When free agency started, the Denver Broncos' first target was their old outside linebacker, Ian Gold.
That signing seemed a bit unusual, considering the Broncos already had promising D.J. Williams at weakside linebacker, but Gold has been well worth it. He has been one of Denver's best defensive players this season.
Gold started his career with Denver but signed with Tampa Bay before last season. Gold was released by the Buccaneers in a salary-cap move after the season and Denver gladly brought him back.
The Broncos knew that Gold had yet to reach his full potential. He was a running back through high school and his freshman year at the University of Michigan, so he had only started two seasons at Michigan at linebacker and had 35 NFL starts before this season. Even though he was an effective player the past few seasons, he was a bit raw.
"I was trying to read the running backs and think, 'He's doing this now and he'll do this next,' because I used to be a running back," Gold said. "Now I'm relying on the knowledge I've obtained and the coaching. I've been receptive to coaching. I've made strides but I know I have a long way to go."
Gold is confident he'll continue to get better.
"I definitely have a huge upside," Gold said. "At least it seems to me I have a huge upside. I'm excited to realize I haven't reached my full potential yet."
--QB Jake Plummer has been hitting more deep passes in the Broncos'
past few games. Denver has been more careful on offense this season but
has still taken shots downfield. Early in the season, Plummer just
wasn't connecting with his receivers deep. Plummer's passing numbers should
be solid at the end of the season.
--QB Bradlee Van Pelt has not played this season.
--RB Mike Anderson should pass 1,000 yards this season. His last 1,000-yard season was when he was a rookie, when he surprised everyone by rushing for 1,487 yards in 2000.
--RB Tatum Bell is having a good season but if he could improve in one area it would be catching the ball out of the backfield. Bell has dropped some important passes this season.
--WR Rod Smith has always been a very good all-around player. His blocking is one of the reasons Denver consistently ranks among the league's best in rushing offense.
--WR Ashley Lelie still has a chance to have a solid season but he's in his fourth season and the former first-round pick hasn't shown he can be a No. 1 receiver. Lelie has been more physical this season but still needs to show he can be a reliable option on short and intermediate passes.
--WR David Terrell hasn't played yet for the Broncos. He has been inactive all season but he is talented and the team likes his long-term potential.
--K Jason Elam will play in plenty of poor-weather games in the second half of the season. Elam has always been reliable, although he's in a bit of a slump this season. He should finish strong.
--CB Champ Bailey doesn't like to sit out with injuries. His teammates respect him for that, but it might have set him back in his recovery from a hamstring injury. He missed two games but hasn't been fully healthy since he returned.
--LB Keith Burns' signing with the Broncos didn't create a lot of buzz, but he's an important member of the team. He's well liked in the locker room, a natural leader and he is also Denver's best special teams player late in his career.
--LB D.J. Williams isn't playing much as a second-year player. Al Wilson and Ian Gold are the linebackers in the nickel defense and the Broncos have played a good amount of nickel packages. It has been a disappointing year for Williams, who was third in the NFL defensive rookie of the year voting last year.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Priest Holmes' availability for Kansas City's game at Buffalo this week remained a mystery Tuesday as Holmes made the third stop on his cross-country tour of neurologists and spine specialists.
This much seemed certain, however.
When Holmes does decide he can play again, he'll be returned to his role as the featured back in the Chiefs offense despite all recent efforts by Larry Johnson to replace him.
Asked Tuesday if Johnson had done enough this year to replace Holmes on merit as opposed to being an injury replacement, Coach Dick Vermeil replied simply, "Probably not."
Voice your opinion on our Broncos Hardcore Message Board