The Denver Broncos get the chance to heal up some of their banged-up players before a key run of six games after the bye. With so many playoff-like games on deck, it’s time for the team to batten down the hatches and start playing its best football when it counts the most.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-get-si-subscription-with-... There doesn’t look to be to be too many gimmies on the schedule coming up. In key divisional games versus the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, the onus will be on the Broncos to start using the pieces on their roster that are playing well, or have the upside ability to outperform incumbent starters right now, if it means the team can pick up a win.
I'm leaving off players like Andy Janovich, Ty Sambrailo, and Denver's two rookie safeties Will Parks and Justin Simmons. Once they get over some injuries, like the one to Janovich, more playing time will be afforded to them. In the case of Sambrailo, Head Coach Gary Kubiak has recently stated that the second-year tackle is line for more playing time after the break.
A.J. Derby, Tight End
After the Broncos welcomed the Green Bay Packers in to Mile High last year and sent them home with their tails between their legs to remain undefeated, GM John Elway pulled the trigger on a trade to bring in the talented but under-used Vernon Davis in from the San Francisco 49ers.
It was a low-risk, high-reward move. The rationale was that Davis’ play stood to improve away from the doldrums of San Francisco and that it would give the Broncos an opportunity to run more double tight end sets with some combination of Davis, Virgil Green and Owen Daniels.
That never materialized as Davis struggled to grasp the nuances of the playbook and failed to contribute on the field. When Davis did find playing time, he wasn’t all that effective, dropping crucial passes in key moments.
So, Elway decided to try his luck again, prying away another talented tight end from the conference rival New England Patriots. With Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett playing ahead of him, Derby was on the outside looking in.
In Denver, he's been a welcome addition and and hopefully will prove to be the antithesis of the short-lived Vernon Davis experiment.
Having only suited up for the Broncos twice, Derby has secured two catches for 22 yards but he did come up with a big third down catch on Sunday. In his short time with the team, he has flashed glimpses of being a better down-the-seam threat, which Denver's been lacking for some time.
With another week to absorb the playbook, Derby has earned more opportunities with the offense going forward.
Corey Nelson, Inside Linebacker
Todd Davis is the starter right now next to Brandon Marshall but he's been miscast from the start. Sure, Davis is a thumper in run-support and can crunch ball-carriers with the best of them, but he has struggled mightily anytime the opposition has spread out the Denver defense and put him in coverage against running backs or tight ends.
Enter Corey Nelson, who up until recently has been a career backup with the team. Nelson earned significant playing time in the absence of Marshall in Week 8 against San Diego and played admirably, tallying five tackles and drawing the assignment to cover Melvin Gordon out of the backfield.
In fact, Nelson hasn’t had fewer than four total tackles in the last three games. Not bad for someone who is taking about a third of the defensive snaps.
Getting Nelson on the field more, even if it’s just on obvious passing downs, will help the defense as a whole going forward, especially in the matchups coming up with Kansas City and New England, who can split out running backs and use them as effective receivers.
Jordan Taylor, Wide Receiver
When training camp began, one of the more heated roster battles revolved around the third wideout spot. Cody Latimer had the most upside, while Jordan Norwood had the best skill-set suited for the position. Bennie Fowler was ahead of the little-known Jordan Taylor on the depth chart. Taylor was battling to even make the team.
Without beating a dead horse, quarterback Trevor Siemian struggles with his accuracy at times. With that being said, it helps his and the offense’s cause to focus on bigger targets who have the catch-radius to make up for inaccuracy. Aside from Demaryius Thomas, there isn’t a better option in the go-get-it category than Jordan Taylor at the moment.
In the last three weeks, Taylor has seen the field more in relief of Thomas and had a big catch-and-run in the Week 8 contest against San Diego, as well as an acrobatic touchdown catch versus New Orleans this past Sunday.
Taylor has the requites skills to be a steady receiver on the outside. When the Broncos go to a three wideout look with Thomas in the slot and Emmanuel Sanders and Taylor on the outside, they have the ability to make a bigger impact for Siemian.
It’ll be all-hands-on-deck for the next six weeks, as the Broncos will be facing an uphill battle to win their sixth-straight division crown and sixth-straight playoff appearance. Each one of these three players have proved — albeit in spurts — that the coaching staff should give them an expanded role.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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