Is The 'Cheese' Blocking Us Up?

Solid stuff, Styg!!! -- TSG

Forgive me my title, I could not resist.

It is time for a roster breakdown to commemorate the debate brought to light by Broncodude, namely:

Are Denver's young players being blocked by veterans who are not part of the solution?

A position by position breakdown is probably the best way to go about this.

Roster Status:  Jay Cutler, Patrick Ramsey, Darrel Hackney

Comments:  Not much needs to be said here, as Cutler is both our long and short term solution.  Ramsey is as even-keeled of a backup as you are going to find, and seems to have accepted what he is in a position to do for this team.  It should be noted that Hackney was promoted to the active roster at a time when several teams were having QB problems, which could be a sign that Denver doesn't want to lose him, since he didn't need to be activated in order to be eligible to play.  Rules regarding 3rd string QBs says they can suit up for the game even if they are on the practice squad.  One thing is for sure, and that is if a QB is to come into Shanahan's offense and make an impact, they need time and preparation, both reasons to not look for QB moves outside of the offseason or apocalyptic peril.

Outlook:  We can lose Cutler for a game.  Maybe two.  Beyond that, there is only a remote chance that a miracle story exists in either the person of Ramsey or Hackney.  

Roster Status:  FB-Kyle Johnson, Mike Bell, Cecil Sapp, Paul Smith
                   RB-Travis Henry, Selvin Young, Andre Hall

Comments:  A mix of experience and youth, our offensive backfield pulls a lot of double duty on STs.  The real question at this position is pretty much at RB, where we must ask "Is the Cheese blocking us up?"  His injuries have allowed plenty of opportunities for Young and Hall to show that they could be worth a shot, and they have certainly not dissapointed in limited action.  Selvin has shown all year that his head is in this game, and Hall showed a professional's ability to get over a bad play and get back to work in the TEN game.  Both are the intangible qualities that only playing time will ferret out.  With a possible suspension looming for Henry, Shanahan has a vested interest in finding out ahead of time what his options will be when that day comes, and he has certainly followed through on that train of thought.  Personally, I think Henry would have played in the last couple of games if it wasn't for the possibility of his suspension.  If so, it is strong evidence that Shanahan certainly has his priorities straight about who to start, and also that he is as interested in youth movement as anyone else.

Outlook:  When he comes back, Whether from a suspension or from his injury, Henry will have a roster spot with the Broncos.  If he isn't suspended, and he gets healthy he is a long term solution for Mike Shanahan's Broncos.  Fans may agree or disagree, but Shanahan will see it as nothing has changed.  If Henry is suspended Denver MUST address the position in the offseason, whether through draft, CFA, or FA.  All are viable solutions, but if they don't, the financial and moral fallout from Henry's suspension will leave a dark cloud over the Broncos when they find that they can't cut him because they have no depth at the position.  That said, I think Denver will handle this situation like a pro, and that both Selvin and Hall will be back next year competing with new guys to keep their jobs.

Roster Status:  Walker, Marshall, Stokely, Martinez, Jacobs, Brewster(PS), McDaniel(PS), Smith(IR)

Comments:  What an exciting position to look at for the Broncos.  Young, fast, strong, savvy, we've got it all.  The big issues here revolve around A)Walker's knee, B)Smith's retirement and C)Stokely's status next offseason.  Firstly, there are a few young unknowns in the pack.  Looking at them very briefly, we see Brewster and McDaniel on the practice squad, a 1st year player and a rookie repectively.  They came from small time programs where they were among the best players on the team, and like Martinez, McDaniel has kickoff and punt return background.  Jacobs isn't as young (5th year) and he only has one distinguishing characteristic:  he played with Ramsey in Washington.  Ho-hum.  They are nowhere near ready to contribute, but could be looked at as early as next year (Jacobs actually played agaist the Titans, recording no stats).  Moving on to A)Walker's Knee.  Anyone else have a nagging feeling about this injury of his?  Perhaps the most realistic thing to do would be to sit up and take notice of the fact that he has already beaten the long odds, by coming back to play after blowing out his knee.  But how much more can we expect?  Will it not be something which torments him from here on out?  Have we not seen his child-like brow furrowed with all too many lines of care since he came to us?  He is hardly in the way, if he can play, but we may have stretched this one too thin all ready.  The good news is we have seen life without him, and it isn't that bad.  B)Smith's retirement in many ways seems inevitable, but whether he does or not, the question is will it adversely affect our developing youth?  It definitely could if it somehow managed to sideline Martinez, but he could also be useful in the more limited role of a #4 or #5 receiver if our practice squad receivers could continue to develop for a year.  Then you could make a decision regarding Smith.  C)Stokely is a free agent after this season, and we won't be keeping him for a million bucks a year.  Does he stay, does he go, does it hurt us either way?  I think as a whole the WR position is pretty young, and it can absorb a #3 or #4 that is playing into his twilight, without negatively affecting any of the young'uns.  

Outlook:  Walker returns healthy, Smith retires, Stokely resigns and Martinez continues to develop.  Throw in a young bad-ass in Marshall (who needs to stay out of trouble) and Denver has a pretty low-risk/high-reward future in their receiving corp.  Worst case scenario, Walker never the same, Smith makes failed attempt at comeback next year after the Broncos let Stokely sign somewhere else while Martinez regresses.  Throw in some off-field issues with the bad-ass Marshall and you have the epitome of a fall from grace.  Denver has some young players in the wings and no real driving motive to pursue big-names.

Roster Status:  Graham, Scheffler, Mustard, Upshaw(PS), Aexander(IR), Jackson(IR)

Comments:  Only young guy not starting here is Graham, and the only guy we have who could replace him is Upshaw, who is a big guy who was a scoring type of TE in a small college program.  He should stay on the practice squad for now.  

Outlook:  Alexander will probably be finished, and Jackson has some rehab ahead of him, but he is an athletic, smart guy with more potential than Alexander had.  Scheff and Jackson will work on their blocking and Graham will keep working on being a receiver, and Shanahan will find a place for all of them.  It starts in Denver with the run, so the best blocking TE should always have first dibs on playing time in Denver.

Roster Status: T-Lepsis, Pears, Harris, Washburn(PS)
                  G-Kuper, Holland, Alexander, Hamilton(IR)
                  C-Nalen(IR), Hamilton(IR), Myers

Comments:  10 o-linemen.  1 practice squad, 2 on IR, 2 backing up 5 positions, and 5 starters.  Frankly this looks pretty nip and tuck to me, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to call for a whole-sale youth movement.  At center, Nalen would be entering his 15th year in the league, and with the way that Myers has handled the starting job, he certainly doesn't need to come back.  Whether Myers or Hamilton wins the starting job next year, I think it is safe to say the Nalen moved out of the way just in time to move on.  Holland is expendable if Hamilton can return, which is no way to treat a guy who has shown up and provided what Holland has this year.  That being said, he would be a downgrade if Hamilton can play, and Kuper has his spot locked up as well.  Holland would be a great backup, as Alexander is swiss cheese waiting to happen.  Pears is a freak who will have one tackle position or the other locked up, which should be LT, but Lepsis is there now.  Lepsis.  Lepsis has a big contract, bum knees, and has been looking like a weak link to me this year, with penalties while getting beat, getting beat without penalties, and a slow step off of the line in pass protection.  Lepsis could actually be holding up the development of two players, Pears and Harris.  Pears would play LT if Lepsis were gone, and of course Harris would move in at RT.  The question is, does Harris need another year to develop his zone run-blocking skills?  He had back surgery to start off his NFL career, which isn't cool, but he is back on the active roster and backing up both T positions.  I say put him in at RT.  This young line won't lay ownership to their work until Lepsis is gone, because they probably have to much respect for him to not defer to him.  If he goes, a new era can begin, and I think they will be solid.

Outlook:  Nalen will probably retire, and Hamilton is a major question mark.  His brain is bruised for crying out loud, and that just doesn't seem like the type of thing to mess around with.   Also Holland is signed until the end of 09.  They should feel comfortable dropping Lepsis, but if additional help was needed A)fourth round pick in the draft reeks of o-line to me and B)Cliff Washburn is a typical Denver o-line project.  Small school, athletic, smart, fast.  He has a year in europe under his belt which is par for the course, and basketball in his background which makes you say "hmmm."  C)Lastly bring in another FA guard to compete, and at least one more project signed to the Squad.

Roster Status:  Champ, Bly, Foxworth, Paymah, Shoate

Comments:  Getting older every day.  We are definitely entering the window of these guys' prime and the next five years are going to say a lot about our secondary.  I just have to say that I am not fond of Shoate, but that is entirely from watching the guy get burned this year.  It is hard to remember the dropoff in talent that will be seen from Bailey/Bly to everyone else, and it is equally difficult to remember that CBs are at their best when you just aren't hearing about them.  Other than Shoate, I like the depth here, with Foxworth being a starter anywhere else, and Paymah developing nicely as a 3rd year, 3rd rounder.  This is one position where the aged veterans need to stay right where they are.

Outlook:  Clear, with sunny skies expected.  Can we sign Foxy to an extension?

Roster Status:  Lynch, GRRRR!, Ferguson, Cargile, Rogers(PS)

Comments:  I must confess that I am guilty of overlooking Roderick Rogers.  First, I will talk about HamzaGRRR! and his reappearance on the hypedar.  He was supposed to be the starter this year.  Ferguson was just doing his job in training camp, and in the process went from backup to starter, because for whatever reason Hamza wasn't ready for a full games worth of duties yet.  Add the injury and we are getting way off of the plan.  I don't have a problem with Ferguson.  He knows who and what he is, and he will be ready if Hamza gets hurt again.  In the meantime, it is time to enjoy the HamzaGRRR! hype and watch him develop.  It is obvious that Cargile is not in any danger of supplanting Lynch for the starting role.  Cargile is a mover and shaker of the worst type, moving from one roster to the next, and shaking out when the team finally gets around to doing its laundry. I mentioned, I am guilty of forgetting about Rogers who is perched precarously on our practice squad.  With that being said the following text is top secret and only to be accessed by true-blue Broncomaniacs:  Rogers played in a quality program and was widely considered to be a top six S prospect in the nation.  He was a standout on the Badgers and their MVP on defense.  Knocks against him were that he wasn't physical enough, lacked instincts and underachieved.  What he did have was size/speed.  He went into his senior year and proved a lot of people wrong.  He still needs to work on his physical play (think he has been watching Lynch?), and he isn't the greatest complement to HamzaGRRR! who is also a lateral type safety, but (this ones for you, HT) he has stated in interviews that he compares his game to the style played by Brian Dawkins.  He probably isn't ready yet to step up and replace Lynch, but Broncoland needs to know that this kid is waiting for his shot.  Denver may have gotten a steal by scouting this kid after he injured his knee in the senior bowl, which is the reason he went undrafted, though prior to the draft he was ranked anywhere from 3rd to 6th rd.  Hopefully Sundquist's new and improved medical evaluations will pay off on this kid.

Outlook:  Lynch may be said to be in a youngster's way, only if Denver actually possessed said youngster.  Is it Rogers?  It is certainly not Cargile.  Will Denver draft a S early if Lynch is not prompt about announcing a retirement?  I will look at this issue again when I look at LB, but for now I think this might be the most controversial position heading into the offseason.

Roster Status:  Gold, Williams, Webster, Winborn, Beck, Green, Holdman(IR)

Comments:  Firstly, even though I would classify Holdman's injury as a major stumbling block for the Broncos this year, I certainly don't believe that having him back from IR would provide anything beyond depth.  Secondly, Green is a special teams ace, so while he is technically a backup, he isn't really expected to back anybody up.  He could probably do as well as Webster though, which brings me to...  Thirdly, Webster needs to sit his ass down.  Enough already, I don't know whether to laugh or cry when this guy is out there.  I would take a ten man defensive front over this guy.  Ok, mini-rant over.  This is one position where I wouldn't mind seeing what Beck could do, and the more I think about it, the more I think that it could be better than what we've got.  Beck is a slow starter in the NFL, mainly from an injury his rookie year, but he was starting to catch on in Atlanta when they waived him in October.  Maybe that means something, but frankly, it probably doesn't.  Atlanta is up, then down, then up.  Who knows what they might discard.  Beck had an immediate impact on special teams when he signed with Denver (remember him recovering the onside kick in the DET game?), and has been playing at a consistent level.  So I say, give him a shot.  Sit Webster, and at worst Webster can get his job back with maybe an eye towards being more disciplined.  At best we might get a little better production out of our strongside.  One knock against Beck in this situation is that I would hate to see him getting carried four yards by the ball carrier off the strongside.  Oh well.  As Guru said, it is what is.

Outlook: Bleak.  Dismal, even.  But it can only go up, so that is a silver lining of sorts.  We may not have the replacements on the roster right now, and it is doubtful we will replace more than one LB in the next year but maybe one replacement would be the trick.  I think Denver takes a linebacker with their first pick, partly because of availability and partly because of the status of the team right now.  Second rate safety play would probably be acceptable if we were getting first rate LB play, and we have a couple of players that can give us a true safety style of play, which is to say lateral guys who don't let things get behind them.  If the LBs are upgraded we are in a better position to be choosers at S instead of beggars.

Roster Status:  Engleberger, Crowder, Doom, Carrington, Birdine, Moss(IR), Ekuban(IR)

Comments:  Engleberger catches a lot of flak around here, and I can't quite figure it out.  He works very hard. If you want to give someone crap, get after Crowder, who has all the tools, and several opportunities to end the rotation with 'Berger and get in as the sole possessor of LE, yet hasn't done it.  Also, let's not worry about who is starting at DE for the Broncos.  Yes it is a rotation, and yes, it is based on run/pass, but you could say that Berger, Crowder and Doom are ALL starting at DE.  Engleberger tends to get running downs, Crowder rotates in on passing downs and to relieve Doom when he needs a breather.  But that is all guess work, since we don't know that it is a run or pass, we just figure it is likely to be one or the other.  Engleberger being listed ahead of Crowder is purely symbolic.  He is no way standing in Crowder's way, as Crowder is getting just as much, if not more, of a look than 'Berger, including at DT.  Crowder could be a great hybrid for Denver as he develops, popping up all over the line, giving multiple stances and looks.  Obviously the same goes for Moss who hopefully gets healthy and can play full speed.  Carrington and Birdine are two young guys we picked up a week ago or so, both deactivated so far.  Carrington is kind of a "meh" guy, but Birdine was a Sooner who was on his way to a first round ranking in his Junior campaign before falling apart for no real reason in his senior year.  He didn't get hurt, he wasn't sick.  This might be what they call "Reached his potential.  Not much room for growth."  Who knows.  Sounds like an underacheiver to me who needs to hang out on a practice squad a little while longer.  We should get to see both of these guys in a game sooner or later, maybe as soon as CHI.

Outlook:  Some may call for a Crowder start over 'Berger, but I think it would be a meaningless gesture.  Doom lets no man stand in his way, not even the Lordly Simeon Rice, and when Moss gets back next year we could be looking at a great, young rotation of three or more guys.  How much do you think we could get for Ekuban or Engleberger in a trade?  5th rounder?  Keep the other guy for depth.

Roster Status:  Adams, McKinley, Thomas, Mallard, Peterson, Burton(PS), S.Harris(PS)

Comments:  Of all the areas of our defense, this is truly where we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I don't know what to make of McKinley's up and down play, but I do know that he is going into his 9th season next year.  Definitely not a long term solution.  Thomas will be playing Adams spot next year, the big guy is just keeping it warm for him right now.  Now, some will call for Adams to sit now, and thats cool.  But if I may, I would like to alert you to Adams play since he has been "unbuttoned," so to speak, and note how much more of a disruptive force he has been in the middle the last two games.  Thomas will benefit as much from finishing out the year in a rotation with Adams as he will from being the starter and getting worn down and rotating with someone else, so why not start Adams?  We paid him, might as well get something.  If Adams has a major drop off in his play (from where he is now, not where he was at the begining of the year) then we should probably pull him.  Other wise, I think this could be an OK spot.  But everyone else (and I mean absolutely everybody else) is really stretching it.  Mallard?  This duck has got some nerve calling himself a DT.  I've seen bigger LBs.  That being said, he saw a lot of playing time against the Titans.  Peterson is a yawner.  Burton will probably supplant McKinley next year, and frankly, if the kid could get another year or two of learning this game, he could get a lot better.  Harris is way underweight for run downs, but has a nice connection with Thomas and Moss, and might be more of a pass rush DT.  Not really any depth here, but a good young starter who will be ready soon, and a below average set of stop-gaps in Mallard, McKinley, and Peterson.

Outlook:  DT in the second round.  For sure, not maybe.  Will he be a starter?  Probably not so keep your eyes on FA tackles come the offseason, and if anyone knows of one that could be worth a reasonable trade, I hear that Sundquist is taking suggestions over at his blog. (j/k)  And say goodby to Adams and McKinley when you get the chance.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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