Denver Broncos: One Burning Question for Every Member of the Roster
The Denver Broncos front office released its first depth chart for the season this week. The media and fans got their first look at how the team is shaping up for 2012.
Denver is hoping for solid improvement this season and the expectations and anticipation have never been higher in the Mile High City.
There are, however, still questions surrounding every player that need to be answered before the regular season begins. Ahead of their first preseason game on Thursday night against the Bears, here's a look at one question for every guy currently in camp for the Broncos.
Q: Will Manning's health hold up against tough NFL defenses?
A: Bronco nation sure hopes so. Manning's neck is a non-issue based on his latest fusion surgery, however, the strength of his arm has come into question. So far in camp, he looks strong, but we will have to wait until the season actually starts and Manning is subjected to full contact from opposing defenses.
Q: Can Hanie hold off Brock Osweiler for the clipboard jockey spot behind Manning?
A: Based on his prior track record in the NFL, we're not expecting too much, but he could surprise us all and step it up.
Q: What does this young rookie have that caused the Broncos front office to draft him ahead of other team needs?
A: So far, the Broncos are pleased with their decision based on his performances at camp. With the changes he has made to his throwing motion for a higher release, Osweiler is looking like a solid backup to Peyton Manning.
Q: Will Weber have a good enough preseason to remain on the roster or will he be relegated to the practice squad for a second-straight year?
A: It really depends on how the rest of the roster pans out. If the Broncos have the room, they may keep four quarterbacks on the active roster.
Q: Can McGahee repeat and build upon his successful first-year comeback with the Broncos?
A: All signs point to yes. If McGahee can remain healthy and get some much needed support from his fellow backs, he should prove to be a workhorse at running the ball in Denver.
Q: Will he finally outshine Knowshon Moreno in camp and keep the No. 2 spot behind McGahee?
A: Ball is a very durable, solid fill-in type of running back. He helps out on special teams when needed and is always dependable. He will need to show some flash and greatness to hold off the more talented but often-injured Moreno.
Q: Will Hillman's hamstring be a lingering issue and prevent him from showing his true swiftness at running the ball?
A: Hopefully he is able to rehab properly, as he is the one back with super speed on the squad. The sky is the limit for this young, talented athlete.
Q: Will Moreno's performance on the field finally match his insane amount of talent?
A: He has been plagued with injury, but is starting this season healthy and ready to take care of business. Moreno has been inconsistent in the past but his college career proves the immense natural talent that he possesses. If he can stay healthy, keep working on picking up the blitz and catching balls, he could move his way back up the depth chart and make an impact this season.
Jeremiah Johnson & Xavier Omon
Q: Will their preseason NFL audition be successful enough to get a job somewhere in the league if not with the Broncos?
A: Most likely they will end up with another team, if at all.
Q: What will it be like to finally catch balls out of the backfield in a Peyton Manning offense?
A: The middle of the football-playing Gronkowski brothers became a Colt last year only to have Peyton Manning sidelined by injury for the entire time. Gronkowski will get his chance to build a relationship and put his mark on the two-back offense in Denver.
Q: Can Austin Sylvester present a decent case to oust Gronkowski as the starting fullback?
A: Sylvester only saw action in one game last season, as he spent the bulk of it on the practice squad. He is looking to provide a battle with Gronkowski for that roster spot and could potentially pull it off.
Q: Will Decker become a Top 10 receiver this season?
A: With his raw talent and that new guy throwing him the ball this season, Eric Decker should experience a huge jump in production, making him a Top 10 guy.
Q: Can he prove to be Peyton Manning's best deep-threat receiver ever?
A: It is way too early to tell how their chemistry will develop, but they have all the makings of an epic duo. Thomas has the ability to catch the ball all over the field which will only enhance their relationship.
Andre Caldwell & Brandon Stokley
Q: Will both of these guys succeed as slot receivers this season?
A: Caldwell and Stokely will mostly be used in the slot, although either one of them can fill in outside if needed. Given Stokley's previous relationship with Manning, he should get the nod. However, look for Caldwell to receive his share of snaps as well.
Q: Is Jason Hill too buried on the depth chart to make it?
A: Potentially so. He has had a decent training camp, however, there are just too many bodies in line at wideout.
Q: Will special teams earn him a spot on the final 53-man roster?
A: Being able to contribute to punt and kickoff coverage, as well as returns, is probably the only way Willis will find his name on the active roster at the end of the preseason.
Greg Orton, Tyler Grisham, Cameron Kenney, Mark Dell & Gerell Robinson
Q: Will anyone in this crowded field be around in September?
A: There may be room for one practice-squad spot for someone that can shine, however, it will be challenging.
Joel Dreessen & Jacob Tamme
Q: Which one of these talented tight ends will emerge as Peyton Manning's go-to guy this season?
A: It could prove to go any way at this point. Both of these guys are having positive performances at camp and could equally solidify their spots as solid tight-end targets for Manning.
Q: Even though he is suspended for the first four games of this season, can he prove enough at camp to earn a spot on the active roster as a blocking tight end?
A: Sure. Anything is possible at this point.
Julius Thomas, Anthony Miller & Cornelius Ingram
Q: What will happen with these three guys?
A: Even though Thomas was drafted to become the next Antonio Gates, it looks like he's a bust and won't make the final roster. The Broncos may keep Miller or Ingram as members of the practice squad.
Q: Will Clady remain in Denver at the end of this season?
A: So far this offseason, negotiations for a contract extension haven't been successful between Clady and the Broncos. Barring an injury, Clady could be a hot commodity in the free-agent market in February if nothing is resolved.
Q: Will Franklin play at right guard or right tackle this season?
A: When Orlando Franklin returned to practice after being sidelined by a concussion, the coaches had him lined up as a guard. He is most likely temporarily playing guard until Chris Kuper is healthy enough to take the field again.
Q: Will the ankle injury he suffered on Monday be an issue moving forward?
A: Harris left practice and did not return to the field. Time will tell if it is something serious or not, but it most likely won't inhibit his performance this season.
Q: Will Chris Clark push the incumbent Orlando Franklin for starting time at right tackle?
A: He has looked great in camp and shows that he has the physicality to block both the run and the pass.
Q: Who is Mike Remmers?
A: He is a rookie offensive lineman from Oregon State, who came to the Broncos as a college free agent in April, 2012.
A: There is the possibility that in Kuper's absence, there may be some switching of positions amongst Orlando Franklin and Ryan Harris, potentially leaving Beadles on the bench. It's not likely to happen but isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Q: Is his knee going to be rehabbed enough to return and impact the offensive line?
A: Kuper is being eased back in and will hopefully be at full strength in time.
Q: Will this returning veteran be more than a backup?
A: Ramirez has taken some reps with the first team in the place of the the injured Kuper. However, it is not foreseeable for him to earn a starting spot this season.
Adam Grant, Tony Hills, Austin Wuebbels & Wayne Tribue
Q: What are their chances of making the Broncos' final 53-man roster?
A: Pretty Slim.
Q: Did the Broncos send J.D. Walton a message to step up his run blocking and give up less pressure up the middle by bringing in rookie center Philip Blake?
A: If so, the message was received. Walton has had a good camp thus far and has secured his spot as the starter. He will hopefully be able to make those necessary changes to plug up the middle for his new quarterback.
C.J. Davis & Philip Blake
Q: Do either of these guys have a shot at snapping the ball to Peyton Manning in the regular season?
A: Of the two, Blake has shown promise but probably not enough to start this season.
Q: Will a healthy Ty Warren bolster the anemic run defense from 2011?
A: The Broncos sure hope so. Last season, Denver's defense finished 22nd in the league against the run, giving up an average of 126.3 yards per game.
Q: Is his offseason weight gain going to help him anchor down at the point of attack?
A: Vickerson bulked up and actually took a pay cut this offseason. Depending on the package, he will probably start at right defensive tackle and will hopefully help stuff up the middle.
Q: Can this fifth-round rookie stand out and make the squad this year?
A: Right now, he is listed as the third-string guy and will need an outstanding preseason to make any waves.
Q: Can this feel-good story actually pan out for Garland?
A: Ben Garland is trying to make the team after serving a two-year military commitment with the air force academy. He is currently sitting at No. 4 on the depth chart.
Q: Will Bannan's calf injury affect the regular season?
A: It shouldn't. Bannan should be just fine and be the starting nose tackle.
Q: Will he continue to turn heads at camp?
A: Unrein is a hard worker and has been having a great preseason; even taking some snaps with the starting defensive unit.
Q: Can Siliga play his way off the practice squad?
A: Not likely.
Q: Will this be a breakout year for Robert Ayers, after getting comfortable in his natural position?
A: Ayers is healthy and embracing the more aggressive-style defense that new coordinator Jack Del Rio brings to the team. Ayers will need to improve his sack production this year if he wants to become a superior defensive end in the league.
Q: Is he set up for a monster year on the field for the Broncos?
A: Now that there are no formal charges in Dumervil's road-rage incident, he should have another solid season with 13+ sacks as a real possibility.
Q: Can Jason Hunter be more than a decent backup for the Broncos?
A: He should make the final active roster but most likely will retain his position on the depth chart as a reliable backup.
Q: Will the rookie be able to make an impact whether he is lined up at defensive tackle or end?
A: Generally, rookies don't have too high of expectations for the first season in the league. However, with the obvious deficiency of an interior pass rusher, Wolfe's learning curve will need to be swift.
Jeremy Beal, Cyril Obiozor & Jamie Blatnick
Q: Do any of these guys have a shot at the final 53-man roster?
A: Of the three, it seems that Jamie Blatnick may have the most upside, with a solid work ethic and a high motor. It most likely looks like the practice squad or nothing for all of them, though.
Q: Will Miller take what he learns from practicing with Peyton Manning and elevate his game this season?
A: Being able to play opposite such a high-caliber quarterback every day at training camp can only benefit the powerhouse pass rusher. Look for Miller to have another fantastic year wreaking havoc on the league's opposing quarterbacks.
Q: What will he be doing this season?
A: The answer may not be playing football for the Broncos. He is already suspended for six games and may have another four tacked on before the end of this month, pending a court date for a DUI from 2010. Williams hasn't been playing much with the first team at training camp and it wouldn't be too shocking to see Denver try to part ways with the distraction.
Q: Will Joe Mays be able to remain the starter at middle linebacker?
A: It really depends on how Nate Irving will perform. Mays tends to struggle in coverage and will not have Wesley Woodyard to bail him out. Woodyard will be playing on the outside in place of the suspended D.J. Williams. If Mays doesn't step his game up, Irving may swoop in and take the starting job from him.
Q: Can Woodyard do a decent fill-in job for the suspended D.J. Willliams on the right side?
A: Woodyard is a solid special-teams guy and has shown flashes of greatness in his tackling. Once the regular season begins, we will get a better idea of what he is capable of on that right side.
Q: Will Nate Irving be able to push Joe Mays for the starting middle linebacker role?
A: If he does, it could come midseason, as Mays could end up taking the heat for a poor run defense.
Q: What will be the newest Bronco's role this season?
A: Brooking has been unable to play with the team yet due to regulations, so it is early to tell where they will utilize the veteran. No doubt his experience will be invaluable to some of these young linebackers.
Q: Will this rookie stand out amongst a crowded linebacker field?
A: So far he has done all of the right things. He even spoke with Bronco legend Karl Mecklenberg after camp to get some sage advice. There looks to be a bright future ahead of this young athlete.
Mike Mohamed, Steven Johnson, Elliot Coffey & Jerry Franklin
Q: What can these guys do to have a shot at making the final active roster in the future?
A: Practice, train, repeat.
Q: Has Champ lost a step in his "old" age?
A: Not a chance. What Champ has forfeited speed-wise, he has gained in knowledge and experience. Getting a chance to work this preseason with Peyton Manning is invaluable to a cornerback of his caliber's game.
Q: Does Tracy Porter find a new level working with his second Pro Bowl quarterback in a row?
A: Porter is one lucky guy. He was already an elite cornerback and now has the advantage of learning from both Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning this season.
Q: Can Chris Harris repeat his breakout rookie season?
A: Chris Harris surprised many people when the unsigned free agent made the Broncos' active roster last year and made an impact on their season. Look for him to build on his experience and be a valuable member of the defense.
Q: What will be Florence's role be with the Broncos' defense?
A: He was brought in from Buffalo to play in nickel packages. His experience along with fellow free agent Tracy Porter will add solid depth at the cornerback position.
Q: Is this rookie fourth-round draft pick ready for the speed of the NFL?
A: This rookie from Arizona State has turned some heads during training camp and looks to have the chops to get some playing time this season.
Tony Carter, Joshua Moore, Ramzee Robinson & Syd'Quan Thompson
Q: Is there too much depth at the cornerback position for any of these guys to get noticed?
Q: Why is Carter listed above Mike Adams on the Broncos' initial depth chart?
A: It's still a head scratcher. Since Carter is coming off knee surgery and newly signed Jim Leonhard is rehabbing his knee as well, Adams should be the clear starter here.
Q: Will this offseason's free agent acquisition provide that much needed help for the Broncos' defense?
A: It looks like it. He has been playing with the No. 1 defense in camp and looking like a good addition so far.
Q: Will Moore elevate his game in his sophomore season with the Broncos and become a top safety in the league?
A: He certainly has the talent and based on his solid college career at UCLA, could just make it happen.
Q: Can this guy who was signed just a few days ago, make an impact on the squad?
A: For sure. Leonhard's intelligence makes up for his smaller frame and he knows how to make plays to get the job done. He definitely brings his lunch pail to work.
Duke Ihenacho, Anthony Perkins, Rafeal Bush & David Bruton
Q: Where will these guys fit in the Broncos organization or if not in Denver, will they be picked up by another team in the league?
A: We will have to see how the preseason plays out.
Q: Is he worth that freshly inked four-year contract for $13 million, making him the third-highest paid kicker in the NFL?
A: Yep, he is. Prater was solid last year in the clutch and bailed the Broncos out on four occasions with game-winning field goals.
Q: Could Britton Colquitt be a bigger punting stud?
A: Not really. Colquitt finished last season second in the league with punts downed inside the 20-yard line, with 33. He is a huge asset to the Broncos and a valid contributor to their success.
Q: Will Lonnie Paxton attract more attention this season?
A: Broncos fans hope not. If you're hearing a long snapper's name it is usually not a good thing. Paxton has been super consistent for Denver and should continue to be happily invisible.
Q: Was this rookie long snapper brought in to take the starting role from Paxton?
A: Brewer is potentially capable of doing the same job as the veteran Paxton for a fraction of the price. It will be interesting to see how that position will play out this season.