Last week it was Lonie Paxton. Paxton was a 13-year veteran and seemed like a lock for the Denver Broncos’ 53-man roster. In 2012, there are lots of crowded positions all over the team that need to be trimmed for the Broncos to get to the 53-player limit today.
Let’s analyze each position and see who is most likely to be without a job on the Broncos.
Eric Decker looks to be Manning’s favorite target on this team. He is athletic and often open. He can adjust to the ball and make big plays.
Opposite him is Demaryius Thomas, a huge receiver with great speed but some football discipline issues. These guys are locks for the starting lineup.
I see the Broncos carrying just five receivers this season, meaning one or two top-quality guys will be released. Gerell Robinson looks like a candidate for the practice squad, as does Greg Orton. Both need more time to develop.
Next, I see Jason Hill getting the axe. Hill made a few plays in preseason, but didn’t show me enough to keep his roster spot. He also doesn’t have the experience and history with Peyton Manning that the “slot machine” Brandon Stokley has. I am not sure Matthew Willis or Andre Caldwell are locks either. This group could go a number of ways.
Starters: Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas
Reserves: Andre Caldwell, Matthew Willis, Brandon Stokley
Practice Squad: Gerell Robinson, Greg Orton
Cut: Jason Hill
The front five will stay intact as it’s likely that the starters from last season will be back for the Broncos: LT Ryan Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, RG Chris Kuper, RT Orlando Franklin.
Chris Clark has probably been the most-talked-about reserve in this group for his versatility and was considered a possibility to start at RT if Kuper was moved to LG. But Kuper was hit with the injury bug, nixing that idea.
Manny Ramirez has been playing for Kuper in his absence during the preseason and should stick with the team. C.J. Davis surpassed the rookie Philip Blake on the depth chart, but the Broncos will likely hang on to each of them.
Ryan Harris has definitely lost a step. I think the Broncos cut him as he has been outplayed by Clark this offseason, and the Broncos have no room for dead weight.
Adam Grant could find a spot on the practice squad as could Wayne Tribue.
Starters: LT Ryan Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, RG Chris Kuper, RT Orlando Franklin
Reserves: Chris Clark, Manny Ramirez, C.J. Davis, Philip Blake
Practice Squad: Adam Grant, Wayne Tribue
Cut: Ryan Harris, Tony Hills
The tight end position is crowded.
The Broncos brought in two veteran ends that figure to lock up the one spot. Joel Dreessen will start, and Jacob Tamme will back up. Virgil Green, the team’s best blocking end, will get the third spot. Green is suspended for the four games because he didn’t get the OK for use of his ADHD medicine with the NFL. He may open up a roster spot for someone on the team as he could be placed on the reserve/suspended list during his four games before being activated, but it won’t hold a spot for another TE.
The others will find themselves at home or on the practice squad. John Fox might want to hold out a little longer on Julius Thomas, who as of now has been a draft bust with his limited receptions and then subsequent injury last season. I can envision the Broncos keeping just one TE on their practice squad.
Starter: Joel Dreessen
Backup: Jacob Tamme
Suspended: Virgil Green
Practice Squad/Cut: Julius Thomas, Cornelius Ingram
As much of a headache he has been in his stay with the Broncos, I think Knowshon Moreno still finds a way to stick with Denver. If the team released Moreno, he would be snatched by another team in need during the wire waiver period. Moreno is a great blocking back that Denver can use to protect Manning during passing plays and has decent hands out of the backfield.
Jeremiah Johnson may find his way back to the practice squad in 2012.
Starter: TB Willis McGahee, FB Chris Gronkowski
Backups: Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno
Practice Squad: Jeremiah Johnson
Caleb Hanie is gone. John Elway is goo-goo eyes about Brock Osweiler.
If Manning goes down, the season ends, and Osweiler gets thrown in the fire early. Adam Weber will be back on the practice squad or off the team in 2012.
Caleb Hanie was only the backup plan if the Broncos couldn’t get a decent quarterback in the draft. There is just too much competition at other positions for a third quarterback on the roster as crazy as that seems.
Starter: Peyton Manning
Backup: Brock Osweiler
Practice Squad: Adam Weber
Cut: Caleb Hanie
Even though they drafted Derek Wolfe as a defensive tackle, John Fox and Jack Del Rio liked him even better as a rushing defensive end for the Broncos. He played so well that after Jason Hunter went down, he earned a starting spot on the defense ahead of Robert Ayers. Ayers could be in trouble even making the squad this season.
Last season’s draft pick Jeremy Beal looks like he has done enough to stick with the active roster this season as a reserve.
Starters: Elvis Dumervil, Derek Wolfe
Reserves: Jeremy Beal, Robert Ayers
Practice Squad/Cut: Jamie Blatnick
Defensive tackle is the most crowded position on defense for the Broncos.
The most veteran players, DT Ty Warren and NT Justin Bannan, look like they have won starting jobs, but backing them up is a long line of players.
Kevin Vickerson is fully recovered from injury and looks like he will stay with the team. This season’s draft pick Malik Jackson, who was brought in to play end, has been excelling inside at defensive tackle. Mitch Unrein has risen the depth chart and looks to be the backup nose tackle.
Ben Garland might earn a spot on the practice squad because of his hustle and determination. Sealver Siliga could join him if he passes waivers.
Starters: DT Ty Warren, NT Justin Bannan
Backups: Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein, Malik Jackson
Practice Squad/Cut: Sealver Siliga, Ben Garland
This is the hardest position to call since there are so many players and no real standouts outside of the starters. Some of the players that make the 53-man roster may be released for the Broncos to pick up a player released from another team.
Nate Irving played better this offseason, but I haven’t seen much out of Mike Mohamed. He could find his way back to the practice squad next season.
Wesley Woodyard and Keith Brooking will likely fill the hole left by D.J. Williams, who is likely to be placed on the team’s suspended list with Virgil Green. Steven Johnson has an outside shot at the active roster over this year’s rookie, Danny Trevathan, who will join Mohamed on the practice squad.
Starters: SLB Von Miller, MLB Joe Mays, WLB Wesley Woodyard
Backups: Nate Irving, Steven Johnson, Keith Brooking
Practice Squad/Cut: Mike Mohamed, Jerry Franklin, Danny Trevathan
Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter will start for the Broncos in 2012.
Chris Harris has secured a spot on the active roster as well. Drayton Florence will likely back up Porter and play some in the nickel. Omar Bolden is an exciting player as a kickoff returner. He will also stick this season.
Because of unfortunate injuries and unfair circumstances, Syd’Quan Thompson will probably be looking for new employment in 2012. The Broncos probably keep either Tony Carter or Joshua Moore on the practice squad.
Starters: Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter
Backups: Drayton Florence, Chris Harris, Omar Bolden
Practice Squad/Cut: Joshua Moore, Tony Carter, Syd'Quan Thompson
Safety is another crowded position with a lot of talented players for the Broncos.
They will likely keep David Bruton and Jim Leonhard, along with starters Rahim Moore and Mike Adams. Quinton Carter, who was hit by the injury bug during training camp also likely earns a spot, and the odd man out is Rafael Bush.
Bush has been good on special teams and will likely be signed by another team. Duke Ihenacho should be headed for the practice squad.
Starters: Rahim Moore, Mike Adams
Backups: Jim Leonhard, Quinton Carter, David Bruton
Practice Squad: Duke Ihenacho
Cut: Rafael Bush
By my count I have 51 players on the active roster and too many players on the practice squad, which is good news for those guys.
The extra two players include D.J. Williams and Virgil Green, who are both suspended to start the 2012 NFL season. However, I think the Broncos will try to get some better depth at linebacker to fill in for D.J. Williams after the cuts. So some of the players to make the cut could find themselves unemployed the day after surviving cuts.
Here is a summary of the number of players per position.
Offense: 23 players total
Wide Receivers – 5 Players
Offensive Line – 9 Players
Tight End – 2 Players
Running Back – 5 Players
Quarterback – 2 Players
Defense: 25 players total
Defensive End – 4 Players
Defensive Tackle – 5 Players
Linebacker – 6 Players
Cornerback – 5 Players
Safety – 5 Players
Special Teams – 3 Players
Total: 51 Players