Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season.
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How is the kid from North Dakota State (outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka) doing?
— Brad Collins, Forest Grove
A seventh-round pick this year, Tuszka has seen his reps go up in practice this past week because Bradley Chubb (knee) is being rested and Justin Hollins was getting time at inside linebacker.
The key for Tuszka, assuming he is released, clears waivers and signed to the practice squad, is adding strength. He’s listed at 246 pounds so he could benefit from adding maybe 5-10 pounds. Tuszka should benefit from all of the training camp practices, particularly when he goes against veteran back-up right tackle Demar Dotson, who has advantages of five inches in height and 65 pounds.
Making the transition from FCS defensive end to NFL outside linebacker is a big ask so it will be interesting to see how Tuszka uses this season.
Is the signing of Mark Barron an indication that the Broncos might start the year with Todd Davis on IR?
— Brandon Brown, Rogers
Signing Barron to a one-year contract on Monday was more of a response to rookie Justin Strnad’s season-ending wrist injury than Davis’ current calf issue, which has kept him out of eight consecutive practices.
Barron is a safety by trade (a former first-round pick by Tampa Bay) who converted to linebacker with the Rams so he has the ability to play in space and cover. The Broncos were grooming Strnad to be their coverage linebacker in sub-package downs and if they want to limit Davis’ snaps early on, it makes sense to put Barron on the field next to Alexander Johnson.
If the Broncos aren’t going to tackle in camp, how does that affect the chances of players on the fringes have of the roster? How might this affect the decisions made by management on who to keep and who to cut?
— Matt, East Colfax
Well, the good news for the Broncos is the other 31 NFL teams are in the same situation. Hit or not hit? Scrimmage or not scrimmage?
The Broncos, as coach Vic Fangio pointed out after Tuesday’s practice, said the organization – – starting with him and general manager John Elway — decided against doing any live football aside from short-yardage/goal-line. And they haven’t done that much — I remember only one time.
Does no hitting and no preseason games benefit the returning player who has a better grasp of the system (defense) or has regular-season experience (offense)? My lean is the Broncos will initially go with Who They Know instead of Who They Think They Know.
Having the luxury of a 16-man practice squad for this year should allow the Broncos to keep many of the young players and continue working with them.
Which side of the ball will benefit more from not having preseason games? I figure it’s better for the offense, because they won’t tip their hand at all. But maybe that’s wrong?
— Joe N., Aurora
Having a new coordinator makes things difficult. In the Broncos’ case, offensive play-caller Pat Shurmur could have used the preseason games to evaluate his back-ups, figure out which pass plays work for quarterback Drew Lock and which run plays work for Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon.
Plus, getting all of the young players a taste of NFL preseason game speed, which is a notch below regular-season speed and about five notches below playoff speed, would have been helpful.
I understand the paranoia in the NFL — although I don’t agree with it for a nanosecond — about not showing anything. But as coaches tell me all the time: Everybody runs the same stuff.
Minus any preseason games, the Broncos’ offense will be learning on the fly.