We are nearly there, Broncos Country. The Broncos will take the field for their first Training Camp practice Thursday morning!
This team has many storylines around it, including who starts at quarterback, running back, slot receiver, tight end, left tackle, defensive end, and nose tackle as well as many players fighting to keep their NFL dreams alive.
So I will do my best at projecting the Denver Broncos’ 53-man roster and who starts at each position.
Here we go!
Starter: Paxton Lynch
Backup: Trevor Siemian
I only see the Broncos keeping two quarterbacks on their active roster as they head into the season. In my opinion, Kyle Sloter will not be worth keeping on the active roster and could be placed on the 10-man Practice Squad.
As for rookie Chad Kelly, I believe he will stay on the NFI/PUP list for awhile. He just started throwing the football recently, and it remains to be seen if he will be activated off the NFI during Training Camp/Preseason. If they keep him there, he’ll eventually be the Broncos’ No. 3 quarterback during the season. Another possibility is just simply IR-ing him and letting him have a “red-shirt year.”
As for who starts, you all know my thoughts. It’s Lynch’s job to lose, and I do not think he’ll lose it. We shall leave it at that.
Running back (4)
Starter: C.J. Anderson
Backups: Jamaal Charles, Devontae Booker, and DeAngelo Henderson
This was tough because I do not see them keeping four backs plus a fullback, but who do you cut?
If Charles is healthy, he isn’t going anywhere. I doubt they move on from Booker so soon, and they just spent a sixth-round pick on DeAngelo Henderson. Ultimately, Henderson’s play during camp and the preseason will decide this. If he plays well, he’ll force them to keep him, if he struggles, they will try to sneak him on the Practice Squad.
Starter: Andy Janovich
I think Janovich is on the roster bubble, and not because of his talent, but because of number-crunching and how little the fullback is used.
Janovich is a reckless blocker who can run and catch the ball as well as contribute on Special Teams, but will he do enough to crack the roster? Right now I say yes, but would not be surprised if they let him go to keep another running back, tight end, or receiver.
Wide receiver (6)
Starters: WR(1): Demaryius Thomas, WR(2): Emmanuel Sanders, and WR(3): Carlos Henderson
Backups: Jordan Taylor, Cody Latimer and Isaiah McKenzie
The starters are fairly obvious. Thomas and Sanders are locks and the rookie Henderson is going to have a breakout Training Camp and take Broncos Country by storm. Picking receivers four, five, and six are a little more difficult.
I think Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor makes the team. He can play Special Teams, and outside of Thomas, is the only receiver on the roster with good size. He’s quite the red zone target for Lynch/Siemian.
Next, I went with Cody Latimer. He is not on the verge of a breakout season but has carved out a niche on the Special Teams side of the ball. That side of the ball was a focus this offseason, so I think his skills there will give him a roster spot.
Finally, the explosive rookie receiver/returner/gadget player is practically a lock to make the team as well. He’ll be the punt returner and will likely have a package for himself on the offensive side of the ball.
Veteran Bennie Fowler is tough to let go, but he will likely land someplace else and earn more playing time.
Tight End (3):
Starter: A.J. Derby
Backups: Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman
I think Derby has a good shot at having breakout season this year for the Broncos. Mike McCoy had great success with his tight ends in San Diego, and I believe he will give a boost to the Broncos tight end game this year. This should benefit Derby who will get the nod as the starter.
Veteran Virgil Green will return as the Broncos blocking specialist who will catch a few balls here and there but mostly help out in the blocking game. Jeff Heuerman is the X-Factor for this positional group. He could push for a starting role, or just be a third-string depth player.
Rookie Jake Butt will start the season on the PUP list but should be able to join the team and contribute later in the season.
Offensive Tackle (3):
Starters: Garett Bolles and Menelik Watson
Backup: Ty Sambrailo
The Broncos selected Garett Bolles in the first-round of the 2017 NFL Draft for a reason. I think he will quickly overtake his competition and win the starting left tackle job. Same can be said for Watson. Elway signed him for a reason, and if he stays healthy, he will be the starting right tackle for the Broncos.
As for the backup, I think a bigger and stronger Ty Sambrailo sticks with the Broncos. Add in that he is a former second-round pick and that’s how I come to this conclusion. Neither are locks to make the team, however.
Starters: Ronald Leary and Max Garcia
Backup: Michael Schofield
Which guard spot they play remains to be seen, but it appears that Ronald Leary and Max Garcia will be your starters this season.
Garcia should benefit with the switch toward more of a power blocking scheme while Leary is coming off a season where he was one of the top run blocking guards in the game. If the Broncos want success this season, they will need these two to open up run lanes all season.
Michael Schofield started all last season but now will transition to a guard/tackle swingman role. He’s a versatile backup that provides the Broncos a stable starter inside if one of these players goes down.
Starter: Matt Paradis
Backup: Connor McGovern
If healthy, Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the game. However, he is coming off offseason hip surgery to both hips and transitioning from a zone scheme to a power scheme. So his effectiveness may be an issue, but he’s your starter unless he faces any setbacks with his hips.
Just ran into #Broncos C Matt Paradis. He's moving well & ready to get after it at camp. A healthy Paradis is great for DEN OL cohesiveness.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) July 20, 2017
Second-year center/guard Connor McGovern is a name to watch. He took first-team snaps at center all offseason while Paradis was rehabbing. If/when Paradis returns, he could just be the second-team center or push Max Garcia for one of the starting guard spots.
Total Offense: 24
Defensive end (5):
Starters: Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis
Backups: Zach Kerr, DeMarcus Walker, and Billy Winn
Outside of Derek Wolfe, the rest of the Broncos defensive end rotation remains a huge question mark. I am projecting (hopeful) that Adam Gotsis is able to continue his dominant play and lock up the other defensive end spot in Joe Woods defense.
After those two, there’s a certain theme that comes into play, and that is stopping the run. Zach Kerr is a large man and can play defensive end or nose tackle for the Broncos. Billy Winn can do the same for the Broncos and was one of their better run defenders last season as well. With an emphasis on stopping the run, I think Winn will get the nod.
The final spot is an easy choice. The Broncos took DeMarcus Walker in the second round for a reason and will take veteran Jared Crick’s roster spot.
Nose Tackle (2):
Starter: Domata Peko
Backup: Kyle Peko
It will be a Peko family reunion in the middle of the Broncos defensive line.
The veteran Domata Peko is an early favorite for the nose tackle job, but his cousin Kyle Peko did show some promise last season (but first will need to be medically cleared and activated off the PUP).
A name to watch is undrafted rookie Tyrqiue Jarrett. He is a massive man who could hold down the fort inside for the Broncos. He’s likely a Practice Squad guy, but don’t be surprised if he makes a push for a roster spot.
Edge Rusher (5):
Starters: Von Miller and Shane Ray
Backups: Shaquil Barrett, Kasim Edebali, and Vontarrius Dora
Von Miller and Shane Ray are your starters and Shaquil Barrett will split time with both players.
After those three, it becomes more unclear, but they did sign free agent Kasim Edebali so I’d assume he’s safe, and preseason star Vontarrius Dora should be able to crack the 53-man roster this time around.
The Broncos still have plenty of depth at edge rusher, but a little bit less than the previous years. We will need to see something from Edebali and Dora to ease those concerns.
Inside Linebacker (4)
Starters: Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis
Backup: Corey Nelson and Zaire Anderson
A pretty simple positional group to figure out. Marshall and Davis are your starters and Nelson/Anderson are likely your backups.
There is a handful of UDFAs who could push Anderson or Nelson for a roster spot, but right now those two are the favorites. The Broncos did very little to upgrade this positional group so I would assume the same four from last season will make the team this season.
Starters: Chris Harris Jr.(CB1A) and Aqib Talib(CB1B), and slot corner Bradley Roby
Backups: Brendan Langley and Lorenzo Doss
Another simple positional group to figure out. The first three corners(Harris, Talib, and Roby) are locked in as starters. Rookie Brendan Langley will make the team, and that leaves Lorenzo Doss fighting the remaining field for the final roster spot at corner.
Right now, I’d give Doss the nod over the remaining corners, especially if he racks up pick sixes at the same pace he did last Training Camp.
Starters: T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart
Backups: Justin Simmons, Will Parks, and Jamal Carter
Stewart and Ward are locked in as starters once again, but watch for second-year safety Justin Simmons to get more reps this year. Simmons should see plenty of snaps in sub-packages. He has great range and potentially elite ball skills.
After those three, you have Will Parks and Jamal Carter. Both will likely contribute mostly on Special teams this season. If needed to play in a pinch, I think both are best suited to play in the box.
Total Defense: 26
Special Teams (3):
Kicker: Brandon McManus
Punter: Riley Dixon
Long snapper: Casey Kreiter
All three players will return to their starting roles which they had last season. McManus will kick long field goals, Dixon will kick deep punts with good hang time and Kreiter will snap the ball a long way.
Which position group will be the most "one to watch" at Training Camp?
This poll is closed
No way, offensive tackles fo-sho!
The running backs will be an interesting group
Whatevs, I just want to watch the edge rushers