Happy Football Thursday, friends. As the preseason comes to a close, we’re left to ponder the value of tonight’s game, which begins after my bedtime. All I can really think of is that it gives the underdog lovers something to get all excited about.
I’m continually interested in how fans latch on to some late or undrafted player, based on a play here or there, or his name, or where he went to school. That underdog is going to be a major player, maybe even a star! He’s a diamond in the rough, and I’ve been down since Day 1. When the IAOFM crew was chatting during the Bears game, we were having a laugh about how Xavier Omon hysteria was about to be upon us when he made a few good runs against third-stringers. Well, it came, and it went. No other third-string defensive line that the Broncos played was sorry enough to be blocked by the Broncos' third-string offensive line.
For the Broncos, the value is that it gives them a chance to make a last-minute decision on who makes the team, and maybe more importantly, the practice squad. For the most part, the decisions have most likely been made on the larger body of work, though. If you think about it, tonight’s game is going to end around 2am Eastern. Cuts to 53 have to be completed by 9pm Eastern time on Friday. That leaves very little time for deliberation.
The Broncos announced 12 cuts to meet today's 75-man roster requirement. There is one unexpected name here - Lonie Paxton, who spent three seasons as Denver's long snapper.
Also let go, but to no great surprise, were LB Elliot Coffey, WR Mark Dell, WR Cameron Kenney, TE Anthony Miller, DE Cyril Obiozor, RB Xavier Omon, S Anthony Perkins, T Mike Remmers, CB Ramzee Robinson, FB Austin Sylvester, and G Austin Wuebbels.
Updated 6:03pm ET - Paxton cap figures corrected
The Broncos have taken safety Jim Leonhard off the active PUP list, and he is practicing today.
Denver signed the eighth-year veteran on August 4, but his recovery from a torn patellar tendon had prevented him from taking part in practice or individual drills until today.
Updated 2:07pm ET
Onlookers noted the Broncos' practice on Tuesday for its intensity, and unfortunately, the price of going hard when it doesn't yet count can sometimes come with a heavy price.
A day after longtime starting right guard Chris Kuper was lost to a broken bone in his forearm (four to six weeks), the news is worse on newly-minted starting defensive end Jason Hunter.
Hunter suffered a torn triceps that will cost him at least two months, and possibly the entire season; a similar injury forced DT Ty Warren to miss all of 2011.
Updated 11:32am ET
One of the many 2011 Broncos storylines that, shall we say, slipped under the radar, was that the offensive line was the only one in the league to start the same five players for all sixteen regular-season games.
They won't have such good fortune in 2012.
Updated 5:10pm ET
For the second time in the span of 48 hours, the Broncos have added a veteran defender on a one-year deal - this time signing 36-year-old linebacker Keith Brooking. They acquired safety Jim Leonhard on Saturday and placed him on the active PUP list a day later.
Brooking (6-2, 240) is entering his 15th NFL season after 11 years with Atlanta and three in Dallas, where he went from a 16-game starter in 2010 (906 snaps) to seeing more limited play last season (three starts, 408 snaps) after being replaced by Sean Lee.
Mario Fannin's NFL dreams have been put off for another season. For the second straight year, the former Auburn running back has suffered a season-ending injury, this time a torn Achilles tendon.
Fannin, who joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2011, was hurt during the team's scrimmage yesterday; he tore an ACL during training camp last summer, almost a year to the day. The 24-year-old was expected to compete for a backup spot behind Willis McGahee, and had earned praise for his combination of size (5-11, 224) and speed (4.37-second forty time).
One of the biggest issues of Denver's offseason has concerned what the team will do once linebacker D.J. Williams is eligible to return from suspension.
Williams faces a six-game ban for having violated the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs, has been relegated to inaction throughout training camp, and was not in uniform for the Broncos' scrimmage yesterday at SAF@MH.
Complicating matters is that Williams may face an even longer ban pending his upcoming DUI trial.
Fifth-year veteran Wesley Woodyard has operated in Williams's starting weakside linebacker spot for the entirety of camp.
Also adding to the intrigue is Denver's Week 7 bye; as it now stands, the 30-year-old would be allowed to rejoin the team during the bye week, and play Week 8 when the Broncos host the Saints, a team ravaged by its own suspensions thanks to the recent bounty scandal.
Following a workout today, veteran safety Jim Leonhard (5-8, 188) signed a one-year deal with the Broncos. The former Wisconsin Badger is entering his eighth NFL season, having spent three years in Buffalo, one in Baltimore, and three with the Jets. He worked out for the Bills on Thursday and reportedly received an offer, but chose to continue on to Denver anyway.
In seven seasons, Leonhard has played in 94 games (60 starts), accumulating 254 tackles, 66 assists, 3.5 sacks, six interceptions for 141 yards and one touchdown, 25 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and four recoveries. The 29-year-old has also returned 82 punts for 820 yards, and 12 kickoffs for 256 yards.
Updated 9:24pm ET
After adding safety Mike Adams via free agency, the Broncos entered training camp expecting one of Quinton Carter or Rahim Moore to start next to the ninth-year veteran. A week and change into camp, Moore has been impressing, but an injury to Carter on Day 2 has taken him out of the competition for now.
Carter had originally been diagnosed with a hamstring injury, but he also hurt his knee and underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure earlier this week. The second-year ex-Sooner is expected to miss at least the first two of Denver's preseason games.