AFC West: John Engelberger

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The fact that Denver has cut five defensive starters in the past couple of days may appear more drastic than it really is.

  Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
  Less than a year after acquiring Dewayne Robertson from the Jets, the Broncos discarded the former first-round draft pick.

Yes, replacing at least five starters is no easy task. But the truth is the new Denver regime can't wait to do it. The team needs a huge facelift on defense.

It began this week when the team waved goodbye to starters Dre' Bly (cornerback), Dewayne Robertson (defensive tackle), Jamie Winborn (linebacker), Marquand Manuel (safety) and John Engelberger (defensive end). Only Bly and Robertson could have conceivably been part of the makeover, but both were high-priced and neither made much of an impact last season.

So they're out.

There is more change to come. Outside linebacker Boss Bailey, who is injured, could be a candidate to be cut. Starters Ebenezer Ekuban (defensive end), Nate Webster (linebacker) and Marlon McCree (safety) are free agents and are not expected to return.

But again, many of these players were starters in 2008 because the team had no other choice.

Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan -- the former San Francisco head coach and longtime assistant -- the Broncos are moving toward becoming a 3-4 defense. Few of the above-mentioned players fit in the new scheme.

The Broncos have two cornerstones on defense: cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker D.J. Williams. Other than that, it's an open audition.

Pass-rush specialist Elvis Dumervil should have a place on the defense and could be moved to linebacker from defensive end. Young defensive linemen Marcus Thomas and Jarvis Moss (the team's first-round pick in 2007) will likely get a chance to play in the new scheme.

Thomas has been fairly productive the past two years and has a chance to be a good player. Moss has been a major disappointment, but he has natural pass-rush skills so there's hope he could flourish in the new system.

Young linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Spencer Larsen may get a chance to fit in the 3-4 attack. Woodyard, an undrafted free agent signed last season, is a natural playmaker and was a tackling machine last year. Larsen, a sixth-round pick last season, is a hard-nosed, versatile player. Still, there will be new competition for both.

Other than Bailey, the Broncos will likely be looking for help in the secondary.

Expect Denver to try to get at least two defensive linemen, at least one linebacker and three new defensive backs through free agency, trades and the draft. While big names such as defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will be tempting, the Broncos may opt to target several more reasonably priced free agents than one big-ticket item because of their numerous needs on defense.

Whatever happens, the change is going to be drastic. The release of five starters this week only begins the sea change on Denver's defense.

Broncos' moves open up cap space

February, 16, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The purge has begun in Denver.

The word around the organization was that the bloodletting would be severe in Denver and it began with a bang Monday. The team cut six players and saved more than $25 million in salary cap space in the process. The Broncos, who cut several lower level, low pay players last week, now have more than $28 million in cap space with the number fluctuating nearly on a daily basis.

These moves mean Denver will have plenty of room to pick up some key free agents once free agency begins Feb. 27. Denver will need to add several defensive players. Four of the players cut were starters at least part of the season in 2008.

The cut players were defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, defensive end John Engelberger, linebacker Jamie Winborn, safety Marquand Manuel, linebacker Niko Koutouvides and tight end Nate Jackson.

The cuts illustrate the rough free agency period Denver had in 2008. The team drafted very well last season but made several mistakes in free agency. Koutouvides and Manuel were brought in through free agency and Engelberger and Jackson were both re-signed by Denver last year. Robertson was brought in through a draft day eve trade with the Jets. Denver won't owe New York any compensation for Robertson. His release alone gives Denver more than $16 million in cap relief.

Several of these players played significant time but they were not effective and it was clear Denver was going to have to replace them. The Broncos will likely need five or six new starters and these cuts were the beginning of the change in Denver on the defensive side of the ball.

The team may also soon cut cornerback Dre' Bly. His release would clear several million alone.

Expect Denver, which has cash issues like many teams around the league during this economic downturn, to try to get at least a couple of defensive starters (there are needs on all three phases of the unit). The Broncos could be intrigued by a big name free agent, but Monday's purge shows the Broncos needs for quantity as much as quality this offseason.

Broncos, Chargers injury update

October, 3, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Injury report from Denver and San Diego:

In Denver, defensive end John Engelberger practiced fully for the first time this week. He has been hampered by a knee injury but he is expected to play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Backup defensive tackle Josh Shaw is out with a groin injury. Backup receiver Darrell Jackson, who has missed the past three games with a calf injury, has been limited all week and is listed as questionable on the injury report.

In San Diego, linebacker Jyles Tucker, Shawne Merriman's replacement, is doubtful to play at Miami on Sunday with a hamstring injury. Marques Harris is set to replace him.

There are no other major injury concerns in San Diego. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is off the injury report this week for the first time since he suffered a turf toe injury in Week 1 against Carolina.

Broncos, Chargers injury report

October, 2, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

In Denver, reserve receiver Darrell Jackson was limited in practice with a calf injury. He has missed the past three games. Defensive end John Engelberger was limited in practice after sitting out Wednesday due to a knee injury.

Defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson has practiced fully both days this week. He didn't play last week because of a nagging knee injury. It looks like Robertson is on target to play Sunday against visiting Tampa Bay.

In San Diego, Jyles Tucker missed his second straight day of practice with a hamstring injury and it is looking like he may not be able to play. Tucker is the replacement for Shawne Merriman at outside linebacker. His backup is Marques Harris.

Fullback Mike Tolbert was limited with an ankle injury. Defensive tackle Jamal Williams was limited Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. He has a lingering knee injury that requires him to rest often during the practice week. Tight end Antonio Gates and guard Mike Goff practiced fully Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with injuries.



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