ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It’s always a bit startling for any team’s first year class to see the first round of roster cuts.
To that point their knowledge of the NFL is that of a 90-man roster, cruising through the offseason workouts into training as one big happy unit. Then suddenly things go to 75 players like they did this week and the threat of another 22 players getting the turn-in-your-iPad speech is hanging over them.
So, Thursday’s preseason finale, in which few, if any, Broncos regulars are scheduled to play, is the last chance to make a lasting impression. With that in mind, here’s the rookie report on defense, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class is doing:
Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: The Broncos got a good look at their first-round pick in Saturday’s win over the Rams. Williams played a defense-leading 41 plays while adding three more on special teams. After being used largely in passing situations, the Broncos saw him work in a bigger variety of defensive calls against the Rams. Williams was around the ball and disruptive for much of the night. He helped the Broncos limit the Rams to just 50 yards rushing on 18 carries -- the Rams had just one run longer than 7 yards, a 15-yarder by Isaiah Pead in the third quarter.
Cornerback Kayvon Webster: When the Broncos put their second-team defense on the field in practice Monday, it was Webster and Quentin Jammer at the two cornerback spots. Throughout the preseason Webster has shown the aggressiveness in man-to-man the Broncos liked in his pre-draft evaluations. Webster led all defensive backs with 30 plays on defense against the Rams to go with another 15 plays on special teams. That combination, in that game, suggests Webster could make the 53-man at the position group that may bring the most difficult decisions for the Broncos. The Broncos kept 10 defensive backs on their first 53-man roster last season and nine in 2011. Webster needs them to keep 10 again.
Defensive end Quanterus Smith: Smith isn’t yet full speed from surgery to repair torn ACL he suffered during his senior season at Western Kentucky. Smith left just one practice in the preseason so far, but looks more explosive and trusting on his leg some days far more than others. The Broncos played him just three plays on defense against St. Louis.
Linebacker Lerentee McCray adds a little more to his list of quality things he’s done in an effort to make the 53-man roster with each passing day. Saturday night it was on special teams when he took full advantage of a protection breakdown and blocked a St. Louis punt. He played 13 plays on defense and 19 plays on special teams. Only special teams mainstay David Bruton, with 20, played more. Steven Johnson also played 19.
Safety Ross Rasner made a significant move, in terms of quality snaps in practice this week. Monday when the second-team defense took the field in practice it was Rasner at safety with Bruton. He’s just the kind of sure tackler who can make his way on special teams in the league. Things are crowded in the secondary and Rasner would need the Broncos to send more than one veteran player on his way to make the 53. But he’s shown potential that he could do enough to have a role on a team.