Broncos Update - Monday, July 26

Every team has a long shot to make its 53-man roster. Read about who this year's long shots might be in addition to a complete unit by unit position run down in today's edition of Broncos Update Inside Slant.

Every team has a long shot to make its 53-man roster. Last year Mario Fatafehi, signed as a street free agent after camp had already started, not only survived, he earned a starting job with the Broncos.

The year before that it was seventh-round pick Monsanto Pope, who outplayed third-round pick Dorsett Davis and earned a regular spot in Denver's defensive line rotation.

Who will it be this year?

There's no shortage of possibilities, especially at wide receiver and cornerback, where depth is crucial.

There are so many no-name receivers on the roster - from Atnaf Harris and Romar Crenshaw to B.J. Johnson and Darius Watts - Jake Plummer knows some only by number.

Crenshaw, a Division II star at Southeastern Oklahoma State, left as the school's all-time leading receiver. But he also holds the record for the longest punt return in SESU history - a 96-yarder against East Texas Baptist.

With the punt return job why open, why can't it be Crenshaw's?

Or Triandos Luke's? The rookie sixth-round pick also was a valuable return man at Alabama.

As 6-4 cornerback Lenny Walls proved last year, even undrafted free agents have a shot at the big time.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--It's not unusual to see tattoos on a player, but rookie Jeremy LeSueur's is particularly special. It's the image of his 15-year-old brother, Jeremy, who has a mental disability. The words, "His Pain is My Pain," accompany the image.

"My brother was always sick. He's already had surgeries on his heart and on his brain. He's able to walk and get around and do stuff, and that's what's important right now."

--WR Rod Smith enters the season needing four TDs to pass Shannon Sharpe for first place on the Broncos all-time TD receiving list ... Mike Anderson needs 149 carries to move past John Elway for fifth place on the Broncos' all-time list for career rushing attempts ... Mike Shanahan needs nine wins in 2004 to reach 100 regular-season coaching victories faster than any coach in franchise history. Dan Reeves accomplished the feat in 166 games while Shanahan enters 2004 with a 91-53 record (144 games).

QUOTE TO NOTE

"I told him on the plane (after Denver's wild-card loss to Indy) that his off-season conditioning program is key." - Mike Shanahan on wide receiver Ashley Lelie, who must not only be more consistent as a receiver, but as a blocker.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK
Starter -- Jake Plummer. Backups -- Danny Kanell, Mike Quinn, Bradlee Van Pelt, Matt Mauck.

Plummer was 9-3 as a starter last year, and should be even more comfortable running Mike Shanahan's offense. But without Clinton Portis, Shannon Sharpe and Ed McCaffrey, he won't have as many big weapons. With Steve Beuerlein expected to retire, Kanell assumes the No. 2 job, though he struggled at times in relief duty last year. Quinn will battle two rookies for the No. 3 job, though coaches could decide to keep either Mauck or local favorite Van Pelt on the expanded developmental squad.

RUNNING BACK
Starter -- RB Quentin Griffin, FB Mike Anderson. Backups -- RB Tatum Bell, RB Garrison Hearst, RB Ahmaad Galloway, FB/RB Reuben Droughns, FB Kyle Johnson, RB Santonio Beard, RB Cecil Sapp, RB Brandon Miree.

The Broncos think they have someone to step in where Portis left off, but who it will be remains to be seen. Griffin has the inside track only because he showed promise in one game last year, but Bell could lock up the job with a spectacular training camp. Droughns and Anderson will get a shot at tailback, but more than likely will vie for fullback job. Hearst is healthy but does he have the same moves as he did a few years ago?

TIGHT END/H-BACK:
Starter -- Byron Chamberlain. Backups -- Jed Weaver, Jeb Putzier, O.J. Santiago, Mike Leach, Patrick Hape.

With Sharpe retiring, the Broncos brought back Chamberlain, and he's a natural for Denver's system. But Weaver might be a better blocker. This also could be Putzier's chance to get on the field, though his blocking has to improve.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Starters -- Rod Smith, Ashley Lelie. Backups -- Adrian Madise, Charlie Adams, Nate Jackson, Willie Jackson, Atnaf Harris, Darius Watts, MarTay Jenkins, Triandos Luke, Romar Crenshaw, B.J. Johnson.

Smith, who saw his string of 1,000 yard seasons end last year, is still Mr. Consistency. But he'll need help. That makes this position perhaps the most uncertain. Lelie hasn't proven he can make an impact on a consistent basis, and there's a logjam of wannabe No. 3s behind him. Watts has speed to burn, but may have to bulk up.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LT Matt Lepsis, LG Ben Hamilton, C Tom Nalen, RG Dan Neil, RT George Foster. Backups -- G/T Cooper Carlisle, T Dwayne Carswell, C/G Chris Watton, T P.J. Alexander, T Cornell Green, G Calvin Collins, G Tyson Clabo, G Shannon Snell.

Nalen anchors the interior line that is as solid as they get. But there are big questions not only as to whether Lepsis can make the transition to the left side, but with Foster at right tackle. If he struggles, Green or Carlisle will be asked to step in. Carswell also is being given a shot at playing line after 10 years as a tight end.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LDE Trevor Pryce, DT Mario Fatafehi, DT Luther Elliss, DE Reggie Hayward. Backups -- DE Bryant McNeal, DT Darius Holland, DE Clint Mitchell, DT Dorsett Davis, DT Nick Eason, DE Raylee Johnson, DT Thomas Pittman, DT Brandon Kennedy, DT Monsanto Pope, DT Luis Almanzar.

The Broncos lost sack leader Bertrand Berry, but are hoping inspired play from Elliss will take up the slack. He replaces an inconsistent Holland in the lineup. Pryce wasn't a Pro Bowler, but is coming off his best season. Fatafehi has a non-stop motor and will need to keep it primed if he is to hold off Pope or Davis for the starting job.

LINEBACKER
Starters -- WLB D.J. Williams, MLB Al Wilson, SLB Jashon Sykes. Backups -- Donnie Spragan, Terry Pierce, John Mobley, Louis Green, Patrick Chukwurah.

The Three Musketeers are no more. Ian Gold left for Tampa and Mobley's career likely is over. That leaves Wilson to run the show from the middle again. His veteran presence will be needed especially if rookie Williams is to step into the starting lineup. If not, Spragan proved himself quite capable there last year in relief duty. At the strong-side spot, Pierce and Sykes will battle it out in camp.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Starters -- LCB Champ Bailey, SS John Lynch, FS Kenoy Kennedy, RCB Lenny Walls. Backups -- S Nick Ferguson, CB Jeremy LeSueur, S Sam Brandon, CB Kelly Herndon, CB Jeff Shoate, CB Willie Middlebrooks, CB Reggie Stephens, CB Scott Turner, S Chris Young, S Ron Israel, S Jarious Jackson, CB Jimmy Spencer.

The Broncos greatly improved their secondary with the addition of Bailey and Lynch. With Walls now having a year starting under his belt, he should be more consistent. The Bailey signing also allows Herndon to play nickel, where he is more suited. At the other safety spot, Kennedy will fend off Ferguson for playing time.

SPECIAL TEAMS
K Jason Elam, P Micah Knorr, LS Mike Leach, KOR Reuben Droughns, PR Jeremy LeSueur.

Elam is coming off one of his best years, hitting 27 of 31 field goals. And the Broncos have been pleased with Knorr's punting and kickoffs. But there's no question they need to upgrade the return game, where the jobs are wide open. Rookie LeSueur will get a crack. So will Madise and Droughns.

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