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Broncos Notebook: News and views from a wild 36 hours in Denver

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
September 2, 2018

What a whirlwind.

Cut day and the days following may be the fastest the NFL news cycle ever turns. Players are upset that they got cut, fans are upset that the players they like got cut, guys who look like they made the team later get cut, it’s really a mess.

24 hours later, the team begins to build their practice squad, and it seems everybody is happy again, as was the case this Sunday in Broncos Country.

Let’s break down all of the big news from the last 48 hours.

Broncos keep Paxton, sign Hogan, cut Paxton

News

Welp. He’s gone.

After three underwhelming camps in Denver, the Broncos finally pulled the plug on the Paton Lynch experiment Sunday morning, cutting him in favor of former Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan.

As our own Zac Stevens wrote yesterday, it appeared—even after he made the first 53-man roster—that Lynch had finally fallen out of favor with GM John Elway.

Quotes

Elway on the move

“Vance and I met with Paxton this morning and informed him that it’s best for everyone to make this move,” Elway said. “We appreciate all of Paxton’s hard work as a Bronco, and we wish him well in the future.”

Take Lynch out of the equation, and it was still clear Elway wanted to have three quarterbacks on the roster:

“That decision was made because, looking at the situation and with [QB] Chad [Kelly] not having a lot of experience and not having played in a regular-season game before, we thought that we had to go with three quarterbacks and Paxton was our third.”

Views

The Paxton Lynch experiment was a failure, no doubt about that.

Looking back, though, it’s clear the move was a desperate attempt to keep the Broncos’ Super Bowl window open, with the league’s top defense sitting there without a quarterback.

After Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler bolted for the bucks in Houston, the Broncos’ backs were up against the wall. They turned to the draft, desperate for help, with only Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian on the roster, the Broncos took a big risk, drafting Lynch at the end of the first round—a notorious QB wasteland—in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle.

It was a high-risk, high-reward scenario for the Broncos and they took the full brunt of the risk, failing to fix their problem and wasting a first-round pick, but it’s easy to see what they were trying to do.

Views On Hogan

It’s now clear the Broncos kept Lynch on the roster yesterday as a placeholder for whatever QB they wanted to bring in next, for now, that guy is Kevin Hogan.

If you ask me, this is a waste of a roster spot. Nothing against Kevin Hogan, but he’s not better than any QB you can find on the street at any time during the NFL season if you need them.

Nonetheless, this is the direction they wanted to go. Natural talent aside trading Lynch for Hogan is a net positive if only for the symbolism of moving on from Lynch.

Adios De’Angelo

News

The Broncos cut running back De’Angelo Henderson on Saturday, despite Henderson shining just about every time he was given an opportunity.

Despite much speculation that he would be swooped up instantly, he wasn’t, and actually cleared waivers before eventually signing to the New York Jets’ practice squad.

Quotes

Elway on the decision to waive Henderson

“It was a tough one, it was back and forth—as well as [RB David] Williams. We drafted David. Again, it comes down to numbers, and it was the decision that we had to make.”

Views

De’Angelo Henderson can play in the NFL, there is no doubt about that, but once Phillip Lindsay emerged as the team’s third-down weapon back, the path for playing time for Henderson was nearly non-existent.

If the Broncos were to keep him, he likely would be a gameday inactive on Sundays, putting him right back to where he was last season, “caught in the numbers game.”

Broncos keep SIX inside linebackers

News

When the first edition of the 53-man roster came out yesterday, arguably the most surprising aspect was the fact that the team kept six inside linebackers on the roster. For reference, we had only predicted them to keep four.

Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis, Josey Jewell, Alexander Johnson, Keishawn Bierria and Joseph Jones all made the roster.

Quotes

Elway on how much the special teams rule changes influenced roster decisions at inside linebacker

“A lot. I think that plus the way we played on special teams last year. Obviously, we’ve got some guys there. [ILB Joseph] Jones can really play—he really does a nice job on special teams. Then with A.J. (ILB Alexander Johnson), we decided to keep A.J. instead of [ILB] Zaire [Anderson]. Anytime you have those decisions like that—we like the upside of A.J. Is he better than Zaire probably at this point in time? Maybe not, but we didn’t feel like we could get him through waivers. That’s the whole thing that you have to play with, is who can you get through waivers and who can’t you? That’s a big part of it, and we just felt that even though A.J. hadn’t played in three-and-a-half years, we really like his ability and felt that we had to protect him and coach it from here.”

Views

This one is weird because a bunch of normal roster-construction moves all landed on one position group.

  • At least one position group always gets an extra man solely because of a player’s special teams prowess
    • In this case, it’s Joseph Jones.
  • Drafted rookies sometimes get spots based on their potential and the fact that the team invested draft capital in them.
    • In this case, it’s Keishawn Bierria. While he’s nothing close to as polished as Josey Jewell, the team still really likes him.
  • A lot of teams stash a player who isn’t ready yet but has a lot of interest around the league, so they feel they can’t sneak him through waivers.
    • In this case, it’s obviously Alexander Johnson.

When you mix that all together and add in the fact that the Broncos have the ability to move on from both of the contracts of their starting linebackers (Marshall and Davis) next season, meaning they could be looking for replacements, it makes a lot more sense. It’s just wonky that all of those things happened at the same position.

Also, in the end, while he might not be as talented, a guy like Joseph Jones actually brings more to this team this year than a guy like De’Angelo Henderson.

Cravens to IR, McKenzie to the 53

News

A bummer for the Broncos and Su’a Cravens today as the talented young safety will be forced to undergo another surgery and start the season on Injured Reserve. He will be eligible to rejoin the team in Week 9.

In his place on the 53-man roster, the Broncos brought back Isaiah McKenzie.

Views

First of all, this has nothing to do with Cravens’ love for the game, so save those takes. The Broncos are taking the long approach here with an extremely talented player who they gave up assets to acquire. It may be frustrating, because the Broncos could use his abilities as a dime linebacker right away, but it’s the right move after Cravens’ knee soreness flared up following a solid performance in Thursday night’s game.

As for McKenzie, he gets a second lease here. It felt odd yesterday that the Broncos went through all the troubles with the young, electric returner, only to cut him after a pretty solid preseason—excluding a fumble on offense that may have been the reason he got cut in the first place.

Now, I’m not sure what his path is to becoming the starting punt returner, as that job belongs to Adam Jones, but there could be a scenario in which McKenzie fields some punts when the opposing offense is backed up and trying to boom it. The Broncos would also do well to utilize his speed by drawing up a small package on offense.

The 2017 class lives… on life support

News

On Saturday, the Broncos cut half of their 2017 draft class.

Carlos Henderson, Brendan Langley, Isaiah McKenzie and De’Angelo Henderson all got the chop on cut day, in what looked like the latest admission that the Broncos just didn’t have the formula right for that draft.

With that being said, we now know that McKenzie is back and both Langley and Henderson landed on the practice squad.

After looking dead yesterday, it looks like the 2017 class has another breath in them yet.

Quotes

John Elway on the contrast between the last two classes

“I’m excited about the ‘18 class. The ‘17 class, I’m not giving up on that either. Obviously, we had to let a few of them go today.”

Views

It’s clear that the Broncos changed their draft philosophy with the struggles of this class in mind, focusing on captains and experienced players in this year’s class. With that in mind, Denver still may be able to extract some value out of 2017.

If Garett Bolles and DeMarcus Walker can both take a step forward this year and Jake Butt can become a solid contributor, things will look a lot better. If any of McKenzie, Carlos Henderson and Langley pan out, you call that a win. Most of all, though, if Chad Kelly can continue to develop, the former Mr. Irrelevant has a chance to redeem the entire class.

At the very least, it will be interesting to see what the final word eventually is on this class.

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