To call Mike Purcell's career arc unusual would be fitting; though perhaps rare is a more apt word.
Before starting seven games and playing in 13 for the Broncos last year, Purcell had played in just 25 games since entering the league in 2013. But in 2019, he emerged as a key piece of the Broncos' interior defensive line, shoring up the run defense in particular after Jacksonville's Leonard Fournette gashed the Broncos for 225 rushing yards.
Now, Purcell enters the 2020 season as an expected starter on the Broncos' defensive line.
Such a reversal of fortune has not gone overlooked by Purcell, nor Head Coach Vic Fangio.
"[Fangio] kind of asked how it feels to be a little comfortable having a position here," Purcell recalled on Monday. "I told him my mentality's not going to change. I'm going to fight the same way I did every single year. As soon as you feel like you get complacent sometimes, it's sometimes when things can turn for the worst.
"I've battled through hell and back, so I'm just going to keep my mentality the same way. It feels good. As long as they know that I can play football, I'm going to give them everything I can, and I'll play as long as I can. I'm just happy to be here."
With Shelby Harris and Jurrell Casey on either side of him, Purcell is part of a unit as talented as any he's been on, and after Monday's padded practice, Purcell expects his chemistry with Casey to only improve.
"Jurrell's a great guy," Purcell said. "He brings a lot of intensity and a lot of experience. I think those are the biggest things: his experience and his knowledge of the game, everything like that, it's helped us tremendously inside. To lose somebody like [former Broncos DE Derek] Wolfe but to gain somebody like him is just something that's tremendous. Jelling-wise, when we're out there playing, I think it's been going really well. It can only get better from now on. Now we've got the pads on. We can really bang, really feel each other out how we play and how certain things could play out for each other. It's been going really well, and I only expect it to get better."
Below the Fold
The connection between Jerry Jeudy and Wide Receivers Coach Zach Azzanni apparently goes back much further than we previously knew. As The Denver Post's Ryan O'Halloran reports, back when Azzanni coached at the University of Tennessee, he and then Volunteers head coach Butch Jones offered a scholarship to Jeudy when he was 15 years old. "He was one of those guys who had natural ability and natural instincts — things you can't coach," Azzanni told O'Halloran. "You knew he could grow into something."
When the Broncos take the field for their season opener in Monday night duel against Tennessee, there will be a new "Monday Night Football" crew on ESPN calling the game. Longtime ESPN anchor Steve Levy will provide the play-by-play while Louis Riddick and former Broncos quarterback Brian Griese will give analysis. Griese and Levy also previously called Broncos preseason games on KTVD-Channel 20 in 2018 and 2019.