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Vance Joseph identifies one Denver Broncos rookie that is making plays that "no one else can make"

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 16, 2023

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — “Freak” and “talent” are two words that have been used to describe Denver Broncos’ third-round rookie Drew Sanders through the first three weeks of training camp.

“You see physicality, you see speed. His stature, his length, all of those things. He’s going to be someone that does a lot of things for us,” Sean Payton said in the first half of training camp, when talking about the versatile linebacker. “I’ve been encouraged.”

At 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, Sanders’ talent is hard to miss. Regardless of where he is on the field, he makes plays. His final season in college shows this. After transferring from Alabama to Arkansas, Sanders racked up 103 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. He was dominant when lined up at inside linebacker. He was dominant when he lined up at outside linebacker.

Despite Sean Payton immediately stating that Sanders will play inside backer for the Broncos, he then called him a “pressure player,” indicating the team will use his versatility in the NFL.

Even though Sanders is second string on the depth chart, behind veterans Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell, he will have a role in Vance Joseph’s defense as a rookie.

“He’s a talent, obviously,” Denver’s defense coordinator stated, following Wednesday’s practice. “He can really run. He’s really smart. We’ve got some things that he’s going to do in the fall that we won’t show right now. He’s all in. Now, we’re focused on good linebacker and playing good dime for us on third down. He’s a guy that’s improving every single day.”

In the past three practices, Sanders has showed his talent. In one practice, he jumped a route in coverage, got both hands on the ball, but just couldn’t hold on to the would-be interception. He also ran down a speedy running back on the sideline, before throwing him to the ground effortlessly.

“He makes a play a day that no one else can make,” Joseph said. “The talent is obvious. Time on task is needed.”

The sharp learning curve of the NFL will likely be Sanders biggest hurdle keeping him on the sideline instead of on the field making plays no one else can make. But when he’s on the field, he’s even catching the attention of the players ahead of him on the depth chart.

“He’s a freak. He’s got the size. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s physical. It just takes time,” Singleton said earlier in camp about the rookie. “I think with how much offenses do now with all the motions, shifts, different formations and all the different rules, linebackers have to learn so many different things and a lot of colleges only run a couple plays. So to come in and have to learn all that, it’s tough to digest. But he’s doing it. He should be really good.”

With Jewell and Singleton starting ahead of Sanders, the Broncos don’t need the rookie to do it all this year. But when he is in the game, he can do things that no other player can.

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