Denver Broncos Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions
As NFL fans across the country begin feeling more and more ennui watching baseball, reruns of Seinfeld and documentaries of past Super Bowls on ESPN Classic, the arrival of August is greatly welcomed.
August signifies a prominent time of the year for die-hard NFL fans. Training camps wind down as preseason games begin to take place.
Men (and women) gather in basements, attics and man caves across the country in groups of ten, twelve or fourteen for fantasy football drafts. Patriots fans stay cocky, Cowboys fans get angry and Browns fans miraculously develop an unwarranted and rather delusion amount of optimism for the season to come.
Ah, August! We're just a month away from the first kickoff of the NFL season, and excitement fills the air in all parameters.
Another exciting happening of August for NFL teams, players and fans alike are the final roster cuts. Coaches have been making lists of pros and cons for nearly every bubble player and free agent over the last couple months. They are soon ready to sign their starters, secure their backups and send a few unfortunate men home.
The Denver Broncos will see a 2012 roster with quite a few changes. A big name is gone (cough, cough Tebow) and a superstar has taken his place (Peyton...something). A few talented young rookies will grace the team with their presence, and some much needed changes have taken place in the defensive backfield.
In the coming slides, you will find a complete breakdown of every player who will be suiting up for Denver in 2012, as well as depth chart predictions and a recap of Denver's offseason to date.
Aug 31 Cuts
"Cut day" came as it always does: swift and unrelenting. 22 Broncos lost their job or were placed on a reserve list. Most of these cuts were very predictable, yet a few of them were quite surprising. Read ahead for the complete list of the August 31 cuts.
The following three players are either suspended or placed on IR.
Jeremy Beal, DE
Defensive end Jeremy Beal was placed on injured reserve.
Virgil Green, TE
Tight end Virgil Green is suspended for the first four games of the season for failing drug tests.
D.J. Williams, LB
Linebacker D.J. Williams is suspended for the first six games of the season for failed drug tests.
The following 19 players have been waived/released from the team.
Jamie Blatnick, DE
Blatnick is an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State. He's not a bad defensive end, but Denver's depth at this position prevented him from getting a spot.
Rafael Bush, S
This is one of the more surprising cuts. Bush is a very strong and athletic player with a lot of versatility who I originally predicted would be one of the last five players to make the roster. In the end, however, the competition at safety was too strong.
Drayton Florence, CB
This is the most surprising cut. Florence is a veteran cornerback who Denver signed in the offseason to play as a backup to Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter. He signed a contract that indicated he was here to stay, but in the end, Denver opted to go with youth at the cornerback position.
Jerry Franklin, LB
Franklin had some potential to make the time, since linebacker is Denver's thinnest position. They ended up keeping Steven Johnson as an undrafted rookie linebacker.
Ben Garland, DE
Defensive end Ben Garland was never in the running to make the final roster.
Adam Grant, T
Adam Grant sat near the bottom of the tackle depth chart throughout the whole preseason. His release is no surprise, as all the backup offensive lineman have looked poor for Denver.
Ryan Harris, T
Harris has been in the league for a few years. He was in the running to make the final roster, but ultimately got ousted by veteran Manny Ramirez, tackle Chris Clark, and rookie Philip Blake, who can play the center position as well as guard.
Jason Hill, WR
The competition was always tough for Hill, yet I thought Denver might have kept six receivers. Unfortunately for Hill, they only kept five, and Matthew Willis got the nod, mostly likely since he's a returner as well. Hill has great potential to be signed by another squad.
Tony Hills, T
I thought Hills had a shot at the team, but he hasn't looked as good in preseason as some of the more versatile offensive lineman.
Duke Ihenacho, S
Ihenacho has great potential and is an exciting player to watch, yet the safety position proved too competitive, especially after the signing of veteran Jim Leonhard.
Cornelius Ingram, TE
Aside from Anthony Miller, who was cut earlier this week, Ingram sat near the bottom on the tight end totem pole.
Jeremiah Johnson, RB
This was a tough cut. Jeremiah Johnson is an extremely skilled and strong runner, and many would argue that he's in the same ballpark as Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno. Unfortunately for Johnson, he boasts the least impressive resume of the three, and is not as skilled a pass-catching back.
Mike Mohamed, LB
Mohamed was ultimately beaten out by veteran Keith Brooking and undrafted rookie Steven Johnson for one of the last linebacker spots.
Greg Orton, WR
There's a very good chance that Denver brings Orton back for the practice squad. He's looked good in preseason.
Gerell Robinson, WR
Gerrell Robinson's cut comes as no surprise. He clearly was not up to par with other receivers on the roster.
Sealver Siliga, DT
Siliga was part of a much too crowded and competitive defensive line, and he never did anything to establish himself as essential.
Syd’Quan Thompson, CB
I was hoping that Denver would find a way to keep Thompson. He's an extremely athletic cornerback and a decent punt returner as well. He's been fighting injury, however, and this most likely contributed to his dismissal.
Wayne Tribue, G
Tribue was never a front runner to make the team. The offensive guard played college ball at Temple and was an undrafted rookie.
Adam Weber, QB
Many people considered Weber to be a better quarterback option then Caleb Hanie to be kept as the team's third, yet the Broncos already paid Hanie and are likely impressed with his experience.
Aug 28 Cuts
The Broncos waived 12 players on August 27 to get their roster down to the league-mandated limit of 75 men. Most of these players are young, undrafted rookies who were more looking to gain experience and add to their resumes rather than actually make the team.
*In addition, defensive end Jason Hunter was placed on injured reserve.
Elliot Coffey, LB
Coffey is a linebacker who the Broncos picked up, undrafted out of Baylor. He had a solid college career and will have to work during this season and next to develop and find a role on a team.
Mark Dell, WR
A former Michigan State Spartan, Dell is in his second year in the NFL. He didn't have a very large role on the team and was never in position to be signed. He could be looked at during the season by other teams as a viable injury replacement at receiver.
Cameron Kenney, WR
Denver signed Kenney late in training camp after he was waived by the Seattle Seahawks. He played college ball at Oklahoma and has had some off-the-field issues. He did not record any stats during the preseason.
Anthony Miller, TE
Another undrafted rookie, Miller played college ball at Cal and was dead last on the tight end depth chart. For his 6'4" frame, he seems a bit heavy at 260 pounds.
Cyril Obiozor, DE
One of few players cut with some playing experience, Obiozor was actually having a successful camp. He could definitely be signed as a viable practice squad member on a team with less depth at defensive end.
Xavier Omon, RB
One of the more shocking cuts on this list, I thought Omon would at least make it to the last preseason game. He had a great game versus Chicago this preseason and looked sharp on the field. I suspect he could be injured, which led to his early cut. His departure bodes well for Knowshon Moreno.
Lonie Paxton, LS
Easily the most surprising cut on the Denver roster and one of the more shocking cuts around the league, Paxton is a 12-year-veteran who is considered, as ESPN's Bill Williamson says, "one of the best long snappers in the league." Undrafted rookie Aaron Brewer, who is now the team's long snapper, must have really showed the coaches something.
Anthony Perkins, S
He went to the University of Colorado and was a local favorite at camp, yet the amount of talent at the safety position prevented Perkins from climbing up the depth chart. He could find a role elsewhere over the next couple seasons.
Mike Remmers, T
Remmers played college ball at Oregon State and went undrafted in this year's draft. There's not much else to say about him.
Ramzee Robinson, CB
He earned the title of Mr. Irrelevant in the 2007 NFL Draft, as he was selected with the last overall pick. He career had succeeded fittingly, as he has struggled to find a consistent role on a team.
Austin Sylvester, FB
He was never expected to make the team after the Broncos traded for Chris Gronkowski, the brother of New England Patriots tight end, Rob.
Austin Wuebbels, G
Another undrafted rookie on the offensive line, a spot for him on the team did not seem likely. He played college ball at Missouri.
Latest Roster Moves
The Broncos released backup QB Caleb Hanie and promoted DT Sealver Siliga to the 53-man roster.
The Broncos made their final roster moves to get their roster down to 53 men. Among the surprising cuts were cornerback Drayton Florence and safety Rafael Bush.
See slide entitled "Aug 31 Cuts" for more details.
The Broncos placed defensive end Jason Hunter on the IR.
See slide entitled "Aug 28 Cuts" for more details.
The Broncos waived injured, second-year receiver Tyler Grisham.
The Broncos signed former Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking. At middle linebacker, he could compete with Nate Irving for the backup role. Expect Denver to cut some players tomorrow.
Running back Mario Fannin has been place on the IR for the entire 2012 NFL Season.
Newly signed safety Jim Leonhard has been put on the physically unable-to-perform (PUP) list. His role on the team for the 2012 season is up in the air.
The Broncos signed former Jets safety Jim Leonhard. Leonhard has fought injuries throughout his NFL career, yet his role on Denver could be significant.
Second-year running back Mario Fannin, formerly of Auburn, ruptured his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire 2012 season. He will be released in the coming days.
Wide receiver D'Andre Goodwin, who was an absolute longshot to make the team, was waived due to the injury. This comes a day after Denver picked up Cameron Kenney off waivers from the Seattle Seahakws.
Denver picked up Cameron Kenney off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. Kenney, who played college ball at Oklahoma University, has upside, but has also battled off-field alcohol issues.
Denver signed undrafted rookie safety Anthony Perkins, who played college ball at the University of Colorado. Perkins will be a local favorite moving forward, and he has a chance to make the practice squad.
Denver released wide receiver Eric Page and cornerback Coryell Judie due to injury. Both players were undrafted rookies. Judie, out of Texas A & M, was a longshot to make the team, yet Page, out of Toledo, was pinned as a potential return specialist. His injury is disappointing for the Broncos.
Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart
Full Team Roster (as of 9/8/2012)
*Projected starters at each position are bolded.
Quarterbacks (2): Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler
Running Backs (4): Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno
Fullbacks (1): Chris Gronkowski
Wide Receivers (5): Andre Caldwell, Eric Decker, Brandon Stokley, DeMaryius Thomas, Matthew Willis
Tight Ends (3): Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Julius Thomas
Offensive Tackles (3): Ryan Clady, Chris Clark, Orlando Franklin
Offensive Guards (4): Zane Beadles, C.J. Davis, Chris Kuper, Manny Ramirez
Centers (2): Philip Blake, J.D. Walton
Defensive Ends (4): Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, Ben Garland, Malik Jackson
Defensive Tackles (6): Justin Bannan, Mitch Unrein, Kevin Vickerson, Ty Warren, Derek Wolfe, Sealver Siliga
Outside Linebackers (4): Steven Johnson, Von Miller, Danny Trevathan, Wesley Woodyard
Middle Linebackers (3): Nate Irving, Joe Mays, Keith Brooking
Cornerbacks (5): Champ Bailey, Omar Bolden, Tony Carter, Chris Harris, Tracy Porter
Safeties: (5): Mike Adams, David Bruton, Quinton Carter, Rahim Moore, Jim Leonhard
Long Snappers (1): Aaron Brewer
Kicker (1): Matt Prater
Punter (1): Britton Colquitt
Last 5 In
1. DT, Kevin Vickerson
Vickerson is really only making the team because Denver is so strapped at the defensive tackle position. After producing well for the Broncos in 2010, Vickerson missed the large majority of last season with an injury.
In that time, Denver put together one of the best pass-rush defenses in the league, and that M.O. does not fit Vickerson's 6'5", 324-pound build. Nonetheless, Vickerson is a proven vet and a solid force to stop the run up the middle.
Should he stay healthy, he'll see plenty of field time behind veteran Ty Warren and rookie Derek Wolfe.
2. LB, Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson got into the 53-man roster as a result of D.J. Williams suspension. Due to thinness at the position, Johnson has a job for at least a few more weeks.
Johnson was an undrafted rookie who played college ball at the University of Kentucky.
Anytime as undrafted rookie makes the team, it's very exciting for them.
3. S, Jim Leonhard
Jim Leonhard essentially took Rafael Bush's roster spot, which is of course, unfortunate for Bush. When this preseason began, I projected Bush on this list, as one of the last five in. He know finds himself without a job, as Denver opted to go with Leonhard's experience, hard-hitting, and ability to return kicks and punts.
4. WR, Matthew Willis
Broncos receiver Matthew Willis, who will be entering his fifth season in the league, had his most successful year to date in 2011. He caught 18 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. Not stellar numbers, but definitely a noteworthy contribution.
While Willis faces considerable competition in the wide receiver depth chart, he may be used as one of the team's primary punt or kick returners, and this will secure him a roster spot and a very important role on the squad.
5. QB, Caleb Hanie
For an undrafted backup quarterback, Hanie has seen his fair share of media attention and fan scrutiny in his brief time in the NFL. He has also perplexed many by showing great moments of brilliance, (in the 2011 NFC Championship game, where he came into the game and almost staged a comeback) but also moments of horrendous quarterbacking.
Denver will obviously be starting Peyton Manning at quarterback and will certainly be keeping rookie Brock Osweiler as his backup. While Denver doesn't need to keep three quarterbacks, they'll prefer to be better safe than sorry and hold onto Hanie.
UPDATE, 9/8/2012: Caleb Hanie has been released, hours before the first Sunday of the regular season.
Last 5 Out
1. WR, Jason Hill
There's no denying that Jason Hill, now entering his seventh year in the league, is a talented wideout. He's been able to make himself noticed on both the San Francisco 49ers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, and with neither of these teams did he have a solid quarterback to work with.
Hill was actually having his best season to date when he was abruptly cut by theJaguars last season. The move seemed odd, which leads one to believe that there may have been an off-the-field problem.
Hill's greatest competition was Matthew Willis. They were competing for the last wide receiver spot on the team.
2. MLB, Jerry Franklin
Denver would really love to keep Jerry Franklin, the 240-pound linebacker out of Arkansas, but it won't work out this year for the former Razorback.
Franklin enjoyed a great college career and managed to stand out in an SEC that was full of talented defenders. Despite this, he was passed up in the draft and signed with Denver has an undrafted rookie.
I love Franklin's upside, but running a 4-3 defense, Denver doesn't need another middle linebacker after starter Joe Mays and backup Nate Irving. Being that they will be the only two true middle linebackers suiting up, however, Franklin will remain signed to the practice squad and could certainly get a call up at some point during the season.
3. CB, Syd'Quan Thompson
I really feel for Thompson, because had it not been for a ruptured Achilles tendon, he may be sitting pretty with a solid backup job. Unfortunately, the former Cal standout will not find himself with a roster spot at all, and this is largely because he missed all of the 2011 season with the aforementioned injury.
Denver is quite comfortable at the cornerback position for 2012. Returning to the team is future HOF Champ Bailey, and joining him this year are two new signees: Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence. Porter's been thrust into the spotlight throughout his career, as he ran back an interception for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV. This pass was thrown, of course, by his now teammate, Peyton Manning.
Florence's signing didn't nearly garner the attention of Porter's, yet Florence is a very underrated asset. Also pushing out Thompson are Chris Harris and rookie Omar Bolden.
4. RB, Mario Fannin
I love the upside of Mario Fannin, and I think he has the potential to succeed with many NFL teams, yet Denver is too stacked at running back to keep Fannin right now.
Fannin could easily find himself work somewhere else though. The former Auburn back runs a 4.38 40-yard dash and can be made into a quick, dual-threat back.
Don't be surprised to see Fannin make a little noise on another roster this season.
5. T, Tony Hills
Tackle Tony Hills, who will be entering his fifth season in the league, has only played on the field during four games, all of which were as a Pittsburgh Steeler. The 6'5", 304-pound back, who played college ball at Texas, has never held a starting job yet has always been able to find work as a backup.
With Baylor center/guard Philip Blake joining the team this year, Hills will find himself off of it. Denver has four better tackles than him (Clady, Franklin, Clark and Harris) and other guys on the line who boast more versatility.
QBs on roster: Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler
Projected starter: Peyton Manning
Offseason additions: Caleb Hanie, (signed as an UFA on March 24, 2012) Brock Osweiler (drafted with the 57th pick in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft)
Roster cuts: Adam Weber, Caleb Hanie
Projected final roster: Peyton Manning, (starter) Brock Osweiler
If you haven't heard that Peyton Manning is the Broncos' new quarterback, then you have legitimately been living under a rock.
Manning's offseason signing with Denver, after a very lengthy and meticulous search of available suitors, is one of the biggest free agent signings in NFL history. Manning surely a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and his decision to come back to football at age 36, following a very serious neck injury, is remarkable.
Denver fans will be crossing their fingers that Peyton not only stays healthy but brings some of his brilliance from his days in Indianapolis to the mile high city.
Manning is without question the starter, and unless he becomes injured, he faces no threat to his job. Brock Osweiler is the team's "QB of the future" pick. While many may argue with a title of such magnitude for Osweiler, there is no doubt that John Elway and the rest of the Denver front office is eager to see how the former Arizona Sun Devil can produce in the NFL.
Osweiler's unique height (6'7") can give him a unique advantage in the NFL, but that remains to be seen. Caleb Hanie, who had some very good and very bad moments as a backup to Jay Cutler in Chicago, will make the roster as well.
He could possibly be listed as second on the depth chart, yet he is closer to the cutting line than Osweiler. Adam Weber, who spent last season on the practice squad, will spend this season there as well.
RBs on roster: Lance Ball, Chris Gronkowski, (FB) Ronnie Hillman, Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno
Projected starter: Willis McGahee
Offseason additions: Ronnie Hillman (drafted with the 67th pick in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft)
Roster cuts: Mario Fannin (place on the IR due to Achilles injury on 8/6/12), Xavier Omon, Austin Sylvester, Jeremiah Johnson
Projected final roster: Willis McGahee, (starter) Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno, Chris Gronkowski (FB)
The battle for making the 53-man roster for the Denver running backs won't be very exciting; it's quite obvious who will be suited up on opening day. The battle for the starting job, however, is quite intriguing.
The most accomplished back on the roster is, without question, Willis McGahee. He has stood the test of time and injury, rushing for one yard short of 1,200 yards last season. The starting job is his to lose.
Next on the depth chart will most likely be fourth-year running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno has disappointed tremendously since being drafted by Denver in the 2009 NFL Draft. Despite showing great promise through a rookie season where he battled injury, Moreno has developed a reputation for being both lazy and unruly.
He was outperformed last season by both McGahee and Lance Ball, and unless he seriously produces in 2012, he will not be playing in Denver in 2013.
Fourth-year back Lance Ball and rookie Ronnie Hillman will share the bulk of the third running back carries. Ball collected 402 yards on 96 carries last season, and the Denver administration seems to be particularly excited about Hillman, their third pick in this year's draft. There are a lot of bets out that Hillman will become a starter by mid-season.
Chris Gronkowski will stay on the roster as the team's sole, true fullback, and just missing the roster will be Mario Fannin. Fannin, who played college football at Auburn, has great potential in the league. Unfortunately for him in Denver, he faces too much competition.
WRs on roster: Andre Caldwell, Eric Decker, Greg Orton, Gerell Robinson, Brandon Stokley, DeMaryius Thomas, Matthew Willis
Projected starters: Eric Decker and DeMaryius Thomas
Offseason additions: Jason Hill, (signed February 15) Andre Caldwell, (signed March 22) Brandon Stokley, (signed April 16) Cameron Kenney (signed August 1st)
Roster cuts: Eric Page, (7/25/12) D'Andre Goodwin (8/2/2012), Mark Dell, Cameron Kenney, Tyler Grisham, Jason Hill
Projected final roster: Andre Caldwell, Eric Decker, Brandon Stokley, DeMaryius Thomas, Matthew Willis
Much attention has been given to Denver's wide receiver core this season. The biggest reason for this is because they are now catching passes from Peyton Manning, but there is no denying that the Denver receiving staff is very young and full of a ton of promise.
DeMaryius Thomas had been pinned by many experts as the next great receiver in the NFL. Eric Decker, while not given such high aspirations, is a very solid WR2. Those men have the starting jobs.
The third receiver in the food chain is Andre Caldwell, who has spent all four of his NFL seasons prior to this one with the Cincinnati Bengals. Although Caldwell has never produced big numbers, he is ridiculously athletic and quick. His 6'0", 195 pound frame lends him ideal size to line up in the slot and make quick, sly cuts across the field, á la Wes Welker.
To start the season, the next wide receivers to make the starting lineup will be Jason Hill and Brandon Stokley. Neither of these men are just starting their careers, yet both have shown that they have the skill set to be contributors. Stokley is particularly important to Denver, as he has a great rapport with Peyton Manning from the Indianapolis days.
Matthew Willis, who collected 267 yards and a touchdown last season, will secure the last wide receiver roster spot, and possibly the last spot on the team. Willis is a very athletic player in his 6'0", 190-pound frame, and his athleticism lends itself well to kick and punt returning. This is where he will be primarily used.
TEs on roster: Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Julius Thomas
Projected starter: Jacob Tamme
Offseason additions: Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme (both signed March 23)
Roster cuts: Anthony Miller, Cornelius Ingram, Virgil Green (suspended)
Projected final roster: Jacob Tamme, (starter) Joel Dreessen, Julius Thomas
Denver has legitimately hit the jackpot in terms of their tight ends. Last season, they were working with Julius Thomas, Virgil Green and Daniel Fells. None of these men are horrible players, yet they will not be changing games in either blocking or receiving.
The signings of Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen were huge wins for Denver, and both players bring unique skill sets to the team.
Tamme has long been backup to Dallas Clark in Indianapolis, and he showed great route-running skills and productivity when he has filled in for an injured Clark. Dreessen, who has had productive seasons in Houston as a backup to Owen Daniels, is one of the league's stronger blocking tight ends.
Tamme will be listed in the first spot on the depth chart, but don't be surprised to see a lot of two tight end sets in the Denver offense.
Due to Green being suspended for the first four games of the season, Thomas will be the third tight end on the roster.
OTs on roster: Ryan Clady, Chris Clark, Orlando Franklin
Projected starters: Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin
Offseason additions: Mike Remmers (undrafted rookie)
Roster cuts: Mike Remmers, Adam Grant, Ryan Harris, Tony Hills
Projected final roster: Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Chris Clark
Denver was the only team in the NFL to start the same five offensive linemen in all 16 games last season, so if you come to training camp looking for juicy offensive line battles, (I hope you don't) then you'll be disappointed.
Unless injury invites itself to the party, the starters at offensive tackle will be Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin. Franklin, as a rookie last season, was thrust into a huge role at right tackle, defending the blind side of lefty quarterback Tim Tebow. Although Franklin definitely showed at times that he was, indeed, a rookie, he handled the task well all things considered.
Ryan Clady, now a two-time Pro Bowler, will start in the left tackle position and protect the blind side of Peyton Manning.
The sole drama surrounding Denver offensive lineman is around Clady, however, as he is still deadlocked in talks about a new contract. He is set to make $3.5 million this season, yet he hopes to bring home much more dough and ink himself in Denver for at least four more seasons.
Rest assured, a negotiation will be met, and Clady will be on the field come opening day.
OGs on roster: Zane Beadles, C.J. Davis, Chris Kuper, Manny Ramirez
Projected starters: Zane Beadles and Manny Ramirez
Offseason additions: C.J. Davis, (signed February 15) Wayne Tribue, (undrafted rookie) Austin Wuebbels (undrafted rookie)
Roster cuts: Austin Wuebbels, Wayne Tribue
Projected final roster: Zane Beadles, Chris Kuper, C.J. Davis, Manny Ramirez
The story line with the offensive guards in Denver is whether Chris Kuper, one of the team's offensive leaders, can healthily comeback from a nasty ankle break that he sustained in the final game of last season.
So far, the word out of Denver is that Kuper will be ready to start the season, yet his practice throughout training camp will be limited. His position on Denver's line is crucial, and any setback in his progress would be disastrous. Luckily, for Denver's sake, C.J.Davis is a formidable backup who enjoyed a successful college career at Pittsburgh.
Davis' short fall (no pun intended) is his height of only 6'2". This could prove problematic if he does need to fill in for Kuper. The more likely option, however, is that Kuper will be starting alongside Zane Beadles.
Centers on roster: J.D. Walton, Philip Blake, Aaron Brewer (LS)
Projected starter: J.D. Walton
Offseason additions: Philip Blake, (drafted with the 108th pick in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft) Aaron Brewer (undrafted rookie)
Roster cuts: Lonie Paxton (LS)
Projected final roster: J.D. Walton, Aaron Brewer (LS), Philip Blake
Despite starting all 16 games in 2011, J.D. Walton is not one of the league's stronger centers. Snapping wise, he was fantastic, yet blocking wise, he falters. Will this affect his job in 2012?
The solidity of Denver's offensive line is too valuable to break up, and Philip Blake, a rookie out of Baylor, is not ready to be thrust into the starting role.
Veteran long snapper Lonie Paxton was shockingly cut on August 27. This means that undrafted rookie Aaron Brewer, who played college ball with Ronnie Hillman at San Diego State, will start as the team's long snapper in 2012.
DEs on roster: Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, Malik Jackson
Projected starters: Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil
Offseason additions: Malik Jackson, (drafted with the 137th pick in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Drafts) Jamie Blatnick (undrafted rookie)
Roster cuts: Cyril Obiozor, Jason Hunter (IR), Jeremy Beal (IR), Jamie Blatnick, Ben Garland
Projected final roster: Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, Malik Johnson
Broncos fans can really look forward to the defensive end position during training camp, as it will be interesting to see how Malik Jackson develops.
Jackson was forced to play defensive tackle in college, where he was undersized and too quick for the position. He made the most of the situation at Tennessee, yet he is truly a defensive end, and I am eager to see how he re-adjusts to his natural position.
Elvis Dumervil is the hands-down star among this cast of characters. He's a quick, athletic and flashy pass-rusher who accumulated 9.5 sacks in 2011. Dumervil has improved every year since he has been in the NFL, and I think the switch to 4-3 defense that Denver made last season really helped him to maximize his potential.
Starting on the other "end" is Robert Ayers, who has fought almost constant injuries throughout his time in the NFL. Should he fail to stay healthy for a consistent period of time, Jackson or veteran Jason Hunter could be given starting duties.
DTs on roster: Justin Bannan, Mitch Unrein, Kevin Vickerson, Ty Warren, Derek Wolfe, Sealver Siliga
Projected starters: Ty Warren and Derek Wolfe
Offseason additions: Derek Wolfe, (drafted with the 36th pick in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft) Justin Bannan (signed April 11)
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Ty Warren, Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein, Justin Bannan
Defense tackle has without question been one of Denver's greatest weaknesses over the last couple seasons. While running the 3-4 scheme, they failed completely to stop the run up the middle, and a weak defensive tackle was a largely to blame.
Denver made efforts to improve the flaw at defensive tackle last season by signing veteran Ty Warren, but he has yet to see the field in a Denver uniform due to a triceps injury that sidelined him throughout all of 2011.
He will be returning to action in 2012, and playing next to him will be rookie Derek Wolfe, who Denver drafted with their first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Wolfe has the size and strength to become a dominant force at defensive tackle, and he will be learning alongside one of the best in Warren.
The convergence of young and old could revitalize the defensive tackle position that once made the Denver squads of the 1980s so feared.
OLBs on roster: Steven Johnson, Danny Trevathan, Von Miller, Wesley Woodyard
Projected starters: Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard (filling in for D.J. Williams)
Offseason additions: Danny Trevathan, (drafted with the 188th pick in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft) Elliot Coffey (undrafted rookie)
Roster cuts: Elliot Coffey, D.J. Williams* (suspended), Mike Mohamed
Projected final roster: Von Miller, Wesley Woodyard, Steven Johnson, Danny Trevathan
The obvious star of this slide is Von Miller, who took home rookie of the year honors in 2011. Miller played in all 16 games as a rookie, recording 19 quarterback hits and 12 sacks. He's the face of the Denver defense, one of the game's most popular and personable young stars and the model of what a strong-side linebacker should be.
Starting on the weak-side at the beginning of the season will be Wesley Woodyard, who will be filling in for D.J. Williams, who is suspended through the first four games of the season. Williams' suspension will also clear up a roster spot for Elliot Coffey at the beginning of the season, and will give Coffey the chance to solidify himself as a solid contributor on either defense or special teams.
Coffey, an undrafted rookie out of Baylor, is joined by fellow rookie Danny Travathan, whom Denver took in the sixth round of the draft. Trevathan has apparently been taking snaps with the first time (in place of D.J. Williams) and seems to be building a great rapport.
*Williams is suspended for the first four games on 2012, and Steven Johnson will most likely take his roster spot during that time.
MLBs on roster: Nate Irving, Joe Mays, Keith Brooking
Projected starter: Joe Mays
Offseason additions: Jerry Franklin, (undrafted rookie) Keith Brooking (signed 8/6/12)
Roster cuts: Jerry Franklin
Projected final roster: Joe Mays, Nate Irving, Keith Brooking
By no means the strength of the Denver Broncos heading into 2012, the middle linebacker position will see very few changes.
Joe Mays will keep his job until further notice. In his first season as a starter last year, Mays accumulated 75 tackles and made few mistakes. While he's not going to the Pro Bowl with those figures, he's not hurting anything either.
Mays will look to build off his best season to date and up his numbers even more. If he fails to, Nate Irving, the former NC State standout, will be waiting in the wings.
Jerry Franklin, who played college ball at Arkansas and went undrafted in this past draft, will miss the 53-man roster, as there simply won't be enough room to keep three, true middle linebackers.
CBs on roster: Champ Bailey, Omar Bolden, Tony Carter, Chris Harris, Tracy Porter
Projected starters: Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter
Offseason additions: Tracy Porter, (signed March 22) Drayton Florence, (signed May 10) Omar Bolden (drafted with the 101st pick in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft)
Roster cuts: Coryell Judie, Ramzee Robinson, Joshua Moore, Syd'Quid Thompson, Drayton Florence
Projected final roster: Champ Bailey, Tony Carter, Tracy Porter, Omar Bolden, Chris Harris
Denver had a very active and productive offseason in terms of their cornerbacks, as they made some very aggressive attempts to improve the position that hurt them at many times last year.
Last season, Champ Bailey was the sole reason to boast about the Denver Broncos' cornerbacks in any way. The veteran Pro Bowler has had one of the best careers for a cornerback in history. Age has slowed him down a bit recently, but he has showed that he still has a few good years left in his tank.
He'll finally have some talent to work aside in Denver, as three very significant players join the team at the cornerback position.
The first of these is Tracy Porter, whose signing received a lot of press coverage due to Porter's popularity as a New Orleans Saint. Porter is a solid player, yet some red flags need to go up when you consider that he has never played 16 games in an NFL season.
The second key signing at the cornerback position is Drayton Florence. This signing received very little attention since Florence has never defined himself as a household name, yet the nine-year vet has put together very successful seasons in Jacksonville, San Diego, and Buffalo.
His last two seasons in Buffalo were his most successful to date; he started in all 16 games and had three picks in each season. Florence and Porter should see a similar amount of playing time alongside Champ.
The next big move at the cornerback position for Denver was the drafting of Omar Bolden. This move drew some mixed reactions, and Bolden has not played on the football field since 2010. A torn ACL sidelined him through all of his 2011 season at Arizona State, and this no doubt affected his draft stock.
Nonetheless, Bolden, should he stay healthy, is a great young player to groom and a prime candidate for kickoff and punt returns.
Safeties on roster: Mike Adams, David Bruton, Quinton Carter, Rahim Moore, Jim Leonhard
Projected starters: Mike Adams and Quinton Carter
Offseason additions: Mike Adams, (signed March 15) Duke Ihenacho, (undrafted rookie) Anthony Perkins, (undrafted rookie) Jim Leonhard (signed 8/4/12)
Roster cuts: Anthony Perkins, Duke Ihenacho, Rafael Bush
Projected final roster: Mike Adams, David Bruton, Jim Leonhard, Quinton Carter, Rahim Moore
Just as they were with quarterbacks, Denver was active in improving their safety squad for 2012.
This season will mark the first without Brian Dawkins since 2008. He was a starting safeties for three seasons, and it was obvious through those years that Dawkins was past his prime.
To fill the void left by the two veterans' departures, Denver brought Mike Adams, who enjoyed his best season to date last year as a Cleveland Brown. Adams will bring some veteran experience to a roster of otherwise very young players.
David Bruton has amazing versatility and athleticism, and he will certainly be a valuable asset in the rotation. Due to the success of Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore last season, however, Bruton will find himself with less playing time than he probably could obtain elsewhere. Carter and Moore, however, are two of the games most talented young safeties.
Carter saw the field more in 2011 and was thereby able to accumulate more stats. Yet he is more comparable to Mike Adams in that he should be playing the strong safety spot. This could open doors for Moore to get the starting gig at free safety alongside Adams. The third scenario is that Adams starts at free safety, which he is capable of doing, and Carter starts at strong safety.
Either way, it's clear that the Broncos' safeties will be exciting to track during camp.
Ks on roster: Matt Prater, Britton Colquitt
Projected starter: Matt Prater, (kicker) Britton Colquitt (punter)
Offseason additions: None
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Matt Prater, Britton Colquitt
An apology to the readers, but this may be the most boring slide I've ever written. There is nothing to analyze or dissect about Matt Prater or Britton Colquitt.
Prater has been one of the league's best kickers over the last four seasons, and his accuracy from 50+ yards is the best in the league. Sure, kicking in Denver helps for distance, but it doesn't help for accuracy percentage, which Prater has a career average of 78.4.
Colquitt comes from possibly the greatest punting family in NFL history. His father was punter Craig Colquitt, who won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his brother, Dustin Colquitt, is currently the punter for the Kansas City Chiefs. He also had an uncle who had a brief NFL career as a punter and a cousin who punts at Tennessee Tech University.
Needless to say, the Colquitts have some boots!
This is one of the most intriguing questions right now in Denver—who will be returning kicks and punts?
Last season, that duty fell onto Quan Cosby and Eddie Royal, and both receivers have since left the team. This leaves Denver in a difficult position.
The most skilled returner on the roster is probably Eric Decker. Yet Decker is now an important asset of starting offense, and Denver may not want to put him out on the field in a vulnerable position to returns kicks and punts.
Wide receiver Eric Page was billed to be the starting returner, yet an injury has led to his release from the team. There have also been rumors out of Denver that Knowshon Moreno will be demoted to return duties, yet I don't think Denver will take this risk with a player of Moreno's caliber.
Potential Starting Returners
Wide receiver Matthew Willis will most likely be taking the bulk of the kick returns. Willis has ideal size and quickness for this role, and his role in the offense is not so valuable that Denver will mind putting him on special teams. In 2011, he returned eight kicks for 163 yards.
Rookie cornerback Omar Bolden is my pick to be the starting punt returner. Bolden has very similar size and attributes to Willis, and he's going to enter the season very far down the cornerback depth chart.