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Bronco notes: Josh Johnson's perfect heave aids in his bid to backup Russell Wilson

Newly signed Shepherd makes instant impact. Pomona's Borghi living a dream.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos quarterback Josh Johnson during the NFL football team's training camp Saturday, July 30, 2022, in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Josh Johnson didn’t bother with finesse or touch. He just chucked it. Reared back and threw it as far as he could, as if he was in a longest-throw contest.

And holy Daryl Lamonica if the 60-yard pass didn’t land perfectly in the cradled arms of new receiver Darrius Shepherd – who was so new he joined the Denver Broncos just that morning – for a touchdown. This was during an 11-on-11 team period against a pass rush and secondary Thursday morning during Day 8 of Broncos training camp on a blazingly bright early-August day at UCHealth Training Center. If Johnson, the 36-year-old Broncos’ backup quarterback to Russell Wilson, attempted that pass 10 more times against no defense he couldn’t have repeated the perfection of his heave.

“I’ve been waiting for one of those,’’ Johnson said with a smile outside the team’s locker room.

A veteran of 17 professional teams and four professional football leagues, the well-travelled Johnson has just nine NFL starts yet is coming off a mini-renaissance season in which he had two 300-yard passing games – one for the Jets last November and one for the Ravens the day after Christmas.

Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett was quick to say Johnson is still very much competing for the No. 2 quarterback job with veteran third-stringer Brett Rypien – who has looked good in limited chances during camp but had zero reps during the team’s 2-minute drill that finished practice Wednesday.

Based on rep allocation, Johnson is the clear frontrunner for the No. 2 job – astounding considering he played for a team called the Los Angeles Express in the XFL as recently as February and March 2020. So why did the Broncos give Johnson another chance?

“He’s got game experience, he’s been in this league – I think he’s as old as me,’’ Hackett said laughing. Not quite. Hackett is 42. “He’s just a great guy to have in the room either way (No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback). That’s what you look for at that position: Someone who can support Russ, support all of us and not have to practice a ton because he’s seen so much he can go into a game at any time and play.”

First day, biggest play

Credit: AP
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Darrius Shepherd (82) in action during an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Scot Tucker)

Darrius Shepherd was part-time player for the Green Bay Packers in 2019-20 when Hackett was his offensive coordinator. Shepherd’s familiarity with Hackett’s offense was a big reason why he won the workout audition held Wednesday morning at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. His ability to catch a 60-yard touchdown pass on one of his first plays in training camp was another.

After some USFL paperwork was cleared up, Shepherd signed Thursday morning with the Broncos and made the top play of camp a couple hours later with his long-ball reception from Johnson.

“It’s not a bad start to get adjusted to being with the guys and let them see what you can do,’’ Shepherd said. “It was cool to get here and make a play on the first day.”

From Broncos fan to Bronco

To help understand how young the current crop of NFL players are, newly signed running back Max Borghi of Arvada was 15 years old when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in 2015. After three great football seasons for Pomona High School, then a couple impressive years at Washington State, Borghi is now 23 and an undrafted rookie on the Broncos’ 90-man roster after he was signed Wednesday.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos running back Max Borghi takes part in drills during the NFL football team's training camp Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at the Broncos' headquarters in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ALSO READ: Broncos notes: Running back Borghi signs with hometown team

“Obviously growing up, going to games and watching games with my buddies and just pro football in general -- I never thought I would get here,’’ Borghi said. “I believed in myself but it’s weird that I’m here now and I’m a Denver Bronco. It’s surreal. But I’ve got to keep working and bring it every single day so I can stay here.”

His favorite Bronco player growing up?

“Got to go with Peyton Manning from the Super Bowl era,’’ Borghi said. “I remember going downtown to the parade. I was probably like (15) or something. It was cool.”

Bronco Bits

Backup safety Caden Sterns has been battling hip discomfort. Hackett said he had an injection in the hip with hopes he would return to practice Saturday. Rookie linebacker Christopher Allen and veteran safety Kareem Jackson got rest days Thursday – Allen as part of his recovery from last year’s Lisfranc injury and Jackson because he’s 34. …

Montrell Washington went from returner with an outside chance of contributing as a receiver this season – to lining up in the slot with Russell Wilson’s No. 1 offense Thursday, along with outside receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. Washington catapulted up the depth chart because of injuries to Tim Patrick (ACL), Kendall Hinton (knee) and Tyrie Cleveland (throat cartilage) while KJ Hamler (knee, hip) has not yet been cleared for contact. Hinton and Hamler are slot receivers.

RELATED: Broncos new training camp schedule a big hit in the locker room

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