ENGLEWOOD • When Robert Ayers was selected 18th by the Denver Broncos, it seemed likely that he’d start as a rookie.
But Ayers missed some of training camp due to a contract holdout, and Elvis Dumervil hasn’t given up his starting spot at right outside linebacker. The team hasn’t shown a desire to move Ayers to the left side to compete with Mario Haggan so the highly touted pick, who will play in passing situations in Sunday’s opener, doesn’t have a starting spot.
“They’re not out there because I’m not playing good,” said Ayers, who admitted he needs to improve on his reaction speed and understanding the defense. “They’re out there because they deserve to be out there, and the best man is going to play.”
Ayers wasn’t the only rookie who didn’t crack the starting lineup in preseason.
Running back Knowshon Moreno, the 12th pick, fell behind because of a holdout and knee injury. Alphonso Smith is the third cornerback in the nickel package of five defensive backs, and his role as punt and kickoff returner hasn’t been solidified because of ball security issues.
Others such as receiver Kenny McKinley and safeties Darcel McBath and David Bruton had good moments but will be mostly special-teams contributors to start. Guard Seth Olsen and quarterback Tom Brandstater started the preseason finale, but that was only because of injuries to starters.
Though Denver could use a nice contribution from the rookie class, it is never automatic that first-year players will start right away.
“We’re rookies, so there are ups and downs,” Smith said. “I have a long way to go.”
KUSA-TV in Denver reported that rookie tight end Richard Quinn was arrested and held without bond on a harassment charge related to domestic violence. Quinn is a second-round pick.
The Broncos released receiver Chad Jackson. The team needed to make a roster move after receiver Brandon Marshall was reinstated from his suspension.