On paper, the Denver Broncos have a strong rushing group. The Broncos have two starters with significant potential and strong depth options.
However, the way a situation looks ‘on paper’ does not always work in reality. There are chinks in the armor that, if not fixed, could derail the potential of this promising group.
The Broncos may need to look for a player not currently on the roster once training camp gets into full swing. Here are some reasons why.
The Broncos have already been plagued by injuries to their bullpen and training camp hasn’t even started. Top-priced free agent pickup Randy Gregory underwent offseason shoulder surgery and has yet to suit up in the Orange and Blue for a single practice.
Signs point to Gregory being ready for the regular season, but if there’s a persistent issue with surgery, the Broncos could be forced to play backups to start the season.
One of those backups – Jonathon Cooper – a surprise rookie last year and an incredible story, is also sidelined with an injury. He recently had surgery on a thumb that was injured during OTAs and is expected to return to training camp. Again, if there are lingering effects delaying his return, Denver’s depth would be compromised.
There is also the possibility of future injuries. Bradley Chubb is no stranger to injury. Since his rookie season, he has missed 24 of a possible 49 games. All signs point to him being fully healthy to start this season, but it’s not hard to doubt his ability to play a full 17-game campaign.
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Backups have question marks
Baron Browning is being switched from inside to outside linebacker. He has potential, but it’s a lot to ask of a second-year player to learn a new position. If Gregory or Chubb miss time, it could fall on an inexperienced player in Browning to fill the void.
Malik Reed has been a solid backup and a solid starter when needed. When Von Miller was lost for the season in 2020, Reed led the team with eight sacks.
That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it wasn’t the second coming of Lawerence Taylor either. Reed provides a good pass rush, but struggles to establish the edge in the run game. It’s best to use him only for passing duties, and he shouldn’t be a full-time player until he can improve against the run.
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The final candidate most likely to earn a backup role is rookie Nik Bonito, who needs experience, strength and counter-attack moves. If Chubb or Gregory miss time, Bonito could get a trial by fire in the NFL. Bonito could end up being a great player, but no one knows how he will perform at the NFL level.
All potential backups have questions on their game or are inexperienced. As training camp begins to unfold, the Broncos will have a better idea of player injury timelines and the quality of the depth.
If there’s any doubt, the Broncos should consider looking for someone with proven experience who isn’t already on the roster.
Denver has few outdoor options currently available. There are players who are older who could provide a solid game to finish out their careers, but most of the candidates would be a one-year contract-type option, and the Broncos would have to keep their fingers crossed that they can extend the season.
However, there is one intriguing free agent who has yet to sign. Anthony Barr is a player with considerable experience who could be moved into a full-time role quickly.
Barr would be an upgrade on Reed in the run game and has ties to Broncos GM George Paton, who was part of the Minnesota Vikings front office that drafted him. Barr’s presence on the court would help alleviate a lot of the anxiety that currently surrounds this group.
The team could also wait until some preseason cuts are made to bring in a veteran. There are often unexpected cuts that occur before the end of the preschool season.
The Broncos could use an experienced player on a one-year deal to ensure the defense won’t struggle to catch a passer in 2022. The bottom line: sitting $11,495 under the salary cap, the Broncos don’t have a there are plenty of resources left to maneuver, but a veteran player can get a discount to play a season with a legitimate contender.
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