Fangio Addresses whether RT Ja'Wuan James Will Start for Broncos in Week 14
In a perfect world, the Denver Broncos would love to have their prized $51 million right tackle available and on the field when Drew Lock makes his first career road start this week vs. the Houston Texans.
Ja'Wuan James has been cleared medically for the last three weeks but hasn't been able to get where he needs to be "mentally and emotionally" in order to play (rolls eyes). Will that change this week vs. the Texans?
“I expect that he should be ready to go," head coach Vic Fangio said on Wednesday. "How we play him, if we play him, remains to be seen. One of the things is that Elijah [Wilkinson] has been playing pretty darn good too. He’s not ready to play an entire game anyways, so we’ll figure that out if he’s able to play.”
Lock can go 10 weeks in exile on injured reserve without practicing at all and just a few weeks later make his NFL debut, playing every snap but asking the same of the 51-million-dollar man is too much. It is evident that Fangio is losing patience with James' and is finally putting pressure on him publicly to motivate the player.
James arrived in Denver this past March after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins. The former first-round pick developed a reputation in Miami of being soft and being an 'injury milker'.
James has only played a grand total of 32 snaps for the Broncos this year, after spraining his knee in the season-opener. The Broncos got him back in the starting lineup seven weeks later vs. the Indianapolis Colts but James lasted all of 20 snaps before he aggravated the same knee.
Since then, Fangio's talking points on James have been mystifying. The coach hasn't referred to James like an elite-paid starter but rather like some sort of fragile mental case that needs to be gently massaged back into the starting lineup.
If indeed James plays this week, and it sounds like the Broncos aren't going to take no for an answer, it'll be at right tackle. If we're to believe Fangio on a Wednesday, expect to see Elijah Wilkinson rotate in with James in Houston to help keep him fresh.
Wilkinson has been leaned on heavily by the Broncos this season in the wake of James' chicanery and while his efforts have been admirable, he's been more of a liability than an asset, especially in pass protection. Wilkinson is a guard miscast at tackle because the Broncos have no other viable options.
Bottom line, in order for Lock to have the best possible chance to succeed in hostile territory in what will be just his second career start, James needs to be on the field. Talent and ability have never been the question with James. His heart and mental mettle have been and only he can change that narrative.
For now, it appears as if the Broncos got burned again and James is another failed swing-and-a-miss at right tackle. He's under contract for another three years and the team is locked down to him through 2020 but if his Broncos career continues on this trajectory, I doubt he'll be around to pilfer another nickel more from the team beyond 2020.