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Broncos offense stymied by interceptions during stadium practice

Drew Lock: "I would rather have played a lot better."

DENVER — John Elway talked about it. Peyton Manning came up with a similar analysis. Even the entire Denver media was on to it.

The lack of offseason practices and preseason games because of the COVID-19 shutdown would make it difficult for the Broncos’ offense, with all its young talent and first-year offensive coordinator with his new system, to execute properly, especially early.

Suspicions confirmed.

The young offense needs more time. They could have used OTAs, they could have used the preseason, they could have used an extra couple weeks of training camp.

Either that or once again the Broncos will have to rely on their Von Miller-led defense to win a game or two early.

"I’ve always been a guy who can learn more from mistakes rather than it being all daisies, all roses out there," Lock told the Denver media after the stadium practice. "So it will be good for us to go back and look at how we struggled, look at what we did wrong. Especially with those young guys.

"It’s big to struggle early I feel like. I got told this in college, someone was telling me they’d rather me struggle early and be great later on. I’d rather us struggle right now and be great when the season comes along."

In that case, the Broncos’ offense is halfway to great.

Bronco head coach Vic Fangio ran a practice Saturday afternoon at Empower Field at Mile High that featured game-like situations. There was an opening kickoff, halftime, a second-half kickoff and 2-minute drills. There were no fans, but there was crowd noise – exactly how it will be when the Broncos open their season September 14 against the Tennessee Titans.

"It was really weird, without a doubt," Lock said. "It sounded like there were fans here and then you look up and there was no one behind anyone on the sideline, it was weird.

"But it does add a little bit there. It’s not like when we’re out at practice when its completely quiet. We’d rather have real fans, obviously. It’s something we’ll have to adjust to."

The practice was conducted amid intermittent rain. It was the No. 1 offense of coordinator Pat Shurmur against the No. 1 defense led by Fangio and coordinator Ed Donatell Then it was the 2s vs 2s with the 3s and 3s mixed in for a series or two. The ball was placed at various points of the field to start each series. There were nice punts from Sam Martin and a 60-yard field goal by Brandon McManus.

There were several downfield completions zipped from the right arm of Lock to his favorite receiver Courtland Sutton and the rookie Jerry Jeudy.

But there were also costly interceptions thrown by Lock, one pass went behind Sutton and landed in the gut of cornerback Davontae Harris and another was behind tight end Noah Fant and thumped the stomach of safety Justin Simmons.

"Right now, of course I’m upset," Lock said. "I would rather have played a lot better. But it’s a learning moment for me. That’s where you got to go after the fact. After you go out the, ‘Wow, that was bad, upset, beating yourself up. You can do that for probably a half hour after the game. Obviously, the emotions are running high, I’m going to do that for probably the next 10 more minutes and then I’m going and then I’m going to let it go. I’m going to figure out what I did wrong … and really try to correct myself until we get back out there Monday."

Lock wasn’t that bad. And it would have helped if Miller wasn’t in his face every fourth or fifth pass attempt. Miller won his share of one-on-one battles with right tackle Elijah Wilkinson, who is still recovering from ankle surgery.

Albert Okwuegbunam personified the Broncos’ offense. He’s a fourth-round tight end with tons of skill, but he was nervous early, clanking a couple catchable balls, deflecting one pass from backup QB Jeff Driskel that resulted in an interception. But he also made a couple catches, including a short touchdown off a boot right throw from Driskel. Okwuegbunam caught two other red zone passes for scored.

The first half ended, fittingly, with an interception by backup safety Trey Marshall.

"If you’re an offensive player, or an offensive coach, you didn’t like it," Fangio said. "If you’re a defensive  player or a defensive coach, you liked it. Where it is for you as a team I’m not sure but obviously you can’t have that many turnovers on offense. It would be great to get that many on defense. You have to pick what side you’re on there."

Camp stadium notes

Broncos right guard Graham Glasgow suffered an ankle injury on the second play of the practice and didn’t return. Bradley Chubb felt discomfort in his left knee late in the first half and didn’t return. The team didn’t think either injury was serious an hour or so after the practice. …

Lock was attempting to pass in the second half when either he had his foot stepped on by pass rusher Malik Reed or took a blow below the belt. Lock was in pain for a few minutes but returned for his next series. …

Fangio said he would like the team to have another game-simulated practice at the stadium, this time at night as the Broncos play the Titans on a Monday night. …

Running back Melvin Gordon (ribs) and tight end Troy Fumagalli (medical issue) didn’t participate in the practice. …

After the workout, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock addressed the team. The Broncos cancelled practice Thursday in protest of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha. The players want government officials to enact police policy reform.

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