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A look at the Broncos’ bubble battles

Who’s where?

Denver Broncos vs. Houstan Texans, NFL Week 9
Will Walker breakout under Vic Fangio?
Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

If you haven’t already read the 15 things I learned after reviewing the Broncos’ first preseason game, I’d advise you to check it out now. If you have, you probably noticed I shared an updated roster projection at the end.

How I see the roster as of August 5th, 2019.

Following Sunday’s practice, Vic Fangio was asked if Theo Riddick’s addition to the roster put pressure on Devontae Booker. He shared an illuminating thought:

“When it comes down to picking the final team, it’s fluid. It’s pretty etched in stone [in that] you have to have these 40 guys—meaning position-wise—how many numbers at a position, and your last 10, 13 guys is based upon fit and ability and future and all that.”

Now, I’m not the best at math, but a quick look at the picture above should reveal that I currently see 33 Broncos as 100 percent locks for the 2019 roster. If you add in the seven guys that should make it barring something crazy, Fangio’s 40 is clear.

So where will the coaching staff find its next 13?


  • Devontae Booker, Khalfani Muhammad, and Devontae Jackson fighting for RB4.
  • TE3 and maybe 4?
  • Winfree leads the way at wide receiver, but others have flashed.
  • What hogs can avoid the knife?

As I mentioned Saturday, if the Broncos are looking to carry another running back, that battle will go down as the most exciting this preseason. Devontae Booker has to lead the way until he doesn’t, as he brings the size and experience neither 1st year player does.

However, KOA’s Benjamin Allbright reported Sunday that there are teams who have shown interest in Booker, including the Houston Texans. It remains to be seen, but if the coaching staff feels comfortable enough to move on, they could potentially net a pick for the fourth-year veteran.

A few weeks ago, Broncos insider Andrew Mason speculated that the team could carry four tight ends. On its head, this makes a lot of sense if Rich Scangarello is looking to utilize more two tight-end sets. I even looked into how the roster construction could work to make this a reality.

The one problem with that scenario: who are they going to carry?

At the time of writing this, Jake Butt hadn’t practiced since the third day of camp. Bug Howard has also missed time while recovering from injury. At the moment, Troy Fumagalli looks like the third tight end, while Austin Fort continues to show off his hand-eye coordination. If I had to bet on two today, they would be the guys. Fort would essentially serve as the backup Joker to Noah Fant, while Fumagalli would work behind Jeff Heuerman.

Looking at other pass catchers, I’ve gone back and forth on designating Juwann Winfree a “near lock” because he’s certainly done his part to ensure he makes the active roster. That would put the receiving corps at five with six probably making the team.

Special teams is going to be a huge factor here, but there are three other receivers who have caught my eye for better or worse in the first preseason game.

Kelvin McKnight looked like the leading returner. It’s still early enough that this could change quickly, but he showed the most. On a similar note, Langley’s muff was even more egregious on a second look. He was having an awesome camp in the first week, but needs to turn it on now that games are happening. Lastly, Steven Dunbar looked like he was getting open a lot more often than his quarterbacks were finding him. Everyone remembers the fumble, but he could be one to keep an eye on.

Up front, Fangio has previously said the team will carry 8, 9, or even 10 offensive linemen. It’d be a surprise if Elijah Wilkinson or Don Barclay didn’t make that final cut, but the competition behind them could prove vital for the long term foundation of the offense.

Jake Brendell looks to have a decent grip on an interior spot, while Chaz Green worked as the number two tackle behind Garett Bolles in the preseason game. I didn’t find him inspiring by any means, especially when he had to get depth in his drop, but perhaps Munchak can squeeze more out of him.


  • Horace Richardson, Malik Reed, and A.J. Johnson are soft locks for the roster.
  • DeMarcus Walker looks like the 6th DL.
  • Corner and safety seem wide open.
  • Josh Watson looks like a practice squad linebacker at worst.

Horace Richardson shouldered ahead of every other corner in what I could make out on the broadcast tape. Much like the competition at receiver, this could be drastically different under All-22, but I have to work with what NFL Game Pass provides, and that’s where I’m at. Richardson looks like a slot corner, so it will be interesting if he plays on the boundary more in practice or games over the rest of the preseason.

Malik Reed was about as dominant as you could ask an undrafted 6’1 240 lb rookie to look. So long as Fangio’s looking for pass rushers to fit into his sub-packages (and 80% of the 2018 Bears D was out of nickel), Reed may be a fit if he can keep it up.

A.J. Johnson and DeMarcus Walker are the other two “bubble” guys I’d peg as current leaders. Walker is taking to the new defense like a fish to water. He was always miscast in the Joseph D, but reports have suggested he came to camp in better shape as well, which is encouraging. Johnson looks like the sturdiest backer behind Todd Davis and Josey Jewell. He doesn’t have the top end range Joe Jones brings, but he’s improving in coverage and bangs against the run.

Another guy who looks like a clean fit is CSU rookie Josh Watson, who logged some nice snaps last week. If he doesn’t make the active roster, I’d bet Fangio tries to keep him around on the practice squad.

After that, it gets more murky. Broadcast tape makes it hard to truly evaluate corners and safety play. A couple things I did notice:

  1. Su’a Cravens had a couple nice plays and a gaffe in coverage.
  2. Linden Stephens’ DPI was the kind of judgement call play that will never be overturned under review, but it won’t get called half the time either.
  3. While it’s good that Trey Johnson caught the interception, the ball went right to him, so I’m not ready to lock him in just yet.
  4. Shamarko Thomas had a nice sack and stands out as a reliable special teamer.
  5. Trey Marshal looked like the main culprit on the Falcons’ touchdown. It’s impossible to say without knowing the call, but it did look like he was responsible for picking up the back and just failed to do so.
  6. Alijah Holder had some rookie moments.

As I’ve mentioned with all of my preseason musings, it’s very early. Any of this could change, as it’s one game in a five-game preseason with a slew of practices mixed in. The coaching staff sees more than I do, and I trust Fangio’s judgment.

Do you?

Your Broncos Links

Denver Broncos Training Camp: Day 13 news and notes - Mile High Report

News and notes from the 13th Day of Denver Broncos training camp. And yes, there was some drama that unfolded today.

15 things I think I think after the Denver Broncos Hall of Fame game - Mile High Report

Here are the biggest takeaways from the Denver Broncos first preseason game of 2019.

Theo Riddick makes first appearance with the Denver Broncos - Mile High Report

The newly-signed running back showed flashes of what he could bring to the Broncos offense in his first practice.

2019 Denver Broncos Training Camp: Day 12 news and notes - Mile High Report

Day 12 news and notes from Broncos camp

Donning his gold jacket, Champ Bailey delivers powerful Hall-of-Fame speech - Mile High Report

The first-ballot Hall-of-Famer thanked all those who helped get him earn the ‘Gold Jacket’ - including Broncos Country. And then he issued a powerful message to everyone.

Former Broncos’ DC Larry Coyer heaps praise on Champ Bailey: ‘Best player I’ve ever seen’ - Mile High Report

He also told “Broncos Country Tonight” recently that Vic Fangio’s defense will be ‘aggressive, tough, well-coached’

Pro Football Hall of Fame Profile: Champ Bailey - Mile High Report

Champ Bailey joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019 as one of the greatest cornerbacks in Denver Broncos history.

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The Class of 2019 was a special one for Denver Broncos fans - one of the greatest owners in sports and one of the greatest cornerbacks ever to play the game were enshrined on the same day.

Denver Broncos checked all the right boxes at the Hall of Fame Game - Mile High Report

It wasn’t pretty, but they won, Fangio showed he’s one bad dude and the team appeared to be prepared and well-coached.

The Eight NFL Players Who Could Make the Leap This Season - The Ringer

Year 2 is generally a big season for pass rushers—look no further than Miller (11.5 sacks a rookie and then a career-high 18.5 in his sophomore season) Mack (4.0 sacks as a rookie and then 15 the following season), and J.J. Watt (5.5 sacks as a rookie followed by 20.5 in year two). Chubb may not be as talented as those three, but by playing alongside Miller under Fangio, he has as strong of a position to succeed as any young pass rusher could ask.

FL position battles to watch during training camp for all 32 teams

It’s not that Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton should be concerned about their standing, it’s just that after those three, the chances for a wild-card player to make the roster are the highest at this position. The Broncos are optimistic about Sanders’ recovery from Achilles surgery in December but might keep an extra receiver to start the season. Tim Patrick, River Cracraft, Trinity Benson, Kelvin McKnight and 2019 draft pick Juwann Winfree have each shown their potential value. Toss in sixth-year veteran Nick Williams, who arrived in late July and immediately showed a comfort level in the offense, and the competition is plenty crowded.

A look around the rest of the AFC West

Raiders’ Antonio Brown to visit foot specialist -

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed that Oakland Raiders receiver Antonio Brown is scheduled to visit a foot specialist Saturday after missing the last few days of training camp.

Raiders training camp 2019 day 8 recap: Players and coaches don 21 jersey, Gruden has players watch film of Cliff Branch - Silver And Black Pride

It was family day at Raiders camp. They took the field to the sounds of “We Are Family”. And they were taking that field having lost one of their own.

Notes from Day 8 of Los Angeles Chargers training camp - Bolts From The Blue

It was the fourth-straight practice missed by free safety Jaylen Watkins, who is one of three defender vying for the starting safety spot opposite Derwin James. However, incumbent Rayshawn Jenkins definitely has the inside track on the other two as rookie Nair Adderley has also missed the last handful of practices

Los Angeles Chargers RB Melvin Gordon demands a trade - Bolts From The Blue

Gordon and his camp just made it abundantly clear today to the Chargers and the rest of the NFL that he is expecting to be paid like one of the very best running backs in football. The Chargers are holding firm what appears to be an extremely fair offer, one that makes him the highest paid running back on a roster who’s quarterback isn’t on a rookie contract, and Gordon is having none of it.

Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark “held back” Monday due to sore wrist - Arrowhead Pride

The list of injured players for the Chiefs totals nine headed into the day off.

Chiefs 53-man roster projection 2.0 - Arrowhead Pride

With nearly two weeks of training camp in the books, let’s see what has changed since the first version.

NFL News

Ed Reed’s hair causes reorganization of Pro Football Hall of Fame busts - Mile High Report

A design nuance in Ed Reed’s bust just put Champ and Pat’s bust next to each other for eternity.

Tom Brady’s bump still doesn’t ensure he’ll finish in New England | NBC Sports Boston

In short, Brady gets his raise and the Patriots get their way in terms of being able to pull the ripcord on Brady next March if they don’t think he’s worth the huge salary and he refuses a renegotiation.

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Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has been battling a nagging calf injury for months but believes that he will be ready for Indianapolis’ season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 8.

Howie Roseman is in his Winning Window - Bleeding Green Nation

The Eagles’ lauded general manager isn’t a cap wizard — he’s just a man with a bold plan, crafted when he had nothing to lose.

Roundup: Vikes to sign vet CB Bene’ Benwikere -

After watching their options diminish thanks to injuries and suspensions, the Minnesota Vikings intend to sign free agent cornerback Bene’ Benwikere, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

Ravens guard Alex Lewis says he’s been released -

The Baltimore Ravens are parting ways with 2016 fourth-round pick Alex Lewis. The Ravens left guard announced on social media that he’s been waived by the team.

Jones on extending Zeke, Dak, Cooper: ‘It’ll happen’ -

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t have any updates on negotiations with Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. But he said he has “no concern” those deals will get done: “It’ll happen.”

Cowboys must pay Ezekiel Elliott; Ravens starting a revolution? -

With Harbaugh willing to build the offense around Jackson’s electrifying skills as a dual-threat playmaker, we will soon find out if the Ravens’ revolutionary approach will usher in a new era of football in the NFL.

Drew Brees, at 40, is looking to get better |

Entering his 19th season, the Saints QB is still drilling the details and loving the game. Plus Brady, Mahomes and more from around the NFL.

Bucs says Lavonte David’s surgery “nothing serious” – ProFootballTalk

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians didn’t sound particularly concerned about the recent knee surgery for linebacker Lavonte David. Via Jenna Laine of, Arians said the procedure to repair a torn meniscus shouldn’t keep David out very long.