If you're a team that has struggled to win games in recent years like the Denver Broncos, the last thing you can afford to do when it comes time to assemble the 53-man roster is give up on talented players too early. There are plenty of players right now on the Denver Broncos roster facing make-or-break offseasons.
The team is about to break for the Summer after mandatory minicamp, and players have had the chance to make an impression on the new coaching staff, as much of an impression as you can make without the pads on, anyway. Obviously, players can only be given so many chances in the NFL, but which players have been written off maybe prematurely?
Which players could take the next step under a much better, much more seasoned coaching staff? Let's look at three players the Denver Broncos might regret letting go of too soon.
3 players the Denver Broncos might regret letting go of in 2023
1. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE
To say 2022 was a wasted year for Albert Okwuegbunam might be an understatement. The Denver Broncos coaching staff, led by Nathaniel Hackett, had a golden opportunity to utilize two extremely athletic tight ends and they seemed hellbent on making an example of Albert Okwuegbunam, for whatever reason. When interim head coach Jerry Rosburg took over late in the 2022 season, one of the first things he did was re-insert Okwuegbunam into the lineup.
Albert O. responded with three receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. What Rosburg had to say after the game was pretty telling of the way he thought Okwuegbunam was handled by Nathaniel Hackett, in particular.
"“I have been in Albert O’s ear all week long because I think he is a highly talented individual. I haven’t seen him much on the field this year. I am just curious as to why that was because he is a good-looking athlete. You may have seen me in the tight end drills earlier in the week. It was for a reason. I was happy he turned it about. Whatever jitters he might have had, it seemed to me like he settled down because he is a big, talented guy, and he needs to play and play well.”"- Jerry Rosburg (via Broncos PR)
Sean Payton gave Okwuegbunam some kudos after the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, stating:
"“He can run. He’s athletic. I think consistency. He’s made progress. He’s at that stage where this is the time. He did make a few plays. I was encouraged with that. I think that as a teacher, our job is to hit the ceiling with these guys. He’s been very attentive. We’re not in pads yet, so that tight end position is interesting. Some of them are better run blockers, some are better receivers. He’s certainly athletic. I’ve said this a million times. Confidence is born out of demonstrated ability. We can wish for confidence, and you can say, ‘I’m confident.’ We’ve all seen moments where players do something in a game and all of a sudden—so it has to be born out of demonstrated abilities. There’s a catch he makes today that gives that young man confidence that he can do it again. That’s the growth spurt. It just can’t be wished for. Ultimately, you hit a clutch shot, or you make a pass and there’s incremental growths. We’ve all seen—all of you who have covered sports have seen people develop right in front of our eyes. Shoot, the rookie from Kansas (Nuggets G Christian Braun) a few games back. I don’t know if that was his normal performance, but he gained confidence that night. We’ll never forget that night. That is how it’s born. That’s confidence. It’s born out of demonstrated ability. As a coach, it’s exciting to see.”"- Sean Payton
It's important to remember what Okwuegbunam brings to the table athletically and physically. Payton is right -- there's only so long that potential in players can be "wished" for. At some point, you need to see the "demonstrated ability" he's referring to, and that's exactly what Jerry Rosburg meant when he said that Albert "needs to play and play well".
Albert O. brings so much to the table physically. He's incredibly gifted. We've seen some of the best of what we can do and we've seen some major areas of struggle. Ultimately, if this coaching staff can get him to his ceiling, he has the chance to be a tremendous weapon in the passing game.