5 Young Denver Broncos That Will Get Chances to Shine This Summer
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Every offseason, veterans suffer injuries and young players emerge as training camp heroes. But it doesn't take an injury for a young player to step up—youngsters have leapfrogged healthy incumbent starters in the past.
The Denver Broncos are no exception.
This summer, many young players will get opportunities to step up and impress Denver's coaching staff. Let's take a look at five that appear to be among the most promising.
1 and 2 — RBs Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball
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With returning starter Willis McGahee skipping OTAs and choosing to workout on his own in Miami
and fellow veteran Knowshon Moreno sidelined while recovering from knee surgery, Denver's two young and promising running backs will get a lot of looks this summer.
Second-year scat back Ronnie Hillman has been running with the first-team offense and is looking to shake his "scat back" title, packing on over 15 pounds
. With a year of experience under his belt and plenty of opportunities to work with the starters in practice, Hillman is primed to show great strides heading into Year 2.
Working under Manning and learning from veterans including McGahee, Moreno and now even Hillman, Ball is surrounded by teammates that will help make him successful—whether that's by showing him the ropes or competing for his roster spot and making him push harder at practice.
3 — TE Julius Thomas
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Third-year tight end Julius Thomas has had his fair share—and then some—of tough breaks since being drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round (129th overall) of the 2011 NFL
draft. Battling numerous aliments and ankle injuries, Thomas has been healthy enough to play in just 9 of his first 32 games in the NFL.
Returning to Dove Valley healthy for the first time in two years, Thomas will finally get his chance to shine this summer.
After tight end Joel Dreessen had a knee scope procedure done
, Thomas was thrust into the No. 2 tight end spot behind starter Jacob Tamme. During OTAs, Thomas did not disappoint
, taking full advantage of his opportunity to run with the first-team offense.
Thomas spent four seasons on Portland State's basketball team before converting to football during his senior year. After catching 29 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns in his first—and final—season of college football, the Broncos took a chance on him.
So far, that gamble hasn't paid off, thanks to an injury bug. But Thomas, thanks in part to his 6'5", 246-pound frame, has the potential to turn heads this summer. Be on the watch for No. 80.
4 — DE Quanterus Smith
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Smith's potential to show up big time this summer is off the charts after the 6'5", 250-pound pass rusher recorded 12.5 sacks at Western Kentucky before missing the final two games of the season due to injury. If he can stay healthy, Smith will be a big sleeper to watch in 2013.
Had it not been for his knee surgery, Smith likely would not have fallen all the way to the fifth round of the draft in April. Come time for training camp to start up, it will become more clear if the Broncos got one of the steals of the draft in Quanterus.
5 — WR Tavarres King
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A fellow fifth-round pick, Tavarres King seems to have been slightly overlooked by fans and pundits alike, which is setting up the Georgia product to emerge as a pleasant surprise this summer.
The Denver Post
's Mike Klis has noted that King has "a good chance
" of winning the Broncos' No. 4 wide receiver gig, which would make him one injury away from seeing significant playing time in Denver's 3-WR-heavy offense. If King is going to win the No. 4 spot, he will have to impress this summer.
Thanks in large part to his speed (he ran the forty-yard dash in 4.47 seconds), King is a playmaker that can become a contributor right away on offense.
“As a receiver I’m a guy that gets deep in a hurry, (I) led the FBS in yards per catch last year with 22. (I’m) somebody that you guys are going to be able to depend on, somebody who will do exactly as Peyton says,” King said. “Peyton’s going to put me in a position to succeed," King told MighHighSports.com
Keep two eyes on King during training camp—he's already halfway down the field in the time it takes just to blink. If his speed transfers to production, he will be quickly noticed by Denver's staff this summer.