With training camp underway and the preseason right around the corner, the Denver Broncos have players rising and falling in daily performances. Some of the players are doing both, rise one day fall the next. The fact that some are rising is an excellent thing to see. I never like to see any Denver Bronco fail, though I understand that isn’t a reality.
Right now there are five players who have had an excellent camp and are rising. Some of them may not make it onto the 53-man roster, but they are making a case. As the training camp continues, hopefully more players can start to ascend and join the following five players on the way up. Of course the preseason has yet to happen and when the games start, that’s what can make or break a player’s ascension.
5. Quinton Carter
The first open practice this year at Sports Authority Field was the first time Quinton Carter has done anything there in 22 months. He came out to have an excellent rookie year, before injuries derailed him for the last two seasons. Now he seems back on track. Carter is the third safety right now and sees time with the first unit in nickel packages. When Jack Del Rio gets creative and throws T.J. Ward down as a LB, Carter steps in as the other safety next to Rahim Moore. With Carter back, this safety corps has the potential to be one of the best units in the NFL. If they stay healthy of course. Carter being healthy has allowed him to practice and show what he can do, allowing him to ascend above others so far.
4. Bennie Fowler
The undrafted free agent out of Michigan State has done a good job so far. The high point came in the scrimmage on August 2, when he caught a pass from Brock Osweiler while matched up on Aquib Talib. He powered his way through Talib but was stopped short of scoring by Lerentee McCray. Fowler has the size you want in a WR and the physicality to match. He has done a lot of work with the second unit offense and it shows. He has chemistry with Osweiler on the field and going forward, things will get even better. He has ascended so far, but the real test will be when the games start.
3. Lamin Barrow
Though he hasn’t been spoken much in reports from training camp, Lamin Barrow is one of the ascenders. Jack Del Rio has praised Barrow to the media saying he is growing every day and isn’t the same player now as he was on day one. Slowly, Barrow has gotten more responsibility with the defense. From the few reports about Barrow, he has done great in defending the run, while struggling in coverage. During the draft process he was praised for strength in coverage and the concerns lied in run defense. But during the scrimmage, Barrow made a collection of great plays in coverage. Towards the end of practice on August 1st, Barrow forced a fumble on TE Virgil Green near the goal-line, which so far has been his high point. With Del Rio’s statement of Barrow getting better every day, his ascension is one that should continue farther into training camp, the preseason and even the regular season.
2. Ronnie Hillman
I have been very tough on Ronnie Hillman in thinking he won’t make the roster. Slowly, he has changed my mind some, but I remember he was the #1 RB this time last year and he lost it during the preseason games, so now it’s a waiting game til the games start. During practices he has done well running the ball. He fumbled to ball early, but recovered it. Since then he has taken some licks from the defense and maintained control of the ball. Hillman isn’t ascending the depth chart, his ascension comes more in the form of firming his grip on the #2 RB spot. Will he keep it? Only time and the real games will tell, but there is not denying his rise so far.
1. Isaiah Burse
The biggest ascension so far. Isaiah Burse consistently puts up great days. His specialty is in the return game, but he has shown flashes on offense. Last year the Broncos tried using return man, Trindon Holiday, on offense with little to no success. So Burse showing flashes on offense can be considered huge. With how explosive he seems to be, there has to be a way to use him on offense. That kind of explosiveness cannot be relegated to returns. Burse still has a way to go on offense, but his ascension is clear. If the Broncos carry six WRs, Burse probably has ascended enough to claim that spot.
There is a lot of time left and the games haven’t even started yet, so anything can happen. Surely there will be other players ascending and there have been others outside these five as well. These five just have been the standouts. When the games start the real tests begin.