As we continue to analyze the first depth chart of the season for the Denver Broncos, more guys are standing out, as are the implications of where these standouts lie on said depth chart.
Marvin Austin is no exception. Following a tumultuous first 3 years in the NFL that saw him miss a ton of playing time due to injury and bounce around the league, Austin landed with the Broncos this past spring.
Since that day, Austin has been making big waves on the Broncos’ defensive line, and has found himself among the team’s top 4 defensive tackles.
Playing with fellow North Carolina Tarheel, Sylvester Williams, Austin seems poised to turn his career around. He has been earning high praise from his teammates, and more importantly, from his coaches.
Nothing is more evident of how the Broncos’ coaching staff feels about Austin than the snaps he has been seeing with the 1st-team defense. He has leapfrogged veteran and fan favorite, Mitch Unrein, who now sits as the #5 DT.
Before we start worrying too much about Unrein’s destiny, we must consider the situation of Kevin Vickerson. Big Vick has been slow to recover from his dislocated hip that he suffered on the road last year vs the New England Patriots. So far, he’s been limited throughout training camp, but still sits within the top 4 DTs on the depth chart.
With a 2014 cap hit of $2.26M, Vickerson could very well be a salary cap casualty. He has been a soldier for the Broncos over the years and has been able to turn his career around in Denver.
But with a cap hit of more than $2M, the old saying that you “can’t make the club from the tub” couldn’t be more applicable than it is for Big Vick. At 31 years old, he is 4 years older than Mitch Unrein.
The stalwart play, thus far, of Marvin Austin has certainly lent this issue more scrutiny from the team and the fans. Austin has tremendous natural ability, on par with Sly Williams, a former 1st round pick. And his mindset is in the right place.
From @marvinaustin: "I remember being on the field two days ago, and I'm like, '$#!^, man, I love this $#!^ again. I love football again.'"
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) August 5, 2014
Austin would have likely been a top 10 pick in the 2011 draft, had he not missed his entire senior season because of suspension. This caused him to fall into the 2nd round, where he was drafted by the New York Giants.
There’s still a long road to walk til the Broncos get to the final 53, but if Austin can stay healthy, as we’ve seen, it’s only a short matter of time that his elite athletic ability will show on the field.
It will certainly portend bad news for Vickerson and Unrein, but if the former is unable to get healthy, and quick, it’ll be the latter who makes the final roster.
But as it stands, the Broncos have more depth on the defensive line than I can ever remember, even going back to the Super Bowl years of the late ’90s. Can’t wait til Thursday.