Broncos training camp observations: Rookie OLB Jonathon Cooper standing out on and off field

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Aug. 3—ENGLEWOOD — The Broncos put on pads for the first time this training camp Tuesday, allowing a new running back and a rookie outside linebacker to stand out.

Here are the top observations of the Broncos training camp Day 6:

Star of the day: RB Mike Boone

Few players starred during Tuesday's practice, but new running back Mike Boone has continued to impress during training camp after signing with the Broncos this offseason.

As clearly the fastest tailback on the roster, Boone brings a different pace than Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. Used a lot between the tackles, the former Viking has shown a good burst and ability to bounce runs outside, beating linebackers to the sideline.

"He's an explosive guy," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "Very explosive, but again, very instinctive. And he warrants some playing time in there."

Boone will likely be Denver's third running back but don't be surprised if he gets in the rotation more than people expect.

"I like Mike. Mike's a good running back," coach Vic Fangio said. "He's got juice. He's explosive. He's decisive. Runs hard for a guy who's maybe on the small side, but he doesn't play small. I like Mike. Mike's not a guy to fall asleep on."

Highlight of the day: Justin Simmons' pass breakup

There were few big plays Tuesday, but maybe the best of the day was safety Justin Simmons' pass breakup in the back of end zone during red zone drills.

Drew Lock eyed Jerry Jeudy, who had a step on Bryce Callahan before Simmons jumped the route and got his fingertips on the ball to break up the pass.

Simmons has been steady throughout camp while taking on more of a leadership role. As the highest-paid safety in the NFL, Simmons carries high expectations heading into the 2021 season. So does the defense he leads.

"My main focus is — defensively, we have a lot of talent on paper, and we want to be the best," Simmons said earlier in camp. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. We just have to stay healthy. Communication has to be great, and execution will come. That's what I'm really looking forward to."

Rookie of the day: OLB Jonathon Cooper

There may not be a better off-the-field story on the roster than rookie outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2021 draft.

What's amazing about Cooper's journey is that he's dealt with a heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White his entire life. Cooper hadn't had any complications with the condition since high school when he had to have two cardiac ablations. That was until the condition showed up again on an EKG a few days before the draft. And in May, after the Broncos selected him despite the condition, he had to have three separate cardiac ablations — a procedure that can take up to eight hours.

Cooper, who missed all of rookie minicamp and optional team drills, said there was a moment this offseason he thought he might not play again.

"I'm back. I'm clear. I'm all good to go. I'm ready to get to work," Cooper said. "It was scary at some point because it was pretty rare what was going on and the doctors had a hard time getting in there and taking care of it. There was even some talks of a pacemaker at some points. But thank God, I'm here. My family supported me, the doctors did an amazing job and I'm just blessed to be out here. I don't take a second for granted because I know how fast it can be taken away."

Cooper has shown tremendous strides during training camp, especially Tuesday with pads. He looked good off the edge in one-on-one drills and had a sack and a few quarterback hurries during team drills.

While Cooper is surrounded by talent and experience in Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed, he could see the field in the future.

"I've liked what I've seen from him," Fangio said. "He naturally plays hard. Some guys have to push themselves to play hard, it comes natural to him, which is nice. He's got good strength and he's got good football instincts and IQ."

QB battle update: Bridgewater, Lock draw on Day 6

There was no winner in the quarterback battle Tuesday. Neither Drew Lock nor Teddy Bridgewater did anything great or poor.

Bridgewater was 6 for 9 and Lock was 7 for 10 in team drills. Both were perfect in 7-on-7. And neither threw a touchdown or interception on a bland day offensively.

Shurmur likes what he's seen so far in camp from both quarterbacks.

"I've seen both guys getting better," Shurmur said. "This is the best version of Drew I've seen. He's done a really good job. ... Teddy's got experience, he's got experience in multiple offenses.

"The unintended consequence of this is, sadly, teams typically need two quarterbacks throughout the year. All the good work we're getting will help both of them as we play this season out."

Player update: KJ Hamler misses due to COVID-19 protocols

Wide receiver KJ Hamler missed his first practice of camp due to COVID-19 protocols. Hamler told reporters the first day of camp he had been vaccinated but had not cleared the 14-day window after the shot. Fangio said after practice he's not sure how long Hamler will be out, but that he could be back as soon as Wednesday.

The Broncos had two injuries during practice, with defensive end Deyon Sizer hurting his hamstring and offensive lineman Cody Conway injuring his leg before he was carted off the field halfway through practice.

Safety Kareem Jackson (rest day), cornerback Mac McCain (hamstring), tackle Cameron Fleming (ankle), linebacker Josey Jewell (groin), wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (back) and defensive lineman Mike Purcell (ankle) sat out of practice Tuesday.