Denver Broncos: Tavarres King

Denver Broncos Rookie Report

October, 22, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos Class of ’13 got a little smaller this week. To get linebacker Von Miller on the roster following his six-game suspension, the Broncos waived rookie wide receiver Tavarres King with the idea of bringing him back to the practice squad once he cleared waivers. Instead the Carolina Panthers claimed the rookie and he will join their 53-man roster.

King had been promoted to the Broncos' 53-man roster just days before when the Green Bay Packers had expressed interest in signing him off the Broncos’ practice squad. He elected to stay in Denver with the prospect of moving to the 53-man roster, but then saw the team waive him when Miller returned.

It means the Broncos lost a fifth-round draft pick from last April’s class who many with the team believed was worthy of a roster spot coming out of training camp had the team not elected to keep 11 defensive backs. So, with that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: Ball played just one snap on offense in the loss to the Colts as the Broncos stuck to a two-man rotation in the backfield with Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman. Ball did add 20 snaps on special teams in the game. His potential for playing time this week against the Redskins might improve, depending on the coaches’ reaction to Hillman’s fumble on the Indianapolis 3-yard line with just over three minutes to play. Ball could be the beneficiary if the Broncos dial back Hillman’s work in the wake of the play.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback against Indianapolis, so ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven game day inactives against the Colts. His usual pregame work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp was a little more confined this week as the portable stage country singer Sara Evans would use at halftime was up before the game for a sound check.

Running back C.J. Anderson: He has been a game day inactive each week, including this past Sunday against Indianapolis. It may take an injury at the position for him to crack the game day lineup. Coaches say he has performed well in practice, however, and continues to show the kind of work he flashed in the preseason.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: Facing a more traditional power offense, the Colts offered him some additional playing time Sunday. Williams played 19 snaps on defense and finished with two tackles in the game.

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: With each passing week Webster continues his climb up the depth chart. Over the course of the early going this season he has gone from the choice as the sixth defensive back in the dime package, to playing in the nickel with the injury to Champ Bailey, to Sunday against the Colts when he took snaps in the base defense in place of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Webster also played in some of the specialty packages. In all Webster finished with 53 plays on defense to go with a full slate of 31 snaps on special teams. He finished with three tackles and on defense and repeatedly was challenged in single coverage by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Webster knocked one pass away in man coverage as well. "He makes plays,'' said Broncos coach John Fox. "They tested him a couple of times and I thought he answered it very well. He’s a guy that works very hard and he’s earned the reps gotten”

Practice squad: With King’s loss, the Broncos have just two of their rookie class remaining on the practice squad -- tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, who spent training camp with the Broncos.

Broncos Rookie Report: Offense

October, 16, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – It took a little interest from Green Bay this week, but the Denver Broncos' rookie class got an addition to the 53-man roster when wide receiver Tavarres King was elevated from the Broncos’ practice squad Tuesday.

The Packers had expressed some interest, and King said he would prefer to stay in Denver after the Broncos informed him of the promotion.

So, with that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: The Broncos have leaned more and more on Knowshon Moreno of late, and that has limited Ball’s carries. He had three carries for 15 yards against Jacksonville and played just seven snaps overall on offense to go with four in special teams. He was also targeted twice in the passing game, but dropped both passes, something that won’t exactly help his cause moving forward. The drop in the fourth quarter came on what should have been a routine catch-and-run. Moreno has performed well, so he will continue to eat up most of the carries in the offense unless the Broncos get into kill-the-clock mode in the coming weeks, but the mistakes limit both Ball’s and Ronnie Hillman’s carries at times.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback against Jacksonville, and so ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven game-day inactives. He continues to show a quality arm and a willingness to put in the extra time after practice, as well as in the pregame hours on game day.

Running back C.J. Anderson: The structure of the Broncos’ current roster, especially with the team keeping, and using, four tight ends among the game-day roster, has limited Anderson’s chance to be in uniform. The Broncos are using four slots at tight end and have used as many as 10 roster spots at defensive back. As a result, they have not kept a fourth running back in the game-day lineup, so Anderson has been inactive each week, including this past Sunday against Jacksonville. At this point, he may need an injury to one of the top three running backs to find himself in the mix.

Wide receiver Tavarres King: He can thank the injury troubles at wide receiver in Green Bay for his promotion. The Packers, with Randall Cobb suffering a fractured lower leg this past Sunday, were on the hunt for help at wideout for at least the next six weeks. They contacted King’s agent – a player on a team’s practice squad can be signed to any team’s active roster – and made an offer. The player has the choice, however, and the Broncos sweetened the deal with a roster spot, and so King was signed. He’ll have to carve out a special-teams niche quickly if he wants to be on the game-day roster. There aren’t many snaps to go around at wide receiver. The team’s No. 4 wideout, Andre Caldwell, played all of seven snaps against the Jaguars.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick who was waived in the final cuts, is now the lone rookie on offense on the practice squad. He continues to show plenty of athleticism in workouts and has a big upside.

Good news on Franklin; King to sign

October, 15, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos got some good news on the injury front and are poised to promote a player from their practice squad as well this week, possibly as soon as Tuesday.

But exams Monday showed tackle Orlando Franklin has a sprained left ankle and sprained left knee, but an MRI revealed no unexpected damage in either joint and the Broncos now believe he could be back in two weeks. The Broncos play at Indianapolis Sunday before Washington comes to Denver Oct. 27.

The Broncos then have a bye week Nov. 3, so Franklin is expected to be ready to go for a Nov. 10 game in San Diego. However, if Franklin progresses quickly there is an outside chance, the Broncos feel, he could be ready to play against the Redskins.

The Broncos will look at playing Winston Justice at right tackle, but if they don’t believe Justice, who signed after the season began, is ready to go they will stick with the lineup they used after Franklin left Sunday’s 35-19 win over the Jaguars -- with guard Louis Vasquez moving out to tackle and Chris Kuper playing at right guard.

The Broncos are expected to make a roster move this week with the Packers having shown interest in signing rookie wide receiver Tavarres King off Denver's practice squad. King, who can say no to a potential roster spot elsewhere if he wishes, is now expected to be signed to the Broncos’ 53-man roster. King, a part of this year's draft class, was among the final cuts after training camp.

The Broncos will have to make a roster move to promote King. They will also have to make a roster move for linebacker Von Miller at some point.

In the past, players coming off suspensions have received one-week roster exemptions.

Broncos Rookie Report: Offense

October, 9, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos have powered out to a 5-0 start with a rookie class still trying to find its way in some regards. But it's clear practice matters -- they have to trust you'll do the right thing during the week before you get to play on Sunday -- the bar is set high and mistakes count.

With that in mind, here's the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: With the Broncos in a three-wide receiver set for all but three snaps against the Cowboys, the carries were hard to come by for Ball. Also, the game was tight down to the wire and Ball has had the bulk of his carries when the Broncos were in late-game mode, trying to use some clock. He played just five snaps against the Cowboys with just one rushing attempt -- a 1-yard effort. By contrast Knowshon Moreno played 51 snaps against the Cowboys and has tightened his grip on the No. 1 job a little more with each passing game. Ronnie Hillman played 23 snaps and left the game with an ankle injury so his practice time could be limited this week.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback in Dallas and was one of the Broncos' seven game day inactives. Coaches have lauded his work ethic, including his pregame work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp and what he has done with limited practice snaps. It's all about the classroom for Dysert at this point and watching Peyton Manning work each day can only help.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Because of the knee injury he suffered in the preseason -- a severe MCL sprain he suffered during practice in the days following the preseason opener -- Anderson hasn't really been able to recapture some of his camp momentum. He has been a game day inactive each week. It may take an injury at the position for him to crack the lineup.

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived in the final cutdown and continue to work primarily as scout team players. And they, too, have done plenty of post-practice work each day. By most accounts King has been a little sharper in his routes of late, exactly what the Broncos want to see from him moving forward.

Broncos Rookie Report: Offense

September, 26, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Some in the Denver Broncos' first-year class have found ways to contribute to the team's historic 3-0 start, which has the Broncos leading the league in scoring to this point.

With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's youngsters on offense are doing:

Running back Montee Ball: The Broncos have shown they’d like Ball to be a closer, the guy they put in the backfield to help slam the door when they get the scoreboard the way they like it. But to do that, Ball is going to have to hang onto the football. He lost his second fumble in two games Monday against the Oakland Raiders -- during the four-minute drill, when the Broncos were trying to bleed the clock -- which could certainly affect his snap count in the near future. That's especially true since Ronnie Hillman had one of the best outings of his young career in the victory over the Oakland (66 yards rushing on 7.3 per carry). Ball finished with 17 snaps on offense -- 18 fewer than Knowshon Moreno and seven fewer than Hillman -- and gained 61 yards on his 11 carries (5.5 per).

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback once again against the Raiders and thus one of the Broncos’ seven game-day inactives. Dysert continues to work extra, with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, after each practice as well as before games -- all with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp looking on. He has shown progress because of that, flashing a crisp release and more passes in frame with the receivers than he did at times in training camp, especially with intermediate routes.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson continues to make progress in his recovery from a severe medial collateral ligament sprain suffered in the days following the preseason opener. He has been a full participant in practice this week, but the backfield is already very crowded and his chances of getting a game-day carry are still fairly slim. Coach John Fox was asked this week if Ball’s latest fumble could open the door for Anderson, and he said, “C.J. doesn’t even have a uniform yet. We’ve just got to see that as we go.’’

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived in the final cutdown, and continue to work primarily as scout-team players. King has been one of the receivers running routes for Dysert in post-practice work and Painter has been among a small group of players, including Ben Garland and Winston Justice, who have worked with offensive-line consultant Alex Gibbs following practices.

Broncos Rookie Report: Offense

September, 17, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos first-year class is seeing just how tough it can be to carve out a role on one of the league’s heavyweights. The snaps are hard to come by and they have to be earned with consistency.

With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: Ball is battling to be the Broncos’ grind-it-out option in the run game, especially in late-game, close-it-out scenarios, but he simply has to be more reliable with the ball -- he fumbled into the end zone on the Broncos' first possession this past weekend -- and consistently make a little more of the running room that’s available. Ball played 28 snaps Sunday – by comparison Knowshon Moreno played 44 and Ronnie Hillman had two – and Ball had 12 carries in the game. But of those 12 carries, eight went for 2 or fewer yards and that total included three 1-yard carries, two for no gain and one carry for minus-3 yards. For the year Ball is now averaging just 2 yards per carry and while he has just two fewer carries than Moreno – 20 to Moreno’s 22 – Ball has rushed for 81 fewer yards in two games.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback once again, so ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven game day inactives against the Giants. Dysert looked smooth in an extended pre-game workout with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. Knapp worked through a series of progressions with Dysert several hours before kickoff.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson continues to make progress in his recovery from a severe MCL sprain he suffered during practice in the days following the preseason opener. He practiced on a limited basis last week before being declared as doubtful for the game last Friday. He was also one of the team’s seven game day inactives. It’s difficult to see just yet what role Anderson could have in the offense in the near future when Broncos coach John Fox said Monday the team was already having a difficult time even splitting the available carries up between Moreno, Ball and Hillman.

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived in the final cutdown, and continue to work primarily as scout team players.

Broncos rookie report: Offense

September, 10, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos rookies made the transition last week, from simply young players trying to make an impression on their more experienced peers to young players who now carry the burden of day-to-day expectations about doing the job for a Super Bowl hopeful.

That’s a big jump in the few days between the roster cutdown and the Broncos’ season opener last Thursday night. With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

strong>Running back Montee Ball: Citizens of the fantasy football nation, don’t say you weren’t warned. The Broncos will almost certainly line up in a three-wide receiver set this season more than any other formation. So, the running the back who plays the most for this team will be the one who gets it done in that set. That means pass protection and handling the audibles are as high of priorities as actually running with the ball. And the guy who the Broncos believe handles that the best right now is Knowshon Moreno. That’s why Moreno played 37 snaps on offense against the Ravens and Ball played 18. Most of Ball’s work came out of the heavier two- and three-tight end looks. He did have an assignment bobble late in the win when he went to the wrong side of Manning to take a handoff. The play nearly resulted in a fumbled exchange, but Manning made a quick adjustment in his footwork and Ball wisely slowed up to take the ball. When Ball handles some of the non-running duties a little more cleanly, he’ll get to carry the ball more. But this is going to be a rotation much of the year, with plenty of ebb and flow all around between Moreno, Ball and Ronnie Hillman.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback for the opener, so he ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven gameday inactives. He received good reviews in his work in practice last week as the Broncos prepared for the Ravens. That will be his role for much of the year as he will likely impersonate some of the league’s best quarterbacks on the scout team.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson continues to make progress in his recovery from a severe MCL sprain he suffered during practice in the days following the preseason opener. Anderson has not used crutches for roughly 10 days -- “I felt like I didn’t need them the last week I used them, but I’m trying to listen to the trainers’’ -- and could return to practice, at least on a limited basis, at some point in the coming days. Because of the injury he was a gameday inactive for the Ravens, but it will be crowded choice at running back when he’s cleared to play. He may have to find a way into some special teams work to be on the gameday roster initially.

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived and continue to work primarily as scout team players. Though Friday was a day off practice for the Broncos regulars, the practice squad players went through an on-field workout.

Broncos rookie report -- Offense

September, 2, 2013
As much as everyone in the locker room hopes the roster is “set’’ when the cuts are made to get to 53, it is always a fluid situation when it comes to how things shake out over the course of a season.

But the Broncos’ first-year class fared OK as it exited the preseason and is poised for Thursday’s opener. With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class on offense is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: Ball figures to get the most work of any Denver Broncos first-year player as the season unfolds. At least that’s what he wants, and the Broncos have him squarely in the rotation. And it will be a rotation, uneven at times, with the carries being handed out with the ebb and flow of each game. Ball was held out of the preseason finale, so many have presumed since the starters were held out of that game, he is the starter. However, tread lightly there fantasy footballers, Knowshon Moreno was held out of the game as well, and Ronnie Hillman was given two carries simply because they wanted him to have a re-set after three fumbles -- two were recovered by the opponent and returned for touchdowns -- in the previous two preseason games combined. Ball will get the rock, but at least for now, so will Hillman, and Moreno is the most consistent pass-protector as the third-down down guy, and it will be tough to predict how the carries go for quite some time.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: All through training camp Dysert said he wanted to make it tough for the team not to keep him. He did just that, showing some good poise, mobility and chucked it around for 163 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals to close out the preseason. With the number of players who were claimed on waivers this year after the cuts to 53 -- teams were claiming five, six and seven players -- it might have been difficult to get Dysert through waivers so the Broncos could bring him back to the practice squad. So, they elected to keep three quarterbacks for the second time in the three-year John Elway/John Fox tenure. As Fox put it; “I think it’s a key position in this league. Finding young ones to develop is not easy. Obviously, we felt (Dysert) was one of our 53 top guys. I don’t think you can ever have too many of those guys … He earned it.”

Running back C.J. Anderson: He was the only undrafted rookie the team kept on offense, but it was the 10th consecutive year an undrafted rookie has made the initial cut to 53 players. He’s still recovering from a severe MCL sprain suffered in practice following the preseason opener, but at 224 pounds, he gives the Broncos the big back they want and showed enough in one preseason game, and the practices leading up to it, that they kept him even though he isn’t ready to see the field right now.

Practice squad: Wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick, and tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, were waived, cleared waivers and signed back to the practice squad. King’s talent puts him among the team's top 53 players, but his work habits were inconsistent enough for them to waive him. Painter is an athletic tackle prospect who just needs some time to develop.

Broncos like their multi-taskers

September, 1, 2013
There was a time or two during training camp when the guy behind the wheel of the John Deere pulling a mobile goal post toward a drill was none other than Broncos special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

As he’d drive from one field to the other, he’d simply say “the more you can do.’’

And the phrase is a common one throughout the league, said sometimes with more than a tinge of irony about doing the task that is presently at hand. But when the Broncos rolled out their first 53-man roster of the season, there were some more-you-can-do guys in there that affected some of the other decisions they made.

[+] EnlargeOmar Bolden
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsWith his versatility, Denver is expecting DB Omar Bolden to make a significant impact in 2013.
Second-year defensive back Omar Bolden was one. He spent his rookie season at cornerback in 2012 and the Broncos liked the way he handled his business, his mental toughness and the way he battled in man coverage. He fully expected to be at cornerback this year, especially when as the players went through check-out day last January, he promised he would compete for far more playing time on the outside.

He got it half right, at least the playing time part, anyway. Roughly two weeks ago Bolden started to show up at safety at times in practice. A snap here, a snap there and in the preseason finale Bolden started at safety against the Cardinals and finished with six tackles.

At 195 pounds he fits the mold of a coverage safety in these pass-happy times, and after watching Bolden's work on special teams the Broncos believed he was a player who can match up on a receiver or tight end down the field, but one who showed himself to be willing to stick his nose in run defense as well. The Broncos feel they could use him at either position in any of their defensive packages.

That swing job was supposed to be Quentin Jammer’s when camp opened, but Jammer is now solely a corner, having never looked all that comfortable at safety, while Bolden has snagged the cornerback/safety gig and the potential playing time that will come with it.

The Broncos will likely spend almost 70 percent of their defensive snaps this season in something other than their base defense, so they will feature more than two safeties in the formation for plenty of snaps, especially in the dime.

“We’re looking for flexibility at safety,’’ is how executive vice president of football operations John Elway put it. “Omar was a guy that does a tremendous job on special teams, so we wanted to look at him at [safety]. And also, with Jammer going back and getting a look at corner, we felt that Quentin is better at corner than he is at safety. So we wanted to look at Omar who has flexibility and is great on fourth down, so we looked at him at safety.’’

In the defensive line, Malik Jackson’s versatility has increased his value as Derek Wolfe’s backup in many of the defensive packages. Jackson, a fifth-round pick in 2012, can play at end on both run downs and pass-rush packages. Jackson also moved inside to defensive tackle in some of the Broncos nickel and dime looks as well.

Jackson played 113 plays on defense last season with 20 of those coming Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay, but he should up that total at least some this time around.

Kick returner Trindon Holliday showed enough at wide receiver in the preseason for the Broncos to go a little light at the position. They kept just five on the current roster, including Holliday. That, and an extra defensive back or two, likely cost rookie wide receiver Tavarres King, a fifth-round pick this past April, a spot. On talent alone, King was/is worthy of a slot on the Broncos roster, but he did not maintain his early momentum in camp and the team's decision-makers didn't believe he was consistent in his day-to-day work habits. King was signed to the team's practice squad Sunday, just before practice began.

And running back Jacob Hester, who had played in most any situation in the backfield when needed, was initially kept on the team's 53-man roster for his multi-tasking as well. He could be featured as a runner, work in the passing game, play fullback and special teams. But with just six linebackers and Von Miller suspended for six games, the Broncos released Hester Sunday morning and brought in linebacker Adrian Robinson.

“That is kind of what you live by, the more you can do,’’ coach John Fox said. “This league is about adjustments and the guys who give you options are always going to be valuable to your program.’’

Broncos rookies forced to work fast

August, 31, 2013
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.

Denver Broncos cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
Most significant move: It was a tough couple days for some of the Broncos' younger players. After retaining the bulk of their draft classes in the first two years on the job for John Elway and John Fox, the Broncos waived four former draft picks Saturday. Three were from the two Elway/Fox classes, when they trimmed the roster to 53 players.

Center/guard Philip Blake (fourth round in 2012), Jeremy Beal (seventh round in ’11), wide receiver Tavarres King (fifth round in ’13) and tackle Vinston Painter (sixth round in ’13) were all let go. King, who spent much of training camp and the preseason working with the second-team offense, likely lost his spot when the Broncos kept 11 defensive backs and three quarterbacks, including rookie Zac Dysert.

King and Painter are practice squad possibilities if they clear waivers.

“As you get better -- you never want to release anybody -- but as you get better, you have fewer slots,’’ Elway said. “That’s the situation that we’re running into.’’

Eleven's a crowd: In 2011, the first year of Elway’s tenure as the Broncos’ top football decision-maker, the Broncos kept nine defensive backs when they cut the roster to 53. Last year they kept 10 -- five cornerbacks, five safeties.

This year, with needs on special teams carrying the day, they kept 11 defensive backs, six cornerbacks and five safeties. The Broncos, like many teams in the league, have gone to more defensive backs on special teams, taking several jobs in coverage units that used to go to linebackers.

"You have to look at special teams too, what guys do on special teams," Elway said. "… So, those are the type things that a lot of people don’t think comes into the equation but what you do on fourth down is part of it."

As a result the Broncos are little light at wide receiver, with just five including returner Trindon Holliday. Holliday played just seven snaps on offense last season after joining the Broncos in October. They team will likely to expand his role slightly this season.

What's next: They are reasonably healthy after an offseason filled with drama, but it remains to be seen if they can consistently generate a pass rush without Miller and if they can consistently protect quarterback Peyton Manning when they play their preferred three-wide receiver look on offense.

But Elway likes the choices they made.

“The bottom line is we kept the best 53,’’ Elway said. “Everyone says you want to win now, and I say we want to win now on.’’

Broncos cuts/moves: RB Lance Ball, C/G C.J. Davis, RB Jeremiah Johnson, C/G Ryan Lilja, TE Jake O’Connell, DE Jeremy Beal, C/G Philip Blake, T Paul Cornick, DT Romney Fuga, DT Ben Garland, CB Aaron Hester, LB Damien Holmes, WR Tavarres King, T Vinston Painter, S Ross Rasner, WR Gerell Robinson, WR Lamaar Thomas, DE John Youboty. DE Quanterus Smith, LB Stewart Bradley, LB Lerentee McCray were placed on injured reserve. LB Von Miller was placed on reserve/suspended.

Broncos rookie report -- Offense

August, 27, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It’s always a bit startling for any team’s first-year class to see the first round of roster cuts.

To that point their knowledge of everyday NFL life is that of a 90-man roster, cruising through the offseason workouts into training camp as one big happy unit. Then suddenly things go to 75 players like they did this week and the threat of another 22 players getting the turn-in-your-iPad speech is hanging over them.

So, Thursday’s preseason finale, in which few, if any, Broncos regulars are scheduled to play, is the last chance to make a lasting impression. With that in mind, here’s the rookie report on offense, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class is doing:

Running back Montee Ball: After Ronnie Hillman had one of his fumbles returned for a touchdown for the second consecutive week this past Saturday, the Broncos moved Ball into a more prominent role with the starting offense in Monday's practice. There are certainly carries to be earned in the Broncos offense by the first back who hangs onto the ball and understands pass protection. Ball is the one whose missed block in Seattle resulted in perhaps the biggest hit Peyton Manning has taken in his time with the Broncos and he also coughed the ball up in practice Monday when Wesley Woodyard ripped the ball out late in a carry. Ball also dropped what might have been a sure scoring pass against the Rams, so while he’s currently at the top of the depth chart, his name isn’t chiseled there. In the end Ball played 38 plays on offense and had 14 carries against the Rams. For the preseason he has averaged just 3.2 yards per carry on 25 carries.

Wide receiver Tavarres King: King continues to work with the second-team offense. He finished with 15 plays on offense against the Rams. He likely sits in the fifth spot at wide receiver, behind the top three and Andre Caldwell looks to be the No. 4. They’re pushing King hard out on his route running and they want to see a little physicality when goes up for the ball, they want him to consistently win the possession in a jump-ball situation. King should get plenty of work against the Cardinals and it will be a chance for him to show some consistency on his routes and make some plays.

Tackle Vinston Painter: Things are crowded on the offensive line, especially if the Broncos elect to carry both Chris Kuper (ankle) and Ryan Lilja (knee) on to the 53-man roster despite the fact they are not currently participating fully in practice because of their injuries. If they do, Painter could get squeezed in the cutdown and would be a practice squad gimme at that point if the Broncos believe they can get him through waivers. He’s played as the second-team right tackle. Painter did not get any snaps on offense against the Rams, an indication the Broncos may want to get him through waivers to get him on the practice squad. He’s shown plenty of athleticism, but still raw in his pass sets.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert did not play against the Rams and with the Broncos expected to keep just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster Dysert is likely headed to the practice squad as well. He will get some work against the Cardinals Thursday night and the Broncos like his ability to make some plays, so they may give him a chance to move around a bit.

Undrafted rookies:
  • Running back C.J. Anderson's knee injury turned out as expected, a six-week issue so the Broncos will have to make a decision on him having seen him in just one preseason game. He showed enough to be a practice squad player, and the Broncos have traditionally kept a back on the practice squad.
  • Wide receiver Lamaar Thomas got some work with the second-team offense at times in practice and consistently has shown the ability to be where the quarterbacks expect him to be. He has good hands with some ability to separate. He’s another at a crowded position who could be a quality candidate for the practice squad.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos surprised no one Sunday as they took a step toward getting the roster to 75 players by Tuesday's deadline, and it was clear their decisions were influenced by who's hurt and who isn't.

The toughest choices are still to come, of course, with the deadline to get down to 53 players arriving Saturday at 4 p.m. MT. The Broncos will start the clock for the regular season sooner than most teams because they're playing in the league's kickoff game Sept. 5, and so the team will likely make the majority of their cuts this Friday -- the day after the preseason finale against Arizona -- because they will practice on the weekend in preparation for the opener against Baltimore.

Sunday's cuts put the Broncos roster at 77 players, including center J.D. Walton, who is on the physically unable to perform list. Walton, who had ankle surgery before training camp, is expected to be ready by late October or early November.

The Broncos can designate only one player to return from injured reserve when the cut goes to 53 players, and they have at least two candidates in Walton and linebacker Stewart Bradley (wrist surgery) to go with Chris Kuper, who is still trying to return from offseason ankle surgery and has been limited since returning to the practice field. Kuper was not in uniform for Saturday night's game against the Rams.

Among Sunday's decisions, the release of wide receiver Greg Orton was notable given he was pushing for the fifth receiver spot. He faced an uphill climb, with Andre Caldwell having worked so much with the starters as the No. 4 receiver, both in the slot and on the outside, and rookie Tavarres King having shown more athleticism with the ability to play in the slot or outside as well as on special teams. Undrafted rookie Lamaar Thomas has also caught the eye of the Broncos' coaches and is a quality candidate for the practice squad.

Orton's ill-timed ankle injury didn't help his cause. The Broncos formally waived him injured Sunday, meaning he'll have to clear waivers before moving to injured reserve, but the Broncos are expected to reach an injury settlement with him in the coming days.

Of the 11 players cut, seven did not play against the Rams, so the Broncos' DNP list provided plenty of hints about who would not make the cut.

To that end, Jacob Tamme's return to the field from a thigh injury that cost him several practices made tight end Deangelo Peterson, a late signee after camp opened, an extra player at the position and he was released. Tight end Joel Dreessen, who is returning from knee surgery, is expected to be ready for the opener.

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Quincy McDuffie flashed some special-teams ability but suffered two hamstring injuries that affected his ability to stay on the field and state his case. McDuffie was also waived/injured. Other players released were wide receiver Kemonte' Bateman, cornerback Mario Butler, tackle Manase Foketi, quarterback Ryan Katz, linebacker Uona Kaveinga, cornerback Nigel Malone, guard/center Quentin Saulsberry and defensive end Lanston Tanyi.

Saulsberry had a troubled time with the Broncos, with a suspension last season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs while he was on the practice squad to go with an offseason drunken-driving arrest. Saulsberry served three games of a four-game suspension, and would have to sit out one more game if he were to sign with anyone for the active roster or practice squad.