With injuries popping up like acne on a teenager's face, the Broncos' roster projection is peppered with questions that didn't exist a week ago.
Here's how we think the Broncos' 53-man roster will look after the final cut-down:
Note: Players listed in order of perceived depth.
QB -- In: (2) Peyton Manning (free agent, Colts) and Brock Osweiler (second round, Arizona State). Out: Adam Weber (practice squad) and Caleb Hanie (free agent, Bears). Analysis: The backup situation remains fluid, but neither Hanie nor Weber played against Seattle on Aug. 18; the entire second half belonged to Osweiler, who struggled with the second team. Neither Hanie at Chicago on Aug. 9 nor Osweiler nine days later against Seattle moved the football consistently with the second team. If Hanie or Osweiler don't play well in the last two preseason games, the Broncos could scour the waiver wire for a veteran backup after final cuts.
RB -- In: (3) Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman (third round, San Diego State) and Lance Ball. Out: Knowshon Moreno, Jeremiah Johnson and Xavier Omon (practice squad). Analysis: Hillman hasn't had a carry in either preseason game because of a hamstring injury and Ball lost a fumble against Seattle on Aug. 18, but Moreno, Johnson and Omon didn't have a chance to get anything going and push Ball -- and might not get that chance against the 49ers this weekend, with the first team expected to play through the third quarter.
FB -- In: (1) Chris Gronkowski (trade, Colts). Out: Austin Sylvester (practice squad). The Broncos will rarely use a fullback, but they'll make it count when they do. In a goal-to-go situation against the Seahawks, they were stopped on first and second downs. Then they inserted Gronkowski as part of a jumbo package, and -- presto! -- he threw a block that helped spring McGahee for a touchdown.
WR -- In: (6) Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Andre Caldwell (free agent, Bengals), Brandon Stokley (street free agent), Matt Willis and Jason Hill (street free agent). Out: Greg Orton (practice squad), Mark Dell, Gerell Robinson (undrafted, Arizona State), Tyler Grisham (street free agent), Cameron Kenney (waivers, Seahawks). Analysis: X-rays on Caldwell's ribs were negative after he was drilled in the fourth quarter against Seattle on Aug. 18, but the need for experienced depth might be what helps keep Hill around. Although Hill hasn't seen much time on the practice field with Manning, he's made his repetitions count and has been one of the Broncos' steadiest receivers in practice.
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: One injury could throw all of the Broncos' best-laid plans into tumult. Dreessen and Tamme are basically both first-teamers; the Broncos have made liberal use of two-tight end formations in the first two preseason games, and Green won't play until October because of a suspension.
OL -- In (9): 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), OT Ryan Harris. Out: G/C C.J. Davis (street free agent), G/T Adam Grant (practice squad), G Tony Hills, OT Mike Remmers (undrafted, Oregon State), guard Wayne Tribue (undrafted, Temple), guard Austin Wuebbels (undrafted, Missouri). Analysis: Kuper's fractured forearm forces Ramirez into the starting lineup through at least Week 1 and possibly until Week 3. Ramirez is also the backup center and has taken some snaps with Manning in recent days; if something happens to Walton, Ramirez will go to center, with Franklin likely swinging inside to RG and Clark taking over at RT. Because of that chain reaction, Harris moves up after being listed off the 53-man roster last week.
DL -- In (9): DE Elvis Dumervil, DT Ty Warren, NT Justin Bannan, DE/DT Derek Wolfe (second round, University of Cincinnati), DE Robert Ayers, DT Kevin Vickerson, NT Mitch Unrein, DE Jeremy Beal (practice squad) and DE/DT Malik Jackson (fifth round, Tennessee). Out: DE Cyril Obiozor (street free agent), DT Sealver Siliga (practice squad), DE Jamie Blatnick (undrafted, Oklahoma State), DT Ben Garland (military reserve). Analysis: The season-ending injury to Jason Hunter thrust Derek Wolfe onto the first team at DE in the base package; he was already working as a pass-rush DT with the first unit. Beal, a seventh-round draft pick last year, appears to be the biggest beneficiary of Hunter's injury; he had two sacks in the preseason opener and is now in line to make the 53-man roster after a season on the practice squad.
LB -- In (7): Von Miller, Joe Mays, Wesley Woodyard, Keith Brooking (free agent, Atlanta), Nate Irving, Mike Mohamed and Danny Trevathan (sixth round, Kentucky). Suspended: D.J. Williams. Out: Elliot Coffey (undrafted, Baylor), Steven Johnson (undrafted, Kansas), Jerry Franklin (undrafted, Arkansas). Analysis: The longer Brooking's hamstring injuries linger, the better Mohamed's chances of making the 53-man roster -- even though he's now trying to recover from a hamstring problem of his own, suffered during the preseason loss to Seattle. Johnson and Franklin impressed during the second preseason game; with injury concerns about Brooking, Mohamed and Irving, one could steal a spot.
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: Carter's return from knee surgery spices up the competition for first-team slots; he saw a few repetitions with the No. 1 defense during practice on Tuesday. Bruton and Bush are likely grappling for one slot, but Bruton's two blocked punts Saturday give him the inside track.
CB -- In (5): Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter (free agent, Saints), Chris Harris, Drayton Florence (free agent, Bills) and Omar Bolden (fourth round, Arizona State) Out: CB/PR Syd'Quan Thompson, Tony Carter, Ramzee Robinson (street free agent). Analysis: The top four cornerbacks are set: Bailey and Porter will start; Florence and Harris will back them up. The only question among that quartet is whether Harris or Florence is the nickelback; the job has exchanged hands multiple times this month and remains a toss-up. Bolden, as a fourth-round pick, is a virtual lock. Thompson must make the team with special-teams play, but if safety Jim Leonhard gets a look on punt returns, it might bode poorly for the 2010 draft pick.
Special teams -- In (3): K Matt Prater, P Britton Colquitt and LS Lonie Paxton. Out: LS Aaron Brewer (undrafted, San Diego State). Analysis: Brewer saw plenty of work against the Seahawks last week, but it's hard to believe a team with Super Bowl aspirations would trust long snapping to a rookie with Paxton in their midst.
Players on the bubble -- (10) 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 -- (3): WR D'Andre Goodwin (knee), RB Mario Fannin (torn Achilles tendon). DE Jason Hunter (triceps) hasn't been placed on injured reserve, but is a near-certainty to go there because of his three-month recovery time.