The final cuts are in the books. The Denver Broncos final 53-man roster is as talented and deep as any in the history of the organization. From top to bottom, the Broncos are stacked with upper-echelon veteran talent, as well as young, up-and-coming difference makers. Let's take a look at how it all shook out.
Note: Those on the Suspended list don't count against the final 53.
Analysis: The destinies of the Broncos 2015 season hinge on the health of the 39-year-old Manning. Behind him, Osweiler showed some real growth and was responsible for some very explosive plays in the preaseason. He showed poise, leadership, athleticism, good decision making and that cannon arm.
There wasn't a question as to whether Siemian deserved a roster spot. The question was whether the Broncos would carry three quarterbacks.
4. Montee Ball
Analysis: Anderson and Hillman locked up their roster spots a while back. After a slow preseason start, Thompson again displayed his powerful running ability and aggressive style. There were some doubts as to whether Ball would stick this time around, but after failing to trade him, John Elway wasn't quite ready to call the curtains on Ball's Broncos career.
As the No. 4 RB, Ball is unlikely to be active on gameday, unless an injury strikes the depth chart. We probably haven't heard the last of the Ball trade rumors.
1. James Casey
Analysis: Casey won the fullback competition in training camp, beating out the hopeful Joe Don Duncan, who was waived last Monday. Coming out of the backfield, Casey could be Manning's secret weapon in 2015.
3. Cody Latimer
Analysis: The top three players are no surprise, but it was unclear how the last three spots would shake out. Again, the savvy veteran Caldwell found a way be valuable and make the team. Norwood represents the only 'true' slot receiver on the roster, although Sanders would surely excel there if called upon.
The big story here is Fowler. Undrafted in 2014, he spent his rookie year on the practice squad. The time spent within the organization paid off. He had an explosive preseason and forced the coaches to carry six receivers, in order to keep him.
1. Owen Daniels
2. Virgil Green
Analysis: Keeping just two tight ends was likely a much easier decision for Elway and company than it seems on paper, because nobody else down the depth chart separated themselves and created value for the team.
The Broncos had big plans for injured rookie TE Jeff Heuerman, but they'll have to wait until 2016. This is a position the Broncos aren't likley done shaping. But, Casey's versatility buys them time.
1. Ty Sambrailo (LT)
2. Evan Mathis (LG)
3. Matt Paradis (C)
4. Louis Vasquez (RG)
5. Ryan Harris (RG)
6. Michael Schofield (OT)
7. Max Garcia (OG/C)
8. Gino Gradkowski (C)
9. Shelley Smith (OG)
Analysis: The big surprise here was the decision to keep Smith over fan favorite Ben Garland. Smith did not play well in the preseason, but neither did Garland. All things being equal, the team stuck with the player Gary Kubiak is more familiar with. The decision to keep Gradkowski is a bit of an upset, considering that Garcia can play center, if something happened to Paradis.
This depth chart is a testament to the progress of Paradis, who was waived at this time last year and spent the season on the practice squad. The big concern in this unit is swing tackle. After a rocky preseason, I remain unconvinced that Schofield has what it takes to measure up to NFL front sevens, if an injury struck one of the starting tackles. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Broncos claim or sign someone else and push Smith off the roster.
1. Derek Wolfe (LDE—Suspended)
2. Sylvester Williams (NG)
3. Malik Jackson (RDE)
4. Antonio Smith (DE)
5. Darius Kilgo (NG/DE)
6. Vance Walker (DE/NG)
7. Kenny Anunike (DE)
Analysis: The talking point here is the inclusion of Anunike, who had a dominant game in Seattle, before requiring a minor procedure on his knee, which caused him to miss the rest of the preseason. He deserved the spot.
It'll be interesting to see how the Broncos juggle the roster when Wolfe returns from suspension, but unless Anunike suffers a set-back, I expect the required roster cut to come at another position. This is a position of strength for the Broncos. They have a great balance of complete players, pass rushers and run stoppers.
1. DeMarcus Ware (ROLB)
2. Danny Trevathan (RILB)
3. Brandon Marshall (LILB)
4. Von Miller (LOLB)
5. Shane Ray (OLB)
6. Shaquil Barrett (OLB)
7. Todd Davis (ILB)
8. Corey Nelson (ILB)
9. Lerentee McCray (OLB)
Analysis: The Broncos chose to carry just four inside linebackers. They went with Nelson over Steve Johnson and Lamin Barrow—likely because of his long-term upside and special teams skill-set. I was surprised that McCray made the final squad because he didn't play a single snap in preseason action, due to a lingering groin injury.
Considering outside linebacker is such a position of strength, perhaps the Broncos would have been best served keeping an extra ILB instead, especially considering that Trevathan and Marshall are both coming off major surgeries. They must feel confident in McCray's health progress. He becomes a prime candidate to be waived when Wolfe returns from suspension, however.
1. Chris Harris, Jr. (RCB)
2. Aqib Talib (LCB)
3. Bradley Roby (Nickel)
5. Lorenzo Doss
6. Curtis Marsh
Analysis: The Broncos went with youth and special teams impact over the veteran Tony Carter. The surprise is Marsh, who had an impressive training camp, but was abused in the preseason.
The Broncos have a nice balance of veterans and youth here. The final battle is not won yet for Marsh, who is also a candidate to hit the bricks when suspended players return.
1. T.J. Ward (SS—Suspended)
2. Darian Stewart (FS)
3. David Bruton (SS)
4. Omar Bolden (FS)
5. Josh Bush (S)
Analysis: With Ward set to miss the opening game, due to suspension, the Broncos went heavy in this unit. Bolden played well on defense in his limited snaps this preseason, but primarily presents value on special teams as a returner.
Bush helped his cause with an excellent fourth game of the preseason. He also spent some time on the active roster in 2014. Between Bolden, Bruton and Bush, the Broncos will get a lot of special teams impact from their safety unit.
1. Brandon McManus (K)
2. Britton Colquitt (P)
3. Aaron Brewer (LS)
Analysis: This position group was settled before the final roster cuts today, however, it doesn't come without concerns. McManus beat out Connor Barth for placekicking duties, with a phenomenal camp. He's displayed that big leg in the preseason, but consistency and performance under pressure remain in doubt.
He had an opportunity to seal the victory for the Broncos on Thursday night, down by two points with seconds remaining, but hooked the kick wide right. Colquitt managed to hold onto his roster spot, after accepting a $1.4 million pay-cut.
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