We are two days away from the roster cutdown date on Aug. 31, and the Denver Broncos have one more preseason game to go before the final cutdown takes place.
The Broncos take the field versus the Arizona Cardinals tomorrow night to conclude the preseason. John Fox has already stated that Peyton Manning and many starters won't see the field. Apparently, the Cardinals won't play many of their starters either.
As is the case every preseason, there are many players on the bubble. Whether it be veterans, rookies or free agents, every type of player is fighting for a job in the last preseason game. It comes as no shock that these "bubble" players will get all of their chances to shine versus Arizona on Thursday night.
Here are five players who are on the bubble but will make the Broncos' roster come Aug. 31.
Denver's fifth-round selection came on slowly at the beginning of training camp but has slowly improved as the preseason has wore on.
Jackson has been credited with a sack in two of the three preseason games, has recovered a fumble in the game where he did not record a sack and has pushed the primary backup at LDT, Kevin Vickerson.
It would not come as a shock to me in the least bit if the Broncos were to keep Malik Jackson and make Jackson Ty Warren's primary backup, while releasing the veteran Vickerson. Vickerson is due to make $2 million this year, while Jackson is due $390,000.
Although Vickerson can still be productive in a backup role, it might simply become a numbers game. Jackson is simply a lot younger, a lot cheaper and has more upside as a 22-year-old rookie.
With Jason Hunter being placed on injured reserve on Monday, the Broncos will keep Robert Ayers.
Although both Hunter and Derek Wolfe overtook Ayers at his previous starting position of LDE, Ayers is the primary backup to Elvis Dumervil at the RDE position. Jeremy Beal has taken over the primary backup spot to starting left defensive end Derek Wolfe.
As much of a bust as Ayers is, having been a first-round draft pick in 2009 and only amassing 4.5 sacks through the first three years of his NFL career, the Broncos need depth along the defensive line. Ayers provides that.
Ayers is only due $965,000 this year, so it's not as if his salary is such a detriment to the salary cap.
As it stands right now, Brandon Stokley has proved himself to be Denver's best option at slot receiver. Despite being 36 years of age, Stokley has shown that he does have some football left in the tank, and his prior history of playing with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis will aid him in making the 53-man roster.
Having said that, Andre Caldwell was signed with the expectation that he'd be the team's slot receiver. Caldwell simply hasn't made much of an impact, and Stokley has lined up as Denver's No. 3 receiver when Peyton Manning has been on the field.
Matthew Willis has been with the Broncos since December of '08. He played one game in the '09 season and has been on Denver's roster the past two years.
Willis is simply cost-efficient, and any team would love to have him as their No. 4 or No. 5 receiver. He handled punt-returning duties versus San Francisco and handled kick-returning duties versus Chicago. He can make contributions on special teams with tackling, also.
Willis will make Denver's roster, while Caldwell will likely be a cut casualty come Aug. 31.
I went back and forth on this selection, but I will take a swing on this and say that the Broncos keep Knowshon Moreno for the 2012 season.
I feel like the Broncos will keep five backs on their roster, with FB Chris Gronkowski being the one fullback on the team.
First of all, as shown through Denver's three preseason games, the Broncos will line up in a lot of shotgun formations. In a lot of formations and packages, the Broncos won't even utilize the fullback. Which is the reason why there is no need for a backup fullback. This opens up a spot for a fourth running back.
That fourth running back will be Moreno.
With rookie Ronnie Hillman struggling through a nagging hamstring injury, which has limited his training camp and preseason reps, the Broncos will start the season having four running backs. With Hillman being set back by injuries early on in his career, the Broncos will see the need for depth at running back.
Moreno and Lance Ball will mainly be used for what they're good at—pass protection, third-down situations and receiving the football. Their running abilities will always be limited, but their versatile skills can be utilized with Manning calling plays.
David Bruton is entering his fourth year with the Broncos, and although he has never proved to be a starting-caliber safety, his contributions on special teams are tremendous.
Look no further than the game versus Seattle. Bruton blocked two punts and had two tackles in that game alone. Although it's unusual for a team to keep five safeties, the Broncos should do so in 2012. Quinton Carter, Mike Adams, Rahim Moore and likely Rafael Bush will make the roster.
Bruton should be kept around for his ability to be a playmaker on special teams.