The Denver Broncos closed the books on their preseason Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals and after shuffling and re-shuffling the depth chart throughout the offseason to go with two suspensions to start the season, here’s a 53-man roster prediction with roster cuts due by 4 p.m. ET (2 p.m. Mountain) Saturday:
There is always a chance the Broncos try to sneak Siemian through waivers, but with the arm strength and quick release the rookie has shown in the preseason, that would certainly be a roll of the dice. Manning-Osweiler is the No. 1-No. 2 pairing for the fourth consecutive season.
Running backs (4)
(cut: Kapri Bibbs)
The Broncos will listen to any offers for Ball, who projects to the No. 4 back at this point and the No. 4 back won’t be in uniform on game day that often unless the Broncos face some injuries at the position. Anderson is the lead back, but Hillman will get some premium carries after finishing the preseason averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
Casey is a multi-tasker with this team. And while he wears a tight end’s number – No. 80 – he will line up more at fullback than he will at tight end. But a special-teams regular, his ability to play in all of the personnel groupings as a tight end as well would enable the Broncos to keep Siemian on the roster.
Wide receivers (6)
This position will present some of the most difficult decisions on the roster and coach Gary Kubiak has said the return jobs could mean the Broncos are a “five-, six-, seven-receiver team’’ when the roster was set. Caldwell, despite his experience and speed, is only on the bubble if the team’s cap situation counts and Louks could make it if the Broncos believe he has enough potential in the return game.
Tight ends (2)
Casey is really the third player in line here. Jensen, at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, is certainly a practice-squad candidate and flashed some potential in training camp. Jones was on the roster some in ’14 and in a perfect world the Broncos would like three players here, in addition to Casey, but they’ll need the roster spot elsewhere.
When the Broncos traded Chris Clark to the Houston Texans this past week, they were affirming their stance that Schofield is ready to be the team’s swing tackle. The Broncos see Schofield as a potential starter at right tackle down the road, but saw enough in his work at left tackle to make him the backup, though if something happened to Sambrailo, Harris would likely move to left tackle and Schofield would play the right side.
Mathis’ arrival changed the dynamic here significantly. Garcia went from the starting lineup and Garland, who opened training camp as the starting left guard before he was replace by Garcia, went to the roster bubble. Garcia worked at center some this past week, which could impact what the Broncos do at that position as well.
(cut: Dillon Day)
If the Broncos decide Garcia showed enough in limited work at center as the preseason drew to a close – he started at center at the University of Florida – that could push Gradkowski to the bubble if the Broncos need the roster spot at linebacker or elsewhere. Day, who played in 51 games at Mississippi State, is a practice-squad candidate
Nose tackle (3)
(cut: Chuka Ndulue).
With defensive end Derek Wolfe suspended for the first four games of the season, the Broncos can keep an extra player for the first month of the season in the position group. Fua isn’t the best fit in that he’s an interior player much of the time, but in camp he has shown himself to be one of the better linemen in camp.
Defensive ends (4)
(cut: Josh Watson, Derek Wolfe because of suspension).
This is the position where the Broncos will take the longest look at the cuts around the league to see if there is a player they think would help them over the first month during Wolfe’s absence. Plus, they’re thin here with Anunike still recovering from arthroscopic surgery early in camp.
Outside linebackers (4)
McCray, who missed plenty of practice time in training camp, finished the preseason squarely on the bubble and it was Barrett who put him there. Barrett showed throughout the offseason he’s ready for a big jump and outside of the top three edge players (Miller, Ware and Ray) Barrett showed he’s ready for a roster spot.
Inside linebackers (5)
This is a spot where the Broncos could keep an extra player, given they will have two players start the year with suspensions, but that would only be a temporary fix. Barrow is a 2014 draft pick so to waive him is a quick hook for a player who was with the team for his entire rookie season, but there isn’t much room unless the Broncos move a player in a trade. Anderson is a quality candidate for the practice squad.
Carter missed the preseason finale with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of recent practices. He has made the roster in previous seasons as one of the last cornerbacks in the pecking order, but Doss has potential and has consistently been around the ball in drills.
(cut: Josh Furman, T.J. Ward because of 1-game suspension).
Bush, who started Thursday night’s preseason finale, could get a one-game reprieve because of T.J. Ward’s suspension. Tough group for a young player to crack, especially since Bolden has played some cornerback and is one of the team’s top kickoff returners.
Aaron Brewer (LS)
Brandon McManus (K-KO)
Britton Colquitt (P).
McManus and Colquitt won what were competitive spots in the preseason, but McManus missed a 55-yard field goal attempt against the San Francisco 49ers and then missed a 51-yard attempt against the Cardinals Thursday night.