As the Denver Broncos wrapped up its final week of OTAs, heading toward mandatory minicamp and then training camp a month later, the injury bug dealt a body blow to the club.
Linebacker Shane Ray, looking to capitalize in 2018 before heading into free agency, could be out as many as three months after doctors said he needs a fourth operation on his injured left wrist.
By no means does the setback end Ray’s season, but it could put a damper on the pass rusher’s season.
However, “Stokley and Zach” co-host Brandon Stokley said on Thursday that Ray’s injury actually has a better prognosis than expected and shouldn’t be a major dent in the Broncos defense.
“If you can get him back here by the second game, third game, fourth game, you still have good depth there at the outside linebacker position. If you can get a healthy Shane Ray back early in the season, you’ll be fine,” said Stokley, who had advocated for bringing a veteran before learning of Ray’s recovery timetable.
“It changes my view on whether or not we need to bring a guy in,” Stokley said of Ray’s prognosis. “Now, I don’t think we do. I think we’re good.:
Instead, Stokley said two positions, or position groups, concern him more heading into training camp: right tackle and tight end.
“I think I like Jared Veldheer, but I’m just not sure. The guy hasn’t practiced yet, and we’re counting on this guy to be our starting right tackle,” Stokley said. “It’s a little bit scary. I think that’s a big concern.”
The Broncos acquired Veldheer from the Arizona Cardinals in March, but the veteran tackle has yet to see the practice field as he recovers from a broken foot suffered in December.
Stokley said, in terms of the tight end position, he’s unsure what the Broncos have heading into 2018.
“I’m not sure who Jake but really is. Jeff Heuerman, what I’ve seen out there in my limited time being able to go and watch these practices that we’ve had available to us, he looks like has improved,” Stokley said. “The bar was started low. So, we’ll see how he looks when we put pads on.”
Stokley said the addition of Case Keenum, a “pro quarterback” who’ll be throwing them the football, should help.
But for now, Stokley said, “You look at that tight end group, still, it concerns me.”
Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @johnnyhart7.
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