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What position battles are left on the Broncos?

What position battles are left on the Broncos?
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

With days until George Paton cuts the roster to 53, who is left sweating the axe?

After six cuts and one signing, the Broncos roster will sit at 80 leading up to and through their last preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. While the never-ending quarterback battle came to an end yesterday, there remains a number of open roster spots players are fighting for.

I thought I’d take a look at every position on the roster and try to provide my best guess as to where things stand. Keep in mind that I have not been able to attend Broncos’ camp and these conclusions are based on conversations with reporters, news out of camp, prior knowledge of the players, as well as observations from the Vikings and Seahawks games.

Like my last roster prediction, I lumped players into three buckets: those who look like locks “should be safe,” those who look like they’ve made the roster “seem safe,” and those who still find themselves fighting in the bubble battle.

Specialist

The guys: Brandon McManus, Sam Martin, Jacob Bobenmoyer

  • Nothing to see here. These guys are the guys. There has not been a competition for any of these spots since OTAs.

Defensive back

Should be safe: Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Patrick Surtain II, Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, Michael Ojemudia+

Seem safe: Bryce Callahan, P.J. Locke III

Fighting in the bubble battle: Jamar Johnson, Kary Vincent, Nate Hairston, Parnell Motley, Mac McCain III, Saivion Smith, Trey Marshall

PUP: Duke Dawson, Essang Bassey

  • Ojemudia’s injury means we won’t see him play again this preseason and the injury could lead to an extra corner making the initial roster. If the team is confident he can return this season, I expect him to hang around. If not, he’ll land on Injured Reserve.
  • Callahan’s run with the starting defense as a nickel through most of camp and remained there in the Seahawks game. Barring an appealing trade offer, he sticks to the roster.
  • Locke’s reliability as a special teams contributor in addition to what he’s shown on defense the last two games should make him an easy pick for the final 53. If he doesn’t make the Broncos, I’m confident someone poaches him off waivers.
  • I expect the Broncos to try and carry an extra corner with O.J’s injury lingering into the season. It looks like it’ll come down to Hairston’s reliability in the slot vs. Motley’s boundary play and what he could feasibly offer on special teams. Smith’s length is intriguing, but he’s a late addition with less exposure on defense. While Vincent’s logged snaps in the nickel, he’s been a nonfactor on special teams during the preseason.
  • Dawson and Bassey remain wildcards. We’ve heard nothing about them for weeks and either one could be an upgrade on the corners after Ojemudia.
  • Johnson’s the other wildcard. He’s George Paton’s second fifth round safety and that draft pedigree surely helps him.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

Hairston vs. Motley vs. Smith vs. Vincent

Does Johnson find a way to make it?

Linebacker

Should be safe: Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad, Baron Browning

Fighting in the bubble battle: Curtis Robinson, Barrington Wade

  • The decision to waive Josh Watson is peculiar as he looked like the LB5. My best guess is the Broncos are trying to do a solid for a player who spent 2020 bouncing between the practice squad and active roster by moving him early enough so he has a chance to latch on elsewhere.
  • Cutting Watson when they did points to faith in Baron Browning on the active roster if a veteran isn’t brought in.
  • I expect Curtis Robinson to make the practice squad.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

How do Strnad and Browning look?

Edge

Should be safe: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Malik Reed

Seems safe: Jonathon Cooper

Fighting in the bubble battle: Andre Mintze, Derrek Tuszka

  • Cooper’s been a standout through most of camp. Mintze landing in concussion protocol opened the door for the Buckeye to win the spot and barring a late veteran addition, it’d be a surprise if he doesn’t make the 53.
  • Mintze received a bigger signing bonus than any undrafted rookie but Drew Himmelman and played up to it in the Vikings’ game. He should make the practice squad.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

Will Miller, Chubb, and Reed stay healthy?

Does Tuszka make a late push for the practice squad?

Defensive Line

Should be safe: Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, McTelvin Agim, DeShawn Williams, Shamar Stephen

Fighting in the bubble battle: Marquiss Spencer, Jonathan Harris, Isaiah Mack

  • Barring injury, it looks like the six-man rotation is locked in.
  • Harris looked like the next best player across both preseason games.
  • Spencer’s draft pedigree probably lands him a spot on the practice squad.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

Can Harris, Jones, Purcell, Agim, Williams, and Stephen stay healthy?

Wide Receivers

Should be safe: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler

Seems safe: Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer

Fighting in the bubble battle: Trinity Benson, Tyrie Cleveland, Kendall Hinton, Seth Williams, De’Mornay Pierson-El

  • Barring a trade, Patrick is going to make the roster. He’s proven depth and the only remaining proven X-receiver beyond Sutton.
  • After a knee injury cost him the Minnesota game, Spencer stood out last weekend with his 3rd and six from Drew Lock. He also saw most of the reps returning kicks. Unless Benson, Hinton, Cleveland, or Hamler eat into those special teams reps this week I’d consider him a lock for the roster as Tom McMahon’s binky.
  • Benson only played one special teams and 20 offensive snaps against the Seahawks after a very impressive Vikings’ game. The Minnesota game and my conversation with George Stoia suggests he should be the WR5, but without watching practice I can’t say for sure.
  • Hinton only played two special teams snaps against the Seahawks, but had 37 offensive snaps with reps mixed in with the first as well as second team. His willingness to mix it up as a blocker as well as his inside/outside versatility should help him.
  • Williams has the draft pedigree and size to surprise as a wildcard. He also had a nice grab through contact in the Vikings game and a big play after Lock’s dumpoff in the Seahawks’ contest. At worst, he lands on Denver’s practice squad.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

How does Sutton look?

Is Spencer safe?

Who among the bubble guys get reps on offense and special teams? How do they look?

Offensive Line

Should be safe: Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Bobby Massie, Calvin Anderson, Quinn Meinerz, Netane Muti

Fighting in the bubble battle: Cameron Fleming, Austin Schlottmann, Quinn Bailey, Drew Himmelman

  • Health luck is probably going to be the big thing to watch here, as the main eight look set in stone.
  • Fleming’s contract probably gives him the leg up over Bailey if a fourth tackle makes the roster. It’d cost $1 million to cut him.
  • Schlottmann’s played 530 offensive snaps over the last two years and offers versatility across the interior. The numbers battle doesn’t help him because both Meinerz and Muti look locked into spots and Cushenberry, Meinerz, and Glasgow can play center. He could hang around the practice squad if another team doesn’t pick him up.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

Can the “big eight” stay healthy?

Could Anderson steal the starting RT job?

Tight End / Fullback

Should be safe: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert

Seems safe: Andrew Beck

Fighting in the bubble battle: Adam Prentice, Shaun Beyer, Austin Fort

  • If Fant’s injury is worse than Fangio let on, we could see a veteran addition after teams make cuts.
  • Beck’s capable of playing fullback, tight end, and regularly contributes to the special teams. That versatility shouldn’t go overlooked when Pat Shurmur rarely uses a traditional fullback on offense.
  • All told, I do believe Prentice could be a better fullback than Beck. It may not matter because at 6’ and 245 lbs. he’s miscast as a tight end. To make the 53 he’ll need to prove he can be a regular contributor on special teams.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

Is Fant ready to rock against the Giants?

How many special teams snaps does Prentice play?

Running back

Should be safe: Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Mike Boone+

Seems safe: Royce Freeman

Fighting in the bubble battle: Damarea Crockett, Stevie Scott III

  • Boone’s injury means the Broncos almost have to carry a fourth back into week one. Barring a trade or a really impressive performance from Scott, it’s hard to imagine it won’t be Freeman.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

Can everyone stay healthy?

Quarterback

Should be safe: Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater

Seem safe: Brett Rypien

  • Rypien is probably safe, but it’s no guarantee.

What to watch for in the Rams’ game

Lock or Bridgewater?

Will Paton try to slip Rypien through waivers to the practice squad?

So how many roster spots remain open, really?

Here’s a look at every player that I consider completely safe for the 53-man roster.

2 QBs: Lock and Bridgewater

3 RBs: Gordon, Williams, and Boone+

3 TEs: Fant, Okwuegbunam, and Saubert

8 OL: Bolles, Risner, Cushenberry, Glasgow, Massie, Anderson, Meinerz, and Muti

3 WRs: Sutton, Jeudy, and Hamler

6 DL: S. Harris, Jones, Purcell, Agim, Williams, Stephen

3 ED: Miller, Chubb, and Reed

4 LBs: Johnson, Jewell, Strnad, and Browning

7 DBs: Fuller, Darby, Surtain II, Jackson, Simmons, Sterns, Ojemudia+

3 ST: McManus, Martin, Bobenmoyer

In addition to the 42 players above, the following players look like they ought to be safe heading into the final preseason game:

1 QB: Rypien

1 RB: Freeman

1 TE/FB: Beck

2 WR: Patrick, and Spencer

1 ED: Cooper

2 DBs: Callahan, and Locke III

That’s an additional eight roster spots accounted for. If my prediction above is on the money, 50 of the 53 spots on the initial 2021 roster are secured before McManus kicks off against the Rams. Now that the quarterback competition’s in the rearview, the preseason drama has peaked. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to watch for though.

Plenty of guys are playing for their careers this weekend.

Your Broncos’ News

Denver Broncos: Vic Fangio names Teddy Bridgewater starting quarterback – Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos have named Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback over Drew Lock.

Teddy Bridgewater named Broncos’ starting quarterback

“Teddy played well, obviously,” Fangio said Saturday. “You guys saw it. Some of his good plays were hard quarterback plays, where he had to manipulate the pocket, step up, step laterally, wait for something to come open late. I thought he did really well. He was helped by the fourth-down conversions, but one of those fourth downs was because we dropped a pass on third down that would have been an easy conversion. So I thought he played very well.”

Teddy Bridgewater wins Denver Broncos’ starting QB job over Drew Lock

Bridgewater will become the 11th quarterback to start for Denver since Peyton Manning retired after winning Super Bowl 50. Manning was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this month.

Kickoffs, kickoff coverage and touchbacks – Mile High Report

This is not an article about who should be the starting QB.

Getting off to quick start is key for Denver Broncos to get on track – Mile High Report

The Broncos have a pretty cupcake schedule for their first 3 games. Can they capitalize on it to help them jump start a winning season?

NFL News

Giants activate Kyle Rudolph off the PUP list – ProFootballTalk

Rudolph underwent offseason foot surgery after an issue popped up in his physical when he was signing with the Giants. The injury nearly caused a snag in the free-agent deal, but Rudolph ended up inking the same contract he was initially offered. The Vikings released Rudolph in March after 10 seasons with the franchise. In 12 games last year, Rudolph recorded 28 catches for 334 yards with one touchdown. His 11.9 yards per reception in 2020 was the highest of his career.

How Much Do Preseason Performances Matter for Rookie QBs? – The Ringer

It doesn’t matter how many times you remind yourself of the sobering realities. They’re taking reps with second- and third-teamers. The playbooks are barely open. There are no stakes. It’s still so easy to overreact to preseason football—and that is especially true for rookie quarterbacks.

Secrets to Travis Kelce’s Success: DVOA by Route 2020 | Football Outsiders

Travis Kelce had a season for the ages in 2020. Despite sitting out of a meaningless Week 17 game, he collected a league-high 415 receiving DYAR, becoming the first tight end on record to lead all players in that category. He also had the second-best receiving DYAR for a tight end we have ever measured, and nearly became the first player ever at that position to lead the NFL in receiving yardage. The key to Kelce’s dominance? He was the league’s best player in the mid-range routes that move the chains and keep drives alive.

Ronnie Stanley says he’ll be “full-go” for Ravens’ Week One game – ProFootballTalk

Looks like the Broncos will see Stanley in week 4.

Patriots trade Sony Michel to Rams – ProFootballTalk

Royce Freeman had been linked to the Rams since Cam Akers got hurt.

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