Lammey: An early progress report on the Denver Broncos rookies

Jun 28, 2017, 2:23 PM

The Denver Broncos have an interesting group of rookies in which they added in the 2017 NFL Draft.

As highlighted by’s Michael Lombardi, Denver rarely plays rookies. Since 2012, the Broncos rank 32nd in the league in rookie playing time. Last year, only two rookies — free safety Justin Simmons and running back Devontae Booker — logged more than 25 percent of the snaps for the Broncos.

This current crop could play a larger role on both sides of the ball than recent Broncos rookie classes.

Denver has an early-round rookie who could be starting at a key position for the team from Week 1 of the regular season. They have mid-round picks who could be important role players, and those guys might be asked to do more depending on what happens above them on the depth chart.

Here’s an early progress report on some of the top rookies on the Broncos roster:

Henderson impressing veterans

In round three of the draft, Denver selected wide receiver Carlos Henderson out of Louisiana Tech.

Henderson was incredibly productive in college, showing an alpha male mindset when the ball is in the air. He’s got the ability to run by defenders on long routes and shows a good ability to track the ball over his shoulder.

While not a refined route runner, Henderson can turn short routes into long gains as he’s dangerous in the open field.

Emmanuel Sanders brought up Henderson’s name when asked about rookies who have impressed him the most.

“Carlos is a great route runner. He keeps his arms running through the cuts,” Sanders said. “I’ve been watching film on him and just seeing how he is. He is a technique guy.

“I think (general manager John) Elway did a great job in terms of this rookie class alone. Obviously right now, we’re not able to see their true talents because everybody’s head is swimming in the playbooks. Once everybody gets comfortable, it’ll be interesting to see what those guys can do.”

Henderson flashed early at OTAs, but he ended minicamp missing the last two practices due to soreness.

In his only practice during mandatory minicamp, Henderson struggled with drops as it seemed like he was thinking about running after the catch before securing the pass.

In order to play up to the amazing potential he showed in college, Henderson will need to be a more consistent and reliable target for his quarterback.

Walker ready to work

In the second round, Denver drafted defensive end DeMarcus Walker out of Florida State.

Walker can make a ton of plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage and regularly gets pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He times the snap well and gets out of his stance quickly, exploding into a blocker’s chest immediately.

Walker is a high-motor player who wore himself late in games for the Seminoles because he never wanted to come off the field.

His length, bend, and burst should be featured by the Broncos on passing downs.

Free agent addition Zach Kerr said what he’s seen from Walker has been encouraging.

“He’s quick, really quick. Quick twitch. Really good at rushing the passer. He knows his stuff. I like him a lot,” Kerr said. “He’s one of those guys — he’s a rookie that comes in and you can tell he’s ready to work.

“He’s ready to learn. He’s going to continue to get better. I like him a lot. He’s a really good player.”

Walker was known as a “snap jumper” in college and should bring that skill to the field for the Broncos.

He’s unlikely to wear down for Denver in the role of part-time pass rusher in 2017 and can make an immediate impact in limited snaps this season for the Broncos.

Walker’s an exciting player with great upside for the future.

Bolles making a move

Denver selected offensive tackle Garrett Bolles out of Utah with its first-round pick in this year’s draft.

Bolles has the tenacity and intensity that coaches love. He’s incredibly aggressive as a blocker and protects his quarterback like he’d protect a family member in danger.

Rarely beaten around the edge, Bolles has good footwork. He needs to add functional strength to help him stand up against inside pass-rushing moves, but Bolles has the potential to be a quality starter in the pros.

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said he’s liked the rookie’s development this offseason.

“He’s made a lot of progress. It’s a tough spot to play as a rookie, and it takes a lot of football IQ to play that spot in the NFL. When he knows what to do, he can block his guy,” Joseph said.

“His talent shows. The ultimate issue is knowing what to do and how to do it, but he’s a first-round pick for a reason. He’s a talent.”

Bolles has made the move from the second team to the first team already this offseason. He doesn’t have the starting job yet, but he’s put himself into position for that spot as we enter training camp.

If Bolles can beat out Ty Sambrailo in camp, then he could be the Week 1 starter for the Broncos, protecting the blindside of whatever quarterback lines up under center.

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Lammey: An early progress report on the Denver Broncos rookies