The darkest days in the NFL have concluded as teams trimmed their rosters from 90 to 53 in a forty-eight hour period. The Denver Broncos have gotten down to the 53-man threshold, but expect them to make some additional moves as they look around the league for help at various positions.
There were a few surprises as they team moved on from Su’a Cravens and also from some former draft picks cornerback turned wide receiver like Brenden Langley and running back Dave Williams. They also made a trade for a cornerback from the New England Patriots. And that was all on the first day of cuts.
The tougher cuts came as the team went from around 75 down to that final 53. Here is your initial 53-man Broncos roster for Week:
Quarterback (2): Joe Flacco, Drew Lock
With the release of Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien, the Broncos will carry two quarterbacks into the regular season. I would expect rookie Drew Lock to be inactive while he heals up, which means the Broncos will likely end up adding a third quarterback for now until they feel confident Lock can be a capable backup.
A name to keep an eye out for is Brian Hoyer as Mike Klis made what appears to be an “informed” speculative tweet about on Saturday. Look for Hoyer to get a look once the team likely uses the injured reserve with designation to return status on Theo Riddick.
Just speculating: Released QB Brian Hoyer spent time with Kyle Shanahan/Rich Scangarello/TC McCartney in SF in 2017. With Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland in 2014 and Houston in 2015. He knows Broncos offensive system. Makes sense. #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 31, 2019
Running back (5): Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick, Andy Janovich
During the last preseason game, John Elway mentioned Riddick as a strong candidate for the injured reserve with designation to return. That would open up a roster slot for the Broncos to sign a quarterback to backup Joe Flacco while Lock is nursing his hand injury.
Janovich is also out for an extended period of time, so we’ll have to see what they end up doing at fullback for the regular season.
Wide receiver (6): Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, Juwann Winfree, River Cracraft
The Broncos have a pretty talented wide receiver corps, but they are still super young outside of Sanders. That could mean we’ll end up seeing some up and down play from the guys behind him on the depth chart. Hopefully we’ll see Sutton and Hamilton make that second-year leap and provide Flacco with multiple receiving options this year. Sanders has been very good for the Broncos, but they can’t just have that one threat on offense if they are going to win enough games to compete this season.
Tight end (4): Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt
Injury concerns have plagued the tight end position year after year. Jake Butt - again - had knee problems all training camp and looks like he will not be a factor for the regular season and promising rookie Austin Fort went down for the season with his own knee injury.
That leaves the Broncos with a troubling lack of depth at the position heading into Week 1. We’ll have to see how this plays out.
Offensive line (8): Ja’Wuan James, Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Ronald Leary, Connor McGovern, Austin Schlottmann, Elijah Wilkinson, Jake Rodgers
Depth, depth, depth. If/when the first starter goes down with an injury, the Broncos offensive line situation will become a serious concern. I’ll give Bolles a pass for now, but I didn’t see much improvement in his technique throughout this offseason to think 2019 will be any different than 2017 or 2018 for him.
The good news is that the Broncos’ additions of James and Risner has taken this unit from the bottom third of the league up to the top half - maybe even higher. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it appears we have another year to go before we can re-evaluate the Broncos offensive line.
Defensive line (6): Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris, Adam Gotsis, Mike Purcell, DeMarcus Walker, Dre’Mont Jones
This interior defensive line might just be the most talented group of players the Broncos have had since their Super Bowl season - maybe even more so. Shelby Harris looks like an absolute beast under the Fangio system and with his inside rush paired up with the edge rusher, opposing offenses are going to have some problems against this front seven.
Outside linebacker (4): Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Malik Reed, Justin Hollins
With Miller and Chubb, the Broncos will have the best pass rushing duo in the NFL and don’t even @ me on that. However, the players behind them on the roster are going to provide solid depth at the position.
Inside linebacker (5): Todd Davis, Josey Jewell, Joe Jones, Josh Watson, Alexander Johnson
Another position that feels a bit thin is at inside linebacker. Both Davis and Jewell missed time, but both are expected to be the starters on Week 1. The Broncos are also looking at bringing back Corey Nelson who figures to be a special teams addition more than anything, but help there will definitely be needed.
Cornerback (5): Chris Harris Jr., Bryce Callahan, Isaac Yiadom, De’Vante Bausby, Duke Dawson
Based on training camp and preseason play, the Broncos have a really strong defensive backfield. I think we’re going to see the No Fly Zone (though that name is officially retired) back in full force. In short, they are going to be damn good.
Safety (4): Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Will Parks, Trey Marshall
Continuing with the dominant defensive backfield is the safety unity, Jackson is listed as a cornerback on the Broncos roster, but I would expect to see him all over the place. Behind him is a ton of talent and depth. The Broncos are in a good spot here too.
Special teams (3): Brandon McManus, Cody Wadman, Casey Krieter
The special teams unit was pretty much set from the start. The bigger concern is how the coaches assemble a special teams unit that can keep those explosive plays we saw from other teams in the preseason from happening in the regular season