The Denver Broncos began rookie minicamp Friday afternoon and the biggest acquisitions in last week’s draft all had a similar message. They plan to compete for starting roles this season.
All players who enter the NFL come in with that same mindset and the declarations they made to do so Friday from Dove Valley should be far from surprising. What is surprising is that each one of the top four players taken in the 2015 Draft will have the possibility of starting at some point during the regular season. After just one day they have gotten a look at what is ahead.
“First off, you want them to realize what it is to be a Bronco, so there are a lot of things involved with that,” Gary Kubiak said. “We’re trying to teach them how to work, the expectations for when we go practice and how we meet.”
The team’s first four picks in the 2015 draft spoke to the media following their first day as Broncos.
“I’m here to compete and I’m here to learn,” said tight end and third-round draft pick Jeff Heuerman. “I’m here to do what I can to help this team win and at the end of the day that is what matters to me.”
Heuerman will likely have that opportunity fairly early. The Broncos signed several free agents in the offseason. Virgil Green, James Casey and Owen Daniels will start out ahead of Heuerman but all three have had recent struggles to stay on the field due to ability or more often, injury.
Heuerman’s youth and versatility should allow him to press from playing time after learning the system from Daniels and Casey, veterans who have played in Gary Kubiak’s system before.
The two offensive linemen taken by the Broncos in the draft will also be heavily considered for starting roles down the road. Max Garcia and Ty Sambrailo will be competing for spots at left guard, center and right tackle, respectively.
When asked Friday what position he prefers to play Garcia answered with a smile saying, “Whichever one I can get a starting job at.”
Sambrailo was equally, if not more confident that he will see playing time in 2015.
“I am extremely ready,” Sambrailo said. “A lot of it (the system) is the same stuff we ran at CSU, a lot of outside zone. It is a lot of the same technique and ideas, just different verbiage.”
Both Garcia and Sambrailo will compete at guard but Garcia has extensive experience at center and Sambrailo prefers to play tackle. The field is wide open for roughly eight players to fill the remaining starting jobs.
After just one day of practice Garcia acknowledged the heavy workload ahead on and off of the field.
“Definitely have a lot of work to do,” He said from the podium. “It’s knowing technique and your assignments at the same time, trying to work on everything. I studied my playbook all night and I got to get back to meetings in a minute here.”
The team’s big first-round acquisition, Shane Ray did not practice due to a nagging turf toe injury but was at practice. Both Kubiak and Ray understand that he will be present but off the field for minicamp.
“What we’re doing is kind of an evaluation period right now. I had our doctors look at the foot and where it’s at. He’s been working and wants to work, but we wanted to take this weekend to kind of put our plan together exactly how we want to proceed forward,” Kubiak said Friday. “He could, but he will not work.”
Ray, a pass-rushing expert will have to sit behind Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware during the season but if he grasps Wade Phillip’s defense he could come in at either end to give the starters a breather late in games. After his precipitous drop in the draft Ray has had a few days to contemplate landing with the Broncos. It appears that he is in the right place to learn and excel on defense.
“I feel like things happen for a reason and me being here with the Broncos definitely gave me a great opportunity to not only play with a really great club but also like I said, learn from guys like Von and DeMarcus and just get better at my craft and be a better football player. I definitely take this opportunity very seriously,” Ray said with authority.
Elway recently stated that he drafts players with the idea that they can contribute and become starters in year two. The players that threw on their orange and blue jerseys for the first time seem to be ready to push for those roles in year one. One day into minicamp obviously won’t answer those questions just yet but the possibilities are there. The next challenge will be meeting and competing with the veterans on the team Monday. That is when the real competition will begin.