ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Whether it be fumbles, as it was earlier this season for Montee Ball, or the locked-in attention from an opposing quarterback like Philip Rivers, as it was for Kayvon Webster last Thursday night, a rookie season is filled with some bumps in the road.
As the Denver Broncos approach the postseason, they need all of their rookies to find another gear and move past those bumps. So, with that in mind, here’s our weekly look at the Broncos’ rookie class:
Running back Montee Ball: The run game was essentially the parsley on the offensive plate last Thursday night as the Broncos mustered just 18 yards on 11 carries against the San Diego Chargers. Ball had just three of those carries for minus-1 yard, a total that includes a carry for a 6-yard loss in the first quarter. His longest run was for 3 yards. Overall, however, the Broncos’ perfect world in the run game is still a scenario in which they can split carries between Ball and Knowshon Moreno fairly evenly down the stretch and into the postseason. Ball has shown improving skills in the passing game as well, with five catches for 49 yards against the Chargers, so that helps his cause for more situational playing time, as does his improved ball security in recent weeks. For the game Ball had 19 snaps on offense, compared with 35 snaps overall for Moreno.
Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was a game-day inactive against the Chargers. But he got some bonus work already this week in practice as Peyton Manning was held out of Monday’s practice. (Coach John Fox called it a “bonus’’ practice because the Broncos had played on last Thursday night.) Dysert and backup Brock Osweiler were the only quarterbacks in practice that day.
Running back C.J. Anderson: After battling his way into some playing time, Anderson has been a game-day inactive against the Chiefs and Chargers over the last three games. The Broncos are still deciding on the No. 3 running back spot on the game-day roster between Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Hillman was the third back against the Chiefs and Chargers, while Anderson was the No. 3 back against the Titans. It has largely been a special-teams decision; neither got a carry in any of those three games.
Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: His playing time continues to increase because the coaching staff likes what it has seen in practice and because of need with Kevin Vickerson on injured reserve. Williams finished with 45 snaps against the Chargers, or 62 percent of the defense’s plays in the game. He finished with five tackles as well as his first career sack, bringing Rivers down in the first quarter. Williams will continue to work in the rotation, and the Broncos are hopeful he can continue to have an impact at -- and behind -- the line of scrimmage.
Cornerback Kayvon Webster: Welcome to the league, kid. Champ Bailey has always said the most important thing for a rookie cornerback to show in the league, beyond the physical skills to play the position, is the ability to keep charging even as the quarterback is testing you down after down. Webster was targeted many times by Rivers throughout last Thursday’s loss, a tactic quarterbacks have used in recent weeks that Rivers took to the next level. Webster gave up a lot of completions, but his coverage wasn’t nearly as out of whack as some have suggested. He has some technique issues in press coverage, with how he attacks the receiver and aligns himself as the receiver comes off the line of scrimmage, and that’s costing him a step or half step down the field. That's just enough room for somebody like Rivers to fit the ball in, but it shows the potential Webster has if he’s willing to work through it. He finished with 35 snaps after suffering a fractured right thumb early in the third quarter. He played through the injury, but had surgery Friday and is expected to miss Sunday’s game in Houston. He will play the rest of this season with a cast on his hand.
Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick who was waived in the final cuts, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work at keeping themselves in the team's plans. All of the practice-squad players have worked in an on-field workout of their own on Mondays, as well as some extra time following practice each day.