The Return Of J.D. Walton Welcomed By Battered Broncos O-Line
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By Rich Kurtzman
Despite just coming off their bye week, the Denver Broncos are hurting.
Their offensive line has been bruised, battered and beaten all season long; Denver even lost linemen to injuries before the season started.
A few weeks ago, there was only one player – left guard Zane Beadles – who was playing in his usual starting role. But the Broncos have slowly improved health-wise, seeing right guard Chris Kuper come back to the field – even if it seemed too early – and right tackle Orlando Franklin played through the pain of a rolled-up ankle two weeks ago in the win over the Washington Redskins.
Over at left tackle, Chris Clark has stepped in to fill the massive void three-time Pro Bowler Ryan Clady left when he injured his foot earlier in the season.
Manny Ramirez – a career backup, who was accustomed to guard – moved over to center as the backup starter when Dan Koppen tore an ACL in training camp. Ramirez has played well overall, getting over some bumps in the road early and gaining a rapport with Peyton Manning.
Still, the Broncos offensive line, which was one of their deepest positions, has become depleted by injuries over the course of the grueling season. If Denver wants to truly compete for a Super Bowl, they’ll need backups to come in if and when more injuries occur, which is where J.D. Walton comes in. Walton was activated by the Denver Broncos late Tuesday afternoon.
Walton, a fourth-year man out of Baylor, fractured his ankle last season when an Oakland Raiders defensive lineman rolled up on it last season. He’s been out ever since, and when Walton made the push to get back in time for the season, he just wasn’t as far along as the team, or he, had hoped.
So Denver placed him on the special Physically Inactive to Perform, or PUP, list. It’s like the Injured Reserve, except it leaves open the availability for the player to return.
There’s a window of three weeks following the player on the PUP list’s first practice – which was October 22 for Walton – meaning Tuesday was the last day Denver has to decide to bring back Walton this season or leave him on the sidelines, and off the 53-man roster.
Bringing him back will bolster that thin offensive line, yes, but it also means the Broncos had to cut another member of their 53-man roster. It was reported Tueday that guard John Moffitt was that member. Moffitt only played in six of eight games for the Broncos this season and was reportedly frustrated with his lack of playing time.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.