AFC West: Gerell Robinson

Broncos Rewind: Preseason Game 3

August, 24, 2014
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the end the Denver Broncos played their starters until halftime Saturday night, or just about what they had planned to do against the Houston Texans after three days’ worth of work against the Texans leading up to the game.

That will also do it for virtually all of the regulars since they will not play in Thursday night's preseason finale in Dallas.

But after a look at the game video from the 18-17 loss to the Texans, here are some items of note:
  • With just three tight ends in uniform due to injuries, offensive coordinator Adam Gase still went to work some in a two-tight-end look with mixed results. With the starters in the game, the Broncos used it for nine snaps before halftime with Jacob Tamme and Julius Thomas in the formation, including all seven snaps on a second-quarter possession that ended with a Peyton Manning interception. The Broncos had five called runs in the look and Manning was sacked once. The Broncos will consistently work the three-wide-receiver look as their base formation much of the time this season -- 35 snaps in all for the starters Saturday, including penalty snaps. But unless something unexpected happens when the roster gets cut to 53 players next week, the Broncos will most likely have three tight ends on the roster during the season, so Saturday was a rather tidy dress rehearsal for that. Green's return will allow them to muscle up a bit more when they're in it and some additional game-planning should help. But it has to be an effective option for them against some of the sturdier defensive fronts they'll face.
  • One of the more effective looks for the Broncos defense last season was their dime (six defensive backs) and it should be an even more reliable option this season with the addition of safety T.J. Ward to go with some additional depth at the position. The Broncos didn’t play cornerback Chris Harris or cornerback Kayvon Webster in the game, but still fared well in the look against the Texans’ starters. Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 2-of-4 passing against the Broncos’ dime package with Ward, Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter, Omar Bolden, Aqib Talib and rookie Bradley Roby in the lineup. The completions went for 12 and 5 yards on the Texans' first scoring drive. The Texans eventually converted a fourth-and-1 on a 4-yard run by Alfred Blue, also against the dime look. The Broncos will mostly use the formation in passing situations, but their ability to stay in it could depend on how they do when offenses try to run on it because it's a lighter look in terms of personnel. Ward helps, with his ability to drop down to the weak-ide linebacker spot as he can play along the line of scrimmage in a run fit or drop into coverage.
  • Some of the most difficult roster decisions for the Broncos will come in the defensive line, especially if they keep just eight at a deep position. In a scenario where they keep eight, they are going to lose more than one defensive lineman who could play elsewhere. Saturday night Kevin Vickerson, who was on injured reserve during the second half of last season with a hip injury, got his first action of the preseason. Vickerson carries a $2.266 million salary-cap figure for the upcoming season and given the Broncos’ current cap situation contracts are going to be a bigger consideration in cuts than in the previous three seasons. They would take a $500,000 hit for “dead’’ money if Vickerson is released, so ultimately the Broncos would see a $1.766 million cap savings. It's not huge but perhaps necessary. Vickerson played 24 snaps with the second-team defense in the game.
  • For the optimism surrounding a still-high-powered offense and a revamped defense, the Broncos' special teams didn’t have the kind of night you would expect in the third preseason outing. Matt Prater, now facing a four-game suspension to open the season, missed a field goal and took a chunk of sod out of the ground even as he made his other attempt in the game. Britton Colquitt shanked a punt in the first half -- a 27-yarder with plenty of field to work with -- and rookie Mitch Ewald missed a 36-yard field goal attempt. Couple that with the up-and-down work they’ve had in the return game throughout the preseason and there’s plenty of work to be done.
  • The snap leaders for the night on offense were Manning and the starting offensive line, with 43 plays in the game (all in the first half). On defense Bolden led the way with 39 snaps in a variety of packages with linebackers Corey Nelson and Lerentee McCray checking in at 37 plays each.

Broncos' day plays out on Twitter

August, 30, 2013
The Denver Broncos' top football executive, John Elway, has consistently preached the benefits of youth, homegrown players and in the era of the seven-round draft the importance of finding an undrafted rookie or two along the way who can help his team.

And as the Broncos made moves on the way to trimming their roster to 53 players, there was a little of each of those tenets.

The Broncos did not officially file most of their Friday moves to the NFL’s personnel department by the end of the day, meaning none of them are tabulated in their roster total until they do. (The only transaction they filed was an injury settlement with rookie wide receiver Quincy McDuffie.) But they did inform a small group of players that they were no longer with the team. Veteran running back Lance Ball was one of them, and he took to Twitter after getting the news:

Ball was always an "a-little-of-this, a-little-of-that" player for the Broncos over the last three seasons, a solid pro who played in 41 games for the team, including 15 last season and 16 in 2011. But as a vested player heading into his fifth season, Ball’s $1.323 million salary would be guaranteed if he is on the roster for the season opener. And with this move the Broncos appear to have cleared a spot on the running back depth chart for undrafted rookie C.J. Anderson.

At least that’s what Anderson believes, given that he took to Twitter to say "I'm a bronco." An hour or so, later Anderson followed with "Lets get 2 work."

It would mean the Broncos have had at least one undrafted rookie make the opening 53-man roster in 10 consecutive seasons. It would also mean the Broncos think enough of Anderson to keep him even though he could be three weeks away from being game-ready because of a sprained MCL suffered in practice following the Broncos’ first preseason game.

In that game, against the 49ers, Anderson finished with 69 yards on 15 carries. At 225 pounds, he also gives the Broncos' offense some short-yardage power, something they team has not always shown with the top three backs -– Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno. If the Broncos also keep Jacob Hester (he is the only back who has lined up at fullback for the team), that makes five running backs on the depth chart, the same total the Broncos kept last season when they made the cut to 53. The Broncos kept just four backs when they exited camp in 2011.

Anderson also sent a tweet to Hester on Friday that read (in part), "keep helping and being that great vet."

Also released Friday, according to several team sources, were wide receivers Gerell Robinson and Lamaar Thomas, cornerback Aaron Hester and linebacker Damien Holmes -- though again, none of those moves were formally filed to the league, and the Broncos could reverse field on Saturday. Of the four, Robinson would be the best candidate to land on the practice squad (that's where he was last season).

The Broncos can sign eight players to the practice squad beginning on Sunday.

The Broncos will have to make 17 more roster moves by 4 p.m. MT Saturday afternoon. They are expected to have made all of them by the time Elway is scheduled for a media gathering at 2 p.m.
While so much attention is paid to NFL draft picks, college free agents are often overlooked simply because they weren’t drafted.

Every year, one or two undrafted free agents seem to make each 53-man roster. I asked college prospect guru Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. to rank the best undrafted free agents who signed with AFC West teams. The Oakland Raiders have not announced their class, but several of the players who have agreed to terms with them have been reported, but still they remain unofficial at this point.

Muench appears to love what the Denver Broncos and Raiders have done in undrafted free agency. At the very least, perhaps we will see some of these players on practice squads come September. Here are Muench’s rankings:

1. Denver, Coryell Judie, CB ,5-11 190, Texas A&M

Judie has had problems staying healthy and he’s coming off a disappointing senior season but he flashed decent man-to-man cover skills and the potential to develop into a playmaker in 2010.

2. Denver, Jamie Blatnick, DE, 6-3 265, Oklahoma State

Blatnick doesn’t have the burst or closing speed teams covet in edge rushers and he needs to play with better pad level as a run stopper. He is, however, a hard worker who is strong enough to set the edge and can get to the quarterback with effort.

3. Oakland, Lucas Nix, OG, 6-5, 317, Pittsburgh

Nix is a mauler who makes up for limited athletic ability with tenacity. He is big enough to engulf smaller defensive tackles and strong enough to anchor in pass protection.

4. Oakland, Aaron Henry, S, 6-0 208, Wisconsin

Henry is a corner/safety hybrid who doesn’t have great cover skills for a corner and is an inconsistent tackler for a safety. On the other hand, he has the potential to develop into an effective sub-package safety that can line up over the slot. He is also physical in coverage making him a good fit for Oakland’s scheme.

5. Denver, Steven Johnson, LB, 6-1 237, Kansas

Johnson is a two-down linebacker at this point. He is an effective run defender who can shed blocks and shows decent range. He just doesn’t offer much as a pass-rusher and he can’t consistently match up in coverage.

6. Oakland, Conroy Black, CB, 5-11 185, Utah

Black’s recovery speed masks his average-at-best instincts and discipline. He flashes the ability to make plays in coverage and his ability to turn and run makes him a good fit for the Raiders’ scheme.

7. Denver, Anthony Miller, TE, 6-4 260, California

Denver has a number of quality receiving tight ends. They needed a blocking tight end and they may have gotten one in Miller. Miller gets into position, locks on and blocks trough the whistle.

8. Denver, Gerell Robinson, WR, 6-4 222, Arizona State

Robinson is a big bodied receiver with above average ball skills. While he’ll have some difficulty separating from man coverage, he is a zone buster who can shield defenders from the ball.

9. Kansas City, Tyson Hartman, S, 6-3, 206, Kansas State

Hartman doesn’t have great cover skills for a safety but he is a smart football player who steps up in run support and can contribute on special teams.

10. San Diego, Christian Tupou, DE, 6-2 289, USC

Durability is a concern and he doesn’t have ideal arm length for a defensive end prospect, especially in a 3-4 scheme. However, he has the low center of gravity and core strength to develop into a tough run stopper.

Other Notables:

Denver, Jerry Franklin, LB, 6-1 245, Arkansas

Kansas City, Dexter Heyman, MLB, 6-3 238, Louisville

Oakland, Chaz Powell, CB, 6-0 203, Penn State

Oakland Dominique Hamilton DT 6-5 313 Missouri

Oakland, Thomas Mayo, WR, 6-1 207, Cal (PA)

San Diego, Jarrett Lee, QB, 6-2 208, LSU

San Diego, Michael Willie, WR, 6-2 218, Arizona State