

There is no doubt in my mind that rookie quarterback Drew Lock had his best day of practice on Saturday. Lock was in full command of the Broncos offense and he did a good job of distributing the football all over the field.

We all know that Lock has a big arm and can launch passes down the field, but it was good to see him work underneath routes or even check down when the defense had receivers covered deep. Lock still challenged the defense downfield at times and even split a double team twice going for a long pass to wide receiver Fred Brown.

The best pass of the day for Lock might have been an incompletion. In the red zone, Lock threw with touch to float a pass into a great spot for his receiver at the back of the end zone. The pass fell to the ground, but Lock placed the ball in a spot where only his receiver could get it and the defense had no chance to snare it. Lock regularly fires passes in as hard as he can, but on this pass – on the run to his right – Lock put great touch on the football. It was a savvy throw and far advanced from the simple long bombs that fans love to see – too bad his receiver dropped it.

The crowd got most excited when Lock was on the field. Joe Flacco did get a standing ovation before practice, but Lock received a lot of cheers when he came out onto the field. During practice, it was Lock’s play that drew the most excitement from the crowd.

The rookie did end practice with a pick-six to defensive end Adam Gotsis, but that was just a great play by the veteran defender. Lock released the ball high over his head and Gotsis just skied to get it and rumbled into the end zone.

Lock is frustrating to watch most days in training camp. He will flash for a play here and there, but he will also make some rookie mistakes. On Saturday, Lock looked like the future and not like a developmental prospect in over his head.


Properly Assessing Fant

We have yet to see the best from rookie tight end Noah Fant. There has yet to be a day when Fant was the best tight end in practice. I know some want to ignore what is going on, but we have to discuss what Fant is doing realistically and not with orange-and-blue colored glasses on.

Fant is a work in progress and we saw him flash at times on Saturday. He did make some nice catches downfield, but we also saw him miss some passes that he should have snared easily. Fant usually drops a pass when he is thinking about running after the catch before securing the ball. It’s a good thing that his drops are not caused by technique, but it’s still bad that he drops a pass due to lack of focus. We’ll see if he can use his eyes better to look in passes while going over the middle.

His early struggles in training camp don’t automatically mean he is a bust – in fact, far from it. Fant has the size / speed / strength combination to be a dangerous weapon in this league for years to come. He is not yet close to playing up to his potential and it’s ignorant to deny that fact.

I believe that Fant’s game will come around and I have been urging fans online to be more excited about the young prospect. It doesn’t have to take a bunch of time for a tight end to make an impact in the pros. The last tight end the Broncos had that was a receiving weapon, Julius Thomas, took only four days to stand out as the best tight end for the Broncos when he was a rookie in 2011. Thomas was able to thrust himself to the top of the depth chart without an offseason to work out that year since there was a lockout.

Fant has the benefit of practicing with his teammates from day one. I’m hoping that as training camp goes on we will see him emerge as the top pass-catching target at the position.


Developing Defender

Von Miller did not participate in practice on Saturday as he had an excused absence due to a funeral of a friend in Texas. Without Miller, the question then became who would look best as a pass-rusher opposite of Bradley Chubb?

The answer was Jeff Holland.

Holland was undrafted out of Auburn last year despite having produced as a pass rusher in college. Scouts liked Holland’s game but he was painted as a bad-body prospect in the pre-draft process. I had a fourth-round grade on Holland and was surprised that he went undrafted last year. He reminded me so much of former Broncos linebacker Shaq Barrett. Like Holland, Barrett fell undrafted when scouts thought he was a bad-body prospect. Barrett was a solid reserve player for years with the Broncos and just moved on this offseason to the Buccaneers.

It’s time for Holland to step up. He did have a solid day of practice on Saturday and was able to get to the quarterback on at least two occasions that I saw. Holland also was able to make a play in coverage where he knocked a pass away from the intended target. He’s going to be asked to rush the passer most of the time but there will be instances where he’s got to make plays in space. Holland showed the ability to do that on Saturday.


Waiting For Madden

The release of “Madden 20” is upon us. The game comes out this Friday and gamers everywhere are incredibly excited for the next installment in the franchise. Everyone is talking about the graphics, which are better than ever, but most fans just want a chance to throw a no-look pass with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

I will check out the game and write a review for at the end of the week. However, I won’t be able to play that much since football season is here and my schedule is cramped with work.

Every year, I either buy “Madden” and then wait or just purchase the game after the Super Bowl. That’s when I have more time to play video games.

It will be fun to preview the game for you, but it will also be a tease since I’ll have to put the controller away for a few months to fully cover the NFL in my own maniacal fashion.


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