- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Broncos will take a look at what the waiver wire has to offer Sunday and decide if there are any names on it they’d like to see on their roster. But for the most part they’ve made the big decisions in the move to 53 players Saturday.
And given that there were some things of note:
There’s a chance the compressed offseason that came with the current collective bargaining agreement has also compressed the time allowed for rookies outside the first two rounds of the draft to show what they can do. The Broncos cut three players --Philip Blake, Tavarres King and Vinston Painter -- from their last two draft classes combined. Certainly the Broncos are a far better team than what they were in early 2011 when John Elway and John Fox started on the job, but it does show rookies have to move faster than ever to get acclimated, even if players like King and Painter are certainly practice-squad possibilities. “The rookies these days they have to get on board, get there fast, mature fast, which is tough to do for some,’’ said Elway. “Our goal is always to keep them, but that’s why you have competition too,’’ Elway said.
Because they kept three quarterbacks and 11 defensive backs the Broncos ended up light at the two positions most affected by Von Miller’s suspension over the first six weeks of the season. The Broncos kept six linebackers, compared to seven to open both the ’11 and ’12 seasons, and kept seven defensive linemen, compared to 10 in ’11, and nine in ’12. Shaun Phillips, who has lined up far more at defensive end than he has at linebacker so far for the team, is listed among the six linebackers, but not among the seven defensive linemen. That puts the onus on Robert Ayers and even more on Derek Wolfe, to play, and play well, in a variety of down-and-distance situations. Wolfe, especially, will have to be a do-it-all guy.
The late arrivals in the offensive line, center Steve Vallos and guard/center John Moffitt, showed enough in a short time to make the roster. Vallos was signed July 29, just after Dan Koppen went on injured reserve, and Moffitt was acquired in a trade on Aug. 21. But both proved to be quick studies and Vallos, especially, quickly played his way up the depth chart. The two were kept over C.J. Davis, who played seven games for the Broncos last season and spent 2009 and 2010 in Carolina with Fox, and Ryan Lilja. Lilja, too, was a late arrival, having been signed out of retirement Aug. 1, but struggled with his surgically-repaired knee throughout the preseason. The Broncos had given a $100,000 signing bonus to Lilja to lure him into training camp, but the veteran’s $1 million base salary would have also been guaranteed if he was on the roster for Thursday’s opener given Lilja is a vested player. “Steve won that job, I think he played well enough to win it.’’
Just two days after playing 52 plays in the preseason finale against the Cardinals, the Broncos elected to put rookie defensive end Quanterus Smith on injured reserve for the season. Smith suffered a torn ACL last November in his senior season at Western Kentucky. He was taken out of just one practice in training camp because of the knee and played in all four preseason games. Still, the Broncos say they didn't see what they wanted to see. “The knee just never came back, we didn’t think he was 100 percent,’’ Elway said. “He was favoring it the whole training camp and really even in (the Cardinals) game you could tell he was favoring it. We just didn’t think he was ready – nor was the knee really … he just needs more time and more work on it.’’
Linebacker Lerentee McCray, signed as an undrafted rookie this year, would have likely made the team roster had he not suffered a high ankle sprain in Tnursday night’s preseason finale. Elway said he was put on IR because he was “six to 10 weeks’’ away from being ready to play.
Asked about the team’s pass rush given Von Miller’s suspension to open the season and Smith’s move to injured reserve, Elway said with a laugh; “We’re not going to rush, we’re dropping 11.’’
Linebacker Paris Lenon was signed Aug. 20 and the 35-year-old made the roster because, as Elway said; “he’s come in and played very well, showed he’s been in shape.’’ The Broncos will have to make another roster move, possibly in that position group when Miller returns to the team in Week 7.