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|ENGLEWOOD http://www.chiefsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-armani-watts-jersey , Colo. (AP) — The forgotten member of last year’s deep tight end class makes his NFL debut Saturday night, and Jake Butt is fired up to show he’s just as good as O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and David Njoku.
Butt was considered as talented as that trio of first-rounders last year but he slipped all the way to the fifth round, where Denver grabbed him with the 145th overall pick after he tore his right ACL in Michigan’s 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl following the 2016 season.
He was the eighth tight end taken overall, one spot ahead of Iowa’s George Kittle, who caught 43 passes for 515 yards and two TDs in San Francisco.
While Butt was missing his rookie season and focusing on getting healthy for 2018, he couldn’t help but keep tabs on his fellow rookie tight ends as they piled up 230 catches and 26 touchdowns last season.
“Some were arguing it was the best tight end class ever. Yeah, I kept up with them,” Butt said Thursday. “Obviously, a lot of those guys did some great things. Evan Engram stands out. I got to see him live in our stadium, he was making some big plays. O.J. Howard, I’ve known him since high school, just an absolute beast. David Njoku, Adam Shaheen, they did well.
“And now it’s my turn to go out there and compete with them and get the right to earn (the title of) who’s the best out of that class,” Butt said. “Man, that’ll be fun. We’ll all be pushing each other.”
The Broncos host the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night, and Butt will line up with the starters.
“He’ll be with the first group probably for two series and maybe a little bit afterward, but not much more than that,” coach Vance Joseph said.
Butt can’t wait.
“I’m just ready to go out there and start playing some real football again Logan Cooke Color Rush Jersey ,” said Butt.
He acknowledged feeling like a wide-eyed rookie.
“This will be my first NFL game, so what my class went through last season this is what I’m going through right now. So, just to get in that stadium, in front of our fans, with my team and being out there actually participating, it’s going to be a fun time,” Butt said.
Butt is pain-free and has had a solid training camp so far as veteran Jeff Heuerman sits out with a sore knee. “But it’s a whole different beast when you get out there and do it live against another team,” Butt said. “So, I want to go out there and continue to be technique sound, work my fundamentals, block well.”
The Broncos lost their best blocking tight end when Virgil Green signed with the AFC West-rival Los Angeles Chargers this spring, and Butt knows blocking is what’s going to keep him on the field and allow him the chance to catch up to the rest of the 2017 tight ends class.
“We’ve got some talented receivers on the outside, so if you can have a tight end that they can’t key on whether it’s a run or a pass, that’s going to put some pressure on that defense,” Butt said. “And if you’re able to execute, that could translate into some big plays for our offense.”
Butt and general manager John Elway were hopeful that Butt would only miss half of his rookie season last year, but it quickly became apparent during the one week he was allowed to practice that he’d be better off waiting until 2018.
“The hardest part about last year was not knowing,” Butt said. “Being on PUP, you’re waiting, you’re waiting Chris Tierney Jersey , you’re waiting and you don’t know if you’re going to have to wait longer. But once they shut me down for the year, it just became a focus of let me get as healthy as possible for 2018.”
Butt was one of several members of the Broncos’ 2017 draft class who played very little (DeMarcus Walker, De’Angelo Henderson) or not at all (Chad Kelly, Carlos Henderson) last season.
There’s been a lot of buzz about this year’s loaded draft class . If Butt can return to form, though, he’ll give a boost to the 2017 class that’s taken heat for its many mistakes and immaturity.
“I think our story’s still being written,” Butt said.
And he could be the lead author.
Notes: Unlike last year, Von Miller will play in the preseason opener. “He’s totally healthy, he’s had a great camp and we have no reason not to play Von,” Joseph said. “Von’s in great health and good spirits, so why not?” … Heuerman, S Su’a Cravens (knee) and OL Menelik Watson (chest) won’t play.
Revamping the offensive line has become an annual rite of spring in Denver.
This time, it appears to be paying off.
Rediscovering a balance that was elusive almost all last season, the Broncos rushed for 146 yards 鈥?all but four of those from rookies Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman 鈥?and passed for 329 yards in their 27-24 win over Seattle . The Broncos' 470 yards of offense were their most since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season.
It all started up front, where all five O-linemen played all 74 snaps and drew zero penalty flags.
"Offensive line was incredible," said quarterback Case Keenum, who was sacked just once. "It was awesome to watch those guys. There were some plays where I had so much time in the pocket. I'm going to be so excited to watch the film and see those guys play."
The Broncos allowed a whopping 52 sacks last season, an average of more than three a game, prompting them to make several changes in the offseason.
Coach Vance Joseph replaced O-line coach Jeff Davidson with two coaches, one (Chris Strausser) to focus on the tackles and another (Sean Kugler) to tutor the centers and guards.
General manager John Elway jettisoned oft-injured Menelik Watson despite a nearly $7 million salary cap hit and traded for ninth-year right tackle Jared Veldheer.
They moved guard Ron Leary back to his natural left side Authentic Will Dissly Jersey , making room for Connor McGovern, their strongest lineman, on the right side and giving a big assist to second-year left tackle Garett Bolles.
And their anchor 鈥?center Matt Paradis 鈥?participated in the entire offseason program for the first time since college after undergoing double hip surgery two summers ago.
The tackles didn't commit a single penalty, something that was a common occurrence last season.
"Jared played really well and Bolles did some good things. He blocked his guy. He's got a couple of mental things he's got to clean up, but as far as tackles, we played really well," Joseph said. "We had one sack and the one sack was on the quick game and the ball should have probably been in the flat.
"So, offensive line-wise, I've been really, really pleased from preseason until now how they've played in the run game and the pass game," Joseph said. "And that's the key. If we're going to win games and keep Case clean and help Case play better and better each week we've got to run the football and protect Case.
"So far, so good with those guys playing so well for us."
One thing the Broncos are doing to help Bolles, an athletic but raw tackle who only played one season of major college football at Utah, is not setting up so deep. That allows him to better use his athleticism to counter edge rushers, who don't have as much of a running start, either.
"He's a long, athletic tackle, so we're coaching him to set quicker and not give as much ground, to use his quickness on guys," Joseph said. "If you're facing a great rusher and you give him space Youth Matthew Tkachuk Jersey , he can bull (rush you), he can get around you. So, we're getting Garett on guys quicker, so he can use his feet and his great quickness to stay in front of guys and that's preventing him from being so soft in the pocket like he was last year.
"So, that's more about Chris Strausser and Sean Kugler coaching him differently this year. And having Leary next to him, obviously the mental part of the game, it helps having a veteran next to you. So, I've been pleased with the entire offensive line. They're playing good right now and hopefully we can continue to play good there."
Bolles said playing next to Leary is a godsend and getting instruction from the two-coach system has helped him take a big jump from his flag-filled rookie season.
"I'm excited to see where this goes because we're right on track and we're headed in a good direction," Bolles said.
That said, he's not about to start celebrating after just one game, no matter how clean.
"I mean, it's a clean game but it's only Game 1. We've got 15 other games we've got to go through," Bolles said. "There's some things we have to fix, but a fast start in a season is always a good thing. We made a baseline where we're at and we know where we need to go.
"I have a great group of dudes. The O-line room is special. This team is special and we're going to go in the right direction as long as we put in the work and the effort, which we are."
Notes: The Broncos waived WR/KR Isaiah McKenzie on Monday but didn't make a corresponding move, leaving their active roster at 52 players. They did make room on their practice squad for WR Carlos Henderson by releasing WR River Cracraft. Henderson had been suspended for the first week of the season following a marijuana arrest over the winter.
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