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Woody Paige: Jamaal Charles showed explosiveness in preseason debut with Broncos

August 27, 2017 Updated: August 27, 2017 at 5:53 pm
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Broncos running back Jamaal Charles runs for a first down in the second quarter as Broncos Matt Paradis defends Packers safety Josh Jones. The Denver Broncos were playing in the preseason against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, August 26, 2017 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

DENVER - Jamaal Charles looked like The Solution again.

Then, he looked like The Big Hurt again.

Then, like that, he was back.

Just as the Broncos had Charles in Charge - with four rushes for 27 yards in the first half - one of the NFL's most remarkable runners had to leave the field Saturday night.

Would the former Chiefs' all-world back attempt at a return to glory be thwarted in his first exhibition appearance with the Broncos?

After picking up 12 yards on a twisting, turning burst, Charles departed to the sideline in the second quarter. He seemed fatigued, and there also was concern that when Charles make a cut, maybe the repaired right knee had been injured. Charles disappeared into a new, blue tent with the Broncos' long-time trainer Steve "Greek" Antonopulos.

Oh, no.

Charles hadn't played in two exhibitions. He rarely participated in off-season workouts or training camp after signing as a free agent with the Broncos. He didn't remove a brace on the knee until the past week.

Coach Vance Joseph had said that the game against the Packers was Jamaal's opportunity to shine and show if he was the old Charles or just an old Charles. It was believed that it was make-the-roster-or-break for the Broncos' nemesis for so many years.

His first run in the first quarter was nifty and produced 5 yards. Charles got two more chances and had 15 yards in three carries. He failed to turn around on a pass in his direction, but twice in the backfield he wisely picked up blitzes.

On the run for a dozen, Charles appeared to not all only assure that he would stick in the tightly-contested backfield battle, but he could be a major contributor once more.

But, while he was in the tent being evaluated, everyone wondered.

Then the word came. Charles had been checked out for concussions symptoms, and was cleared. Not only was he OK, but Charles returned to play and caught two short passes from newly-named starting quarterback Trevor Siemian.

"Jamaal was Jamaal," Joseph said to Ron Mackey at the end of the half. Joseph then added an important noun.

"Explosive."

The Broncos did suffer other injuries - to defensive end Zach Kerr (as if the Broncos didn't have enough problems losing defensive ends) and safety Will Parks - and Siemian suffered with a terrible interception (before settling and playing extremely well in the first half), and the defense suffered with an ugly skirmish between linebacker Todd Davis and cornerback Aqib Talib (who was the peacemaker until Davis shoved him with a helmet in the chest).

But, in the only serious exhibition, the Broncos virtually played even with the Packers - especially after Aaron Rodgers was on the stage briefly.

Yet, C. J. Anderson failed on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 at the Pack's 11-yard line, and that was a critical issue for the Broncos last season.

Now, the Broncos can turn their attention the regular-season opener (after another meaningless exhibition).

Who will be on this team?

The narrative throughout training camp has been about the plethora of difficult decisions the Broncos must make about players by Sept. 2.

Not really.

I've been coming to these things since the Broncos trained for seasons in the 1970s. (Few remembers coach John Ralston's Foolish Football Folly in Pomona, Calif.)

Really, it's never been that hard to cut, especially with practice squads, injured reserve lists and expanded rosters (53 now).

The Broncos' brass is deliberating over a 10th offensive lineman, a sixth wide receiver and an eighth linebacker.

Will anybody be shocked, stunned and startled by who is kept or dismissed in the Broncos' player purge?

I wrote in 2011 that a free agent cornerback should be retained by the Broncos, and Chris Harris Jr. has come through - as in best cornerback in the league.

Well, there's another Chris Harris - sort of. Chris Lewis-Harris was another undrafted free agent in 2012. The Bengals signed him, and he was a practice squad and regular squad player for four seasons - and played under a secondary coach named Joseph. Lewis-Harris has been impressive enough to be the Last Cornerback Standing.

Another Harris - Shelby, who played defensive end with the Raiders the past two season - made his presence felt Saturday night with a solid performance, especially given the Broncos' thin situation because of injuries at the position.

But the most important aspect of the exhibition was Jamaal Charles.

Welcome to the Broncos, Jamaal.

He's back.

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