ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Most of the Denver Broncos starters played deep into the second quarter of Saturday's 40-10 thrashing in Seattle, so the team’s first-year class saw its playing time limited in many cases.
The rookies' totals figure take a bigger hit this week as the team's starters are expected to play into the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams in Sports Authority Field at Mile High -- in what is the closest thing a to a full-blown dress rehearsal for the team.
Still, there is work to be done before the first roster cutdown on Aug. 27. With that in mind, here’s the rookie report, a weekly check-in with how Denver's first-year class is doing:
Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams: Since he has spent much of his time in training camp in the Broncos pass rush packages, Williams didn’t get as much playing time against the muscle-up offense of the Seahawks as he would have against another more pass-happy team. In the end he finished with 16 snaps on defense -- 26 percent of the team’s plays on that side of the ball overall -- to go with two plays on special teams. He was not credited with a tackle in the game and is still in the second tier of the rotation in the defensive front. It means he'll usually see the field as soon as the team faces a longer down-and-distance situation. The Broncos like his upfield skills. Saturday, Terrance Knighton and Mitch Unrein started at the two defensive tackle spots, but Knighton played 15 plays overall and Unrein played 14, so it shows defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio plans on splitting up the time fairly equally.
Running back Montee Ball: Ball was the second running back into the game Saturday and finished with 28 yards on his six carries -- a 4.7 yards per carry average. He finished with 17 snaps overall in the offense to go with one special teams play. He showed good power against a tough defensive front. But he also missed a rather important blitz pickup in the opening period which resulted in quarterback Peyton Manning taking one of the biggest hits in his time with the Broncos. The kind of hit that causes indigestion on the sideline. It was also the kind of hit that can determine who is in the formation on those passing downs. Knowshon Moreno was not in uniform for the Seahawks game, but is expected to play this week against the Rams, so some of Ball’s third-down work may take a hit if the Broncos want to put Moreno in the backfield in passing situations because Moreno is fairly consistent in protection.
Cornerback Kayvon Webster: Champ Bailey injured his left foot in Seattle and will not play for the remainder of the preseason. That means Webster's playing time could go up in some of the team’s specialty packages this week. Webster was on defense for 30 snaps against the Seahawks and added 11 more plays on special teams for what was a fairly busy night. He was active and tied for the team lead in tackles with six -- four solo, two assists. The Broncos stayed predominantly in man coverage looks for the night, so the coaches got to see plenty of Webster’s work locked up on receivers 1-on-1. The Broncos like his aggressiveness and ability to play the ball. He's got some momentum to get some meaningful snaps in the regular season if he keeps up his current pace.
Defensive end Quanterus Smith: Smith, who tore an ACL last November, said he has had a “couple tough days’’ with the knee in the preseason, but added that he continues to improve and feel better. He has stayed on the field for the most part as he has dealt with it however, having been pulled from just one practice so far on Aug. 1. Against the Seahawks he played 18 plays on defense to go with two on special teams. The Broncos want him to be a part of the pass rush looks and figure to give him an extended run on defense in the preseason finale against the Cardinals. He is expected to get spot duty this weekend against the Rams.
Wide receiver Tavarres King: He has lost a little ground to Andre Caldwell in recent practices as a potential No. 4 wideout. While Caldwell got 24 snaps in the offense this past Saturday -- many of those following Wes Welker's ankle injury in the first half -- King finished with 11 plays on offense to go with six more on special teams. He was a targeted on one pass, from Brock Osweiler, but did not have a catch in the game. If he is going to secure a spot on the 53-man roster it would help for him to show he can contribute on the outside and in the slot – he has played some out of the slot in practice – as well as be a factor on special teams. He’s a savvy prospect who has flashed plenty of talent, but looked a little sluggish last week, as if the camp schedule got to him a little bit.
Tackle Vinston Painter: On tough night, front to back, for the Broncos offensive line, Painter got flagged for two of the four illegal formation calls made against the Broncos in the game. The head linesman said Painter was too far off the line of scrimmage as he got down in his three-point stance -- both penalties came during the same third-quarter drive. A week after having the most snaps in the preseason opener, Painter played 24 snaps on offense against the Seahawks to go with a single special teams play. He had some difficulty with his footwork in pass protection at times against the Seahawks, however he’s got plenty of potential in that powerful frame.
Quarterback Zac Dysert: He had been warned through the week as the Broncos continue to try to get Brock Osweiler ready to be the team’s full-time backup, that he may not get a look against the Seahawks. And he did not get into the blowout. He may have difficulty getting in this week as well if ] Manning goes as long as the Broncos plan and plays into the third quarter. There’s every chance Osweiler could take it the rest of the way after that to give him just over a quarter’s worth of work. Dysert is likely pointed toward the preseason finale against the Cardinals.
Running back C.J. Anderson suffered a severely sprained knee in practice last week and was not in uniform for the Seahawks game. He will miss the remainder of the preseason and the Broncos may have to decide if he’s done enough to make the 53-man roster on the final cutdown on Aug. 31, before he is cleared to return to the field. Anderson could miss as much as six weeks in all.
Linebacker Lerentee McCray continues to show the Broncos his potential and they took a long look at him against the Seahawks. He played 30 plays on defense to go with 13 more on special teams. He finished with two tackles in the game. He plays a little stiff at times and doesn’t always show an innate feel for the game, but his size and speed are hard to miss and he can disrupt an offense when he gets himself to the right spot.
Defensive tackle Romney Fuga, a rookie from BYU who played in 55 career games for the Cougars, also got a long look against the Seahawks. Fuga finished with one tackle in his 29 plays in the defense to go with two more on special teams. It’s crowded in the defensive line to make the 53-man roster, but Fuga certainly has the look of a quality practice squad candidate at the moment. Of the team’s rookies, only McCray played more against the Seahawks.
Wide receiver Lamaar Thomas, who had missed some practice time last week with a concussion did play against the Seahawks. He has been singled out by Manning in an early-training camp practice for his efforts before his injury. He finished with 14 plays on offense in Seattle to go with eight special teams plays.