Denver Broncos: Zac Dysert

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A decision over whether Peyton Manning will, or won't, play quarterback in the 2015 would affect most people who punch the clock day-to-day in the Broncos' suburban Denver complex.

But probably nobody would be more affected than the guy whose locker is next to Manning's -- backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. Since Manning was signed before the 2012 season, Osweiler has been his backup.

A second-round pick in the draft that same year, Osweiler spends more time with Manning than virtually anyone else in the building and Osweiler doesn't know what Manning has planned.

"I have no idea," Osweiler said. "None. I fully expect when Peyton is ready to address it he will. I've been fortunate to be in my situation and will continue to work as hard as I can."

Osweiler has learned at Manning's side, his coaches say he's progressed in an offense that was not built for him, but for a future Hall of Famer who may have the best football recall of any player who has ever lined up behind center.

He's even run the starting offense in practice from time to time. He just hasn't played very much in the last three seasons.

His grand total is 30 pass attempts -- just 10 of those this season -- to go with one touchdown, a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Virgil Green in this year's regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders. Overall he has, at times, shown a top-shelf arm to go with quality mobility, but he has lacked a pocket awareness at times when he has played, often holding the ball a little too long.

But the Broncos feel some of that may be his desire to try to make something happen in the small sample size worth of snaps he has gotten to this point, that it's hard to play with patience when you have waited so long to play. Still, Osweiler said after he takes some down time, he won't adjust his offseason preparation according to whatever Manning decides to do.

"Ever since I've been here I've always taken the approach if you're prepared you don't have to get prepared. I've always prepared every single week, training camp, every single spring, like I was going to be the guy playing. I just went about my business and if my number got called I was ready."

Tuesday Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway addressed his confidence in the Broncos' current depth chart at quarterback with Osweiler and Zac Dysert, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2013.

"We're excited about both of those guys, Zac and Brock," Elway said. "They worked their tail off and have done a heck of a job, so they've made progress, especially Brock has made that progress that you would hope he would make. What's difficult is he hasn't gotten a lot of playing time. When that time comes, you know we'll see where he is and the training that he's gotten up to this point is second to none. (Offensive coordinator) Adam (Gase) and (quarterbacks coach) Greg Knapp have done a great job training Bock and Zac, so we'll see where that is when we get there."

Elway said he told Manning Monday, when the two met in Elway's office, to take "five-six weeks" to make his decision about next season. Elway also added he believed Manning would be back and that he and the Broncos wanted Manning back.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Zac Dysert, a seventh-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 2013 and currently on the team’s practice squad, left the team Monday morning after his mother was killed in an auto accident in Ada, Ohio.

“He got that phone call, obviously [he’s] very distraught,’’ Broncos coach John Fox said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him, obviously he’s emotional right now. He’s going to head back to Ohio to be with his family.’’

Carla Dysert, 56, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a report by the Allen County Sheriff's Office. A driver of a Mazda lost control of his car on Ohio State Route 81 and crossed the center line and into the path of Carla Dysert's Buick SUV.

The Allen County Sheriff's Office reported the driver of the Mazda was injured and transported to a nearby hospital.

Zac Dysert was selected by the Broncos 234th overall in the 2013 draft after finishing his career at Miami (Ohio) University. Dysert spent his rookie season on Broncos’ 53-man roster but did not play.

This season he was released as training camp drew to a close and has spent the year on the team’s practice squad.

Some pre-game Broncos snacks

November, 2, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some pre-game Denver Broncos nuggets from Gillette Stadium:
  • Stadium workers spent about just more than an hour clearing the snow off the playing field Sunday. They used tractors, a collection of workers with shovels and even a worker or four manning a leaf blower to push some of the larger snow pockets off the FieldTurf surface.
  • While there have been many times early arrivals were greeted to a tarp covering the playing field inside Gillette, that was not case Sunday. There was no tarp covering the field, though forecasts Friday and Saturday said snow was a possibility. Then again, a home-field advantage is a home-field advantage and most teams would be looking to slow down the Broncos' offense.
  • Three hours before kickoff and one Broncos player was going through the paces. Rain or shine or snow, quarterback Zac Dysert always does his game-day work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. Knapp routinely puts Dysert through a series of scenarios in terms of coverages. Dysert, as is usually the case, was the only practice squad player who made the trip.
  • The expectation is that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will use a variety of defensive personnel, especially on the defensive line, to try to slow down the Broncos’ offense. Look for the Broncos, when they step up the pace, to try to limit the Patriots' ability to substitute at times.
  • With one side of Gillette Stadium being open, it’s far more difficult to throw the ball into the open side. The Broncos, like many who play here on less-than-favorable days, may be in a position to call the game different on offense as they play into the open side as opposed to when the offense is moving away from the open side. The Broncos need a big day from running backs Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson and perhaps even the No. 3, C.J. Anderson.

Observation Deck: Denver Broncos

August, 17, 2014

Sure, it’s preseason, and sure it’s like football base jumping to make too many lasting judgments on what happens in August games, but the Denver Broncos have gone toe-to-toe in back-to-back weeks with NFC powerhouses and fared like a Super Bowl hopeful should.

With starters against starters, the 2s against the 2s and the 3s against the 3s, the Broncos have defeated the Seattle Seahawks and then simply overpowered the San Francisco 49ers 34-0 on Sunday in Levi’s Stadium. The Broncos' top two quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, were a combined 22-for-27 passing for 207 yards and two touchdowns against the 49ers.

Here are some other thoughts on the Broncos’ second preseason game:

  • More than the obvious efficiency Manning has shown thus far is the willingness of offensive coordinator Adam Gase to work on a few things without revealing some of the new wrinkles in the playbook. In the Broncos' two preseason games, Gase has run the starters through some power looks to go with their bread-and-butter, three-wide receiver packages. Sunday, Gase flashed some two tight-end looks, including one with Julius Thomas and running back Ronnie Hillman bracketing Manning in the backfield. The Broncos also emptied out the backfield at times and later showed a four-wide receiver set. Late in the third quarter, Gase even put No. 3 quarterback Zac Dysert in a pistol set. They have put a lot out there for defensive coordinators to study without really showing the details of what’s to come.
  • The Broncos starting offensive line has performed well against two of the league’s most physical defenses; both the Seahawks and the 49ers finished in the league’s top five last season. Manning has not been sacked in four possessions and has thrown just five incompletions. Orlando Franklin continues to settle in at left guard, and the Broncos have kept Manning clean in the pocket and carved out some room in the running game.
  • As Hillman has continued to reconstruct his role in the offense after losing the starting job and dropping far enough down the depth chart to be a gameday inactive four times in the regular season and all three playoff games, one of the big items on his to-do list was to be more decisive with the ball in his hands. Sunday, Hillman showed that one-cut quickness on a selection of inside runs. On a 6-yard reception in second quarter, Hillman caught the ball between the hashmarks and turned immediately up the field. Hillman hasn’t yet broken off the big run the Broncos keep hoping to see, but if he continues to maintain that north-south work, he’ll keep getting some carries.
  • The Broncos might have to take a look at adding a linebacker in the coming days. On Tuesday, Danny Trevathan suffered a fracture on the top of his tibia that will keep him out six to eight weeks. On Sunday, rookie Lamin Barrow suffered a lower right leg injury. With Trevathan’s injury, Barrow was already working in one of the linebacker spots in the starting nickel at times and has been Nate Irving’s backup at middle linebacker. Barrow will be evaluated more, including an MRI, on Monday.
  • Odds and ends: The play of the day might have been rookie running back Juwan Thompson catching a ball off of his shoe-tops and then barreling over a 49ers safety to take the ball to the 49ers 1-yard line. … Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer caught a touchdown pass from Osweiler. … Cornerback Kayvon Webster (ankle) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (thigh) were held out.

Broncos Camp Report: Day 10

August, 2, 2014
DENVER -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Denver Broncos training camp:

  • The Broncos went through 43 plays -- penalties included -- in the scrimmage portion of Saturday’s work at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Though the defense, as is training camp norm, has been a little ahead of the offense in practices over the past week or so, Saturday was solidly a day for the offense. The three quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert -- were a combined 17-of-21 passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Manning, against the team’s No. 2 defense, was 7-of-10 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Both sides kept things pretty vanilla throughout, but in terms of tempo, the first-, second- and third-team offenses worked efficiently out of the no-huddle look.
  • With the progression of Julius Thomas from two injury-marred seasons to Pro Bowl tight end this past season, Jacob Tamme saw his snap count on offense take a significant dip last season. After a 52-catch season in 2012 when Thomas played in just four games and did not have a catch, Tamme had 264 snaps on offense last season -- 21.9 percent of the team’s snaps. But Saturday Tamme once again showed his value in that break-the-glass-in-case-of-emergency sort of way. With Thomas having been given the day off because of a thigh bruise, Tamme worked at tight end with the starters and finished out the first drive with a diving one-handed catch for a 17-yard touchdown. Tamme, who is also one of the best special teams players on the roster, came within inches of another touchdown catch on the second drive. "Jacob is always there when you need him," Manning said.
  • Manning and the offensive starters worked against the Broncos’ No. 2 defense, so that left Osweiler to have at it against the Broncos' starting defense. Though linebacker Von Miller, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson were held out of the scrimmage, Osweiler faced more pressure in the pass rush than the other two quarterbacks did -- Danny Trevathan had what was called a sack (quarterbacks were not hit) and the second-team offense had five called runs in its 11 plays of work to go with two Osweiler scrambles. However Osweiler was 3-of-3 for 33 yards and a touchdown. Osweiler had a 22-yard completion to former Arizona State teammate Gerell Robinson on a third-and-2 and later had a 2-yard shovel pass to Robinson for a score. "Brock’s had a good camp," Manning said. "He’s just improved every single year that he’s been here and I thought he had a really good day as well."
  • The running back rotation Saturday showed where things are as the first preseason game approaches, Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman worked with the No. 1 offense, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson worked with the second-team offense, and Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay split the carries with the third-team offense. Thompson’s size (225 pounds) and his ability in pass protection and as a receiver have pushed him up the depth chart. Anderson continues to show that dropping almost 20 pounds between minicamp and the start of training camp was a wise move that likely saved him a quality shot at a roster spot, because he was on wobbly ground with the team's decision-makers after the June minicamp.
  • In what was the most extensive live tackling the Broncos have done so far in camp, there were some signs of rust. Hillman broke a tackle on a 10-yard catch-and-run on the team's first drive, rookie wide receiver Bennie Fowler later broke a tackle on a 9-yard gain and the starting defense surrendered a 16-yard run to Anderson and the second-team offense. Defensive end Derek Wolfe said; "obviously we need to work on out tackling." And defensive tackle Terrance Knightson said "We're going against the best offense in the game, so we'll be ready for anybody."
  • Odds and ends: The Broncos' kickers kicked extra-point attempts from the 15-yard line, an experiment in place league-wide for the Hall of Fame game and the first two weeks of the preseason ... Julius Thomas was held out of the scrimmage with a thigh bruise suffered in Friday’s practice, but the injury wasn’t considered serious and following the workout Thomas said; "I’m good." ... There were 38,620 fans on hand for the scrimmage. With the 9,207 who turned out Wednesday in a downpour and 21,993 for a practice last Sunday, 69,820 people turned out for the team’s three stadium practices combined. Fans could not attend practices at the Broncos’ complex during this training camp because of construction at the facility.

Countdown to camp: Quarterbacks

July, 14, 2014
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In just more than a week, the Denver Broncos players will report to training camp to formally begin an arduous déjà vu trek from the most painful of lost football opportunities through a new season.

Last season the Broncos turned the crushing disappointment of a double-overtime playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens to close out the 2012 season into a Super Bowl trip this past February. This time they have tried to excavate themselves from a 35-point Super Bowl loss and emerged from free agency and the draft in the on-paper discussion about title contenders.

“Every guy on this team knows what kind of team we have," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “Everybody knows what it will take to get where we want to go. If they don’t, they won’t be here."

So, now the plan becomes action. And over the next week we’ll take a position-by-position look at where things stand with the team.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesThere's little doubt who'll be directing the Broncos offense this season, but the quarterbacks behind Peyton Manning are the real question marks.
Today: Quarterbacks.

How many coming to camp: 4

How many will the Broncos keep: In two of the previous three years of the John Elway/John Fox regime, the Broncos have had three quarterbacks on the opening-week roster -- 2011 and 2013.

Last season they kept rookie Zac Dysert on the roster for the entire season as well as the playoffs. Dysert, a seventh-round pick in in the 2013 draft, spent the season as what quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp calls "a young 'un" in the room with Peyton Manning. And in the end, if the Broncos saw enough from Dysert last season -- even through a pile of injuries on defense that saw five starters eventually go to injured reserve -- to keep him on the roster all year, it would seem to take a rather large change of heart this time around for the team not to keep three passers once again.

Elway, after all, has made preparing for the team's eventual life after Manning a priority on the depth chart.

However, because of players coming back from injury or switching positions, there will be a lure to keep an extra offensive lineman or defensive lineman and a return specialist this time around. If that is indeed the case, that roster spot may have to come from the luxury that is a No. 3 quarterback.

The guy to watch: Manning is the unquestioned alpha dog in the quarterbacks’ meeting room and the locker room overall. Monitoring his health over the course of the season, including arm strength, will mirror this team’s performance for the most part.

But the guy to keep a particular eye on is No. 2 quarterback Brock Osweiler. Because it’s time, in his third season, for Osweiler to repeatedly show proficiency and efficiency running the team’s offense in both practice and any gameday snaps he might get.

The Broncos like his work, his power arm, his approach and his confidence in the huddle as he has continued to show progress at almost every turn. Now it’s time for Osweiler to show the skills he does in some of the two-minute work he gets in practice on a more consistent basis. It's time for him to look more, well, ready. It will take a rather conflicted mix of patience and aggressiveness for him to keep his edge as he continues to wait for his turn, but that's exactly the line he must walk for a team that wants all its "what ifs" covered in a potential Super Bowl run.

Break it down: Even after hanging a single-season record 606 points on opposing defenses last season, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase did not go quietly into the good night of an offseason status quo.

No, the Broncos tweaked the playbook plenty as they look to be more efficient running the ball, even as they keep their foot to the floor in the passing game. Minicamp practices showed Gase has no intention of reeling things in.

They do, however, need to protect Manning better than they did in '13. He was sacked just 18 times last season, but while his anticipation and knowledge of defenses will always keep the sack totals down, the Broncos have to better limit the premium hits on Manning.

Those are the kind that force him to wear ankle braces, as he did last season, after several of those premium hits from Jacksonville and Indianapolis -- the kind that come when the Broncos can't hold the blind-side edge, but especially when they allow a rusher to warp the pocket in the middle of the field. The post-surgical Manning has a more lower-body-driven throwing motion and he needs slightly more room to step into the throw than he did before his spinal fusion. That makes those precious yards in front of Manning in the pocket the most prized real estate for players on both sides of the ball.

And those protection schemes will get a long look in training camp as the Broncos look to settle in on the lineup in front of Manning.
With the NFL’s scouting combine just around the corner and free agency set to follow on March 10, today marks the start of a position-a-day look at where the Denver Broncos stand at each spot on the depth chart, the salary-cap commitments at that spot and where their needs are greatest.

Today: Quarterbacks

Tomorrow: Running backs

When it comes to the position he played at a Hall-of-Fame level during his NFL career, Broncos football boss John Elway takes a page from Ron Wolf’s team-building book when it comes stacking a depth chart at quarterback in his role as a team executive. When Wolf was the Green Bay Packers’ general manager and had a future Hall of Famer at quarterback in Brett Favre, Wolfe used at least a second-day pick in the draft on a quarterback seven times in an eight-year span.

So, with Peyton Manning set to turn 38 on March 24 at the top of the depth chart -- coming off his fifth MVP season as well as single-season NFL records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477) this past season -- Elway will still give at least some consideration to the position in this draft. Brock Osweiler, a second-round pick in 2012, is the backup/starter in waiting, while Zac Dysert, a seventh-round pick in 2013, is the No. 3.

The Alpha: It’s Manning, both at the position as well as on the roster. It’s not always easy to be Manning’s teammate because of the expectations that come from him as well as those from the outside for any team he is on. Manning pushes hard, is constantly grinding away and sets the tone for what goes on in the huddle. The payoff is playing with a future Hall of Famer who always has his team in the Super Bowl hunt.

His personal challenge will be, as the age/experience gap continues to grow with many of his teammates, to find a way to relate to those around him to remain an effective leader for the Broncos.

Salary Cap: Manning’s $17.5 million figure for 2014 is the highest on the team or roughly 13.8 percent of the Broncos’ salary-cap total, if the cap for 2014 comes in at $126.3 million per team as many in the league expect. However, with Osweiler ($959,094 cap figure for ’14) and Dysert ($507,050) still on their rookie deals, quarterbacks likely will take up about 15 percent of the team’s total.

Pending free agents: All three quarterbacks on the roster have multiple years remaining on their deals. Manning is under contract through 2016 with his 2014 salary guaranteed. Osweiler is under contract through 2015 and Dysert through 2016.

Staying put: All three will go through offseason workouts and into training camp. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase is expected to make some tweaks in the offense, especially in the run game, that will adjust some of things the quarterbacks will learn. The only question will be whether or not they want Dysert to have a few more of the available snaps after Manning and Osweiler or if they want to add a fourth quarterback for training camp.

What they like/want: Manning will have a physical in the coming weeks to check his spinal fusion as well as the areas just above and just below the fusion. Doctors have routinely said the fusion itself is strong and sturdy and usually not a concern, but the areas immediately above the fusion have to be monitored for any degeneration.

Manning has said on several occasions he intends to return because "I still enjoy the preparation'' and he passed his exit physical with the team and immediately played golf in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am the day after that exit physical, which would seem to indicate he isn’t having any back/neck issues.

Osweiler, at 6 feet 8, is the tall, big-armed pocket passer Elway likes at the spot. Elway has praised Osweiler's progress and Broncos players say Osweiler commands the huddle when given the opportunity. And Dysert, like any No. 3, has to make progress with a limited amount of snaps.

Need index (1 is low priority, 5 the highest): 1

Elway has said, “We will always look at the quarterbacks in every draft’’ and "scout them hard.’’

Bottom line: It is the most important position on a team’s roster, so it is illogical not to consistently expend the draft capital to continue to have depth at the postition. Many teams have been derailed because decision-makers simply decided not to do what was necessary behind the starting quarterback on the depth chart because they wanted to fill some short-term need elsewhere on the roster.

So, Osweiler is that investment with two years already in at the University of Manning and he’s still only 23 -- he won’t turn 24 until November. Dysert, too, showed enough to have a spot on the 53-man roster for a Super Bowl team.

In the end, the Broncos will look at the quarterbacks in this draft and while it isn’t at the top, or even the middle of the list, they’d still pick one if they like him enough and would lean toward keeping three on the 53-man roster in '14, just as they did this past season.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Players with more than one year's worth of experience in the league have long told rookies they have not seen anything quite like postseason football no matter where those first-year players had been the big men on campus.

And now the Denver Broncos first-year players will get to see for themselves Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, some of them in prominent roles.

So, with that in mind here's a playoff look at the Broncos' rookie class:

Running back Montee Ball: When Ball lost a fumble in New England on Nov. 24 -- his third lost fumble of the season to that point -- there was some concern he wouldn't be trustworthy enough to do the job the Broncos hoped he could. The Broncos envisioned Ball spelling Knowshon Moreno and being a front-line option when the Broncos needed him to be. And since that last fumble, he has risen to the task. He has not lost a fumble since and finished the regular season with 559 yards on his 120 carries -- a team-best 4.7 yards per carry among the running backs. Ball also had his three best outings of the season over the season's final five games, including his first career 100-yard effort -- 117 yards in the Dec. 1 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He's also shown quality work in the passing game as a receiver and improved at least some in pass protection. It means he will be a big part of the rotation in the postseason if things go the way the Broncos want.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert finished the regular season having been a game day inactive in every game, but he's benefitted from plenty of extra work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. And now he gets to see playoff preparation up close with one of the best to ever play the position in the same meeting room. The postseason sessions with Peyton Manning will be yet another valuable reference point for Dysert as he moves forward in his career.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Ball's increased efforts in ball security, as well as Ronnie Hillman's rebound, have limited Anderson's playing time down the stretch. The Broncos went with Hillman as the third running back on game day over the season's final few weeks. Anderson was a game day inactive in four of the final five games and did not get a carry after the Broncos' Nov. 24 loss to the Patriots. If he's going to crack the postseason rotation, he's going to either need the Broncos to keep four backs on the game day roster -- and that's not likely -- or work his way past Hillman in practice at some point.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: When Kevin Vickerson went to injured reserve (hip) following the loss to the Patriots, Williams was forced into far more playing time and he has shown himself to be ready for the increased workload. After not playing more than 19 snaps in any of the Broncos' first 10 games, and the 19 snaps came in Week 2 and Week 7, he has played at least 32 snaps in four of the final six games. He also posted his first two career sacks over the final three weeks and figures prominently in the defensie line rotation. He had five tackles in back-to-back games against the Chargers and Texans in December, including five solo tackles against the Texans. The Broncos need him to be disruptive and active in the middle to force some interior double teams and free up some of the team's rushers on the edge.

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: The last time Webster faced the Chargers, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers made it a point to harass the rookie as much as possible, repeatedly targeting Webster in coverage. Webster also fractured his right thumb in the game and did not play in the Broncos' final two games following surgery. Webster has practiced for the past two weeks with a cast on his hand and looks ready to play. With Champ Bailey back in the lineup and playing in the team's nickel package (five defensive backs), Webster will be looking at mostly special teams work as well as some duty in some of the Broncos' specialty looks on defense, including some snaps in the dime (six defensive backs) or a seven-defensive back look the team often uses in long-yardage situations. Webster showed both his toughness and resiliency in how he handled the injury and the way Rivers had targeted him. The Broncos believe he can contribute in a postseason setting.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work toward keeping themselves in the plan moving forward. 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, a schedule that included extra work after Monday's practice when all of the other Broncos had already left the field.

Broncos Rookie Report: Week 15

December, 18, 2013
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.

Broncos Rookie Report: Week 13

December, 4, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Injuries, most notably to defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who went on injured reserve last week after dislocating his right hip against the New England Patriots, as well as a bone bruise to Knowshon Moreno’s right ankle, have pushed some of the Broncos' first-year players into more prominent roles.

And the Broncos are asking all involved to grow up quickly as they prepare for the stretch drive.

So, with that in mind here’s a weekly look at the Broncos’ rookie class:

Running back Montee Ball: With Moreno hurting a bit, Ball was pushed into what was a two-man rotation in the backfield in the win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The result was 13 carries for 117 yards for Ball. It was his first career 100-yard rushing game and the total included a career-best 45-yard run with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter. And while the Broncos were certainly happy with that jaunt, the kind of run from Ball they’ve really wanted to see came on a 28-yard effort with 1:46 to play in the game from the Broncos 13-yard line. That run enabled the Broncos to close things out -- Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning took a knee on the next three plays to end the game -- and is the kind of late-game role they’ve wanted for Ball if he can consistently hang on to the football. In all he played 24 snaps on offense against the Chiefs to go with three on special teams. The Broncos would like to have that kind of participation from him in the weeks ahead.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was a game-day inactive against the Chiefs. But this week, because of his abilities as a runner as well as a passer – he was the first FBS player to throw for 500 yards and rush for at least 100 yards in the same game as a senior at Miami of Ohio -- Dysert could help the Broncos defense get a look at a scrambler in practice. Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick rushed for 54 yards in the Titans' loss to Indianapolis last Sunday while the Broncos surrendered 46 yards rushing to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

Running back C.J. Anderson: After battling his way into some playing time, Anderson was a game-day inactive against the Chiefs and Ronnie Hillman was instead the third running back in uniform. Hillman, however, did not get a snap on offense, but did play four plays on special teams. Anderson was moved down the depth chart after playing 10 snaps on offense in the loss to the Patriots. He had a fumble, that he recovered, and a dropped pass in those 10 snaps. At the moment, it looks to be largely a two-man show at running back in the offense, but Anderson’s only way back for at least the opportunity for some playing time will be to pick up the pace during the week. Unless the Broncos have a change in strategy when they choose their game-day inactives, he and Hillman are now fighting for that No. 3 position.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: The time is now for Williams. Vickerson’s injury moves the rookie into the rotation in the defensive front and the Broncos will need him to be up to the task. After not playing more than 19 snaps on defense in any of the Broncos’ first 10 games, Williams has now played 36 snaps against the Patriots – the game Vickerson was injured – to go with 22 snaps on defense this past Sunday against the Chiefs. Williams finished with one tackle. He will likely rotate with Mitch Unrein at Vickerson’s defensive tackle spot.

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: With Champ Bailey having played just 30 plays in his first game back in the lineup since Oct. 20, Webster played at times in the Broncos’ base, nickel and dime packages as he finished with 50 snaps overall on defense. It marked the second consecutive game, and the third time this season, Webster has played at least 50 plays on defense. He finished with three tackles. His snap count could dip slightly as Bailey plays more in the weeks ahead, but some of that may depend on how often the Broncos choose to play in the nickel and dime looks against opposing offenses. If the Broncos offense carves out a lead in the coming weeks that could force opposing offenses into catch-up mode and put the Broncos in some of their specialty looks, that include Webster, more and more.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work toward keeping themselves in the plan moving forward. 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.

Denver Broncos Rookie Report

November, 14, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the season moves beyond the halfway mark the Denver Broncos' rookie class has had limited impact overall so far.

But with a division race still in play and the teeth of the Broncos' schedule staring the team in the pace with two games against the Chiefs to go with a trip to New England sandwiched in between, the Broncos want some of their younger players to step forward.

And with that in mind here is a weekly look at the Broncos' rookie class:

Running back Montee Ball: With reliability being the top priority, Knowshon Moreno got most of the work in the Broncos' 28-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday with 41 plays on offense. By contrast Ball played 19 snaps overall, a total the included five carries for 20 yards. Ball had a 12-yard run in the Broncos' first possession of the second half, tied for his second-longest run of the season. Ball did not get a carry in the first half, but when the Broncos opened the second half in a two tight end look, Ball got some work with that group. The Broncos would like to work him in a little more, but he has to be better in the passing game, including as a receiver and in pass protection.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert got some bonus work in practice this week when Peyton Manning sat out Wednesday's practice. Dysert got some of the snaps that Brock Osweiler would normally take, but Osweiler worked with the starters with Manning having taken the day off. The Broncos continue to like Dysert's progress in his work with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp, especially the time the two put in several hours before each game.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson was in uniform for Sunday's game, but did not get any snaps on offense. The Broncos ran the ball just 22 times, their second-lowest total of the season behind their 20 carries in the loss to the Colts, so after Moreno's and Ball's work in the rotation, there were no carries left for Anderson. Anderson played 12 snaps on special teams in the game.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: Williams was a game day inactive for the third time in the last six games Sunday. The first-round pick has been caught in the squeeze by the Broncos' desire to have plenty of defensive backs in uniform – the Broncos had nine defensive backs in uniform against the Chargers and played them all on defense at some point in the game. Jack Del Rio is still confident Williams will find his way into the rotation up front as the Broncos move forward this season. But at the moment he finds himself behind Kevin Vickerson, Terrance Knighton and Mitch Unrein on the interior. As Del Rio put it this week; “He's going to help us, he's going to be a very good player I have no doubts about that.''

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: Webster continues to lead the way in playing time for the team's Class of '13. The Broncos used a variety of combinations in the secondary against the Chargers, including various nickel packages for 42 defensive snaps in the game. In all Webster played 45 snaps on defense in the win to go with 17 snaps on special teams. Defensively Webster finished with five tackles and knocked away one pass.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work toward keeping themselves in the plan moving forward. Painter has continued to work with Alex Gibbs, including some extra on-field time on Monday's with the other practice squad players, and projects to work his way into some kind of reserve role by next summer's training camp if he keeps improving at his current pace.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos reached the halfway point of their season at 7-1, with a bye to re-charge for what they hope will be a second-half surge deep into the postseason. But then the team received the news this past weekend head coach John Fox needed to undergo surgery to replace a valve in his heart.

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will be the interim head coach until Fox's return, but that return may not come until the regular season is complete. What that means is, as many of the Broncos' veterans players have said since Fox's surgery Monday morning, the Broncos are going to need everybody to do their part, without exception moving forward.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesRookie running back Montee Ball has played in eight games for the Broncos, rushing for 177 yards and one touchdown.
"That means everybody," said cornerback Chris Harris. "Everybody has to do everything they can right now, we all want to do right for Coach Fox."

So, with that in mind, here's the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class is doing and what will be expected from it in the season's second half:

Running back Montee Ball: The Broncos have seen what they think are glimmers of the light going on for Ball. The team would like to establish a little more in the run game in the season's second half when the weather turns a bit, but Ball has to do his part to be in that mix. He played 120 snaps on offense in the season's first half with 55 of those being rushing attempts. But he simply can't make the kind of mistakes in pass protection he made earlier this season and cannot put the ball on the ground any more. He had two lost fumbles in the season's first half. The Broncos want him to be the closer late in games, but they will have to trust he's going to keep the ball to get those carries.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Got a little more work in practice during the two workouts the Broncos had in the bye week because Peyton Manning did not throw on either of those days. The Broncos like what they've seen, in terms of his work ethic and ability to keep up in the classroom. He was a game-day inactive in each of the first eight games and figures to be through the second half as well.

Running back C.J. Anderson: The Broncos have made it pretty clear they intend to keep just three running backs in the game-day lineup. That means one of the four on the roster overall will likely be in street clothes on game-day each week. Anderson was in the lineup in place of Ronnie Hillman in the Broncos' win against the Redskins just before the bye. To keep that spot, Anderson is going to have to make it happen during the week with inspired work in practice. Because eventually, the Broncos hope, it's going to click with Hillman, but the Broncos want to see a little more grit from him, a little more nose-to-the-grindstone in his approach and more accountability in how he takes care of the football. So, they like Anderson's work in the run game and think he can add something, but he's got to keep forcing them to keep him in the mix with what he does during the week.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: The Broncos want, and expect, more from Williams in the season's second half. He has found the transition a little tougher than perhaps he expected against far stronger and more savvy interior players in the offensive line in the NFL than he faced in college. He has flashed some quality up-field skills at times, but has also been a gameday inactive twice this season. Overall he has played 65 snaps on defense -- 13 percent of the snaps -- and had not played more than 19 plays on defense in any game this season. He has the power and quickness to get off blocks, it's now a matter of him getting his hands in the right spots to move the blocker and play with more confidence that he belongs.

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: He's been the cornerstone of the Class of '13 so far. Webster plays aggressively in man-to-man situations, has the confidence to bounce back from mistakes, has tackled well and fit quickly on special teams. That's all you can ask. The Broncos have felt good enough about his play to let him fend for himself in man coverage against some front-line receivers, and he has routinely responded. He's played 167 snaps on defense (34 percent of the team's plays on defense) to go with 124 special teams snaps as well (53 percent). He has an interception to go with five passes defensed. The Broncos will use him plenty in the season's second half, even if Champ Bailey returns to full speed.

Practice squad: Tackle Vinston Painter, a sixth-round pick, who was waived in the final cutdown, and defensive end John Youboty, an undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Broncos, continue to work toward keeping themselves in the plan moving forward. Painter has benefitted from working plenty of extra time with Alex Gibbs and projects to work his way into some kind of reserve role by next summer's training camp if he keeps improving at his current pace.

Broncos Rookie Report

October, 29, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With a pile of injuries, some quality play of their own, as well as some mishaps by those in front of them on the depth chart, the Broncos’ rookie class has pushed for a little more playing time of late.

Certainly that was the case for running back C.J. Anderson, who finally got to suit up on game day for the first time this season as Anderson was in the lineup in Sunday’s win over the Washington Redskins. 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: With Ronnie Hillman having been a game day inactive against the Redskins in the wake of his lost fumble in the closing minutes of the loss to Indianapolis, Ball was the No. 2 back behind Knowshon Moreno Sunday. Ball finished with 11 carries to go with his first NFL touchdown -- a 4-yard run with 7 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter. In all he played 30 snaps on offense, just behind Moreno’s 37 snaps. Ball also added three plays on special teams. But with the success the Broncos had running the ball in the win, they figure to keep the same rotation when they come out of the bye week.

Quarterback Zac Dysert: Dysert was the No. 3 quarterback against Washington, so ended up being one of the Broncos’ seven game day inactives against the Redskins. But Dysert figures to get some work this week as the Broncos will go through two practices during their bye week -- Tuesday and Wednesday. Peyton Manning is not expected to participate in the on-field workouts, so that will leave just Brock Osweiler and Dysert to work in the offense. It will be a good opportunity for Dysert to work through some of the playbook.

Running back C.J. Anderson: Anderson performed well enough in practice to convince the coaches he was ready to go when they were set to make a move on the depth chart at the position. So when they sent Hillman down, Anderson was moved up. In the end Anderson got 10 snaps on offense against the Redskins, a total that included four carries for 22 yards. Anderson had an 11-yard carry in the fourth quarter and overall showed good power and good balance in the middle of the field, something the Broncos had been looking for in the run game. His task now will be to stay focused and maintain the practice performance that got him in the lineup. He also played 15 snaps on special teams against the Redskins.

Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: With the Broncos set to use a 3-4 look on defense plenty against Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III in the team’s read option attack, that meant there were just three defensive linemen in the lineup much of the time. So, Williams was a game day inactive for the second consecutive game against a run team. Williams sits behind Mitch Unrein and Malik Jackson in the rotation after the starters. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said last week he thought Williams was making progress, offering; “He’s actually, I think, over the last three weeks really taken significant strides … I think he’s worked extremely hard out here on the practice field. I think he has made improvement and I think, as we go through this season, he’ll have an impact for us.’’

Cornerback Kayvon Webster: Webster played in all of the defensive personnel groupings against the Redskins as Champ Bailey missed his sixth game of the season with a foot injury. Webster continues to show confidence in man coverage as well as the ability to move forward and make plays at the line of scrimmage in the run game. In all Webster played 42 snaps on defense, as he finished with two tackles. He also played 15 snaps on special teams. He briefly left the game after getting caught at the bottom of the pile on a play, but returned to the field one snap later.

Practice squad: After Tavarres King was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers, 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. King was a game day inactive for the Panthers last week.

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.