Every season there are players who surprise in training camp or preseason. They beat the long odds to make an NFL roster. For the past decade at least one of those players have donned the orange and blue of the Denver Broncos.
Some of those players have not only made the team, but have become fan favorites. Chris Harris Jr. and Wesley Woodyard quickly come to mind. This season there are several to keep an eye on, but one in particular is Juwan Thompson.
The Broncos are looking for someone to step up and fill the fourth running back position. At 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, Thompson is not like the other backs vying for that last roster spot. He has a power back build while the others are built more like a change of pace option. If Ronnie Hillman finally realizes his potential and seizes the change-of-pace-third-down role, those other scat back types will not be as necessary. That gives Thompson an advantage.
Thompson showed at his pro day that he has plenty of athleticism. He was also pretty good in pass protection at Duke. He has to prove he can hold onto the ball in training camp and preseason. If he can carry the ball five to six times for 20 to 25 yards that will be enough to prove his value in spelling the other backs during the four-minute drill. He has the size and speed to get the tough yards at end of games when the Broncos just need the time to tick away.
The last piece of Thompson’s game that could give him the nod over the others is special teams. Thompson played safety in college as well as running back. Experience in tackling and pursuit angles gives him an edge when the coaches are looking for someone they can rely on to make a play on special teams. One thing is certain in the NFL; a 53-man roster has little need for backups who can’t play special teams. Thompson’s versatility and experience as a defender may very well be just what’s needed for him to get the nod over the other backs.
Thompson is a long shot to make it, but Broncos fans should keep an eye on him as they may see #40 playing on Sundays in September.