Though Chris Kuper's broken forearm changed the complexion of the Denver Broncos' starting offensive line, it isn't likely to have much impact on the overall construction of the group in regards to the 53-man roster.
Kuper's injury requires a four-to-six-week recovery, so he'll still take a spot on the 53-man roster at the deadline. Manuel Ramirez took his place as first-team right guard after Kuper was injured Tuesday, but that was nothing new, as Ramirez spent most of the offseason working there while Kuper recovered from a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments.
Ramirez is the top backup for the entire interior of the offensive line. He even took a few snaps at center with the first team this week to work with Manning. When that happened, RT Orlando Franklin took Ramirez's place at right guard, and Chris Clark worked at right tackle for Franklin. Clark is the primary backup at tackle, as he is listed as the second-team left tackle behind Clady. But Clark also has worked extensively on the first team while Franklin was out with a concussion early in training camp.
Ramirez, Clark and the five first-teamers (Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, Kuper and Franklin) appear to be set. The question is how many backups the Broncos will keep -- and how many of them will be on the practice squad.
Fourth-round pick Philip Blake would appear to be a top candidate for one of the last offensive line spots because of his draft status, but the rookie has been unable to move off the third team so far in training camp at guard or center. At those spots, he's behind C.J. Davis, who joined the Broncos this offseason after playing for the Panthers, where he spent two seasons (2009-10) with John Fox and offensive line coach Dave Magazu in Carolina, so he has more familiarity with those two coaches than any of his fellow linemen in Denver.
Another wild card is Ryan Harris. He started frequently during his first stint with the Broncos (2007-10), but was derailed by injuries in the past year, beginning with back problems that forced him to get an injury settlement with the Eagles, who signed him last summer. An ankle problem has hindered Harris this summer, putting him fourth behind Clady, Franklin and Clark among the team's tackles.
In the cases of Davis and Harris, the Broncos could elect to go with only eight offensive linemen on the roster, which would almost certainly mean they add two for the practice squad to go two-deep for regular-season practices. Tackle Adam Grant, who worked with the second team while Harris nursed his ankle injury, and guard Austin Wuebbels are among the candidates.
But if there are more injuries beyond Kuper's among the first unit, the Broncos may not have the luxury of jettisoning veterans like Davis and Harris who provide depth that the offensive line might otherwise lack.
Projected offensive lineman: Clady, Beadles, Walton, Kuper, Franklin, Ramirez, Clark, Harris, Blake.
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