FACT: There are around 1,950 players, Practice Squads included, that play in the NFL each year. Out of 2,880 players that try out each summer, about 32% make it to the final roster.
This year’s Training Camp for the Denver Broncos began with the usual excitement. After enduring the 6 month offseason drought, fans flocked in record number to Dove Valley, some in search of an autograph, others just wanting their football fix.
During the first few days, our team looked like they had taken a month off, which they did. Passes went behind receivers or arrived late, running lanes were microscopic and the line blocking wasn’t in sequence. Once the surface rust was shaken off though, the boys started progressing.
From Day 1, Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas looked season-ready. Peyton Manning was in synch with Thomas and Eric Decker, but it took Peyton a little more time to adjust to new acquisition Wes Welker, the latest toy in the Broncos Offensive arsenal. By the third week of Camp, I’d say those four are ready to roll.
On the Defensive side of the ball we had a surprise. Safety Duke Ihenacho, a Practice Squad member who appeared in 2 games for the Broncos in 2012, showed up hungry and pushed his way up the depth chart with noticeable plays every day during Camp. Duke backed it up with outstanding play during the first preseason game, showing he was serious. The Cornerbacks showed up to Camp ready to roll as well. I attribute that to the battle for jobs due to the Front Office’s work in bringing in more competition and depth.
ROOKIE DRAFT PICKS
Defensive Tackle Sylvester Williams showed the agility off the snap and quick hands that made the Broncos select him in the first round. Sly had a minor hiccup when he suffered a leg injury, but it only kept him out of action for one day. The Broncos expect big things from Williams this year.
2nd round pick Montee Ball is destined for the starting spot, but not anytime soon. While the coaches (and Peyton Manning) have thrown everything they can at the rookie Running Back, he still looks lost in where to line up and picking up his pass blocking. In case you are wondering, Knowshon Moreno will be the opening day starter at Running Back for the Broncos and get the majority of the carries. Why? Because protecting a $20 Million Quarterback is more important than a rookie Running Back’s playing time. Ball will eventually pick things up, and he will get some playing time each week. But until Peyton Manning can trust his pass blocking, he will only be in to run the ball, which limits Manning’s Before the draft, Webster was ranked to not be drafted, but I believe they have a gem here that was well worth a 3rd round pick.
The Broncos first 5th round pick, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Quanterus Smith has been limited while recovering from a torn ACL injury. He isn’t quite up to his normal running speed yet, but has shown the savvy to get pressure on the Quarterback.
Denver’s other 5th round pick, Wide Receiver Tavarres King, has had the good days as well as inconsistent days expected in a rookie. He started off slow, built some momentum during the second and third week of Camp and then had a bit of a drop off. Because of the battle for the 4th, 5th and possibly 6th Wide Receiver spot, King may be destined for the Practice Squad.
6th round pick Vinston Painter, an Offensive Tackle out of Virginia Tech, has shown to be a pretty good Run blocker, but a veritable turnstile as a Pass blocker. The coaches like Painter, so I think he will be a developmental project on the Practice Squad.
7th round pick, Quarterback Zac Dysert has had his own share of ups and downs. Face it, the Quarterback position is the most difficult position to play in the NFL and a Peyton Manning Offense is even more demanding. Zac has plenty of zip on the ball and a good arm. He struggled mightily in trying to adjust to the Wide Receivers, often throwing behind them. However, Dysert has progressed at a fair pace considering the limited reps a 3rd string Quarterback gets in Training Camp. Zac is definitely the Broncos third QB, but it remains to be seen whether they keep all three on the 53 man roster. If not, Dysert will take up one of the eight Practice Squad spots.
We’ll get into the Undrafted Free Agents in Part 2 of this series. Until then…
– Kaptain Kirk