Over the next few weeks, we’ll look back at each player’s performance during the 2006 season here in the blog. We’ll go in alphabetical order by surnames — let’s face it, it’s easiest that way — starting today with safety Hamza Abdullah.
By December of this year, Hamza Abdullah had already established himself as a key member of the Broncos’ coverage units. But with injuries ransacking the Broncos’ safety corps of starter Nick Ferguson and “big nickel” back Sam Brandon, the second-year player found himself playing defense in the regular season for the first time in his career in the Dec. 10 game at San Diego.
Twenty-one days later, he was forced into more extensive action and responded with three solo tackles and an assist in the Broncos’ season-ending defeat to San Francisco. His solid tackling that day showed a hint of the kind of consistency he could display with more playing time, but his preseason work demonstrated what kinds of big plays he could make.
During the August warm-up clash with the Tennessee Titans, he forced a fumble and intercepted a pass but had both plays rendered meaningless. The fumble out of the hands of eventual Offensive Rookie of the Year Vince Young was picked up by the quarterback for a touchdown, while the interception was nullified by a penalty.
Just a day earlier, Abdullah had intercepted two passes in a practice. Therefore, the rotten luck that kept his plays from helping the Broncos against the Titans didn’t keep his work from being noticed by John Lynch, who quickly mentioned Abdullah when asked which of the young safeties had impressed him during training camp and the preseason.
“He’s a guy who turned some heads in the preseason and I like the way he plays,” Lynch said.
With Brandon and Ferguson rehabilitating their injuries and fill-in safety Domonique Foxworth planning on moving back to cornerback — “I’ve got several more years at cornerback,” he said during the season — there could be some chances for Abdullah to expand on his late-season work as the offseason progresses.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Ranked fifth on the team with eight total special-teams tackles … Forced an Antonio Cromartie fumble on a kickoff return at San Diego that led to a touchdown. Officially, it was his second career forced fumble following one at Kansas City in 2005, but in his mind, it’s his first, as he doesn’t count the play from his rookie season because “I just happened to be standing right there and they credited me with it,” he said … After four games up on the active roster to open the season, Abdullah was scratched from Weeks 5-9 for games against Baltimore, Oakland, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. The spate of injuries at the safety position pushed him back onto the 45-man gameday roster beginning in Week 10 at Oakland; he remained there for the rest of the year.
NEXT UP: Tight end Stephen Alexander.