The Broncos have a good read on the roster. The only competitions that appear to exist around the starting lineup are at left defensive end, where Jason Hunter and Robert Ayers are grappling for a spot, and safety, where Quinton Carter could dislodge one of the current two first-teamers when he makes his expected return from a knee injury later this month.
Projected 53-man roster
Note: Players listed in order of perceived depth.
QB -- In: (3) Peyton Manning (free agent, Colts), Brock Osweiler (second round, Arizona State) and Caleb Hanie (free agent, Bears). Out: Adam Weber (practice squad). Analysis: Hanie still has a hold on a roster spot after overcoming a lousy first series at Chicago on Thursday, but his grip is tenuous. The Broncos still consider their three backups "2a, 2b and 2c," as John Fox has said, and have shuffled the order in which they practice throughout training camp. Hanie was first up at Chicago, followed by Osweiler and Weber. Don't be surprised if that order is altered for the Aug. 18 preseason home opener against Seattle. Osweiler was impressive in his debut and has the strongest arm of any Broncos quarterback; since he's the anointed quarterback of the future anyway, it would help the Broncos if he continued playing well enough to seize the No. 2 job.
RB -- In: (4) Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman (third round, San Diego State), Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno. Out: Jeremiah Johnson and Xavier Omon (practice squad). Analysis: The Broncos would prefer for McGahee and Hillman to split the work, but Moreno has run better in recent days since a depth chart revealed his place on the fourth team. Ball is a typical do-everything backup who is also listed as the first-team kickoff returner; if Johnson or Omon are to make the team, they'll have to prove they can handle the multiple special-teams roles that Ball takes on. Johnson or Omon are intriguing and have been explosive this summer, but neither is eligible for the practice squad; this complicates matters.
FB -- In: (1) Chris Gronkowski (trade, Colts). Out: Austin Sylvester (practice squad). Although Gronkowski suffered a groin injury at Chicago, his experience and the Broncos' desire to have a fullback for short-yardage situations should clear his path to the roster.
WR -- In: (5) Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Andre Caldwell (free agent, Bengals), Brandon Stokley (street free agent) and Matt Willis. Out: Jason Hill (street free agent), Greg Orton (practice squad), Mark Dell, Gerell Robinson (undrafted, Arizona State), Tyler Grisham (street free agent), Cameron Kenney (waivers, Seahawks). Analysis: The stratification is fairly clear-cut; with a wide gap between the top four and the rest of the collection. Veteran Jason Hill has made strides in recent days and could snatch a spot; he was cut by the Jaguars last season a day after Jack Del Rio's firing but joined the Broncos a month after Del Rio was hired as defensive coordinator. Willis is on the bubble, but his multiple special-teams roles should help him retain his roster spot.
TE -- In: (3) Jacob Tamme (free agent, Colts), Joel Dreessen (free agent, Texans) and Julius Thomas. Suspended: Virgil Green. Out: Cornelius Ingram (practice squad) and Anthony Miller (undrafted, California). Analysis: Look for the Broncos to go with four tight ends for most of the season once Green has completed his three-game suspension for taking medication with a banned substance. Thomas is working back from offseason ankle surgery and was held out of the preseason opener at Chicago; if he isn't ready to play, Ingram could finally make a 53-man roster after being on three practice squads the last two years.
OL -- In (8): LT Ryan Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, RG Chris Kuper, RT Orlando Franklin, OT Chris Clark, G/C Manuel Ramirez and G/C Philip Blake (fourth round, Baylor). Out: G/C C.J. Davis (street free agent), G/T Adam Grant (practice squad), OT Ryan Harris, G Tony Hills, OT Mike Remmers (undrafted, Oregon State), guard Wayne Tribue (undrafted, Temple), guard Austin Wuebbels (undrafted, Missouri). Analysis: The starting five is set, and Ramirez and Clark look to have the inside track on the primary backup slots on the inside and outside. Blake, a fourth-round pick, is listed on the third team, but should stick. If the Broncos keep eight linemen, look for two of the other backups to return via the practice squad.
DL -- In (9): DE Elvis Dumervil, DE Jason Hunter, DT Ty Warren, NT Justin Bannan, DE Robert Ayers, DE/DT Derek Wolfe (second round, University of Cincinnati), DT Kevin Vickerson, NT Mitch Unrein and DE/DT Malik Jackson (fifth round, Tennessee). Out: DE Jeremy Beal (practice squad), DE Cyril Obiozor (street free agent), DT Sealver Siliga (practice squad), DE Jamie Blatnick (undrafted, Oklahoma State), DT Ben Garland (military reserve). Analysis: Hunter moved ahead of Ayers in training camp, but Ayers responded with a strong performance at Chicago. Both will stick on the roster, but their duel should continue throughout camp. Bannan hasn't practiced full-tilt in training camp because of a calf injury, but if it were the regular season, he'd likely be playing. Garland is intriguing; he's playing above 300 pounds for the first time in his life after moving from DE, but after spending two years in the Air Force, a practice-squad season could be necessary for a successful transition.
LB -- In (6): Von Miller, Joe Mays, Wesley Woodyard, Keith Brooking (free agent, Atlanta), Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan (sixth round, Kentucky). Suspended: D.J. Williams. Out: Mike Mohamed, Elliot Coffey (undrafted, Baylor), Steven Johnson (undrafted, Kansas), Jerry Franklin (undrafted, Arkansas). Analysis: The signing of Brooking was necessary because of the dearth of experienced depth behind starters Miller, Mays and Woodyard. Brooking can back up at the middle and weak side spots; Irving has been working behind Miller, but could also back up Mays in the middle. If Woodyard proves he can handle being an every-down player and Brooking shows he has something left in the tank, there might not be a role for Williams when he returns from his six-game suspension.
S -- In (5): Quinton Carter, Mike Adams (free agent, Browns), Rahim Moore, Jim Leonhard (free agent, Jets), David Bruton. Out: Rafael Bush, Duke Ihenacho (undrafted, San Jose State), Anthony Perkins (undrafted, Colorado). Analysis: The addition of Leonhard, who is currently on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list, shores up the depth and provides Denver the option of starting two veterans in case Carter's knee doesn't heal quickly and Moore falters in his return to the first team.
CB -- In (6): Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter (free agent, Saints), Chris Harris, Drayton Florence (free agent, Bills), Omar Bolden (fourth round, Arizona State) and CB/PR Syd'Quan Thompson. Out: Tony Carter, Joshua Moore (street free agent), Ramzee Robinson (street free agent). Analysis: Bailey and Porter are set as the starters. Harris moved ahead of Florence last week in the battle for the nickelback slot; Harris handled it last year but had moved down a notch after Florence was signed. Thompson's chances of completing a successful comeback from a torn Achilles tendon rest on his work as a punt returner; he is listed as the second-teamer behind Eric Decker, but the Broncos would prefer not to use their likely leading receiver in such high-risk duty.
Special teams -- In (3): K Matt Prater, P Britton Colquitt and LS Lonie Paxton. Out. LS Aaron Brewer (undrafted, San Diego State). Analysis: Prater and Colquitt have no competition. Paxton is proven, and playoff contenders usually don't leave something as potentially calamitous as a long snap to someone without NFL experience.
Players on the bubble -- (12) QB Caleb Hanie, QB Adam Weber, RB Knowshon Moreno, RB Jeremiah Johnson, RB Xavier Omon, WR Jason Hill, OL Tony Hills, OL Ryan Harris, DT Sealver Siliga, LB Mike Mohamed, S David Bruton, S Rafael Bush.
Leading practice-squad candidates -- (8) QB Adam Weber, WR Gerell Robinson, TE Anthony Miller, OL Adam Grant, OL Austin Wuebbels, DT Ben Garland, LB Steven Johnson, S Duke Ihenacho.
Injured reserve -- (2): WR D'Andre Goodwin (knee), RB Mario Fannin (torn Achilles tendon).
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