Breaking Down Denver Broncos' 2015 Practice Squad
The Denver Broncos had to make some tough roster cuts last week. The team has monitored the players during the preseason and training camp in order to find the best available talent. The 53-man roster has been set, and the Broncos now are looking for quality developmental talent for the practice squad.
General manager John Elway believes in the process—even with the difficulty involved.
“Yeah, any time that you’re letting go of guys that you know can play football, it’s always tough, but I think that’s what we want to do. We want to put ourselves in the position where we have a lot of tough decisions to make and we definitely did. There are a lot of good football players that we had to let go.”
The Broncos signed six players to their practice squad on Sunday. All six players competed with the Broncos during the preseason. The remaining four spots were filled and announced by the team on Monday.
In this article, we break down the Broncos 2015 practice squad.
WR Jordan Taylor
A fan favorite during training camp, “Sunshine” aka wide receiver Jordan Taylor impressed enough to make the team’s practice squad. The first thing that stands out about Taylor (besides his hair) is his size. Measuring in at 6’4”, 210 pounds, Taylor can fly down the field and track deep passes over his shoulder.
Taylor is fearless when running routes over the middle, and he’ll sacrifice his body to make the catch. His catch radius and soft hands make him a favorite target for the quarterback. Throw it in his vicinity, and Taylor will do everything he can to make the catch.
He believes in himself and does a good job of finding the soft spot in a zone. As a former high school quarterback, Taylor knows how important it is to come back to the ball, square your shoulders on comeback routes and quickly break at the stem of your route.
After the third preseason game (versus the San Francisco 49ers), Taylor commented on the confidence he plays with: “I think it was just all the preseason leading to this. Obviously we practiced against San Francisco all week, but they threw a bunch of looks at us during the game that we didn't see in practice, so really it was just getting in a groove and on point with the offense and having to spend a long time doing that. It's been a process.”
It will be interesting to see how Taylor develops on the practice squad in 2015.
LB Zaire Anderson
The Broncos have quite the collection of linebacker talent, and that quantity of quality forced the Broncos to waive Zaire Anderson and put him on the practice squad. Anderson put on a show during training camp, and he followed that up with decent performances in the preseason.
Head coach Gary Kubiak was impressed with Anderson throughout training camp: “Yeah, I can tell you've been watching because you're right, he has flashed. He flashes every day. He's small. You watch him stature-wise work out and you say, 'Can you play in there?' But there have been some great guys do that. I can think of [former NFL linebacker] Zach Thomas for many, many years standing across from that center.”
Kubiak emphasized, “He's a leader. He handles the huddle really well. He loves contact. [Linebackers coach] Reggie's [Herring] done a good job with him, but you have to give the kid a lot of credit. He's come a long way.”
Anderson can play sideline to sideline, and he has the speed to cover receivers in the open field. His nose for the ball may be his best asset. Even though he’s a smaller linebacker (5'11", 220 lbs), Anderson does a good job of putting himself in the correct position to make a play—against the run or the pass.
His work ethic is among the best on the roster, and Anderson should work diligently to develop as a practice-squad player for the Broncos.
CB Taurean Nixon
It was a bit shocking that rookie cornerback Taurean Nixon didn’t make the 53-man roster. He can absolutely fly down the field, and he might be the fastest player on the roster. He showed well in the preseason and did not disappoint during training camp either.
Perhaps it was the coverage ability of his college teammate Lorenzo Doss that put Nixon on the practice squad and Doss on the 53-man roster.
Nixon was excited to be acquired by the same team that selected his college teammate earlier in the draft: “It was actually great. There were a lot of what-ifs in my house. My dad always said, ‘I have a feeling that you and Lorenzo will end up on the same team together.’ Everybody thinks I’m playing when I say that, but it really happened.”
Taurean continued, “When I got the call from Denver and they said there were going to draft me, and I knew that Lorenzo got drafted by them before me, it was like, ‘Wow.’ My whole house went crazy. Two Tulane guys are going to be in Denver together.”
Nixon does need to improve his ability to diagnose plays as they unfold in front of him. He has plenty of recovery speed, but he can put himself in better position by correctly analyzing receivers as they run their routes.
The Broncos may like what they get from Nixon if he can improve that part of his game on the practice squad.
OC Dillon Day
He looks like Thor, and Dillon Day plays a lot like the Marvel superhero on the football field. Day is big, strong, physical and aggressive. He doesn’t wield Mjolnir, but he does have a hammer when it comes to a nasty initial punch. Day isn’t a dirty player, but he plays to the echo of the whistle on every snap.
The Broncos have reworked their entire offensive line this offseason. They’ve made multiple moves via trades, free agency and the draft to find the best group. Day didn’t make the 53-man roster, but just like center Matt Paradis last year, he could really benefit from time on the practice squad.
Day started all but five games during his college career at Mississippi State. He has plenty of experience playing in big games, and that’s made his transition to the NFL smoother. Day can play center or guard at the pro level, and that versatility is certainly an asset for the Broncos.
He’s a smart player with the strength and agility to work well in a zone-blocking system. Day could one day be a starter for the Broncos, but this year he’s going to start on the practice squad.
DE Chuka Ndulue
The Broncos have been searching high and low for defensive line talent this offseason. Chuka Ndulue was a 32-game starter in college for the Oklahoma Sooners. He played defensive tackle in college, but he’s best suited to play defensive end in the Broncos' 3-4 defense.
He’s a powerful player who has no problem controlling his man at the point of attack. Ndulue does a good job of using his hands to shed blocks and get upfield.
Playing with high football intelligence, Ndulue knows how to set up blockers with multiple pass-rushing moves. He also does a good job of timing his leap to break up passes when he doesn’t get to the quarterback.
Ndulue has good functional strength, and at defensive end he can be an edge-setter against the run. The team needs defensive line help in the future—especially if it loses defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson in free agency next offseason. Ndulue could be an answer for the team at the position if he can develop on the practice squad.
LB Danny Mason
Just like with linebacker Zaire Anderson, there wasn’t enough room for Danny Mason on the 53-man roster. However, he is certainly talented enough to stick around on the practice squad.
Mason had an incredibly journey to the National Football League.
He played collegiately at Texas A&M Commerce, where he was a four-year starter for the Lions. After college, Mason didn’t turn pro. Instead, he latched on with the coaching staff at his alma mater as a student assistant as he worked to earn his degree.
Mason did play after college—two years after his Lions career ended, he played for the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League. After one season for the Revolution, Mason made his way to Loveland, Colorado, so he could play for the Colorado Ice (also of the IFL).
The Broncos signed him to a futures contract on January 1, 2015, and he’s been with the team ever since. Obviously, Mason had a different path to the NFL than most. He has a great opportunity in front of him on the practice squad. His hard work has paid off with a spot on an NFL team, and Mason may not be done ascending yet.
RB Kapri Bibbs
In the final preseason game, Kapri Bibbs made a strong push for the final roster with his performance as a runner and on special teams. He did not make the 53-man roster, but he ended up back with the Broncos on the practice squad for the second year in a row.
Undrafted out of Colorado State in 2014, Bibbs was picked up by the Broncos and worked diligently to prove himself in camp as a rookie. He only had eight receptions during his lone season with the Rams, but he immediately showed well as a receiver out of the backfield in the NFL.
There’s never been a question about his talent as a runner. Bibbs is patient and has good explosion when attacking the hole. His nose for the end zone was also evident as he became only one of three backs in FBS history to have 30 or more rushing touchdowns in a single season.
There is no question that he has great belief in his own ability.
"I'm real confident," he said. "I knew once I got my opportunity to go out there and run that ball, I knew what I was going to do, and I just made sure—the last three preseason games, I didn't get a chance to touch the ball; I just knew if they gave me a chance to run it, that I've got to leave it all out there and show them what I'm capable of."
Bibbs is back on the practice squad, and there’s a chance he could end up on the active roster for the Broncos at some point this year. If he improves his pass-protection ability, then he could have a nice future in the NFL.
OT Kyle Roberts
The Broncos need to develop talent on the offensive line, and that’s why they put tackle Kyle Roberts on the practice squad. He could be the potential right tackle of the future for the Broncos.
Roberts started every game over his last two years playing collegiately for the Nevada Wolfpack. He was known as a leader on an offensive line that helped the 2014 Wolfpack rank fifth in the Mountain West Conference with an average of 205.5 rushing yards per game. The offensive line also allowed the third-fewest sacks (20) in the conference in 2014.
He has the athleticism to work well in a zone-blocking system. Roberts knows how to use his arms to keep defenders at bay after the snap. He also has the footwork to mirror edge-rushers and send them around the quarterback.
Roberts plays with a nasty streak that comes out when he’s run-blocking. He loves to control his man at the point of attack, and Roberts can push an opponent out of the view of the camera.
He’s the perfect type of player to develop on the practice squad.
TE Arthur Lynch
In the quest for tight end help, the Broncos are looking everywhere. Over the weekend, they released running back Montee Ball so they could add tight end Mitchell Henry off waivers. They weren’t done yet, and later over the holiday weekend the team added Arthur Lynch to the practice squad.
Lynch was a fifth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2014 NFL draft. He missed all of his rookie season with the Dolphins because of a back injury that landed him on injured reserve. Earlier this year, Miami released him.
This preseason, Lynch competed for a roster spot with the New York Jets. He failed to make the final roster, and the Broncos were quick to scoop him up for the practice squad.
During his time in college playing for the Georgia Bulldogs, Lynch was used primarily as a blocker. He has good size at 6’5”, 260 pounds and is not afraid of physicality in the trenches.
As a receiver, Lynch shows willingness to make—or at least go for—tough catches. He’s quick off the line of scrimmage but does not show a ton of speed after the catch.
Lynch is a player to watch on the practice squad to see if he can further develop his game.
DE George Uko
The team wants to strengthen the defensive line, and that’s why Denver added defensive end George Uko to the practice squad.
Uko entered the NFL in 2014 as an undrafted free agent for the New Orleans Saints. They waived him late in training camp, and Uko had to wait almost two months for another opportunity. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked him up, and he did appear in one game for them last season.
He’s a disruptive player who can force fumbles when he gets his hands on a ball-carrier. Uko played both defensive end and defensive tackle during his time with the USC Trojans. He uses his strong arms to stack and shed blockers on his way to the play.
Uko could best fit at defensive end in the pros. His active hands and strong base should be useful while setting the edge against the run. If he develops more moves as a pass-rusher, then perhaps Uko could create more pressure from the outside than he did in college.
The Broncos are looking everywhere for talent, and Uko is an intriguing prospect to have on the practice squad.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via the Broncos' media department unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats via ESPN's employees-only database.