Kevin Alexander is a man with the odds stacked against him.
Brought into a tough Broncos camp as an undrafted free agent earlier this year, Alexander knows what the oddsmakers against the ‘tweener’ LB from Clemson might say. On the other hand, good things are already starting to happen for the 6’4”, 265 lb former DE/OLB. He was given a chance to take some reps with the first team in OTAs, and although he did not make final cuts, Denver signed him to its practice squad. Following the recent rash of injuries at linebacker, the Broncos on Saturday added Alexander to the 53-man roster, and he dressed for the next day’s game versus the Jets. It doesn’t take much watching to find out why Alexander is being given a second look by the Broncos.
One thing that has been happening with the Broncos and the NFL in general over the past few years has been a family matter. Denver has twice had brothers on the team at the same time, with Champ and Boss Bailey in 2008 and Worrell and DJ Williams earlier this year. In addition, though, Denver has been bringing in players who have/had family - fathers, uncles and now brothers in the league. Dan Gronkowski was one of those - he has two brothers currently in the league. Another is Kevin Vickerson, the 321-pound defensive end who had his first start at Tennessee, and did an excellent job. He was born Kevin Darnell Vickerson on Jan. 8, 1983 in Detroit, Michigan. Vickerson’s younger brother, Quartez Vickerson, was with the Titans during their 2007 training camp and currently plays arenafotball2.
Note: This is the second of a two-part story, the first of which appeared earlier today.
Wise beyond his years, he realized that he was about an average size for a shooting guard. He was big and fast enough to do great things as a WR, and realized that there weren’t that many NFL receivers with his combination of size, speed and elusiveness. He looked for colleges with just that in mind. To him, Georgia Tech seemed like a very good fit. Chan Gailey was running a pro-style attack, and that seemed to Thomas as if it might improve his chances in the NFL Draft.
Following his 2007 season, however, the Yellow Jackets brought in Paul Johnson to run the triple-option offense; one which emphasizes various options that put up a lot of running yards and had worked well for Johnson when he was at Navy. One of the advantages for Demaryius was that he was, from his time in high school and middle school, already a remarkably advanced blocker. He had taken the usual freshman redshirt year and got the work on his management degree well underway. He returned to football in 2007. He playing in all 13 of their games that year, started 10, including the final 8 games. He was second on the team in receptions with 35. He also managed to average 15.9 yards per reception, and was a fierce blocker. Two of the receivers from GT left, unhappy with the installation of the triple option. DT decided to stay.
Note: This is the first of a two-part story, the rest of which will appear later today at 3pm ET.
It’s a story that’s been seen in every city in America: Life becomes more and more difficult, and a family can’t manage the bills. In this family, as is far too common in black society here in the US, there was no husband; just two women - a mother and her daughter - and a young boy, living in Montrose, Georgia. That child, Demaryius Thomas, had been born on Christmas Eve 1987, one of three children. Demaryius also had two sisters, Tonecia and Tyeshia Smith. Like many people before them, they decided to accept values that were common in their own neighborhood. The older woman - grandmother to the child of the daughter that lived with her - began to sell drugs, starting with marijuana. It was illegal, dangerous for her, common in that strata of our society, and it made sure that food was on the table and a working roof was over their heads. She first sold marijuana, and was arrested and convicted for it within the first year that she began to sell it - in 1986.
The loss of TE Marquez Branson this preseason to a knee injury was a nasty surprise; he had been showing signs of having a knack for this game. But that’s why TE Dan Gronkowski was a potentially good acquisition from Detroit (if he plays like he was ranked - he was another guy who was rated substantially higher but fell in the draft). We’ll need someone who can both block and catch, and who can do both nearly equally. In theory, that’s what we got. So, why was Gronkowski one player away from being Mr. Irrelevant in the 2009 NFL Draft?
Sunday’s home-opening 31-14 win over the Seahawks was a game of many firsts, rarities and different experiences. Near the top of all of those - which included Demaryius Thomas’ first game, first reception and first TD as a Denver Bronco - was the idea, bizarre to the point of absurdity only a year ago, that one of the many key players was Jarvis Moss, last year’s scout team MVP (which was the equivalent, said one wag, of being the world’s tallest midget). But Jarvis Moss’ contribution wasn’t small in the least. Another player who once was given up as a waste of good roster space has risen from the issues that weighted him down during the first years of his NFL career. Moss’ box score showed 2 solo tackles, one assist and a sack, but his impact on the game - and of the game on his career - could not be counted solely by stats in a game book.
When Josh McDaniels took on the task of remaking the Denver Broncos into a perennial playoff contender, his approach to player personnel was relatively direct. He put in place manuals for each of the positions that laid out in detail the height, weight and physical characteristics of each of the players that he wanted to see on the field as well as the mental attributes. He also reworked the scouting department, getting them up to speed on the way that they wanted players scouted and the types of skillsets that were valued by the organization. Overall, his approach was simple - he wanted tough, physical, smart versatile players at every slot on the field. With the draft of 2010, one of his final selections seems to be the epitome of that concept.
While a defensive lineman in college, and one who played both the DE and DT positions, Jammie (pronounced JAY-mee) Kirlew is exactly what the coach ordered. Whether or not he has the level of skill to make the leap from college to the NFL is still to be determined. Whether or not Kirlew fits into the outline that the Broncos have drawn is not - it fits him like a glove. One credit that he's earned was putting in place a system from the regional scouts to the tense moments of the draft know, understand their roles within it, and it's producing the kind of players that McDaniels and Xanders like. The further question of whether these are the players that the team can win with is yet to be determined. Jammie Kirlew was on the Denver board as a 5th round player, as was Syd'Quan Thompson. A quick quid pro quo involving the Denver pick in the 2011 draft and both players were slated to wear orange and blue.
Every time Richard Quinn's name comes up, you begin to hear the same Greek chorus - "He's only a blocking back. He only caught 12 balls in college." The second statement is true. The first is up for considerable debate. What many people don't seem to know about Richard Quinn is that before he was a TE, he'd been a WR/TE in high school. He was a good one, too, and highly recruited. Sometimes you don't get the whole story when you only see headlines. Quinn is an unknown quantity to most Denver fans. That's going to change over time, and I'm betting that Broncos fans will like what they see.
There are players who come into the NFL, seemingly immediately ready to take on the challenges of the game. You may find them in the 1st round or the 7th - you may even find them in the ranks of the undrafted college free agents. Regardless of where they are found, they all have one thing in common - they're very, very rare. Only a gifted few players are ready to contribute immediately. Most NFL teams will give even 1st round prospects 2 full training camps before even considering how well they might be working out for the team. The NFL game is bigger, faster, stronger and a lot more complex, and it takes most people time to figure it out. One of those players is Marquez Branson.
We've been talking for weeks now about the nose tackles in this league, on this team and in this draft. It seems that every time I turn around, some other NFL team has decided that the intelligent answer to the short passing-based attack that has been sweeping the NFL is to move to the versatility of the 3-4 formation. As more and more teams use this attack as their primary or secondary weapon (in the case of some of the hybrids formations, another commonality in the NFL right now), there is a growing demand for nose tackles. Big ones and shorter ones, faster and slower ones, nose tackles are becoming one of the talks of the league.