Denver Broncos: 5 Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs
The Denver Broncos have concluded the first round of organized team activities and have earned a break for the weekend, before they pick back up on Monday.
Though it's the first practice sessions of the season and there are no pads, any glimpse of how the Broncos will look in 2015 is intriguing. With a new coaching staff in place, there will be plenty for this team to get a firm grasp on before the season gets underway.
In Gary Kubiak's offensive system, the quarterback doesn't line up in the shotgun formation anywhere near as much as Peyton Manning has during his first three seasons with the team. As simple as it sounds, watching how Manning adjusts to lining up under center will be something to watch. Mike Klis of 9News noted Manning lining up "exclusively" under center:
Peyton Manning worked exclusively under center during OTA practice Wednesday. By design. Gary Kubiak said Manning has shotgun down. #9News— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) May 27, 2015
There will be several more developments and players to monitor as we head toward the 2015 season, but for now, we'll focus on the first three days of OTAs.
With that in mind, here are five players whose stock is on the rise following the three-day session.
Cody Latimer, Wide Receiver
To say that Cody Latimer failed to make an impact during his rookie season would be an understatement. The rookie caught just two passes all year.
But things will be different in 2015, as Latimer is going to get his chance to show why the Broncos selected him in the second round of the draft. With Demaryius Thomas missing OTAs, Latimer was given his chance to line up as the team's No. 2 receiver, as reported by Andrew Mason of the team's official website.
With Wes Welker and Julius Thomas no longer with the team, the Broncos will need a new receiving threat to emerge. No player will be in a better position to do just that than Latimer.
It will be interesting to watch how Latimer and Manning connect during training camp, since it clearly never happened last season.
Latimer appears to have the talent to be effective. He has soft hands and can make big plays after the catch. But he'll need to prove he understands the system and the playbook in order to gain the trust of Manning and the coaching staff.
Ty Sambrailo, Offensive Lineman
It was no secret that the Broncos needed to improve the offensive line entering the 2015 NFL draft, and the team started by selecting Ty Sambrailo out of Colorado State in the second round.
In college, Sambrailo displayed quickness off the snap to go with somewhat of a mean streak, traits that will be a welcome addition to the offensive line.
With Ryan Clady being placed on season-ending injured reserve (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post) after tearing his ACL, Sambrailo may be needed in an even bigger role than originally anticipated. He arguably becomes the front-runner to replace Clady at left tackle. ESPN's Jeff Legwold tweeted out that the Broncos would be bringing in veteran offensive lineman Ryan Harris, who has previously played for Denver:
He also knows what to expect from Kubiak, having played several seasons for the Houston Texans.
With that said, the rookie Sambrailo should still see the first opportunity, with Harris being more of a backup plan.
Though the loss of Clady is a tough break for the Broncos, he didn't exactly play well in 2014 after missing most of the 2013 season due to injury.
Sambrailo having a strong 2015 campaign could help usher in a new era for the Broncos at the left tackle position.
Darian Stewart, Free Safety
The free safety spot could be seen as one of the Broncos' biggest weaknesses, but strong competition at that position this summer could easily change that.
For now, Darian Stewart is lining up with the first-team defense, according to Mason. The Broncos brought Stewart in as a free agent from the Baltimore Ravens, and unless another player clearly outplays him, fans should expect him to be the starter this year.
But that doesn't mean other players won't be given that opportunity. Bradley Roby and Omar Bolden are two guys who will likely see time at free safety during the summer as the Broncos look to find the best complement for T.J. Ward.
Whether Stewart holds onto the starting gig throughout training camp remains to be seen, but he has a big advantage in the experience department, as he'll be entering his sixth season in the league.
Ben Garland, Guard
Ben Garland has transformed himself from a player who appeared to be a guy who would never get past the NFL practice squad into a perennial starter this coming season.
Clady's injury will force the Broncos to try several different combinations along the offensive line, and Louis Vasquez is probably the only player who is guaranteed to be a starter.
Among the players vying for the other starting guard position are guys such as Garland, Shelley Smith and Andre Davis. Garland appeared in eight games last season, and he has slowly proven himself within the organization.
Smith has experience in Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme, so he may be the favorite to land the starting spot. But Garland will be given the opportunity to beat him out, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he does. Per his comments (via Mason), Vasquez is pleased with Garland's progress:
Louis Vasquez says that Ben Garland has "picked up the offense pretty well." Describes him as a "hell of a player."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) May 28, 2015
Juwan Thompson, Running Back
Juwan Thompson came out of nowhere to land a spot on the team in 2014, and he is exactly the kind of player who could turn into a star in Kubiak's offense.
In the past, guys like Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson have put up huge numbers in the zone-blocking scheme, though they were very average players when they joined other teams. While Kubiak was Baltimore's offensive coordinator last season, Justin Forsett's 1,266 yards rushing were more than twice the amount he had ever ran for in a season in his career.
This isn't to say that any player can have success in this system, but Kubiak knows how to get the most out of his running backs.
Due to his vision as a runner and aggressive style, Thompson could be an excellent fit for what Kubiak will be installing. As a result, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Thompson win the No. 2 running back job behind C.J. Anderson this season.
Thompson could also be moved to the fullback position, but James Casey and Joe Don Duncan seem more suited for that role in this offense. Besides, Thompson is capable of making big plays, and the team should find a way to get him the ball as often as possible. ESPN Denver's NFL Insider Cecil Lammey provided his observations regarding Thompson's on-field workout:
Juwan Thompson showed well today, gliding style with power at the point of attack, he sees the field well and is decisive #Broncos— Cecil Lammey (@CecilLammey) May 27, 2015
Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman will both have their work cut out for them trying to fend off Thompson for playing time.