Kyle McCarthy, a fan favorite the past couple seasons, has found a way back onto the team. He was signed to the Denver Broncos' practice squad.
As hard as it might be on the coaches to cut young players, it can be equally hard on the fans who have cheered for, supported and rallied these hard-working, tough rookies trying to carve out a spot on the 53-man roster when their favorite new player is cut by their team. This offseason was no different.
The Broncos drafted nine rookies and brought in 21 undrafted rookie free agents during the 2011 NFL preseason.
Of those rookies, eight of them made the active roster. Jeremy Beal, a defensive end out of Oklahoma did not.
After the final roster cuts on Saturday, September 3, the young players who showed great talent and effort during the preseason, there were some the Broncos were able to sign to the team's practice squad.
The practice squad is a group of eight reserves with minimal NFL experience who practice with the team, but do not dress for games. If a player on the team suffers a serious injury, the Broncos can place the injured player on injured reserve and activate a player from the practice squad to replace them.
For those fans who were depressed after seeing their favorite young prospect leave, possibly to vanish into oblivion, I have your 2011 Denver Broncos practice squad.
Another position the Broncos have lots of depth in is at wide receiver.
Last season, Brandon Lloyd led all wide receivers in the league with 1,448 yards. This season for Eddie Royal is his make-or-break year to show that he still has what it takes to be an NFL star. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, two second-year receivers, will be given a chance to demonstrate if they can take their game up to the next level.
Eron Riley had an amazing preseason. He made some memorable plays, acrobatic catches, and had some great gains, picking up tons of yards after the catch.
But as is the situation for a lot of young players looking to play, he needs to wait his turn. If the injury-prone Thomas goes down again, the Broncos might call his number to come show what he can do in the big time.
Riley is a speedy, exciting player and Broncos fans should let out a collective sigh of relief that no other teams put in a request to pick him off the waiver wire.
Kyle McCarthy played much of the preseason with the second-string defense and was ahead of veteran safeties, David Bruton and Darcel McBath much of the offseason.
He had some playing time on special teams as well.
Throughout the entire preseason, McCarthy was flying to the ball. He was making tackles, blitzing the quarterback and wreaking all kinds of havoc for the opposing team's offense.
When the Denver Broncos announced their final cuts, seeing McCarthy among the players waived was a real head-scratcher.
Thankfully, the Broncos were able to add McCarthy to their practice squad without losing him to another team with interest.
I believe McCarthy deserves a spot on the final roster much more than the veteran David Bruton, who didn't play very inspired throughout much of the offseason. The other veteran, Darcel McBath, was released by the Broncos to make room for free-agent signing Jonathan Wilhite, a veteran cornerback recently let go by the New England Patriots.
In my opinion, McCarthy is the closest of the practice members to being NFL-ready. I believe his preseason demonstrated that he is already there, but it appears like the Broncos' front office isn't convinced yet.
Jeremy Beal, the only Broncos draft pick who didn't make the final roster, was retained by the Broncos, signing him to the practice squad.
Beal came into camp as a defensive end and third-stringer on a team with some spectacular defensive ends ahead of him—namely, the sack master, Elvis Dumervil who was returning from a season-ending pectoral injury to his 2010 season.
Beal got limited reps in preseason games and made a few plays.
The reality is, he needs some more time to develop. He lands on the practice squad to do just that.
Adam Grant was signed this offseason as an undrafted rookie free agent. When it came time to make cuts, Grant missed the cut.
However, the Broncos were lucky enough to sign Grant to the practice squad.
This is a big win for the Broncos, signing Grant, because offensive tackle is an area the Broncos are extremely thin at.
Grant got a big $12,000 signing bonus from the Broncos when they brought him in, and have high hopes for him.
Many Broncos fans believe that Jeremiah Johnson outplayed the Broncos' third-string running back, Lance Ball.
To their dismay, the Broncos released Johnson and kept Ball. Some believe that running backs coach Eric Studesville sees some great potential in Lance Ball and has gotten behind him the past few seasons.
However, for the Jeremiah Johnson fans out there, it appears like he might be an injury away from rejoining the team from the Broncos practice squad.
During the preseason, Johnson amassed 87 yards and a touchdown on 18 touches. His hard work this preseason has paid off with the Broncos, as they retain his services this season in a reserve role.
Much like Eron Riley, D'Andre Goodwin showed some spark and flashes of greatness during the preseason. He averaged about 15 yards per reception and showed he could make nice catches over defenders.
In addition to what he has shown as a receiver, Goodwin has gotten some work covering kicks on special teams. He is a willing and eager participant and will do whatever it takes to get on the field.
Goodwin needs some more work with the coaching staff to be ready for the NFL, but along with Riley, he is only a few injuries away from getting his opportunity.
Austin Sylvester was the lone fullback backup alongside Spencer Larsen this preseason.
Sylvester did a nice job opening holes and blocking as necessary, but he couldn't overtake Larsen for the starting spot.
With the tight competition for roster spots on the Denver Broncos team, Sylvester was let go on Saturday as the team finalized the 53-man roster.
After clearing waivers, the Broncos brought back Sylvester as an emergency backup if Larsen goes down. The fullback, in John Fox's run-heavy offensive system, is a key position, so Sylvester sits in a good spot to see action if Larsen is injured.
A group of Minnesota Golden Gopher faithful should be happy to hear that their Gopher pride and joy, Adam Weber, has been signed to the practice squad by the Denver Broncos for 2011.
Weber was given less than one minute in the preseason finale to audition for a spot on the practice squad. He made a pass for about 15 yards that fellow practice squad teammate, Eron Riley, turned into an 89-yard gain to set up the Broncos in the red zone.
After a couple of penalties, the Broncos were backed up to the 14-yard line with one play until time expired. After making reads to his receivers and assessing that no one was open, Weber put his head down, tucked the ball away, and sprinted for the end zone.
Some believe Weber got into the end zone, but being the final game of the preseason, the line judge never reviewed the play and Weber settled for a 13-yard run that came only inches away from the goal line.
His heroic play earned him a year with the Denver Broncos to learn and grow into an NFL quarterback.
Now, the players who have shown some promise in the NFL, but didn't make the team's practice squad include:
Britt Davis, Wide Receiver—he impressed during training camp, but it didn't translate in games. Eron Riley's game performance in the preseason beat him out for the practice squad spot.
Stanley Daniels, Offensive Guard—the backups in front of him, Russ Hochstein and Manny Ramirez, also double as centers.
Lee Robinson, Outside Linebacker—rookie linebackers Mike Mohamed and Nate Irving looked better in preseason and received recognition by earning spots on the active roster.