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How could the Broncos carry four tight ends?

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The position battles could get interesting very quickly.

Could the Broncos carry 4 tight ends?

Earlier this week on the MHR Radio Podcast (ApplePodcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher), Andrew Mason mentioned the likelihood that Denver carries four tight ends. Since then Mark Schlereth of 104.3 the Fan has talked about this as if it were fact. This got me wondering what Kyle Shanahan’s history says about it.

Now obviously Rich Scangarello is not going to follow Shanahan’s patterns to a T with the Broncos. It’s a completely different situation, but looking how his mentor’s offense has prioritized positions in the past could illuminate how things work out for the Broncos.

During his time as an offensive coordinator or head coach, Shanny has carried four tight ends three different times. Back in 2013 with Washington, 2014 with the Browns, and his high powered Falcons offense in 2016 (at least until they dropped to three in December.) How did he manage it?

In Washington the roster carried five receivers into October. This number eventually bumped all the way up to seven in December when injuries to the defense opened up roster spots. With both the Browns and Falcons, Shanny carried just two quarterbacks. In fact, that’s something he’s tended to do since he had the three headed monster of Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, and Rex Grossman.

While sleuthing I did find a few other notes that should bear some significance for the Broncos eventual roster construction.

  • Every Shanny team eventually carried six or more receivers.
  • Outside of the 2014 Browns, every Shanny team carried eight or more offensive linemen.
  • There will be at least three running backs.
  • There will certainly be a fullback.

So if the Broncos carry the minimum players from those numbers above, four tight ends, and two quarterbacks, the offense will have 24 players. Every 53 man roster needs to have three roster spots for the kicker, punter, and long snapper so that leaves 26 spots for Fangio’s D.

To find out how that could feasibly work, I looked at Fangio’s most recent history with the Bears.

  • He always carried at least 6 defensive linemen.
  • Outside of a stretch in 2016, he always carried four or more edge rushers.
  • Fangio always had four or five inside linebackers, and at least four safeties.
  • Since 2015 the Bears never had less than six cornerbacks on the roster.

Once more assuming the minimum position numbers laid out above gives you a grand total of 24. So there’s an extra spot for flexibility somewhere.

What does this mean for the Broncos?

Andrew Mason mentioned after the Broncos first training camp practice that if Kevin Hogan performs poorly enough Elway and the offensive coaching staff will likely turn to either Brett Rypien or another veteran quarterback who finds himself cut.

I’m not so certain.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve mentioned before how high I am on Brett Rypien as a prospect. But if Lock comes along at a pace Vic Fangio and Rich Scangarello are comfortable with, there’s a chance the Broncos carry all of two quarterbacks into the season opener.

Doing so would open up more room for other positions, such as the offensive line. Even Vic Fangio mentioned after practice yesterday how the Broncos could carry up to 10.

“I think our offensive line is in good shape. We’ve got hopefully a good unit in our front five. We’re looking for the next guys. We’ll probably keep, it all depends, but eight, nine or 10 offensive linemen. You never know how your roster is going to shape out and we’re looking for those guys.

In Joe Mahoney’s post yesterday, he mentioned how the Broncos brought 17 undrafted rookie free agents into camp. Add to that a the 2018 and ‘19 draft classes and you start to get an idea how the coaching stay may be compelled to carry some developmental talent at a few different positions.

It’s tough to risk losing a guy like Rypien, or Malik Reed, or Joe Dineen on waivers. With the way game day rosters work, more than a few of these developmental guys will need to be able to contribute on special teams or bring current value to the squad.

It’s going to be tight.