Denver Broncos give Albert Okwuegbunam some reps in the slot
The Denver Broncos are dealing with the loss of WR Tim Patrick, and one way of replacing him is putting players like Albert Okwuegbunam in the slot.
As the Denver Broncos continue to figure out what life after Tim Patrick looks like, one option that has always been available is to start flexing players like Albert Okwuegbunam and Greg Dulcich out, either as big slots or play them out wide.
Apparently, that’s something head coach Nathaniel Hackett is experimenting with already.
Although Friday’s practice was not fully padded and was more of the “jog through” variety, Albert Okwuegbunam getting some reps on the slot is not a small deal here.
The Denver Broncos understand that Okwuegbunam is one of the team’s most special talents offensively with his combination of size and speed, and this year — his third season in the NFL — is going to be huge.
It felt like Okwuegbunam wasn’t making enough noise early on in training camp and that his star has been outshined thus far by the likes of Eric Saubert and rookie Greg Dulcich, but the Broncos might be more impressed with Albert O. than we all know or think.
Okwuegbunam had a big catch-and-run in the team’s simulated two-minute drill on Thursday and he’s slowly but surely become more incorporated at practices, especially lately it seems.
Putting Okwuegbunam in the rotation as a big slot is going to help the Denver Broncos “replace” Tim Patrick in a couple of ways.
Maybe not the most important but something worth noting — Tim Patrick is a 6-foot-4 receiver with a big catch radius. The Broncos could have a successful offense without multiple 6-foot-4 receivers but having multiple guys out on the field with that kind of room for error in the passing game is a nice luxury to have.
Perhaps the most important reason why Okwuegbunam could be split out as a big slot or even flexed out wide?
His ability to block from those positions.
Apparently, the Broncos have been impressed with the strides Okwuegbunam has made this offseason as a blocker, and that was as an in-line player.
As a big slot, Okwuegbunam could be a huge asset on runs outside of the tackle where his athleticism and length could help seal off linebackers and defensive backs at the second and third levels.
That was an area where Tim Patrick really excelled — open-field blocking in the running game and finishing blocks to help make big runs even bigger.
The Broncos will certainly miss Patrick’s pass-catching abilities, but his willingness and excellence as a blocker was such an underrated trait.
And that’s where the tight ends will likely be asked to pick up the slack, even more so than just being a bigger-bodied target in the passing game.
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The Broncos have a variety of players that can win in the passing game, including their tight ends, but Okwuegbunam’s role in 2022 might have gotten a little bit bigger with the unfortunate injury to Tim Patrick.
And it might end up increasing his value significantly.