With the Broncos recent injury woes the team has had to rely on first-year players and free agent acquisitions to step in and contribute. Both the rookies and the free agents have ran with their opportunities.
A CLASS ABOVE
The members of Broncos 2008 draft class knew that they were talented — they just didn’t think the team would be utilizing their talents so soon.
Spencer Larsen for one thought he would have to cut his teeth on special teams and that eventually down the road his chance would come. But the heart and drive demonstrated by Larsen and his peers coupled with the recent wave of injuries has been enough for the Broncos coaching staff to give the rookies a shot at serious minutes. They have responded by playing key roles at various times during the season.
Brandon Stokley said the rookies have been thrown into the fire and have held up well.
“It is hard to do for a young guy coming straight out of college (to adjust to) 16 games,” he said. “Usually they are winding down right about now and we are just getting cranked up. It is hard, but that is the business that we are in so they have had to grow up quick.”
Larsen said he wasn’t surprised with the way that the draft class has been able to chip in so quickly.
“I don’t know if I am amazed by (the performance),” he said. “We have a real good class — we have always known that. We have a solid rookie class with a bunch of mature kids. We came in with a tremendous confidence in ourselves and have been able to contribute.”
Head Coach Mike Shanahan said that their hard work in practice has translated well to game time.
“These guys aren’t only excellent athletes, but they are very sharp football players,” he said “Some guys got their opportunity because of injuries and some guys got their opportunity because they proved in practice that they can make plays.”
PICK-UPS PITCHING IN
The team’s first-year players aren’t the only Broncos that have seen significant minutes in the wake of injuries. The Broncos have had several free agent signees that have contributed to the team’s recent successes.
“They can play,” he said. “You have seen what they have done. All the running backs that have stepped up have done a great job. Defensively the linebackers and cornerbacks that have had to fill in have had to step their game up. That is what it is all about. You come into training camp knowing that no matter what position you are at or what you are on the depth chart you have to be ready to play because injuries are part of the game. Our guys have done a great job at that.”
Several free agents, including Josh Bell, Tatum Bell and P.J. Pope, had a big game against the Falcons on Sunday.
Pope and Tatum Bell each contributed on the ground. Pope had 35 yard on four carries good for an 8.8 yard average. Tatum Bell had seven rushes for 34 yards. Josh Bell started his first game at cornerback.
Daniel Graham said the team has done good job of stockpiling itself with talented players.
“It is and the coaches and staff here have done a great job with the personnel,” he said. “They have brought guys in when guys have gotten hurt. These guys have stepped into their shoes and they are taking advantage of their opportunities right now.”
Stokley said it has taken some time to get used to all the new faces in the locker room.
I am still trying to get some of their names. That is just the way it goes in this business. The good teams keep truckin’ and the bad teams feel sorry for themselves and there goes their season. For us we aren’t going to do that. We are going to keep going and whoever is in there is going to go in and play good football.”
-Jake Grilley, DenverBroncos.com