5 Denver Broncos Players Who Should See Their Roles Expand in 2015

Cecil Lammey@@cecillammeyContributor IApril 3, 2015

5 Denver Broncos Players Who Should See Their Roles Expand in 2015

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos are looking to make another run at the Super Bowl this season. They’ve worked hard to build their draft board, and craft an offseason plan through free agency.

    However, there are players already on the roster from last year who are set to earn even more playing time this season. These players are guys the team is going to lean on at varying levels as they make another postseason run.

    The Broncos did not have a ton of salary-cap space, but they seem to have confidence in players they will be asking more from this season.

    Here are five Broncos players who should see their roles expand in 2015.

Virgil Green

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    A seventh-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Nevada tight end Virgil Green was mostly known as a receiver and not as a blocker. Over the last four years, Green has worked hard to become the best blocking tight end on the team. He’s still a good receiver with the athletic ability on a level with Julius Thomas.

    The new offense under head coach Gary Kubiak is going to often feature two-tight end sets. While Owen Daniels is likely to be the lead tight end, Green is going to get plenty of work as the team’s second player at the position.

    General manager John Elway is excited to see Green in the team’s new offense.

    “We really think that Virgil’s going to flourish because of his strengths as a blocker, but also he’ll be more involved in the passing game. So, we think it’s a great fit for Virgil.” Elway concluded, “We also continue to have high expectations. We think the sky is the limit for Virgil and we think he will flourish in what we’re going to do offensively now.”

    Green is a seriously underrated receiver. It will not be a surprise to see him catch 40 or more passes this year in the new offense.

    There’s a reason why the Broncos worked diligently to keep Green around—and Broncos fans will find out just how good Green can be in 2015.

Cody Latimer

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Broncos moved up in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft to secure the services of Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer. A former basketball star, Latimer was a star for the Hoosiers because of his size/speed combination, wingspan and ability to win at the point of the catch.

    We didn’t see much from Latimer as a rookie. He was inactive for eight games during the regular season, and when he was in the game he didn’t do a whole lot. Latimer finished the season with four targets, two receptions for 23 yards and zero touchdowns.

    The natural talent is there, Latimer just needs a chance to prove himself. Elway has a lot of confidence in Latimer’s ability.

    “We have high expectations for Cody and he’s a big, fast, strong wide receiver that we really believe is going to be helpful to us and help us win because he’s got the ability now to catch the ball and get open, but also he does a great job on fourth down and has the ability to run after the catch.” Elway continued, “Obviously he didn’t have the production that I’m sure he would have liked to have, as well as us, but he took advantage of all the opportunities he got last year and he’ll get a lot more opportunities this year.”

    This offense isn’t going to use a lot of three-wide receiver sets, but Latimer should be the primary player to be the team’s third player in those formations. Latimer is an excellent blocker, and that’s going to help him see more playing time in 2015 as well.

Michael Schofield

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    The offensive line has received a facelift this offseason. Entering the start of free agency, the Broncos had to find three new starters up front. They added free-agent left guard Shelley Smith and traded for center Gino Gradkowski. Their right tackle spot is still a huge question mark at this time.

    One player who could fill the position is 2014 third-round pick Michael Schofield. He made the final roster last year, but Schofield struggled with losing weight (he fell below 290 pounds) and pass protection. Thus, Schofield was not active for any game as a rookie.

    Head coach Gary Kubiak has discussed Schofield briefly this offseason.

    “Right tackle, we’ve got some issues, at guard we’ve got an issue and then obviously [we have] these young players at the center position. We like the [T Michael] Schofield kid too, so we’ll see. We think he’s got some flexibility. Those three older guys will continue to go but after that it will just be very competitive.”

    The Broncos are likely to draft a right tackle in the 2015 NFL draft—perhaps with their first-round pick. Any rookie added will have to compete with Schofield and Chris Clark for the starting right tackle position.

Juwan Thompson

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Broncos’ rushing attack will have a fullback in front of starter C.J. Anderson this year. They have not added a fullback to the roster yet this offseason, but tight end Joe Don Duncan could line up at the position. Starting tight end Virgil Green may even see some time as a lead-blocker in the backfield.

    Juwan Thompson might be the best option the team has to fill the fullback position.

    Last year, the Broncos added Thompson as an undrafted free agent out of Duke. During his collegiate career with the Blue Devils, Thompson played running back, fullback and even linebacker for the team.

    As a rookie, Thompson had a few memorable runs as a part-time player. He’s a big, physical back who loves to dish out punishment to an opponent. Thompson also proved that he could be a reliable receiver out of the backfield.

    Elway told me at the combine that Thompson is an option for fullback this season.

    “You could possibly [see him at fullback]. I think to be effective in the running game, you have to run with a fullback. You’ve got to have ‘21’ personnel, you have to have someone at fullback. Whether it be a fullback or a combination of a ‘Y’ fullback or something, we’re going to have someone playing fullback.”

    Thompson is a great asset for this team. It would be wise to get him on the field as a hard-nosed fullback who can blast open holes for Anderson, run the ball in short-yardage situations and catch some passes out of the backfield.

Bradley Roby

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Denver drafted a star when they selected Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. He played behind star cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris as a rookie last year. However, when Roby was on the field he made big plays.

    Roby was tested early and often by opposing quarterbacks. He proved in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts that targeting him was not a wise idea. On a fourth-down play with the Colts driving, Andrew Luck went to veteran Reggie Wayne, but it was Roby who prevented the pass from being completed. That was just one of multiple plays where Roby was tested—and he stood strong against those challenges all season long.

    Kubiak admits that moving Roby to free safety has been discussed behind the scenes at Dove Valley.

    “That has come up. Here’s how it comes up: We’re going to get our best players on the field. Percentage-wise last year, he did not play a whole lot. He played nickel and those types of things. I think when you look at our division, I don’t know if I’m 100 percent right now, but we’re probably going to play a lot more nickel than we do base defense, but when we do play base defense against teams that play a lot more base offense, you don’t want him standing there on the sidelines.”

    Kubiak continued, “He’s a fine player and so the talk is getting him some safety work and him having the ability to play the safety position. He’s a physical player. It’s just us saying, ‘Hey, he needs to be out there.’ If that’s how we get him out there full-time, then that’s something we’re going to address. I don’t want do too much to him where we take something away from him, but at the same time, he needs to be a guy to play 70-100 percent someway, somehow as a football player for our team.”

    I love Roby as a future shutdown corner for the Broncos. He could start on the outside at corner this year and I don’t think the Broncos would miss a beat. As much as I love his upside as a corner, I do understand the logic of playing him at free safety.

    Roby is a playmaker. It’s wise for the Broncos to try to put the best combination of talent on the field at all times.

    All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via the Broncos' media department unless otherwise noted.

    Contract and salary cap information provided by Spotrac. Transaction history provided by Pro Sports Transactions. Draft grades provided by NFLDraftScout.com.


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