Dec. 15—Following the Broncos’ Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, rookie cornerback Michael Ojemudia met with coach Vic Fangio to discuss his future.
“Whether I was either playing or not, I was always learning every week,” Ojemudia said of the first half of his rookie season. “I went to Vic’s office and he just talked to me and said, ‘Your opportunity is going to come faster than you think, so just be ready.’ Every week I’m just trying to learn and get better at at least one thing.”
Ojemudia had been playing often for the Broncos up until that point, but after the loss in which he had started, Fangio decided to go in a different direction at corner. Bryce Callahan and A.J. Bouye would start at corner and undrafted rookie Essang Bassey would start at nickel. Ojemudia spent the next two weeks on the sidelines.
Then after playing minimal snaps in Week 12, Ojemudia was back in the starting lineup against the Chiefs in Week 14 and Sunday against the Panthers, after Callahan and Bassey were put on the IR and Bouye was suspended six games.
And Ojemudia has taken full advantage since, playing every defensive snap in the last two games and combining for 11 tackles and one pass deflection. Since that discussion with Fangio, Ojemudia has put his head down and worked.
“Yeah, it was a tough conversation because obviously as a competitor you never want to sit and watch,” Ojemudia said. “During the week my mindset never really changed. I always just kept working — during special teams do the best and just try to make a play any way you can and try to be a spark plug. My mindset never changed, I always just kept working. It definitely sucked, but it’s just part of the growth process.”
Here’s how Ojemudia and the other Broncos rookies are performing heading into Week 15.
2020 Broncos rookies
Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver
Pick: Round 1, No. 15
Analysis: Among rookies, Jeudy ranks eighth in receptions (40), sixth in yards (636) and is tied for ninth in touchdowns (2). After catching only one pass for 5 yards against Kansas City, Jeudy caught two for 42 yards against the Panthers.
K.J. Hamler, wide receiver
School: Penn State
Pick: Round 2, No. 46
Analysis: Hamler’s role in the offense increased even more this week, catching two passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns, getting behind the Panthers’ defense for 37- and 49-yard touchdowns. He’s caught 29 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns this year.
Michael Ojemudia, cornerback
Pick: Round 3, No. 77
Analysis: Against the Chiefs and Panthers, Ojemudia played every defensive snap in Callahan’s and Bouye’s absence. Among rookie corners, Ojemudia has played the fourth-most coverage snaps (408) and has the ninth-highest coverage grade (51.3), allowing completions 65.6 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus.
Lloyd Cushenberry III, center
Pick: Round 3, No. 83
Analysis: Cushenberry has played every offensive snap for the Broncos this season, but is second to last among rookie offensive linemen in blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s allowed 26 quarterback pressures, 19 hurries, four sacks and three hits.
McTelvin Agim, defensive end
Pick: Round 3, No. 95
Analysis: After Agim did not play against the Chiefs, he played 22 percent of the defensive snaps against the Panthers, coming up with one solo tackle. He has seven tackles and one pass deflection this season.
Albert Okwuegbunam, tight end
Pick: Round 4, No. 118
Analysis: Before tearing his ACL against Atlanta, Okwuegbunam had 11 receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown. Among rookie tight ends, he’s still fourth in receptions and third in yards and touchdowns.
Justin Strnad, linebacker
School: Wake Forest
Pick: Round 5, No. 178
Analysis: Placed on IR with season-ending wrist surgery.
Netane Muti, guard
School: Fresno State
Pick: Round 6, No. 181
Analysis: Before Sunday, Muti had not played a snap for the Broncos, but made his first start at right guard in place of the injured Graham Glasgow. He finished with a grade of 60.8, allowing one sack and three quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tyrie Cleveland, wide receiver
Pick: Round 7, No. 252
Analysis: Cleveland did not play Sunday against the Panthers due to illness.
Derrek Tuszka, linebacker
School: North Dakota State
Pick: Round 7, No. 254
Analysis: Tuszka was placed on the IR following the Kansas City game in Week 8, but was activated last week and returned to practice.
Essang Bassey, cornerback
School: Wake Forest
Analysis: After recording his first career interception against the Saints, Bassey suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Chiefs. He finished the season with 21 solo tackles, two pass deflections and one interception.
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