The bad thing about not having preseason games is it robs observers the evidence to make conclusions.
Which players have slipped to third-team and about to have their bubble burst? Which backups have showed the ability to learn multiple positions, thus increasing their worth? And which players “start” on 2 or 3 special teams units to earn a back-of-the-roster spot?
Without games, there’s just not as many clues to work with.
The Broncos have been in training camp for less than three weeks, but when they return to practice Monday morning, the final cut will be five days away (Saturday at 2 p.m.).
Even with no games, the 12 practices have been telling to the point where I can bust out the dartboard and attempt a 53-man projection:
Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel.
It will be interesting if teams around the NFL keep a third quarterback on the active roster — thus not putting them through waivers — because of COVID-19. Brett Rypien should clear waivers and be signed to the practice squad. What do I make of Lock in camp? He is getting his work in and clearly has a rhythm with most of the skill-position players.
Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman and Andrew Beck (FB/TE).
This summer, I had undrafted rookie LeVante Bellamy beating out Freeman. But Gordon’s rib injury combined with Freeman’s low salary cap charge ($1,081,255) and ability to play on third down makes him too valuable to cut. Freeman has been the workhorse of camp, working with all three quarterbacks and if there had been preseason games, he might have had trade value.
Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Albert Okwuegbunam and Jake Butt.
Fant, Vannett and Okwuegbunam are locks. Entering Saturday’s stadium practice, I had it as a coin flip between Butt and Troy Fumagalli. But Fumagalli missed practice and if he can’t work this week, it could sway the coaches toward Butt. If Fumagalli clears waivers, he should be a candidate for the practice squad, which can have up to six veterans this year. Okwuegbunam has made a ton of plays as a receiver, so many that I would find a way to get him involved against Tennessee.
Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick and Diontae Spencer.
Hamler’s hamstring injury could land him on injured reserve, which this year allows for unlimited reactivations (the previous rule was two) and a minimum of three weeks out (the previous rule was eight). Hamler’s injury will create a roster spot for Spencer, who should be in line to handle returns. Rookie Tyrie Cleveland has had a great camp and makes sense to take Hamler’s spot.
Garett Bolles (LT), Dalton Risner (LG), Graham Glasgow (RG), Elijiah Wilkinson (RT), Lloyd Cushenberry (C), Austin Schlottmann (C), Netane Muti (G), Demar Dotson (RT) and Patrick Morris (G/C).
When Glasgow left Saturday’s practice (ankle), Schlottmann replaced him, which gives him the nod as the top backup guard/center if he loses the center job to Cushenberry. Signed before camp, Dotson will be Wilkinson’s backup. What’s stood out about Cushenberry, aside from being praised for his football smarts, is his power in the 1-on-1 drills. He’s going against veteran starters and doing well. The main question: Is the Broncos’ ninth or even 10th linemen currently on another team? Something to watch for next Sunday.
Shelby Harris (DE), Jurrell Casey (DE), Mike Purcell (NT), Dre’Mont Jones (DE), McTelvin Agim (DE/NT) and DeMarcus Walker (DE).
The starters are set with Harris, Casey and Purcell. Agim, a third-round rookie, is an intriguing rotational player if he’s active on game-day. Jones is the top reserve at end. Casey and Harris being able to play nose tackle in a pinch gives the Broncos flexibility. Walker will again survive the final roster cut, getting the nod over Christian Covington.
Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, Jeremiah Attaochu and Malik Reed.
This summer, I had seventh-round rookie Derrek Tuszka making the roster instead of Reed. It didn’t appear that was even a battle during camp as Reed was getting first- and second-team reps and Tuszka third-team. Attaochu is a solid backup who can rush the passer and stop the run.
Todd Davis, Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell, Joe Jones and Mark Barron.
Picking Jones over Josh Watson was among the hardest decisions, but Jones gets the edge because of his special teams experience and because Watson is likely to clear waivers. Barron, who has 119 games of regular season experience, agreed to terms Sunday and I put him on the roster instead of Justin Hollins, who will go to the practice squad.
A.J. Bouye, Bryce Callahan, Michael Ojemudia, De’Vante Bausby, Davontae Harris and Duke Dawson.
Bouye and Callahan as the top two corners are set and I thought entering camp that Ojemudia would rise up to be the No. 3 corner. But even before his quad injury, he couldn’t join the No. 3 battle. I chose Dawson over Isaac Yiadom because Dawson has the ability to cover the slot receiver and play some safety if required.
Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Trey Marshall and Alijah Holder.
Marshall is a physical player who should merit consideration for sub-package duty and when a third safety is on the field. Holder is currently out with an injury; if that keeps him off the 53-man roster, P.J. Locke could be the choice or the Broncos may view Barron, who started his career as a safety, has insurance.
Brandon McManus (K), Sam Martin (P) and Jacob Bobenmoyer (LS).
Bobenmoyer won the long snapper competition over Wes Farnsworth, who was waived last week. Martin has been impressive in camp with his directional punting and McManus drilled a 60-yard field goal on Saturday.