<
>

Broncos' rookie class going to force some roster decisions

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Because of who he is, when he was picked and the position he plays, there is no question Paxton Lynch has been the Broncos’ most talked-about rookie.

When the defending Super Bowl champion tries to squeeze its rookie class into its roster later this summer, Lynch will make the cut but several other first-year players have a shot at far more playing time.

“I like our young guys,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “We want to coach them up, get them ready to play so they can be in a position to help us.’’

Certainly Lynch still could change the dynamic at quarterback later, but as the Broncos closed out their offseason program this week, it was clear Lynch had plenty of ground to make up to get to the level Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian have performed at on the practice field.

But after working through their on-field work, players such as running back Devontae Booker, safety Justin Simmons, fullback Andy Janovich, defensive lineman Adam Gotsis and punter Riley Dixon had the look of rookies who will find themselves in action when the regular season begins.

Start with Booker, who had knee surgery this past season and wasn’t quite at full speed. But he participated more as the offseason wore on, especially in the Broncos’ mandatory minicamp two weeks ago and the last set of OTAs this past week.

“He’s doing really well, he’s almost a full participant,’’ Kubiak said. “We just try to keep him away from piles and stuff, but really he’s pretty much doing everything.’’

“He comes to work,’’ running back C.J. Anderson said. “He’s shown us already, he comes to work, ready to go.’’

Booker finds himself at one of the most crowded spots on the roster, but showed plenty of acumen as a receiver out of the backfield in practice as well as good vision when he ran with the ball. His ability as a receiver gives him a shot to play immediately in longer down-and-distance situations.

Gotsis tore an ACL last season as a senior at Georgia Tech, but he too is on track to be ready for training camp. He did not take part in any of the team drills in the offseason program, but he’s already penciled into the rotation in the defensive line.

The Broncos like his potential and his knee is healing on schedule.

“I think he’s very close and ready to go,’’ Kubiak said. “He’s probably one of those guys that when we go back to work it will be a pattern to how we work him. He should be ready to go.”

Because of Gotsis’ power at the point of attack and his movement skills, the Broncos already project him in the lineup in some fashion.

And Simmons, who was the Broncos’ third-round pick, repeatedly has caught the coaches’ collective eye by always being where the action is. He forced plenty of turnovers in the team’s on-field work in recent weeks and, because of that, could have the same kind of role in some of the Broncos’ coverage packages that former safety David Bruton Jr. did.

“He made quite a few plays,’’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “We chart every day how many plays they make, what they do well and what they do wrong. He’s in the plus territory, so he’s doing well.’’

Janovich, who was the team’s sixth-round pick, has shown a proficiency in special teams work, something that is the fast track to playing time for any rookie. The Broncos also are intent on increasing their usage of a two-back look on offense.

Juwan Thompson has played at fullback as well, but Thompson is more of a hybrid back while Janovich is the only true fullback on the current roster.

That’s all to go with the rookie who is front-and-center in a winner-take-all competition to be a starter in punter Riley Dixon. The Broncos have made no secret either Dixon, who was the team’s seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, or Britton Colquitt will be the team’s punter, and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis already has called it a “real neck-and-neck competition.’’

“Every year you know some of those guys have to be ready to compete,’’ cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “I think this group has guys ready and we’ll see that in camp.’’