As training camp 2019 heads into its fourth week, the Broncos find themselves thin at a few positions. In order to compensate, Vic Fangio and the rest of Denver’s coaching staff find themselves shuffling players around to fill the void.
“Our tight end position has gotten hit hard, but we still have six, albeit that a couple of them are limited,” the head coach explained after practice on Sunday.
He was referring to Austin Fort being lost for the season with a torn ACL, an injury that occurred in the Broncos loss to the Seahawks on Thursday night, and the rash of minor ailments that have worked their way through that spot on the roster. Fortunately for Denver, it appears as though Jake Butt and Bug Howard are getting healthier, as both were partial participants in yesterday’s practice.
Also in Seattle, Andy Janovich suffered a pectoral injury. That’s created a void at fullback, as well as an opportunity for others on the roster.
“There aren’t many fullbacks out there these days in college or pro football, so there’s not an abundance of them,” Fangio said about losing Janovich.
George Aston will get the first shot at filling Jano’s spot.
“He’s been a surprise guy coming as an undrafted free agent,” Fangio said about the rookie out of Pitt. “He had a nice catch and run after the catch the other night. He’s got a chance.”
Aston will get plenty of work in practice and the remaining three preseason games.
“Just to see if he’s worthy of fulfilling that role,” Fangio explained. “Obviously, he’ll get some reps here these next few weeks and we’ll have a decision to make once we get down to 53.”
Another player who will get more of an opportunity due to injuries is Jamal Carter. But it won’t be a safety, the position where the former undrafted free agent is listed on the roster.
“We’re going to move him to inside linebacker right now,” Fangio said about the third-year player out of Miami. “Right now, it’s temporary. But if he looks good in there, it will be permanent.”
Desperation is often the best inspiration, causing teams to look for creative solutions. With Todd Davis still out with a sprained ankle suffered on the first day of practice, Josey Jewell recovering from an oblique strain and Joe Jones lost to a triceps injury, the Broncos are thin in the middle of their defense.
“Our numbers have gotten low there and he’s always wanted to play in there, so the timing was good,” Fangio explained. “He wants to be in there.”
Listed at just 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, it’s a big step up for Carter. But it’s not unprecedented, as the team has hinted in recent years about moving safety Su’a Cravens to linebacker. Still, it’s a major adjustment in terms of physicality.
“I’ve been wanting to play this since high school and college; I like being in the trenches,” Carter said on Sunday. “I’m a physical specimen. I don’t like being too deep away from arms and contact. It’s going to fit me.”
He’ll have roughly three weeks to show the coaches that he’s able to make the transition. Carter will need to prove that he’s a better option to back up Davis or Jewell than Alexander Johnson, Keishawn Bierria or Josh Watson, three players who have a massive headstart at inside linebacker.
Who’s going to make the final 53-man roster? With the Broncos, making those projections are next to impossible at the moment, with so many position groups in upheaval due to injuries. That’s created opportunities for some unlikely players, which will make the rest of training camp and the preseason fascinating to watch.
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