Broncos leaning heavily on rookie class via baptism-by-fire for cornerback Michael Ojemudia, center Lloyd Cushenberry and others


After the coronavirus pandemic wiped out organized team activities in the spring, condensed training camp and then forced the cancellation of the preseason, NFL rookies were set up for a near-certain baptism-by-fire in 2020.

In the case of the Broncos, the lack of an acclimation period for rookies has been noticeable as Denver’s dealt with a long list of injuries through the first four games. That’s caused the Broncos’ rookie class to play 1,288 snaps so far, second-most in the league behind the Jaguars.

Five rookies have been particularly impactful. Center Lloyd Cushenberry’s played every offensive snap (269 total), while cornerback Michael Ojemudia has three starts and 272 snaps. Undrafted cornerback Essang Bassey (198 snaps) as well as wideouts Jerry Jeudy (182) and KJ Hamler (125) have also seen significant time.

“We have asked a lot of them,” veteran safety Justin Simmons said. “That’s something you always tell rookies when they’re coming in, from first-round all the way to undrafted — ‘If you make the team, at some point or another, we’re going to need you.’ It just so happened we needed a lot of those guys earlier much more than later.”

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Cushenberry, selected in the 3rd round at No. 83 overall, was the lone rookie atop his respective positional depth chart heading into the regular season. There have been growing pains for Cushenberry — including giving up two sacks in a Week 3 domination by the Tampa Bay defensive front — but offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said the Broncos are “pleased with his development.” Per Denver Post game charting, Cushenberry has allowed nine disruptions (3½ sacks, 5½ knockdowns and no pressures) as well as 1½ bad run plays. He has not been penalized.

“We trust him to do the right thing,” Shurmur said. “We ask a lot of the center to direct, and he’s getting better each week. He’s making less bad plays and more good plays… We asked him to do a very tough thing as a rookie, and we played against four pretty good defenses while asking a lot of him early. That’s going to serve him well as …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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