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Jared Crick & Adam Gotsis Are The Next Men Up For The Broncos

With a season-ending injury to Vance Walker, the onus falls on the veteran Jared Crick and the rookie Adam Gotsis to step up and bridge the gap.

The Denver Broncos defensive line took a hit with the announcement that Vance Walker will miss the entire 2016 season with a torn ACL. The injury was sustained during a 9-on-7 drill during Monday's practice session and Walker was immediately taken off the field to be examined.

While the Denver staff, including head coach Gary Kubiak, were hopeful that the injury would not be as serious as it looked, the fears of a significant ailment were realized when the results of the MRI came back.

Walker was a rotational player last year, subbing in for the now departed Malik Jackson. With Jackson moving on to Jacksonville, Walker was set to move into a starter’s role before the injury occurred.

Walker, by all the coaches’ accounts and from the game on Thursday, was having an excellent camp. The team will miss his presence as it is forced to move forward without him. As one of their biggest strengths, the Broncos frequently use a rotation to keep bodies fresh late in games, most noticeably at edge rusher and along the defensive line.

The team, now forced to move on without Walker, will look to veteran Jared Crick and rookie Adam Gotsis as the next players called upon. With the caginess of Crick and the raw, untapped potential of Gotsis now filling in, it is an interesting mix at the defensive end spot.  

Crick is a workmanlike player who will do everything asked on the defensive line well, if not great. The fifth-year veteran is also familiar with defensive line coach Bill Kollar and will be accustomed to what the fiery assistant will be demanding from his troops on the defensive line. Whether Crick has the ability to do some of the things that Walker could do, like be an effective pass rusher, remains to be seen.

Gotsis is the wild card among the group of defensive ends. The second round pick is among the most physically talented players on the D-line, and with his performance against the Bears, showed why the team surprised many people with his selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. An athletic specimen at 6-foot-4 and 287 pounds, Gotsis has the motor of a humming bird and showed that relentlessness in the game against Chicago.

One play in particular showed the enormous ceiling the young player from Australia has. On a screen pass to Bears RB Jacquizz Rodgers early in the second quarter, Gotsis almost ran down the speedy Carey, despite starting the play on the opposite side of the field, lined up against the Bears right tackle and while being blocked.

Gotsis showed great strength to beat his man and then used an uncharacteristic hustle to chase the play, even though it was going away from his side of the field. While he was only able to trip up the ball carrier, it was an impressive feat to chase down the play that was more than 15 yards downfield.

For good measure, Gotsis also threw in a couple of pressures, coming at the quarterback Brian Hoyer’s feet, to go along with a stout performance at the point of attack. The excitement over his first NFL game will need to be tempered a bit, as he was working against linemen who won’t see time come the regular season. But it’s a mouth-watering display of what Gotsis is capable of with more coaching and seasoning this year.

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For this upcoming season, look for Crick and veteran Billy Winn to take the bulk of the defensive snaps, while Gotsis gets more time in a backup role to smooth out the rougher edges he has in his game.

As the season progresses and the war of attrition settles in, the coaching staff will have the option of going to Gotsis, who by then, will have the fresher legs to make an impact against linemen who have been worn down over the course of the year.  

Losing a player like Vance Walker is always difficult. For someone who put in the time and effort throughout the offseason and is unable to showcase that hard work come the regular season, it’s a hard pill to swallow for both the player and the team.

The Broncos have shown time and time again a “next man up” mentality, and that will be put to the test again. 

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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