The Denver Broncos have waived defensive lineman Le Kevin Smith, who was with the team for a stint in 2009 as well. Smith was signed on for depth when Kevin Vickerson was out with an injury, and the Broncos let him go today.
To replace Smith on the roster, the Broncos signed fourth year tight end Daniel Coats, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals. Coats is known for his blocking and decent receiving skills, and has 30 career receptions as a reserve.
Coats, 26, is a 6'3" 264 pound tight end who is also able to play fullback, which is where he may create a role with the Denver Broncos. He was undrafted out of Brigham Young University in 2007, and is still seeking his first career touchdown.
Coats was the "whipping boy" among Bengals fans according to commentary from Rotoworld.com, so perhaps a change of scenery will be a good thing for the fourth year player.
His scouting report from his BYU page had the following to say:
Consistent player for BYU who played in 46 of 48 games in his career ... powerful blocking tight end with good hands ... set a BYU record for receptions as a freshman tight end ... Earned Freshman All-America honors in 2003.
If Coats is any good at blocking, perhaps he can be a brusing fullback and open up holes for Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, and Laurence Maroney. There was speculation in the offseason that Coats would step in as the fullback for the Bengals, but that never came to fruition.
The addition of Coats is somewhat strange to me. The Broncos have three tight ends on the 53 man roster already in Daniel Graham, Dan Gronkowski, and Richard Quinn. They now have three "Dans" and it seems as though Richard Quinn is unable to find a place on this football team.
It would be tough for the Broncos and McDaniels to part with two second round draft choices less than two years of them actually being drafted, but it's certainly possible. The Broncos have worked out numerous tight ends and brought in others to the practice squad, shuffling the position enough to the point that if one thing is clear, it's that the staff does not have confidence in Richard Quinn, or at least they are planning for the worst.
In addition to signing Coats, the Broncos made a significant move on the offensive line, one that I thought we would see much, much earlier than week 10.
It was pretty surprising when the team decided to bench Ryan Harris in favor of rookie Zane Beadles at right tackle, especially because of Harris' recent history with the team. He has been injured each of the last two seasons, and seemingly cannot stay on the field for the Broncos.
Perhaps he was benched in favor of talent, or perhaps the Broncos are desperate. Either way, Ryan Harris will again be starting at right tackle and rookie Zane Beadles will move to left guard, where most everyone anticipated he would play the day we drafted him.
Obviously Ryan Clady, Beadles, J.D. Walton, Chris Kuper, and Harris are the five best linemen the Broncos have on that side of the ball, and McDaniels always preaches that the best players will play. This is certainly backing that statement up.
The Broncos will either fail or succeed with this unit as long as they are all healthy. Russ Hochstein and Stanley Daniels are not NFL caliber linemen, and at this stage of the season, the Broncos cannot afford to experiment. Call it Kool-Aid, call it whatever you want, but if the Broncos beat the Chiefs, they have a legitimate shot at a division title because they will be only two games out of the lead with four other divisional matchups left.
The offensive line that started practice today is the line that we all expected the Broncos to put out week one, and because of injuries that wasn't always possible. Now, it's possible, and it's time for that group to turn the corner.
Josh McDaniels also stated today that right now is the healthiest Knowshon Moreno has been all year. This is great news for the Denver Broncos, as Moreno's production so far at the professional level has been very inconsistent. He has shown flashes of his playmaking abilitiy, and his effort, determination, and passion are unquestioned. Now it's time for the second year back to put it all together.
With an extra two weeks to heal his ailing hamstrings, Moreno should be ready to go for the Chiefs, who have a rejuvenated and nasty defensive unit. Did I just say that?
The Broncos will also be getting some key players back from injury this week, in all likelihood. Wesley Woodyard, Darcel McBath, and Perrish Cox all returned to practice, and the release of Le Kevin Smith indicates to me that Kevin Vickerson is close to returning. If the Broncos can have three of those four players back for their matchup against the Chiefs, they will be in business.
Denver has sorely missed McBath for secondary depth, and he adds another weapon to the special teams. I believe he is ready to take over a starting position from Renaldo Hill, but that will come in due time.
Cox will take over for Nate Jones, who has been a disappointment by my watch. I campaigned hard for us to sign Jones in the offseason. I do not think we are using him correctly, and it's showing in his play on the field. Jones is strictly a dime package defensive back who excels at blitzing the quarterback. That is his greatest asset to a team.
Now that our defensive backfield depth is all in one piece, perhaps Jones can go back to doing what he does best.
In order to beat the Chiefs, we are going to have to pass the ball. The Chiefs are a very good pass defense, led by Brandon Flowers and rookie phenom Eric Berry. They are fast, they are physical, they are tough, and they are flat out good.
The Broncos will have to find a way to get their passing game going, and they should be aggressive early. I wouldn't mind seeing some four receiver sets to start the game with Demaryius Thomas getting a chance to show what he can do against the Chiefs' third or fourth cornerback. That is a matchup I'm quite surprised the Broncos have not exploited this season, especially with all of the quick screens we saw last year.
Thomas is a playmaker as we have seen in the passing game and on kick returns. He needs to have 5-8 scripted plays per game where the ball gets to him no matter what happens. As many passes as we throw, it's surprising he isn't targeted more.
Another receiver name to keep on your radar is Eron Riley. I know Riley is a practice squad player, and many of you may never have even heard of him until now, but let me tell you something--this kid's measurables are off the charts.
He reportedly runs a sub 4.3 second 40 yard dash, but we're not talking about Mike Wallace here. The Broncos' official site lists Riley at 6'3" 230 pounds, the same size as our first round pick with better speed (if you can believe it).
As potent as our passing game can be, I would not be shocked to see this guy get a call up either this year or next. His talent level is immense, having dominated in his time at Duke despite horrid QB play and a relatively horrid team around him. He is a deep threat in it's purest form, and has fantastic size.
He is a player to watch out for in the coming years.
This is another turning point week for the Broncos. The Raiders' victory over the Chiefs actually helped our cause. Forget winning the division for a moment--the Broncos simply need to win a game. They technically can win the division, but right now, the focus has to be on Kansas City. If the Broncos are not going to make the playoffs, it would still be nice to see them make significant enough improvements and pound on their AFC West rivals a little bit.
The Broncos are historically one of the NFL's best teams coming off of the bye week, and with good news on the injury front, this team looks like it might be ready to compete again, and possibly take down the first place team in the AFC West on Sunday.
Scott Van Pelt made a great point today. You can't judge a game based on one half, because the game is not over. The Broncos trail halfway through the season by a decent margin, but this season should not be judged by their poor start. It will be judged by how they finish.
How they finish is up in the air right now, but we should not give up just yet.