Denver Broncos: Predicting the 53-Man Roster
The time has come, the time is now. Turn in your playbook and please go now.
Unfortunately for a dozen players, the Broncos will have to cut 20 players on Friday at 7 p.m. MT (9 p.m. EST). Not all hope is lost for the 20 because up to eight players will get a job on the practice squad.
John Elway and John Fox have a few tough choices to make, but the talent isn't deep enough for them to lose sleep about a player they release.
A few of the players that get released will find a home with other clubs as each team refines its roster in the days leading up to the first regular season game.
Who makes the cut?
In: Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler
Out: Caleb Hanie
Practice Squad: Adam Weber
Hanie finally turned in a good preseason performance last week, but it's too little and too late for the veteran. Hanie has been pretty bad for most of the preseason and the Broncos have their quarterback of the future in Osweiler.
Any snaps that don't go to Manning should go to Osweiler and not Hanie. The Broncos would be in deep trouble without Manning, but in that case they would be better off finding out what they have in their rookie than handing the ball to Hanie and sinking like the Titanic.
Weber is still eligible for the practice squad, and it's doubtful any team would try to sign him to their active roster.
Running Backs (5)
In: Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball, Chris Gronkowski (FB).
Out: Jeremiah Johnson
The Broncos drafted Hillman to replace Moreno. Moreno was also coming off of an ACL injury. It was supposed to be easy to release Moreno and go with Hillman, but that hasn't happened.
Moreno was ready to go for training camp and Hillman missed time with an injury. Now, the Broncos will probably keep Moreno and go with four running backs. It only works because Ball can also play special teams.
Johnson has produced when given the opportunity, but he's never climbed the depth chart and faced a higher level of competition. It's the numbers game that Johnson will lose.
Wide Receivers (6)
In: Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Stokley, Andre Caldwell, Matthew Willis and Jason Hill
Out: Gerell Robinson
Practice Squad: Greg Orton
With Manning, the Broncos will be a passing team and need plenty of receivers. The starters are set, and Stokley appears to have a grip on the slot receiver job.
Jason Hill's production has been good enough to force the Broncos to keep an extra receiver and Willis also plays special teams.
Caldwell is the wild card here because he is a veteran without a defined role.
Tight Ends (3)
In: Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, Julius Thomas
Out: Cornelius Ingram
Suspended: Virgil Green
Manning loves his tight ends, so Tamme and Dreesen will be heavily featured in the passing game. Thomas makes it as the No. 3 guy until Green serves his suspension and the Broncos will then have to make a decision on which one to keep.
Green was actually a solid pass blocker last year, so it wouldn't be surprising if Thomas was sent packing when Green returns.
Offensive Lineman (9)
Centers: J.D. Walton, Philip Blake
Guards: Zane Beadles, Chris Kuper, Manning Ramirez
Tackles: Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Chris Clark, Ryan Harris
Guards: C.J. Davis, Wayne Tribue
Tackles: Tony Hills
Tackle: Adam Grant
The Broncos' starting five have been pretty solid this preseason and didn't miss a beat when Kuper was hurt. That could change in the regular season, and the Broncos will need to carry nine offensive lineman until Kuper returns from injury. Once upon a time Harris was a solid right tackle, and I think he's worth keeping around as that ninth guy.
Clark and Ramirez are the easy choices as the other reserves, with Grant headed to the practice squad.
Defensive Tackles (4)
In: Mitch Unrein, Kevin Vickerson, Ty Warren, Justin Bannan
Practice Squad: Sealver Siliga
There are no real surprises at defensive tackle. Warren and Bannan will start, and Unrein and Vickerson will both get into the rotation to keep each other fresh.
Siliga is eligible for the practice squad and that's likely where he will end up.
Defensive Ends (5)
In: Derek Wolfe, Jeremy Beal, Robert Ayers, Elvis Dumervil, Malik Jackson
Practice Squad: Jamie Blatnick, Ben Garland
Jason Hunter officially went to injured reserve and opened the door for the rookie Wolfe to start and Beal to make the 53-man roster. Jackson will be moved around the offensive line and Ayers will rotate in at defensive end as well.
Dumervil is the only end that can put a lot of heat on the quarterback, but the Broncos seem to have enough size to stop the run.
Blatnik and Garland are both eligible for the practice squad if no other teams are in need of depth on the defensive line.
In: Quinton Carter, Rahim Moore, Mike Adams, Rafael Bush, Jim Leonhard
Out: David Bruton
Practice Squad: Duke Ihenacho
One of Elway's most difficult decisions comes at the safety position. Bruton, Bush and Leonhard are fighting for what should be one roster spot. Five safeties is a bit unusual, so it wouldn't surprise me to see two of the three released.
It comes down to trust. Bush and Bruton are good special teams guys, but could they be trusted to start for an injured player? You can trust Leonhard, and he should make the squad if he's healthy enough.
In: Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter, Drayton Florence, Chris Harris, Omar Bolden,
Out: Syd'Quan Thompson, Tony Carter
Cornerback is not a hard position to project in Denver. Porter and Florence were given guaranteed money this offseason, Bolden was a mid-round draft pick, and Harris figures to be the primary slot cornerback.
If Florence's guaranteed money was tied to him making the 53-man roster, I could see him being released. If not, these are your five guys.
In: Von Miller, Mike Mohamed, Wesley Woodyard, Danny Trevathan, Joe Mays, Nate Irving
Suspended: D.J. Williams
Out: Keith Brooking, Jerry Franklin, Steven Johnson
The Broncos didn't get a long enough look at Brooking and considering his age and cost compared to Mohamed and Trevathan, it didn't make sense to keep him on the 53-man roster.
Irving and Trevathan flopped positions a little bit during the last preseason game, which is a sign that both will make the roster, and the Broncos wanted to get a little tape on both of them in different positions.
Kicker: Matt Prater
Punter: Britton Colquitt
Long Snapper: Aaron Brewer
Lonie Paxton was released earlier this week, opening the door for Brewer as the team's long snapper. Prater is among the best kickers in the league.