Broncos roster additions could make immediate impact

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos’ active roster underwent a quick overhaul.

Just 48 hours after the Broncos announced their initial roster on Saturday, the team added six new players to the 53-man group.

And that’s not counting cornerback Duke Dawson Jr., who was part of the initial roster after the Broncos traded for him ahead of the deadline.

The result? A slew of new faces at the Broncos’ practice on Monday.

Dawson, quarterback Brandon Allen, fullback/tight end Andrew Beck, cornerback Davontae Harris, center/guard Corey Levin and wide receiver Diontae Spencer all took part in their first practice with Denver — and linebacker Corey Nelson made a return appearance after a year away from the team.

Head Coach Vic Fangio said Monday that the team thinks each addition can help the Broncos improve.

“We’re not the only team that’s had this roster gymnastics,” Fangio said. “It happens every year. John [Elway] and his guys were keeping track on everybody around the league and we just felt that with each and every move, it helped make us better. [That] doesn’t mean that it’s right, but that’s what we’re thinking.”

As the Broncos move closer to their Week 1 matchup with the Raiders, the team will aim to help each of the new players acclimate to Denver. But as of Monday, there hasn’t been much time for Fangio to share a universal message with the six additions.

“It’s been so hectic — they were in here at 6:30 this morning, took a physical, got suited up,” Fangio said. “Haven’t had a big message for them yet.”

What all six players do have, though, is a chance to make an immediate impact.

“The one thing about these guys that you’ve claimed from other teams — yes, they’re coming in and learning a new system, but they’ve come from other camps so they’re football-ready,” Fangio said. “… It’s actually easier to come in and learn in a game week than it is in training camp because things are pared down and dialed in more.”

Read on for a look at how several of the players could influence games for the Broncos as early as Week 1:

QB BRANDON ALLEN

The Broncos claimed Allen off waivers from the Rams, who run a similar offensive system to Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello’s scheme.

Fangio said he hopes the familiarity will help the fourth-year quarterback have a short learning curve.

“We just think he’s a good athlete, throws a good ball,” Fangio said. “I like the way he runs an offense, what little I’ve seen of him. We think he’s a good fit. We’ll see.”

Allen, who completed 63.1 percent of his passes during the preseason, said he won’t aim to learn every detail of the offense ahead of Denver’s game in Oakland. Instead, he’ll look to focus on the areas of the playbook that the Broncos may run if Allen has to play. 

“It will be pretty extreme [to study] for this next week, but I think it’s not about trying to learn it all in the first week,” Allen said. “It’s about being comfortable with some of the stuff they might have me do in case that happens. It’ll be a crash course, but [we’re] obviously taking it in steps.”

Despite the extra work, the Arkansas product said he’s excited to be in Denver to back up Joe Flacco.

“[It’s a] great opportunity, obviously,” Allen said. “Kind of a whirlwind right now getting everything situated and getting in the offense and I’m just going to do my best and prep as best I can this week and get ready.” 

WR DIONTAE SPENCER

When the Broncos set their initial 53-man roster, Elway said Denver would “see what we can do” if a better option at punt returner emerged.

Denver thinks it did just that, as they claimed Spencer off waivers from the Steelers.

Spencer averaged 14.7 yards per punt return during the preseason, and the Broncos plan to have Spencer start at punt returner.

“That’s [what] we’re looking to do,” Fangio said. “We’ll see how he does this week, but that’s what we’re planning on.”

The 2014 draft pick — who spent four seasons in the CFL — impressed the Broncos with his ability.

“He was a good returner,” Fangio said. “He’s got a lot of experience doing it. He’s quick, he’s fast and he’s a seasoned returner.”

If Spencer can break off a chunk return against the Raiders on “Monday Night Football,” it may help to flip the game in Denver’s favor. The first-year player had a 38-yard return during the 2019 preseason.

“Like I said, put the offense in good field position and, if I can score, it’ll happen,” said Spencer when asked about his goals for Week 1. “For me, it’s all about going out there and letting the game come to me and just playing fast. You know, there’s going to be a lot of emotions, but that’s a part of being a pro. I’m just excited to get out there.”

CB DUKE DAWSON JR.

The Broncos’ decision to trade for Dawson wasn’t about a specific injury concern.

Instead, Fangio said Saturday, it was simply a chance to add a player at “a position that is of dire need” for every NFL team.

“He’s a guy that has played both nickel and corner, was a guy that … a lot of teams had good rankings on in the ‘18 draft — obviously New England did,” Fangio said. “We had some good grades on him here in Denver and to get a guy like that to work with and all we had to do was flip a sixth and the seventh I think is worth a shot.”

When it comes to good cornerbacks, there’s “not enough of them to go around,” Fangio added.

Dawson, who was a first-team All-SEC defender as a senior in college, has played inside corner and outside corner at the NFL level. After one day of practice, he said he didn’t know where he’ll play or if he’ll play special teams.

“I mean, whatever they want me to play,” Dawson said. “They haven’t told me what position I’ll be playing. I’m just here to help the team win.”

LB COREY NELSON

After a one-year hiatus away from the Mile High City, Nelson is back in Denver and ready to contribute.

“If it’s being able to cover in man, being able to do well in a zone or bring leadership, both on special teams and defense — that’s what I’m here for,” Nelson said, “and that’s what I feel I’m going to bring to the table.”

Nelson said he’s “in football shape,” but is still adjusting to the altitude in Denver. He said he has to “wait and see” whether he’ll be ready for Week 1.

“Right now, I’m still trying to learn it and get everything down, but we’ll see in due time,” Nelson said. “I feel like I’ll be ready when the time comes, for sure.”

Nelson played 53 games in four years in Denver, recording 95 tackles. In 2016, he started six games for Denver and tallied 61 tackles and five passes defensed.

“Hopefully he fits in smoothly and quickly,” Fangio said. “I didn’t watch him all the time out there, but I will when I watch the tape. He seemed to pick things up quickly and he’s another guy that been in a camp so he’s football-ready. He’s just got to become Bronco-ready soon."

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