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Broncos’ position-by-position breakdown of roster

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Here are the Denver Broncos roster locks and where their toughest 53-man roster decisions may lie later this week.

NFL: Preseason-Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

I saw this style of post on Big Blue View on Monday and thought it would be fun to try and break it down for the Denver Broncos heading into the final week of preseason. The 53-man roster will need to be set by Saturday.

The back end of the Broncos roster feels a bit weak, but I’ve gone ahead and made a list of ‘roster locks’ as well just to see how many spots on the team are truly undecided or open. I see about 38 roster locks give or take, so that leaves 15 spots open for discussion. Who do you think makes the team next weekend?

Quarterback

On roster (4): Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Kevin Hogan, Brett Rypien

After watching the preseason, I think the Broncos should go with two quarterbacks. With Lock’s hand injury, he likely won’t be active to start the season. That means I expect the Broncos to bring in a backup. That could be either Hogan or Rypien, but I wouldn’t rule out a veteran from somewhere else either.

God help us if Flacco misses any significant time this season.

Roster locks (2): Joe Flacco, Drew Lock

Running back

On roster (9): Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick, Devontae Jackson, Dave Williams, Khalfani Muhammad, Andy Janovich, George Aston

The Broncos backfield was hit with a couple of big injuries as both newly acquired running back Theo Riddick and starting fullback Andy Janovich were lost 6-8 weeks with injuries. The leaves the door open for Booker to remain on the roster into the regular season and for a fullback. While many may be eyeing rookie George Aston to fill that role, keep an eye out for veteran tight end Orson Charles who is currently listed on the Broncos website as a TE/FB. He could end up being the player who makes the final 53-man roster due to his dual role.

Both Riddick and Janovich must start the season on the 53-man roster in order to be on IR with a return designation. Any players put on IR before Week 1 are ineligible for that. That means we should see both make the final cut and then added to that IR with return designation.

Roster locks (5): Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick, Andy Janovich

Wide receiver

On roster (12): Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, Trinity Benson, Fred Brown, River Cracraft, Steven Dunbar Jr., Brendan Langley, Kelvin McKnight, Nick Williams, Juwann Winfree

I would expect the Broncos to keep six wide receivers and while I see four locks, the name to keep an eye on would be River Cracraft who has picked up some special teams’ duties on the return side of things. Rookie Juwann Winfree also made some plays on special teams and with him being a draft pick it should be safe to assume he’ll make the final cut.

I almost added Tim Patrick to the lock list, but who knows how that plays out with a new coaching staff and new system.

Roster locks (4): Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Juwann Winfree

Tight end

On roster (6): Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt, Moral Stephens, Orson Charles

The tight end position almost feels cursed at this point, but with rookies Austin Fort and Noah Fant, maybe things start to turn around next season. For now, I would expect Heuerman to be the most-used player at this position this season and the big question mark coming this week is whether or not the coaching staff still has hope for oft-injured Jake Butt.

Roster locks (3): Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli

Offensive line

On roster (17): Ryan Crozier, Ronald Leary, Connor McGovern, Sam Jones, Austin Schlottmann, Elijah Wilkinson, Garett Bolles, Don Barclay, Adam Bisnowaty, Jake Brendel, Chaz Green, Tyler Jones, Dalton Risner, Jake Rodgers, Ja’Wuan James, Quinn Bailey, John Leglue

I listed the expected to starters as all locks. After that, depth is a real worry for the Broncos. I think if I were to pick one more lock for this position group it would be Elijah Wilkinson. Head Coach Vic Fangio mentioned that he thought Wilkinson did okay in last weeks’ game, but will let the tape speak for itself.

“I think he did ok, but, again - I got to see the tape,” Fangio said. “The one time the guy blew by him early, I think, our snap count was off. I think the center snapped it a count early. So, probably he played pretty good, but then again – ask me that in a day or two.”

After Wilkinson, it feels like the Broncos would be in trouble if any of the other starters were out for significant periods of time. We’ll just have to see how it works out.

Roster locks (5): Ron Leary, Dalton Risner, Garett Bolles, Connor McGovern, Ja’Wuan James

Defensive line

On roster (8): Adam Gotsis, Dre’Mont Jones, DeMarcus Walker, Derek Wolfe, Mike Purcell, Deyon Sizer, DeShawn Williams, Shelby Harris

The Broncos cut veteran Zach Kerr on Monday to free up some cap space, which has made this position group a little more clear. Outside of the locks below, I would guess both Mike Purcell and DeMarcus Walker get serious consideration for the final 53-man roster. Walker and Zerr played the same position, so that would be my bet on who makes the team in his place.

Walker’s play especially made Zerr expendable as the front office began looking for ways to boost cap space for other signings ahead of the cut deadline.

Roster locks (4): Shelby Harris, Adam Gotsis, Derek Wolfe, Dre’Mont Jones

Linebacker

On roster (14): Keishawn Bierria, Todd Davis, Joe Dineen, Josey Jewell, Joe Jones, Josh Watson, Jamal Carter, Justin Hollins, Alexander Johnson, Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Dadi Nicolas, Malik Reed, Ahmad Gooden

Outside of the obvious starters, which includes Joe Jones who is too good on special teams to discard and the rookie draft pick in Hollins, the Broncos need help at linebacker. I expect Malik Reed to make the team and I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Alexander Johnson.

However, there are rumblings that the veteran cuts on Monday were to free up cap space to go get an inside linebacker to help while Todd Davis rehabs from his calf injury. That will be something to watch for this week.

Roster locks (6): Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Todd Davis, Josey Jewell, Joe Jones, Justin Hollins

Cornerback

On roster (8): Chris Harris Jr., Bryce Callahan, Isaac Yiadom, De’Vante Bausby, Alijah Holder, Trey Johnson, Linden Stephens, Rashard Causey

Outside of the top three, I would keep an eye on De’Vante Bausby for sure. He has been a gamer in the preseason and made some good plays both in practice and in game situations. The battle for that fifth cornerback spot could be interesting as I don’t think any of the remaining guys have separated themselves enough from the pack.

With Kareem Jackson having cornerback experience, we could even see a situation where the Broncos go with four safeties and four cornerbacks to start the season.

Roster locks (3): Chris Harris, Bryce Callahan, Isaac Yiadom

Safety

On roster (7): Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Will Parks, Su’a Cravens, Shamarko Thomas, Dymonte Thomas, Trey Marshall

The battle here seems set, but the big question is whether or not Su’a Cravens has done enough to earn a roster spot over the two Thomas’s and Marshall. He seems to flash at times, but then be out of position in others.

However, with Jackson, Simmons, and Parks, the Broncos might have the strongest group of safeties they’ve had since their Super Bowl season.

Roster locks (3): Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Will Parks

Special teams

On roster (3): Brandon McManus, Casey Kreiter, Colby Wadman

The Broncos literally have no competition here for these spots. McManus is their placekicker, Wadman their punter, and Kreiter their long snapper.

Reserve/Injured list: Nico Falah (G/C), Austin Fort (TE), Bug Howard (TE), Horace Richardson (CB), Billy Winn (DL)