As I sat down a few days ago and did my own 53-man roster projection for the Denver Broncos, I looked the wide receiver position group and saw a lot of smaller, speedy wide receivers that should make the team. The problem in my mind was how they were going to replace Tim Patrick, who was lost to an ACL injury for the season.
So I put both Brandon Johnson and Seth Williams on the roster ahead of special teams standout Tyrie Cleveland and the six foot speedster Jalen Virgil. I ended up being wrong on both counts, but especially wrong about the team’s mentality towards Virgil and wide receiver speed.
When Broncos’ general manager George Paton met with the media on Tuesday to explain the process of trimming the roster down to the final 53, he was asked about the young receivers they decided to keep. And Paton led with a comment about the importance of speed in the NFL.
“I think you need speed in this league,” Paton said. “[Jalen] Virgil obviously provides that. This guy—every game he made plays and he made plays every practice. He can cover kicks, and he’s an interesting guy [because] he can return kicks. [He] was a really good returner in college. He’s just answered every test and aced it, and he has legit speed. He can take the top off, so we’re excited for him.”
Denver now has the luxury of having two rookies who can return kicks in Montrell Washington and Jalen Virgil. Both can also take the top off the defense. KJ Hamler is also in the mix, so you can quickly see how this is going to play in the Broncos favor this season.
In the end, I think they bring Brandon Johnson back too. Paton made sure to mention his name despite the team having to send him to short-term injured reserve today. It sure sounds like he’ll be back at some point too.
“Brandon [Johnson] was just a pro the minute he walked into the door,” Paton continued. “I’m not sure if it comes from his dad being a professional baseball player, but he reminded me of a third or four-year pro. [He is] long, athletic, can get in and out of his cuts and, again, wasn’t too big for him. A lot of these kids when they walked in, it was too big. Guys like [him], Montrell [Washington] and [Jalen] Virgil, it’s pretty unique to have these guys just walk in the door and act like they belong.”
Like many fans, I came into training camp six weeks ago thinking maybe Denver would have a good option in Montrell Washington after the big four: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler. Then panic set in when Patrick went down for the year.
However, after that first preseason game and seeing how well Brandon Johnson played and how well Kendall Hinton and Seth Williams also played, I began to think maybe this position group could be deeper than I thought. Then Jalen Virgil played late in that game and I was even more wowed. You can’t keep everybody, but hopefully Denver gets both Hinton and Williams back on the practice squad.
For the season, Virgil and Johnson both could see significant playing time. Russell Wilson might have the most weapons he’s ever had in his career in the passing game. Hopefully it all translates and we’re here to enjoy the show.