Heading into tomorrow, there is going to be some exciting speculation regarding the makeup of our 53-man roster, including some surprising, even flabbergasting cuts. What better way to really start the breakdown than to take into account a guaranteed group of eight (well, nearly guaranteed, anyway) who will be on the team by making the practice squad?
There is a terrific breakdown of the rules regarding the structure, purpose and formation of the practice squad HERE. Beyond what Kirk has presented in that article, it is worth noting how telling it is when a team builds its practice squad. We can't overlook the importance of a developmental squad on a rebuilding team, especially given the breadth of the turnover the roster has undergone, and if we look closely at how it is built, we may gain some very telling clues as to what the long range teambuilding philosophy of this organization continues to be, and whether it is consistent with the goals they have laid out for themselves.
For example, where does Tom Brandstater fit in the PS scheme? If we see him there, we can divine that he truly does have a lot more to learn, and despite the growth and poise he has shown throughout the preseason, he is truly not ready to be a starting QB. Alternatively, if he doesn't show up there, it is a sure sign that the Broncos staff wishes to keep their options open in regards to being able to rotate him in with the starting unit when possible, or necessary.
There are other considerations as well...
Will Denver use the PS as a place to store incumbents, or projects? Will Denver have to keep all of its Dline talent on the 53 man roster, in order to ease the rotation and activation of the group? Or do they have confidence that they can consistently start a solid group, and put the developmental opportunities on the PS? WR is another position where they may be starting as many as four WRs on the active 45, and so there may not be enough room there for eh backups as well. Could a player like McKinley go to the practice squad, where he would await the call to start in the event of injury?
Beyond these obvious roster considerations, another benefit of being on the practice squad is the tasks scout team players are routinely charged with. Since they are not expected to start in each week's game, they are often responsibilities and expected playbooks of the opponent, not their own team, in an effort to accurately mimic opponent tendencies. Would offensive linemen like Mitch Erickson and Clint Oldenburg better benefit from this kind of work than a LB like Lee Robinson or a DL like Everette Pedescleaux?
If the Broncos were to keep, say 7 WRs on active, and an additional WR on the PS, what would THAT indicate about the team's plans moving forward?
As always, one of our prime considerations is "Who will make it through waivers?" The saving grace here is EVERY team is thinking the same thing about their own players. Historically there isn't a significant amount of sniping that occurs during this waiver period, and Denver is as likely to benefit from that process as anyone.
Here is the current list of players that are practice squad eligible, plus my own very rough designation regarding their likely status for the final roster:
|53-man roster||Practice Squad||Waived|
|RB Knowshon Moreno||X|
|OLB/DE Robert Ayers||X|
|CB Alphonso Smith||X|
|DB Darcel McBath||X|
|TE Richard Quinn||X|
|DB David Bruton||X|
|OG Seth Olsen||X|
|WR Kenny McKinley||X|
|QB Tom Brandstater||X|
|DE Mathias Askew||X|
|OG Mitch Erickson||X|
|T Clint Oldenburg||X|
|WR Matthew Willis||X|
|WR Nate Swift||X|
|DT/DE Ryan McBean||X|
|DB DJ Johnson||X|
|DB Tony Carter||X|
|SLB Lee Robinson||X|
|DE Everette Pedescleaux||X|
|DE/NT Chris Baker||X|
Thoughts on above list:
RBs, WRs: It should be noted that Moreno is our only RB eligible for the PS, and that is 100% unlikely that that will happen. Therefore, Denver may choose to keep its extra depth at the RB position on the 53-man roster. This is my rationale behind McKinley to the PS. I think he has played decent, though has made numerous mistakes, and would be an excellent Bronco. However, with the expected starting crop and significant receiving threats we have from other positions, including RB, it is likely that the depth for the WRs might get stashed on the PS. Brandon Marshall's status regarding further suspensions will also be a consideration until it isn't, which may force Denver to carry more receiving personnel than would typically be wise.
OL, DL: I have two of each here, and all are versatile enough to cover multiple areas. My thoughts here are that the Scout team has a job to do beyond just protecting young talent, and that is to help the rest of the team prepare each week. Linemen will be a focal point of this preparation, and all of the above selected young men are versatile, and have proven to be smart, a prerequisite for mimicking 13 other team's playbooks throughout the course of the season. However, until I see how Denver handles their practice squad, I am not convinced that this is a likely or unlikely scenario. it is just something that makes sense, and that I would understand if they did it, but like the draft, this may be a totally off-base assumption about their style... For DL, what is interesting is just how much overall depth they will be carrying, if you include the players currently lining up at DE, like Doom, Reid and Ayers. It will be intriguing to note who gets activated week to week, and whether they feel the need to call up a lineman from the practice squad in the event of an injury.
Tom Brandy: this seems like as sure of a call as any. You get all the benefits of him being on the active roster, without actually placing him on the active roster... Why would they do anything different? Well, one thought, as I mentioned above is if McDaniel's wants some strategic versatility when it comes to whether Tom plays or not. Currently it is taboo for the third stringer to come in unless the players ahead of him are completely unable to play with injury. If he came in, there would be no going back if he was on the PS. With two injured QBs ahead of him, there is a very slim possibility that he would be better suited to the starting roster. Only slim, of course, since that sort of short range thinking would paralyze the broader spectrum of his growth, and would endanger his roster spot in future scenarios if such a strategy was engaged in.
WR again and a LB: By adding Swift and Robinson as my final PSers, I have a pretty clear idea of what it is I expect Denver to be using the PS for this year. I think it is likely that they are going to simply try to stash key backups at positions that require the depth, and that have the young options available. That the group of eligibles isn't more diverse speaks, I think, to this approach. I don't think it is an accident that there are no RBs outside of Moreno who are eligible, yet there are WRs. That both lines have eligible options also speaks to this strategy. By adding Robinson, I am assuming that Denver's LB roster does not change in the near future (ie, no trades), and that the Davis, Haggan, Larsen combo might not make it to the final 53 unscathed. DJ and Woodyard, I think, are the only absolutes in the LB corp, and I like Robinson, so there you go. If he is among the waived, I certainly wouldn't color myself shocked. [Editor's Note: as this was put int he hopper, new came through that Robinson was indeed, cut. No surprise there, and for me, it is the first of what I would consider "unfortunate" cuts being made. Licks Ten Tigers being cut bothers me as well...best nick ever! :( ]
20 players, and 8 are practically guaranteed to be around. What are YOUR thoughts, MHR?