Well, that was quite an interesting game. Before Pittsburgh, I thought I had a really good sense of how the roster would shake out, but there were two players in particular that really jumbled things up. I'm convinced we're going to have some shocks and surprises in the next couple of weeks.
One of these two players should be obvious to everyone who was either watching the game or reading the comment threads. The other kind of snuck up on us. More after the jump.
Syd'Quan Thompson may have really screwed the Broncos with his performance last night. I say that with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but I'm one to agree with those who say that Thompson would be good as gone if exposed to the waiver wire. Before last night, the Broncos may have been able to keep him on the practice squad. Now, they might have to give him a valuable roster slot.
As for the other player, I think Stanley Daniels looks much more likely to make the team now. I didn't notice him much except for a pretty darn good run block, but I can't help thinking that Beadles+Daniels is a better combination than Batiste+Beadles.
As for the roster math, we have some information on how many numbers the team invested in each position last season. The question is whether the quality level at certain positions means we stock up on them to a degree. Here's the position by position rundown:
Offensive Line: Before this week, I had Clady/Beadles/Walton/Kuper/Harris, with three backups. Last year we carried nine, and I was thinking we'd carry eight this year. Our scheme is simplified, and I think we're a bit undertalented still in our depth, so no need to stockpile. I was thinking the three backups would be Batiste, Hochstein, and one of the three Olsens, probably Seth. Now I'm thinking Daniels might have stolen a slot. I'm pretty sure Paul Duncan might be gone, since Beadles and Batiste can both do tackle backups. I'm not sure at all what to do about the Olsens - it might be when all is said and done that Hochstein gets the boot. Pick: Clady/Beadles, Beadles/Daniels, Walton/Hochstein, Kuper/SethOlsen, Harris/SethOlsen, with Eric Olsen on the PS. (8)
Cornerback: Yeesh. I know what the fan favorite projections are, but I'm still convinced that the coaches are high on Nate Jones. I don't believe any of our other corners can help play safety reliably. At this point, I'm convinced that Tony Carter will be cut - good player, but our backups are so much stronger than last season. And I believe that Cassius Vaughn will be on the practice squad or cut outright. He's shown a couple of things, but not enough. Smith is better than most fans give him credit for, and he has a lot of experience playing with 1st and 2nd teamers. Jones has enough versatility to make the team. There's a chance that Jones could be cut in the next couple of days since he's a veteran, but otherwise that leaves six corners, and I think the only way we can justify that is if we anoint Thompson our kick returner. And if we do that, we'd be looking at five wide receivers, not six. Pick: Champ, Goodman, Jones, Smith, Cox, Thompson (6, 14)
Defensive Line: Bannan, Williams, and McBean are locks to make the team. Beyond that, things seem a bit hazy. If we were to go conventional, then I would think McBean, Jarvis Green, Marcus Thomas, and either Le Kevin Smith or Chris Baker would make the team. But we're seeing more stunting - we had Ayers at nose last night on his sack. There might be some creative decision making going on here. I haven't heard a thing about Ben Garland, and Jeff Stehle seems destined for the practice squad. Pick: Bannan, Fields, Green, McBean, Smith, Thomas, Williams (7, 21)
Inside Linebacker: This one seems pretty straightforward. We kept five last season, but that was counting Larsen, so we should keep four. Mario and DJ on the inside, backed up by Mays (running downs) and Woodyard (passing downs). Worrell Williams is thankfully practice squad eligible and shouldn't have a problem clearing waivers, and Johnny Williams is the odd one out. Pick: Haggan, Mays, Williams, Woodyard (4, 25)
Outside Linebacker: How nice to know that Moss is assured a slot, and that it's just a question of how much he plays. We'll have a bit of positional drama here later in the season, but in the beginning it's a bit more straightforward. Darrell Reid is on the PUP list and I think he doesn't count against a roster slot. I forget the IR rules, but if we have him on the roster opening day, can't we put him on IR for a ten week minimum, thus opening another slot? Or are those old rules? Kirlew or Alexander could both go on the practice squad. Pick: Atkins, Dumervil, Moss, Ayers, Hunter (5, 30)
Special Teams: Obvious. Pick: Colquitt, Prater, Paxton (3, 33)
Quarterback: Obvious, although I do find myself wondering if we could only go with two quarterbacks. In that case, who would our emergency quarterback be? Pick: Orton, Quinn, Tebow (3, 36)
Running Back: Lance Ball took Justin Fargas' roster slot away from him after week 4. I'm counting fullback in this category, too. Pick: Ball, Buckhalter, Fargas (replaced by White in week 5), Moreno, Larsen (5, 41)
Safety: This has been one of the least controversial positions. I love our depth here. Kyle McCarthy doesn't make the roster. Pick: Bruton, Dawkins, Hill, McBath (4, 45)
Tight End: I think Riar Geer had it dead-on in saying that he was auditioning for the rest of the NFL, I wish him well. I haven't seen much of Overbay or Sperry. At this point, I'm just trusting that the coaching staff intends to hold on to Quinn. Pick: Branson, Graham, Quinn. (3, 48)
Wide Receiver: Because of carrying six cornerbacks, I think we might have room for only five wide receivers. McDaniels was clear that if we carry six WRs, then 5 and 6 need to be special teams players. This is the toughest position to project. Stokley and Willis both miss out. Pick: Gaffney, Royal, Lloyd, Decker, Thomas (5, 53)
I don't like that Willis and Stokley aren't there either, but I am not sure what to do about that. It might be that we could go down to six defensive linemen and keep Willis or Stokely instead of Le Kevin Smith. But really, I am not sure Willis has shown a lot. He's caught some balls and proven a reliable backup, but he hasn't done anything electric. He'll catch on with another team, but we've got a bright future with Royal, Decker, and Thomas.