Among the Broncos who could start in Week 1 against Tennessee, eight were not drafted: Nose tackle Mike Purcell, running back Phillip Lindsay, right tackle Elijah Wilkinson, center Austin Schlottmann, linebackers Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson and cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan.
Those players made positive impressions by having an offseason program and a full preseason, and even then, some were cut and spent time on a practice squad before getting a shot. They can relate to the undrafted free agents on the Broncos’ roster, but not the circumstance of creating a buzz without having any preseason games.
“When I found out we had no preseason games, it’s a positive for the guys who’ve probably made the team because they don’t have to risk injury, but I look at the younger guys who’ve worked so hard,” said Bouye, who made the Houston Texans’ roster in 2013. “The only way they can get evaluated is in practice and what you do on special teams. It’s definitely harder.”
Said Davis: “I feel really bad for those guys. I was one of those guys who really needed that fourth preseason game. If I didn’t have that, I may not be on a team today.”
Coach Vic Fangio and his staff have made their usual big effort to make sure all of the young players get practice reps.
“The one thing in their favor a little bit … we’re down to (79) guys,” Fangio said. “They are getting more reps than if we had 90 here. They’re just going to have show it on the field quicker than guys in the past have. We’ll practice as long as we can according to the CBA and get as many reps as we can. Like I told them, ‘There’s no redshirt year. We want you to play.’”
So far, so good. Through Friday, fullback/tight end Andrew Beck remained the only Broncos player that’s spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list (July 30-Aug. 17), missing only the first two practices.
Players have heaped praise on the Broncos’ operations staff for the measures they established at the facility.
“I feel very safe here,” kicker Brandon McManus said. “Obviously, the daily testing has been great and the whole process has been seamless. Hats off to Chip (Conway, senior vice president of operations) and (vice president of football operations and compliance) Mark Thewes for setting this up and getting it rolling. I feel just as safe as I do at home.”
Change of scenery, part I. During the coronavirus shutdown, the Broncos’ coaches did all their work at home, a total change to their normal schedule. Receivers coach Zach Azzanni and his wife, Julia, have four daughters (ages 13, 12, 8 and 4).
“I was truly blessed to be able to spend that much time with them,” Azzanni said. “What was neat is I would be Zooming with my (receivers) in the morning and the girls would come in and say hello.”
Said tight ends coach Wade Harman with a laugh: “There were some days when my wife (Angie) said, ‘You go downstairs and I’ll be upstairs.’”
Change of scenery, part II. The Broncos’ offensive position groups meet in different parts of the fieldhouse and the defensive position groups meet in the main facility although not in their regular space.
“The indoor facility is all spread out,” Azzanni said. “I feel like I’m giving a (talk) at a high school coaches’ clinic. Our video department did a great job setting it up with all the chairs and the things like grease-boards that we needed. It’s been fantastic.”
Around the league
Flores on cusp of Hall. Former Raiders and Seahawks coach Tom Flores was selected as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 by a committee that met virtually last week.
Flores went 105-90 for the Raiders and Seahawks and coached the Raiders to Super Bowl wins after the 1980 (over Philadelphia) and ’83 (over Washington) seasons.
Like Jimmy Johnson’s selection for the 2020 class, Flores expected induction is good news for Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who like Johnson and Flores won two championships.
The wait will continue for former Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar after former Dallas receiver Drew Pearson was selected as a senior finalist.
Flores and Pearson must receive 80% of the vote by the 48-member committee on Super Bowl Weekend.
Impressed with Gallup. Dallas receiver Michael Gallup, who played at Colorado State, broke out last year with 66 catches for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns. He already has a fan in new Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy.
“Let’s make it clear: Michael Gallup is a No. 1 receiver in my view,” McCarthy said. “He was definitely one of the players that jumped off the video during the offseason study because I didn’t know a whole lot about Michael. He’s primed to take that next step.”
Physical practices required. New Giants coach Joe Judge was asked about the physicality of practice last week and he delivered a great response.
“Listen, we can’t get the guys ready to drive on I-95 by riding back roads,” Judge said. “If we think the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming in here (Sept. 14) to hug us, we’re all sadly mistaken. We have to train these guys in a physical manner to make it safe for them to play the game the way the game is played.”