Few on the Broncos roster have more effectively weathered change at their position than Patrick Chukwurah.
For one thing, the former University of Wyoming standout is now the defensive lineman with the longest continuous orange-and-blue tenure on the roster. He first withstood the alterations of 2004, when the team invested in four veteran 30-somethings with lengthy résumé: Marco Coleman, Luther Elliss, Ellis Johnson and Raylee Johnson. He then survived the ex-Browns-transfusion of linemen that spelled the end of Ellis Johnson’s short Denver stint and led to the decision to waive Elliss and Raylee Johnson during 2005′s training camp.
Through the last three years since joining the Broncos by signing a future contract on Jan. 13, 2004, Chukwurah has survived, even though his size makes him the classic “‘tweener” — bigger than most linebackers, lighter than most defensive ends. At 250 pounds, he and Elvis Dumervil are the team’s lightest defensive linemen, but Chukwurah carries his weight on a 6-foot-1 frame, while Dumervil checks in at 5-foot-11.
Chukwurah has burrowed his niche on the Broncos roster as a rotational end used in pass-rush situations and a special-teams contributor. He is, however, still looking for his first starting assignment.
The 2006 season seemed to encapsulate Chukwurah’s career. There were some bright flashes of brilliance, as he began the year with 1.5 sacks in the first two games. There was a bothersome injury — in this case a hamstring problem that forced him to the inactive list for the November games with Oakland and San Diego. There was also an exasperating moment, when he ran into Rams punter Matt Turk early in the fourth quarter of the season opener at St. Louis, drawing a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty and the ire of assistant coach Ronnie Bradford, who worked with the special teams last season.
“He pretty much tore into me, but I’m not going to say he didn’t have good reason to,” Chukwurah said at the time. Nevertheless, Chukwurah asserted that the play should not have drawn the 15-yard penalty.”I thought I was on the ground. I didn’t touch him. I was on the ground. (Turk) fell on top of me,” Chukwurah said. “We saw it on film. It wasn’t me running into him at all. It is what it is, man. If the refs call it, then what can you do?”
You can have the most statistically productive season of your career, which is exactly how Chukwurah responded over the weeks that followed.
FINAL ANALYSIS: For the third consecutive year, Chukwurah played in 14 games, finishing 2006 with career standards in tackles (20) and sacks (4.5). The sack tally exceeded the total of his first five NFL campaigns, when he tagged quarterbacks for three and a half sacks, two of which came in his rookie campaign with the Minnesota Vikings just over five years ago.
NEXT: Wide receiver Brian Clark.