For those who recall the Denver Broncos defense of the late '80s and early '90s, one of the indispensable pieces was nose tackle Greg Kragen. Undersized at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, Kragen utilized his speed, motor and athleticism to penetrate into the opposition's backfield on the regular.
Kragen tallied 28.5 career sacks, made the Pro Bowl in '89 and was named to the All-Pro team three times. Nine of his 13 NFL seasons were spent with the Broncos.
Wade Phillips presided over Denver's defense during Kragen's era—both as the defensive coordinator and eventually head coach. He's intimately familiar with Kragen's character. When Greg's son, Kyle Kragen, didn't hear his name called during the 2016 NFL Draft, the Broncos offered him the opportunity to follow in his father's footsteps as an undrafted rookie free agent in the Mile High City.
Pat Graham of the Associated Press had a nice feature on Kyle and Greg Kragen, where we learned that the former California Golden Bears edge rusher was on his way to compete in the Green Bay Packers rookie mini-camp, when he received the offer to sign with Denver.
"It's really cool, because I grew up rooting for the Broncos, watching the Broncos with my dad," Kyle said.
Although he received no signing bonus, Kragen will compete for a spot somewhere on the Broncos roster—whether that's on the final 53-man roster, or the practice squad. However, he faces an uphill battle, as the edge rusher position is one of strength for the Broncos. Last year, Denver carried five outside linebackers on the active roster—Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett and Lerentee McCray.
The good news? McCray moved on in free agency, which means there could be an open roster spot. But, Kragen will not only have to compete with the veterans, he'll also have to set himself apart from Eddie Yarbrough—a very similar player to Shaq Barrett.
Kragen has the same motor his father Greg displayed week in and week out in his nine seasons in Denver. In two years at UCLA, Kragen amassed 101 total tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. However, it remains to be see whether Kyle has the quick-twitch athleticism to make a difference as a pass rusher against NFL-level competition.
I wouldn't be surprised if Kragen gets some reps at inside linebacker with the Broncos, where he can perhaps better utilize his instinct and ability. His father Greg knows all too well the war of attrition Kyle has to look forward to.
"It's a lot of emotions you go through seeing him there," said Greg, who also spent time with Kansas City and Carolina during a 13-year career. "At the same time, there's the reality to it as well. He's got a tough, tough climb ahead of him."
Kyle is aware of his odds. But like Lloyd Christmas once remarked, even one-in-a-million odds still offers a chance for success.
"My dad taught me to overcome not being the best athlete with hard work," Kyle said. "It's going to take zero mental mistakes and incredible effort and succeeding on special teams (to make this team)."
It'll be interesting to see how Kyle Kragen performs in this year's training camp. For a kid looking to crack a roster from the undrafted ranks, he couldn't have landed in a better situation. The Denver Broncos have a history replete with college free agents making the team and building a career in the NFL.
And it doesn't hurt that Denver's general manager, head coach and defensive coordinator are all old friends with Kragen's father.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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