Post-Camp Stock Watch: Irving Up; Ayers Down

Nate Irving

IRVING: … had his best NFL game last week.

STOCK UP:

  • DE Jeremy Beal: A two-sack performance at Chicago put him on the radar, and Jason Hunter’s torn triceps muscle moved him up the depth chart, to where he was seeing plenty of work on the second team. He’s by no means a slam dunk for the roster, because Malik Jackson can play inside and outside, whereas Beal is only a defensive end.
  • WR Jason Hill: He keeps getting open and making catches in training camp. But he doesn’t project as a kickoff or punt returner, unlike fellow WR Matt Willis. Hill’s chances might boil down to the health of the veteran receivers atop the depth chart; if even a slight injury trips up Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Andre Caldwell or Brandon Stokley, Hill might be in ideal shape to snag a spot, given the Broncos’ preference to have at least one experienced veteran in reserve at each position group — a desire reinforced by the recent signings of Keith Brooking and Jim Leonhard.
  • LB Nate Irving: With five tackles and more decisive play than he showed in his rookie preseason, Irving was one of the stars of the preseason opener. “The thing with Nate he’s taking it more seriously,” said Wesley Woodyard. “He’s in the study room all the time. He’s in the classroom. So, he’s continuing to watch more and more film of what he did last year so he can continue to get better in what he can do this year.” Irving is also one of the Broncos LBs with a radio receiver, along with Joe Mays and Steven Johnson.
  • S Rahim Moore: He played more confidently this week than he had before — particularly in closing on deep passes. Games will reveal more about whether the second-year safety has buried his frustrating rookie season, but the early signs are encouraging.
  • RB Xavier Omon: Others might run faster, but no Broncos running back has run harder than the journeyman from Northwest Missouri State. Being out of practice-squad chances means he has to make the 53-man roster or bust, so he must either flourish on special teams or completely out-run Knowshon Moreno to pip a roster spot.
  • QB Brock Osweiler: Although he still has rookie moments, no Broncos quarterback has a stronger arm. As usual, John Fox is coy about the order in which his quarterbacks will play, but it would be nice for Osweiler to get a look with the second team on Saturday to evaluate his play against defenders who are likely to be in the NFL this fall, rather than the third-teamers he faced at Chicago last week.
  • TE Julius Thomas: The second-year veteran says he’s only at 80 percent, but that was good enough to make one of the best plays of camp, a downfield reception on a post route that offered a glimpse of the speed and athleticism that intrigued the Broncos last year. Now, he needs game repetitions; he wasn’t ready for them at Chicago but should see some extensive work against Seattle on Saturday.

STOCK DOWN:

  • DE Robert Ayers: That Derek Wolfe — and not Ayers — replaced Jason Hunter this week speaks volumes about where Ayers stands in the defense. He now fills the “experienced depth” role that Brooking and Leonhard were signed to handle at their positions. That’s good for a roster spot, and likely to get him some decent playing time at some point in the season, but is nevertheless a long fall considering that he was an every-down player last year.
  • OL Philip Blake: Even with an injury to guard Chris Kuper causing a chain reaction of shuffling, the fourth-round pick can’t seem to crack the first two units and has misfired on some snaps during team periods. Blake is still a good bet to make the 53-man roster, but he’s raw and needs time to develop.
  • OT Ryan Harris: An ankle injury hasn’t helped his cause, but Chris Clark was clearly the primary backup offensive tackle from the get-go of training camp. Whether Harris stays depends on how many offensive linemen the Broncos elect to retain. If they keep nine on the 53-man roster and one on the practice squad, he should be in good shape. If they decide to fill the last two spots on the two-deep with practice-squad players (since you need 10 total offensive linemen for a functional in-season practice), Harris’s spot could be in peril.
  • LB Steven Johnson: The undrafted rookie remains a good bet to make the practice squad, and should see some second-team work Saturday at weakside linebacker, giving him an extended chance to show his progress. However, losing his second-team middle linebacking repetitions to Mike Mohamed earlier in training camp was a setback.
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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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3 Responses

  1. Andrew where do you see Moreno at this point. Does he have a spot on the roster?

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