It seems like only yesterday the Broncos opened training camp, but next week starts joint practices with the Minnesota Vikings before the first preseason game Aug. 14. Three days after that George Paton will need to cut five players before 2 p.m. MST.
Life comes at you fast in the NFL.
While the ongoing quarterback battle between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater sucks most of the oxygen out of the room, it’s time to dig into the position battles around the back end of the roster. Who’s at risk of departing before we even got to know them?
Specialist - 3
LS Jacob Bobenmoyer, PK Brandon McManus, P Sam Martin
- Barring some sort of addition in the coming days and weeks ahead, we already know who the Broncos long snapper, kicker, and punter are, so there won’t be a cut Aug. 17.
Defensive back - 20
Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Patrick Surtain II, Bryce Callahan, Michael Ojemudia, Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Kary Vincent, Caden Sterns, Jamar Johnson, Nate Hairston, Mac McCain III, Parnell Motley, Saivion Smith, Rojesterman Farris, P.J. Locke III, Trey Marshall, Tedric Thompson, Duke Dawson, Essang Bassey
- When I spoke with the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, he mentioned that the Broncos’ coaching staff is making a concentrated effort to ensure Fuller, Darby, and Callahan are good to go for Week 1.
- With Jackson receiving veteran rest days here and there, the Broncos seem to be giving first team snaps to Locke and Marshall.
- The way Fangio has spoken about Sterns suggests it’s only a matter of time before he’s carving out a notable role behind the starting duo.
- Both Dawson and Bassey are currently on the Broncos’ Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List. They both tore ACLs late last season.
- McCain is missing time because of a hamstring injury.
- Motley has been a punching bag for Lock and Bridgewater.
- Vincent and Johnson missed time because they were on the Covid-19 list. Johnson was out longer, seemingly because the NFL’s policy for unvaccinated players. He had his first practice Friday.
- Faris, Thompson and Smith were late additions to the DB room.
Linebacker - 6
Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Justin Strnad, Baron Browning, Josh Watson, Curtis Robinson
- Browning is currently on the Broncos’ Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list because of an injury suffered during OTAs. It remains unclear what the issue is because the Broncos aren’t divulging much in the way of details.
- If Browning doesn’t land on Injured Reserve or start the regular season on the PUP, I expect the Broncos to carry five linebackers, which means the competition between Watson and Robinson is worth following.
- Jewell hasn’t practiced since July 31st. On August second Fangio said we should expect him to miss “at least 10 days.”
- If the defense is going to utilize dime more it’s worth paying attention to who gets those snaps. When I spoke with O’Halloran, he said Strnad was eating into Johnson’s time and that Jewell probably will as well. I crosschecked this with Mile High Sports’ Nick Manning on Friday, and it does appear Strnad is receiving dime snaps over Johnson.
Edge - 8
Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Malik Reed, Derrek Tuszka, Pita Taumoepenu, Peter Kalambayi, Andre Mintze, Jonathan Cooper
- The coaching staff is taking a conservative approach to managing Miller’s return to action, so I wouldn’t expect him to play much in the preseason.
- On the second Fangio said he’s “hopeful” Chubb can have a full workload for the season opener against the Giants.
- Questions about Miller and Chubb may lead to a fifth edge rusher making the roster.
- O’Halloran mentioned the current battle for ED4 could lead to a veteran signing once teams begin to make cuts.
Defensive Line - 10
Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, McTelvin Agim, DeShawn Williams, Shamar Stephen, Marquiss Spencer, Jonathan Harris, Isaiah Mack, Deyon Sizer
- Purcell hasn’t practiced since July 30 because of an ankle injury.
- According to the O’Halloran, Purcell’s injury has led to first team reps with the base personnel for Agim and Williams.
- Agim has become one of the stories of camp this week, which is welcome news.
- To the best of my knowledge, Sizer hasn’t practiced since Aug. 3 because of a hamstring issue.
- I’ve heard very little about Stephen, Jonathan Harris, and Mack to this point.
Wide Receivers - 13
Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Tyrie Cleveland, Kendall Hinton, Diontae Spencer, Trinity Benson, DeVontres Dukes, Warren Jackson, Branden Mack, De’Mornay Pierson-El, Seth Williams
- Amara Darboh was cut on Friday to make room on the roster for Jamar Johnson’s return from the Covid-19 list.
- The Gazette’s George Stoia III has mentioned a few times that Benson is having a heck of a camp so far.
- It looks like the return battle is boiling down to Spencer vs. Hamler with Hinton as a wildcard.
- Cleveland’s in a tough spot right now. The 2020 sixth-round pick dropped too many passes before an injury knocked him out of practice this last week. While his value on special teams helps, it seems he’s starting to get lost in the shuffle on offense.
Offensive Line - 14
Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, Bobby Massie, Cameron Fleming, Quinn Meinerz, Netane Muti, Calvin Anderson, Brett Jones, Nolan Laufenberg, Austin Schlottmann, Quinn Bailey, Drew Himmelman
- We’ve reached a point where it looks like the RT1 job is Massie’s to lose.
- Anderson has been rotating in at both tackle spots.
- There’s been no sign of a competition for the center job. Part of this may be due to the quarterback battle, part of it’s Meinerz adjustment to the pro game, and part of it is Cushenberry’s own improvement from 2020.
- Multiple reports suggest Fleming could wind up as a million dollar dead cap hit before we get to the regular season. When I spoke with O’Halloran, he mentioned how Anderson looks like the favorite for RT2 and swing duties behind Bolles.
- Muti’s gotten a run with the first team when Glasgow gets veteran days off and the coaching staff is looking for a “big jump” from him.
Tight Ends / Fullbacks - 7
Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck, Shaun Beyer, Eric Saubert, Austin Fort, Adam Prentice (FB)
- Multiple reports suggest Saubert is running away with the TE3 job at the moment.
- When I spoke with O’Halloran on Cover2Broncos he mentioned how Beck’s value to special teams probably gives him a leg up for the fourth spot on the depth chart.
- Prentice has made some highlight reel blocks out of camp this past week. If he can keep it up, he could make things interesting when the Broncos close in on final cuts.
Running backs - 6
Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Mike Boone, Royce Freeman, LeVante Bellamy, Damarea Crockett
- If health luck persists, I expect three backs to make the Broncos’ final roster: Gordon, Williams, and Boone.
- Multiple reports suggest the Broncos want to deal Royce Freeman before final cutdowns, which probably protects him until then. Look for him to get an extended run in the preseason in an effort to showcase his skillset and potentially attract a suitor.
- O’Halloran mentioned Bellamy looks like the RB4 if Freeman is moved.
Quarterbacks - 3
Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Rypien
- Barring a late addition to the room, the Broncos will roll into the regular season with Lock and Bridgewater. Rypien could find himself on the practice squad before the regular season begins, but he’s safe until then.
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