Broncos roster battles: McManus, Barth engaged in strong bout


The Denver Broncos have an extremely talented roster full of great battles, but none is more intense than the one currently happening at the kicker position between Brandon McManus and Connor Barth.

Both acquired in the 2014 season, these guys have been at it since the end of last season, and are perhaps as close as they have ever been.

In day 19 of practice, McManus convinced special teams coach Joe DeCamellis to talk Gary Kubiak into letting him try a 70-yard field goal in an actual game situation. They let him, and he nailed it — reportedly with room to spare.

“We were doing the two-minute drill, and I actually told Coach [Special Teams Coordinator Joe] DeCamillis that I could make this one,” McManus said. “I don’t know if he believed me or not. I saw him smirk at me, and he went over to [Head] Coach [Gary Kubiak] Kube and he told him, so I just waited for them to make the call. I knew I could get it there. It does look far away, though, I can tell you that.”

Not to be outdone, Barth came in and showed off a much stronger leg than people probably think he has, and nailed one from 65 yards out.

“That’s a heck of a kick,” said Barth. “He’s very talented guy. I was just glad I could get out there and answer the bell from 65 [yards]. That’s my longest in practice. I think that still breaks the record. It was just fun to go out there, [and] hopefully we kind of got the team for the rest of practice, so it was good.”

This tight battle stretches much further than recent weeks, but Barth and McManus combined for five field goals (two from McManus, three from Barth) in the team’s first pre-season game against Seattle. McManus made one from 52 yards, which was the most impressive of them all, but this is a battle that could really wind up with whatever kicker can handle kickoff duties better.

While McManus has clearly improved his accuracy as a field goal kicker, Barth has also improved his range on kickoffs. The Broncos recently acquired punter/kickoff specialist Spencer Lanning who could also play a role in all of this, but right now, it sort of feels like McManus has the edge over Barth, despite how solid Barth was for the Broncos last year.

His ability to kickoff and make longer range field goals along with some visibly improved accuracy are encouraging, but Barth is a good player at the position in his own right. This situation reminds me of when the Broncos had both Matt Prater and Steven Hauschka on the roster. Hauschka wound up kicking for the Seahawks and winning a Super Bowl. He’s currently one of the best in the league.

Prater had one of the best seasons for a kicker in NFL history in 2013.

It will be an interesting battle as we close out the preseason, with each player fighting neck and neck.

Next: Peyton Manning will make debut against Texans

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