5 Dark Horse Players Who Will Make The Denver Broncos
5 Dark Horse Players Who Could Make Denver Broncos' 53-Man Roster
As training camp closes for every team across the NFL this week, we are left with many impressions, some good, some bad, for every team in the league.
Over the course of the last three weeks, several players have jumped from behind the shadows right into the spotlight and have become strong candidates to make their teams roster.
Although camp has concluded, the preseason still has a ways to go — giving some players whom are considered long-shots to make their teams more time to prove that they belong.
Although their probably isn't a "Kurt Warner story" to discuss, there are several players who have made huge leaps.
The Denver Broncos like every other team in the league have had several players turn the heads of the coaching staff, and have made strong cases to make the opening day roster.
Denver has a history of finding talent in places nobody bothers to look, having at least one undrafted player make the team nine-years running, and there are several players in camp who are looking to extend that streak to 10.
Unfortunately, injuries play a big part in camps and preseason forcing teams to practice and play with players who normally wouldn't get the snaps they are getting. This gives dark-horse players more looks and time to showcase what they can bring to a team.
Although injuries have played a part in Denver's camp, they have not had an effect on any of the five dark horse players I think will make the team. My five players have all "played their way" onto the opening day roster.
5. Lerentee McCray LB
The undrafted free-agent McCray has turned heads with his athleticism and ability to pick up the nuances of the game at more than one position. The Broncos have used McCray at all three linebacker spots, as well as in nickel packages.
McCray has made several plays behind the line of scrimmage in camp and has been spectacular on special teams — which is absolutely vital for any back-up linebacker wanting to make any team.
If McCray makes the team, it may come at the expense of last years linebacker "wonder" Stevie Johnson who made the team as an undrafted free agent a season ago.
4. Malik Jackson DE
The second-year defensive end has made major strides from a year ago. The departure of Elvis Dumervil opened up an opportunity that Jackson has jumped on.
Although Robert Ayers is listed as the starting right defensive end, Jackson has played himself onto the nickel package, and his versatility and size enables him to play anywhere along the defensive front.
Jackson resembles starting left defensive end Derek Wolfe in many ways, starting with their versatility, and they both give the Broncos many options in pass-rush situations.
3. Zac Dysert QB
The rookie from Miami University (OH) has really come on as of late. Although he has no chance of playing this season unless Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler go down, he has done enough to secure a roster spot.
Why would a quarterback who essentially has no chance of playing make the 53-man roster? Well, Dysert has played so well that he would certainly get claimed by another team if placed on waivers. In order for the Broncos to stash Dysert on the practice squad, he would have to clear waivers first, something that is unlikely in a quarterback-starved league.
Dysert has displayed the athleticism Vice-President of Football Operations John Elway loves in a quarterback (I would love a quarterback who had similar skills to myself too) and I am willing to bet that Elway believes that Dysert and not Osweiler can one day become Manning's replacement.
Dysert has a fantastic arm (as does Osweiler) and great mobility. Give him a full year to pick up the offense and watch Dysert fly.
2. Duke Ihenacho S
The second-year safety has had the best camp of any Bronco. Yes, a better camp than Manning and any of the Bronco super stars.
Ihenacho spent last season on the Broncos practice roster so his familiarity with the defense has certainly helped.
Ihencaho has been a playmaking machine, intercepting Manning and Osweiler on many occasions as well as blowing up plays in the back-field.
Champ Bailey has praised Ihenacho several times throughout camp using terms like "beast." "Everyone is surprised, but not me," the all-pro corner said. "You could see the improvements in practice last year and he has carried it over to this season"
Ihenacho has not only played his way onto the 53-man roster, he played himself into a starting role opposite Rahim Moore.
1. C.J. Anderson RB
The undrafted Anderson has been the story of camp, first with his great play and then because of his unfortunate knee injury on the last day of camp. The injury is not as bad as first feared (ACL sprain) and Anderson will miss four to six weeks.
Usually an injury such as this would all but end the hopes of any undrafted player, but Anderson did enough for the Broncos to keep him.
Anderson showed flashes of the type of downhill running the Broncos lacked a year ago, and has been fantastic in goal-line drills throughout camp. His work ethic and demeanor are facets of his game that Head Coach John Fox and Manning love.
Anderson will be a part of the Broncos running back rotation at some point this season, and I wouldn't be surprised if Anderson and not Montee Ball — who Denver drafted with a second round pick — ends up as the Broncos back of the future.