Vance Joseph’s last declaration Saturday evening was his most optimistic ever.
“Exciting times are coming.’’
The coach’s conviction should be the Broncos’ maxim this this season.
Broncos backers want to believe.
Joseph and Broncos Boss John Elway certainly seemed enthused about a 53-player roster that was “finalized’’ — temporarily — Saturday afternoon.
The list includes 10 rookies and 21 players, including two quarterbacks, who didn’t play a game for the Broncos last year. And one quarterback who did.
From the draft classes of ’16 and ’18, the Broncos have, oddly enough, 16* of 18 players with the team today.
* (Tight end Troy Fumagali was placed on injured reserved.)
The ’17 class was not so fortunate Saturday.
Except for Paxton Lynch, who survived by the pirate hair on his chinny-chin-chin. The Hendersons (Carlos and De’Angelo), Brendan Langley and Isaiah McKenzie did not. Only four men are standing from last year’s cluster.
However, praise be to Elway for acknowledging the team’s mistakes by cutting bait and the Flawed Four, who contributed virtually nothing to the progression of the franchise. Just one rookie (Garett Bolles) from ‘17 started a game; three (Carlos Henderson, Jake Butt and Chad Kelly) didn’t play in a game; DeMarcus Walker, and De’Angelo Henderson often were inactive; and McKenzie was the frequent blunderer.
The Broncos’ intent in that draft was to select for speed and big plays, and some romantics gave the Broncos a B+ and termed the octet the best bunch of the Elway era. Upon further review, the process produced a grade of B- for bust. If Bolles and Butt develop into quality starters, Walker becomes a value player on defense and Kelly eventually is No. 1 here or there, then there will be an upgrade.
Five players from the ’16 draft could be starters on the opening series — if the Broncos use fullback Andy Janovich. Justin Simmons, Connor McGovern and Adam Gotsis have developed into solid starters; Will Parks is a serviceable reserve safety, and Devontae Booker is whatever. Then, there’s the Curious Case of Paxton, who probably would have been released if he didn’t play splendidly against the Cardinals’ junior varsity Thursday.
If Keenum has to leave a game, the Broncos probably will go with Lynch before Kelly, despite the call being alphabetically or athletically incorrect. Lynch has played in the league, which was a reason he was kept — he has more time to develop, Elway and Joseph said — along with the lack of worthy available quarterbacks (aside from Colin Kaepernick, who Elway wouldn’t sign if he were the last QB on planet Earth). Elway surprisingly said that the Broncos did reach out to quarterbacks (plural), but they decided to wait.
The Broncos retrogressed in 2017 partially because of the failures from rookies who were drafted, served as coordinators on defense and special teams and as the coach.
Veterans criticized the impertinence of the rookies. As Gazette columnist Paul Klee summarized appropriately, the drafted duds were more about “entitlement than enlightenment.’’
The 2018 class has more class. Most were team captains, school leaders and serious achievers before coming to the Broncos, and a half dozen will add dependable depth immediately — and Bradley Chubb will start.
There were no extreme revelations when the Broncos announced the 53-man roster, which likely will be slightly changed Sunday. I even picked 50 players on the list or injured reserve.
Several of those who were scratched will wind up on the 10-man practice squad Sunday if they aren’t seized by other teams. The Broncos would wish to re-sign Jeff Holland. Other candidates are running back David Williams, wide receiver-returner River Cracraft, cornerbacks Brendan Langley and C.J. Smith, linebacker Marcus Rush, safety Trey Marshall, nose tackle Kyle Peko, offensive lineman Austin Schottman and, as Elway hinted, McKenzie.
Congratulations to Phillip Lindsay, winner of the “Chris Harris Jr. Award’’ for being the only undrafted rookie free agent to make the roster, and to sixth-round draft pick Sam Jones for joining the veteran offensive line. Lindsay, born in Aurora, played at South High. Jones, born in Highlands Ranch, played at ThunderRidge. They played against each other in the Pac-12 — Lindsay at Colorado, Jones at Arizona State.
Jones is nine inches taller, and weighs 125 pounds more than Lindsay. Both are excited.
And Joseph and his orange-and-blue dreamcoat are expecting exciting times.