Xavier Omon sits on the ledge, and he knows it.
Yes, he made quite the impression in the preseason opener last Thursday by leading Denver running backs in yardage (36) and yardage per carry (5.1), while showing sufficient explosion and balance. He’s also occasionally been the No. 3 running back called during some periods of practice this week, and has carried over the momentum to some solid practice work.
But this is his fifth year out of college following a record-smashing career at Division II Northwest Missouri State. He’s been on practice squads with five teams — including the Broncos — over the last three years, so he’s exhausted his eligibility.
For the 27-year-old Omon, it’s the 53-man roster or bust.
“This could be my last shot,” Omon said. “There’s definitely a little bit more urgency but I’m taking it one day at a time and just enjoying the ride.”
That the Broncos are the sixth team intrigued enough to sign Omon to a contract is indicative of his ability; most running backs who haven’t played in a regular-season game for nearly three years aren’t still galloping around an NFL training camp.
But most weren’t as productive as Omon in college, or as healthy as he is now.
If Omon makes it, he’ll have to show something on special teams. That’s how his childhood hero, Terrell Davis, first made an impression on the Broncos — stunning onlookers with a thunderous tackle on a kickoff return in a preseason game in Japan during his rookie camp of 1995.
Omon would likely have to beat out Lance Ball and/or Knowshon Moreno to stick on the final roster. Snatching one of those final running back slots means being versatile — whether it’s in special-teams roles or in handling the three duties of his base position: running, catching passes, picking up blitzes.
If Omon isn’t versatile enough to handle all that, he likely doesn’t fit in the roster equation — no matter how he runs.
“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I try to be the jack of all trades,” Omon said. “If I can be a little bit of everything, that means that I’m a complete back. I don’t just want to be a power back, I don’t want to just be a receiving back, I want to be a back that can do a little bit of everything.”
- Beware the Ides of Camp. The 15th practice was spirited — and costly, as RB Ronnie Hillman, guard Chris Kuper and DE Chris Kuper succumbed to injuries during the session.
- Kuper’s injury is the most serious; he fractured his left forearm and will miss the next four to six weeks. Manuel Ramirez, who filled in for Kuper during the offseason, early in training camp and last week at Chicago, will continue to work at right guard.
- Hunter suffered a triceps injury. Derek Wolfe is currently listed as the backup at left defensive end in the base package; it will be worth watching to see if Wolfe handles that work, or if Robert Ayers moves back up to the first team after his demotion early in training camp.
- Hillman’s hamstring injury is to the same one he injured early in camp, but Broncos coach John Fox doesn’t consider this one to be as serious. It dampened what had been one of Hillman’s best days of practice, with a pair of breakaway runs. “It just flared up on me a little bit. I went down but I got right back in there,” said Hillman, who by the end of practice was working in a special-teams drill where players are asked to knock a soccer ball back into play, simulating a punt being downed near the goal line.
- Tempers flared Tuesday, and unlike previous days, where DE Jason Hunter was at the center of the maelstrom, this time it was fellow DE Elvis Dumervil in the middle of things. First, he got into a tussle with RB Knowshon Moreno after a play; the 2009 first-round pick threw the football at Dumervil’s chest, and he charged at him; the two exchanged blows for a few seconds before anyone attempted to intervene. Later in practice, he howled loud and long after a play; it took LBs Joe Mays and Wesley Woodyard to guide him to the sideline to try and calm him down. “It’s getting toward the end of camp. That’s what happens at this point, guys are getting sick of each other, you don’t want to play against each other now and you see little tempers out there going at it a little bit,” said FB Chris Gronkowski.
- The first-team offense successfully moved into field-goal range during a two-minute drill period late in practice. Peyton Manning completed passes to Demaryius Thomas and Jacob Tamme, moving the offense 24 yards to the defense’s 36-yard-line to set up Matt Prater for a 53-yard field goal. The second-team offense, led by Brock Osweiler, stalled at the defense’s 48-yard-line; Fox opted not to send Prater out for a 66-yard field-goal attempt. “We might try that in a game, but not in practice,” Fox said.
- DT Ty Warren was excused from practice for a second consecutive day to attend to a family matter.
- LB Danny Trevathan remained sidelined because of the ankle injury he suffered last Thursday at Chicago.
- Safety Jim Leonhard remained sidelined and on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list (knee).
- Also not practicing were safety Quinton Carter (knee surgery) and WR Tyler Grisham (knee).
- CB Tracy Porter was out because of an illness. Drayton Florence filled in for him on the first team.
- D.J. Williams worked as the second-team weakside linebacker, largely because of a lack of options, with Brooking and Trevathan both out with hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively.
- Warren’s absence thrust Kevin Vickerson onto the first team for a second consecutive day next to Justin Bannan.
- Mike Mohamed saw a pair of plays on the first team at middle linebacker while Joe Mays retreated to the sideline after being involved in a big hit.
- A pleasant, sunny morning greeted the Broncos, with temperatures rising from 72 to 81 degrees during the practice.
- Wednesday at Broncos headquarters, beginning at 2:20 p.m. MDT. The gates open at 1:20 p.m. MDT. There is only a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms on Thursday afternoon, so it would be a surprise if the Broncos moved up practice to 10:35, as they did Monday.