Denver Broncos 2016 90-Man Roster Analysis: Defense/Special Teams

The Broncos roster sits at 90 players currently. Erick Trickel analyzes the roster, while projecting the 53-man roster.

In the NFL teams are allowed to carry 90 players on the roster into training camp, then they have to cut down to 75, then the final 53 at the end of the preseason. The Denver Broncos are sitting at 90 players and I'm going to analyze each position group.

Which players have the edge to make the 53-man roster for the regular season? Let us jump into the depth chart to look at the way-too-early 53-man roster projection. A lot can change between now and when the teams have to have their final roster set, so this early projection is likely to see some drastic changes.

Defensive End

Currently On The Roster: 7

Projected 53-Man Roster: 5

  1. Derek Wolfe
  2. Vance Walker
  3. Jared Crick
  4. Adam Gotsis
  5. Kenny Anunike
  6. Shaniel Jenkins
  7. Kyle Peko

Analysis: Sitting at the top is Wolfe, and it is obvious as to why. After being really good, especially against the run, flying under the radar, Wolfe exploded onto the radar in 2015. Of course, his health issues in 2013 didn’t help him. And 2015 was a slow start (also missed first four games due to suspension), but once he got going, he couldn’t be stopped.

Walker played really well starting while Wolfe was suspended, but was even better subbing into the game. He and Crick will battle for the other starting spot, and Gotsis will be involved with that battle too.

Gotsis' chances to win a starting job all depends on when is he able to go health-wise and when he gets everything down. Anunike has shown flashes, mostly in preseason, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough to consistently see the field in the regular season. Both undrafted rookies, Jenkins and Peko, could be fighting for a practice squad spot.

Nose Tackle

Currently: 6

Projected: 2

  1. Sylvester Williams
  2. Darius Kilgo
  3. Phil Taylor
  4. Calvin Heurtelou
  5. David Moala
  6. Kyle Peko*

Analysis: Entering the final year of his contract, Williams will once again start at nose tackle for Denver. He quietly played a big part in the success of the Broncos defense last year. As a nose tackle, he won’t rack up big numbers on the stat sheet, but what he does is vital for the success of other defensive linemen.

Second-year Kilgo will compete for the backup spot with former Cleveland Brown Phil Taylor. Kilgo is a much better fit in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense than Taylor, who is a better fit in a more traditional 3-4, which Phillips doesn’t run. Heurtelou, Moala and Peko (who can play the 5-tech as well) will all compete for a practice squad spot. The more versatile these three can be, the better their chances.

Outside Linebacker

Currently: 8

Projected: 4

  1. Von Miller
  2. Shaquil Barrett
  3. Shane Ray
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Eddie Yarbrough
  6. Kyle Kragen
  7. Vontarrius Dora
  8. Sadat Sulleyman

Analysis: It is obvious who the four OLBs to make it will be. Miller is coming off of a Super Bowl MVP season, Barrett and Ray played great in their first years, and Ware showed he can still hang with the best of them. The order is up for grabs, besides Miller being the top.

Ware will be taking a reduced role, and likely be limited as a situational pass rusher. Barrett and Ray will compete to start in his place, with the other seeing a good amount of time as well. The four undrafted free agents are guys I like, and can see them compete for a practice squad spot. Yarbrough and Kragen are two to really keep an eye on, with Sulleyman being a bit of a sleeper.

Inside Linebacker

Currently: 6

Projected: 4

  1. Brandon Marshall
  2. Todd Davis
  3. Corey Nelson
  4. Zaire Anderson
  5. Dwayne Norman
  6. Frank Shannon

Analysis: At inside linebacker lies one of the best battles to watch come training camp and preseason. Marshall will have his spot starting, but the battle for who starts next to him is intriguing.

Davis and Nelson will be the two mainly battling for the spot, with Anderson just behind them. Anderson will have to show a lot of improvement in areas of weakness to get a serious shot, with Davis and Nelson in front of him.

Norman and Shannon are both undrafted free agents that Denver brought in this year. Look for them to compete for a practice squad spot. Denver has had serious luck finding and developing late round/undrafted free agent inside linebackers, which bodes well for Norman and Shannon.


Currently: 8

Projected: 5

  1. Aqib Talib
  2. Chris Harris, Jr.
  3. Bradley Roby
  4. Kayvon Webster
  5. Lorenzo Doss
  6. Taurean Nixon
  7. B.J. Lowery
  8. John Tidwell

Analysis: There aren't many question marks as to which CBs will make the 53-man roster. Talib, Harris, Roby and Webster all have their spots, with Webster bringing excellent special teams play, as well as solid defense.

Doss and Nixon, both teammates in college at Tulane, will battle for the final spot, with the loser likely finding himself on the practice squad spot. With cornerbacks, special teams play is looked at closely with the coaching staff. Lowery and Tidwell will be fighting for a practice squad spot, or to catch on elsewhere, all depending on how many corners the Broncos want to carry on the practice squad.


Currently: 7

Projected: 4

  1. T.J. Ward
  2. Darian Stewart
  3. Justin Simmons
  4. William Parks
  5. Shiloh Keo
  6. Brandian Ross
  7. Antonio Glover

Analysis: Ward and Stewart will remain as the starters at the two safety positions. After them, it may not be as clear. Denver drafted two rookies in Simmons and Parks, but re-signed Keo and signed Ross, two players with experience in the NFL.

Simmons is probably a lock to make it, as the No. 4 safety at worst (likely the No. 3 safety). Parks would have to really outshine Keo and Ross on defense and special teams to take the final spot, which he could do.

If Keo and Ross end up not making it, that leaves only Glover to compete with himself for a potential practice squad spot, right now. Neither Ross nor Keo are not practice squad eligible. Only Simmons or Parks could land on the practice squad besides Glover.

That wraps it up for the defense. Now to quickly cover the special teams unit.


Currently: 1

Projected: 1

  1. Brandon McManus

Analysis: With no competition at kicker right now, look for McManus to win the job and be the Broncos kicker.


Currently: 2

Projected: 1

  1. Riley Dixon
  2. Britton Colquitt

Analysis: Denver spent a draft pick on Dixon to compete with the veteran Colquitt. Colquitt has been inconsistent in the regular season, but was a big contributor during the Super Bowl run.

Last training camp, Colquitt was almost cut before agreeing to a pay-cut. With money being even tighter now, Dixon has a big edge on Colquitt—Dixon being cheaper. The only way Colquitt wins here, in my opinion, is if Dixon really messes up his opportunity.

Long Snapper

Currently: 2

Projected: 1

  1. Nathan Theus
  2. Casey Kreiter

AnalysisAaron Brewer was released because of off-the-field issues, so Denver is looking to replace him. Denver's special teams coordinator said that there is more to being a long snapper than just snapping the ball. This battle is up for grabs and makes for one of the more entertaining battles in training camp/preseason (sarcasm).


Analysis: With the returner, the Broncos don’t want a return specialist. So, unless someone ‘wows’ them who can only be a returner, look for players who can contribute elsewhere to win the returning spots. They need a kick and punt returner. With multiple options on the roster already, this is something to keep an eye on. The return game is an underrated aspect to a game. Field position is vital.

Don't miss my 90-Man Roster Analysis on the offensive side of the ball. 

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Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Trickel_MHH. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook

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