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Published on 08/25/2008 at Mon Aug 25 17:18.
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The worst week of the season is upon us, at least for those of us who follow training camp and get to know most of the players a little bit. That time when we must reduce our team down to the 53 members who will go thorugh the regular season. There are 77 players currently on the squad, and we must get rid of 24. As usual, there are closer to 60 that we want to keep than 53, and that last 7 is going to be painful, no matter what. They include some hard choices. Plus, there are historically surprises during these camps. Do you remember Patrick Hape? How about Kyle Johnson? Both players who showed no indication of being on the bubble either in their play or on the posted depth charts, yet both of these players surprisingly bit the dust at the last minute. Who’s going to be the big surprise this year? There are a couple of candidates!

Some of these choices are made for contract reasons, or for special teams performance, which means that many of them are very difficult for us fans, watching the game, to decipher.

That said, I’ve been studying the roster and, now that we’re down to 76 (one more must be cut tomorrow), I’m trying to divine who the remaining 23 players to go will be.

I figure we’ll keep 3 special teams players — one punter, not sure who but the other one is clearly going, Prater and Leach. You just don’t let go of a long snapper once you have one you like. You just don’t. That means offense and defense divide 50 players amongst them. Probably 25 on each squad, right?

Punters, 2 players:

  • Kern
  • Paulescu

I don’t have any idea who’s winning this one. I have a feeling Kern is just slightly ahead but they both look pretty darned equivalent to me. I could throw a die and be about as likely to be right as guessing. So I’m going to say Paulescu goes.

1 down, 23 to go!

Wide Receiver, 9 players:

  • Marshall
  • Royal
  • D. Jackson
  • Stokely
  • Martinez
  • Colbert
  • Russell
  • McDaniel
  • Jacobs

We’ve already cut Lorne Sam and Samie Parker, but that number has to get down to 6. Maybe even 5. McDaniel and Jacobs are easy. We paid a bunch of money to Colbert, but he hasn’t shown us anything in preseason. I cannot imagine we actually keep him at this point. That drops us to 6, and with Marshall out for 1-3 weeks we probably will go with 6 until Marshall is assuredly back. Then we may well part with either Russell or Martinez and bring back someone else.

So that’s 3 more. 20 to go.

Tight end, 5 players

  • Graham
  • N. Jackson
  • Scheffler
  • Pierce
  • Mustard

Historically we’ve kept 4 tight ends (5 if you count Leach, but the team isn’t currently listing him on the depth chart there. He doesn’t really line up at tight end except in emergency situations). Mustard has been a bubble player for years now. He’s currently listed behind Brett Pierce, who has made some plays, but what’s really going to matter here is special teams play. Tight ends make good special teams players — they have good size, good speed and good hands. Also, if Scheffler is really flying behind Jackson, it’s possible we cut him here as well. Nobody wants that, but this is the week of difficult decisions. I don’t think we’ll do it, though. I think Mustard’s special teams play plus his good blocking skills will give him the job, and Pierce will go. We will, once again, carry 4 tight ends.

O-line, 13 players

  • Clady
  • Hamilton
  • Nalen
  • Kuper
  • Harris
  • Pears
  • Gandy
  • Wiegmann
  • Holland
  • Polumbus
  • Lichtensteiger
  • PJ Alexander
  • Erickson

Last year we kept only 8 men on the offensive line, and stacked the practice squad so that we could promote someone between games. If we continue with that policy, that means cutting 5 of these guys. Well, PJ Alexander is easy, and I think Erickson is too. We can safely stuff Lichtensteiger on the practice squad. Luckily, Wiegmann has publicly said he’s comfortable being a backup, and with Nalen’s knee we can’t cut Wiegmann. We could cut Nalen here, but I think Shanahan has a lot of respect for him here and will only cut Nalen if Nalen thinks he can’t play. That means we’ve got to find 2 more. It’s probably Polumbus and Gandy, and Polumbus goes to the practice squad. He’s got some potential.

That’s 10 cut, 14 to go, and 18 of our offensive squad chosen. That only leaves us 7 for QB and tailback! Oh boy.

Quarterback, 3 players

  • Cutler
  • Ramsey
  • Hackney

In my dreams, Ramsey gets cut for his poor preseason play. But to be honest, Hackney didn’t show anything better, really. He’ll get another game, of course, but Hackney should still have practice squad eligibility. That means Hackney gets cut, goes to the practice squad, so we can keep him in reserve.

We really need that extra body to keep Torain on the roster.

Tailback, 7 players

  • Young
  • Hall
  • Torain
  • Alridge
  • Sapp
  • Hillis
  • Pittman

We have to cut 2 of these guys, unless we’re going to steal a body from the defense. Or if we go with only 3 tight ends — which would mean a lot fewer 2 tight end sets. We have to keep 2 guys who can play fullback, and I think Cecil Sapp is the odd man out here. The question is, who is the last cut here? This is really, really tough. Do we cut Alridge and hope he makes it to the practice squad (not likely) or do we put Torain on IR so we don’t have to worry about it? Or do we go back and cut Mustard? I have a feeling that the answer is that we cut Alridge, hope he makes it to the practice squad. Sorry, Alridge, but even hurt, Torain is getting your roster spot.

13 down, 11 to go, 25 players on offense.

Safety, 6 players

  • McCree
  • Manuel
  • Abdullah
  • Rogers
  • Vaughn
  • Barrett

Barrett goes to the practice squad. He’s shown some flashes in preseason but I think we give the rookie a season to mellow on the practice squad and let him try for a backup position next year. We have to keep 4, and I admit I don’t have a really good feel for how the safety matchup is doing in the lower ranks but something tells me it’s Rogers. Sorry guys. I wish I had more to say here, I feel like I’ve been missing a really subtle competition.

2 more, that’s 14. 9 left.

Cornerback, 7 players

  • C. Bailey
  • Bly
  • Foxworth
  • Paymah
  • J. Williams
  • Poole
  • Dada

This is the place where, I think we could have the biggest surprise. Foxworth and Paymah are both in their contract years. Foxworth has been auditioning for a starting role. Is it here? Is it somewhere else? The smart money’s been on somewhere else, but maybe it’s here. Bly’s tackling ability is suspect. Some think he’s getting old. Certainly the fans are down on him, but I haven’t heard any rumors that the team itself is down on him. And the biggest reason I’m reticent to believe that Bly will be the big Training Camp Surprise is that I’m not sure it’s wise to cut Bly while we’ve got 2 other corners in contract years, both of which think they can start somewhere else and are holding out for free agency. Unless we promote Foxworth and give him the big contract, I think we have to keep Bly, let Foxworth play nickel, and see what happens. Poole and Dada are, as I predicted when they got signed, roster casualties. Williams goes to the practice squad because we need roster space for our line.

3 more down 18 cut, 8 players selected for the defensive squad. Only have to cut 6 more players. Oh thank goodness.

Linebackers, 10 players

  • DJ Williams
  • Webster
  • B. Bailey
  • Winborn
  • Koutouvides
  • Green
  • Beck
  • Woodyard
  • Larsen
  • Padilla

It seems Webster gets the starting nod, so K2 gets to be an expensive backup. But we can’t afford to cut him. We may get to keep 7 linebackers here, but I suspect it’s really just 6. Padilla is the international player and he actually has to be cut, so that one’s easy, but it gets pretty hard pretty fast after that. I really want to keep Woodyard, but here’s the problem with that: He plays on the weakside behind Winborn, and Winborn is a known special teams guy. Winborn’s roster spot is pretty safe, I think. Though Winborn did play in Bailey’s place, so maybe he moves over to the strongside and Woodyard backs up DJ, and K2 backs up Webster (or vice versa. Doesn’t matter for this exercise). Now, here’s where things get even tougher. Beck and Green are both known special teamers. Larsen, however, goes to the practice squad. And I think Green gets cut. Beck gets to keep his job because of his special teams play. We need that.

That’s 15 players on our squad, leaving 10 that we can put on the defensive line.

Defensive line, 13 players

  • Engleberger
  • Robertson
  • Thomas
  • Dumervil
  • Ekuban
  • McKinley
  • Peterson
  • Moss
  • Crowder
  • Clemons
  • Harris
  • Carrington
  • Birdine

There’s been a lot of talk of Ekuban and McKinley being on the bubble. But I see an easy cut here. Harris and Birdine. Then it’s a tossup between Clemons and Carrington. Both have been performing well at camp. I’m going to give Clemons the nod and say Carrington goes, but I’m not real confident.

And holy cow. That’s a full squad, 24 players cut. Let’s recap.

  1. Paulescu
  2. McDaniel
  3. Jacobs
  4. Colbert
  5. Pierce
  6. Gandy
  7. Polumbus — squad
  8. Lichtensteiger — squad
  9. PJ Alexander
  10. Erickson — squad?
  11. Hackney — squad
  12. Sapp
  13. Alridge — squad
  14. Barrett — squad
  15. Rogers
  16. J. Williams — squad
  17. Poole
  18. Dada
  19. Green
  20. Larsen — squad
  21. Padilla — squad
  22. Harris
  23. Carrington
  24. Birdine

Note also that Carlton Powell is currently on the PUP list, and will probably go onto IR.

So, friends. Where am I wrong? I can see a couple of weak spots in this list. Maybe we off balance the teams. Steal Nic Clemons from the defense so we can keep Alridge. I’d be good with that, but that puts extra strain on the defense, which is already the weaker unit. I can also see where we might cut one more lineman and keep either Jack Williams or Louis Green. So many different possibilities on defense!

Sounds off in the comments!

  • MIAbronco

    i see them cutting pittman.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    It’s certainly possible, but I think Pittman has made a very good case to play as a backup. He can play h-back and f-back and he can block and he can catch, so he could probably play tight end in a pinch (at least, ahead of Mike Leach). He makes a great change of pace back — if you put Hillis and Pittman together in the lineup, you don’t actually know which one is lining up as the runner and which one is lining up to block.

    I don’t see him as a starter, but I do see him as a good situational backup and good special teamer.

  • kerry

    i completely disagree with Lichty, Williams, and Barrett going to the practice squad. none of them would EVER clear waivers before being signed by somebody else. i dont see Polumbus being put on the practice squad either. so many teams called him after the draft to sign him. somebody will get him. i see Clady, Hamilton, Weigmann, Kuper and Harris as the starters. with Lichty, Gandy, Polumbus, and Pears, (maybe Pears) i dont see Holland making the cut, either he is cut or traded.

  • broncorob

    I don’t think Scheffler is in danger of being cut at all. I still think Scheffler will be one of Cutler’s favorite targets the next 10 years even though he hasn’t done much in the preseason.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    I can see keeping Barrett as a backup in place of Vaughn. Totally sensible. Cutting Holland and keeping Lichtensteiger seems dangerous. And who do you cut to keep Jack Williams?

    And remember, every other team out there is cutting 27 players this week too; I’m not sure every painful cut is going to get scooped up by another team right now, as they’re also making painful decisions and bringing on somebody who didn’t compete in their training camp means replacing somebody else. It’s not always that easy.

    I think of all the players that we have that we would be hard pressed to get to the practice squad, it’s Alridge and Woodyard. Maybe Lichtensteiger — he was a fairly high draft pick and I may be underrating him slightly, but we can’t be deep at WR, TE, RB *and* OL. We have to pick a spot to be shallow and we can’t afford to at either RB or WR because we’re holding a spot open for Torain and Marshall’s suspension means we have to go 6 WRs unless we want to risk having only 4 wideouts available against San Diego.

  • Dee

    Why is Scheffler the 3rd string?

  • Ian Henson

    Dee- Scheffler’s been playing like a third-stringer, I also think that he may be in the dog house a big. For whatever reason, maybe being injured too much? His drop on that 99-yard drive right off the bat might also have something to do with it.

    He’s a fan favorite, but more importantly he’s still Cutler’s favorite target. Don’t worry too much about Scheffler right now.

  • Roy

    Scheffler is probably #3 because of his blocking. He has been injured quite a bit, and now that Jackson has found hands to go with his blocking, Scheff will have to work that much harder. I don’t see Scheff going anywhere though. He is still 4 years younger than either Jackson or Graham. Unless he proves to be completely injury prone, this should *hopefully* add fuel to Tony’s fire and give Cutler a target for years.

  • rcsodak

    While BMarsh is on suspension, he’s not considered a part of the 53 is he? I’m asking that, cuz I haven’t looked…but if that’s the case, then the last cut can be made after he comes back. By then, who knows how many injuries will have occured.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    I’m pretty sure he is part of the 53 while on suspension. I could be wrong; if so it means we get to keep an extra player and it throws my calculations wholly off. Though probably it would mean we keep Alridge and then jettison Russell when BMarsh comes back.

  • kerry

    everybody Scheffler is in NO danger of being cut. not even close. who came up with that idea?? Scheffler was top ten last year in EVER catagory a TE can have. he isnt going anywhere for a long time. and why does everybody think Lichty is in danger of being cut?? Shanahan used a fourth round pick on this guy for a reason, and thats to make him the Center of the future. not cut him less then a year in. he can also play guard so that makes him versatile and too valuable to cut. and Jack Williams isnt going anywhere either. Paymah will be released before Williams goes. Paymah has whiffed on tackles and cant cover a grandma in a wheelchair. and Scheffler wasnt drafted based on his blocking but his receiving ability. Graham is the blocking TE on this team. and why is it dangerous to keep Lichty but not Holland. this team is going through a youth movement and the guy at RG this year wont be Holland, it will be Kuper who is absolutely playing better then Holland. Holland will be gone soon. Paymah too. Jack Williams is already faster and has better awareness then Paymah.

  • Michael Fierro

    Cut Cecil Sapp? Have you not been paying attention the last few seasons? Shanahan loves Sapp because of his versatility: fullback, emergency half-back, special teams. Sapp is a utility player who helps fill a couple of roles, freeing up other roster spots.

  • TJ

    Yeah, Sheffler is not getting cut! Because as soon as Nate Jackson gets hurt (not if, but when) the Sheff will step it up.

  • hercules rockefeller

    The surprise cut this year is Ekuban.

  • mikebirty

    i agree with most people here. Double E and Holland are the only big name veterans in danger and i’m not sure if Saap makes it to this time next year. A deadline day trade of either of these, a la warren, wouldn’t surprise me.

    Losing Eslinger last year off the practise squad will, i think make them slightly more careful about who goes on there.

  • kerry

    to MikeBirty:

    yes exactly my point. Eslinger was suposed to be the future of this team and the texans got him. thats exactly why Lichty wont go to the practice squad. same as Barrett or Willimas.

  • Jonathan Douglas

    Great Article, Earl!

    And I’m not going to argue with a BroncoTalk author as we’ve be right pretty often lately! :)

  • robtink242

    do we cut or trade Ramsey

  • robtink242

    barret & williams go no where.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    The reason I am concerned about Scheffler is that you can’t have a guy like Scheff running 3rd string for very long. If you’re really going to treat him as a backup then there’s a problem. That said, I don’t think he’ll actually get cut, but the Broncos organization has surprised us before.

    I am swayed somewhat by the loss of Eslinger off the practice squad possibly meaning we move fewer rookies to the squad, but that makes some of the decisions even harder.

  • myerda00

    Earl, ditto some of the above. Barrett, Williams, Lichtensteiger, even Polumbus would not pass through FA to the practice squad. Backup OL would be Lickty, Polumbus, Pears (? his back). Alexander would beat out Gandy because he can play center also.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    Ok, Mike Klis, in his mailbag, confirmed that Marshall will NOT count against the 53 players during his suspension! This means that we get to cut one less player and that means, IMO, the player we keep in his stead will be Alridge (we need the depth at RB) and we can expect to lose either Martinez or Russell depending upon if either of them step up their play in Marshall’s absence.

    I am wholly in favor of keeping Barrett over Vickiel Vaughn, and would be happy if that happens. I’m still having trouble figuring out who to cut to keep Jack Williams, but it’s probably Nic Clemons. I don’t think the Broncos can afford to lose Ekuban’s experience off the line this year.

    As for the o-line and keeping K-Lich on the field…that’s tough. Holland is still a good player, despite getting behind for being fat. I just don’t see him getting cut like many of you do. He worked his butt off (literally!) and I think he has the potential to steal the job from Kuper. And you don’t want to lose a player who is going to push your starter into playing his level best every game.

    And we can’t cut Pears as we have no other backup tackles worth mentioning.

    That means Nalen might be in trouble. Or another defensive player might be in trouble so that we can keep an extra man on offense.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    myerda00: IMO, PJ Alexander plays for crap. He gets pushed off the ball all the time. He whiffed a lot of times when he was on the field. IMO he’s the first guy cut on the O line.

  • robtink242

    i totally agree with that pj has a better chance in the CFL or AFL.

  • Jonathan Douglas

    I kinda like Martinez. I don’t know if we have a roster spot for him, but the guy seems to play with heart and passion and often comes up with a good play when we need him to fill in.

  • kerry

    Kuper is gonna be the starting RG. he has played absolutely stellar at RG. Holland will NOT be starting unless there is an injury. Holland got his weight down before the Packers game and Shanahan still went with Kuper. Holland has no shot at being the starter at RG

  • Allen

    Any one concerned about running backs. 3 preseason games and only 1 TD on the ground, and less than 300 yds rushing. Help is needed at running back or nobody is going to respect the rush. Hope Alridge or one of the others step up or its going to be a long season.

  • Ryan

    Holland stays… I agree with Earl that we need him to push Kuper to play at an elite level. Our O-Line has been solid in preseason which might allows us to have thin depth there. Pray Polumbus makes the practice squad. Jack Williams stays, so does Barret and Lichty. We cannot afford to let our draft picks get away since we haven’t done very well in the draft in years past and these guys seem to have big time potential.

    I want to see Spenser Larsen stay too. I can see Niko being a surprise cut. He is SLOW and really hasn’t shown much when the bright lights are on… maybe he’s a good practice player, but I would rather leave a roster spot open for Spenser who has potential than give it to a guy who can’t beat out Nate Webster for the starting job. Don’t forget that DJ and Winborn can also play the middle if need be.

    I sure hope Hackney show up to play on Friday. Ramsey is horrible. I know you all saw that throw he made in the redzone against the Packers that should have been pick six the other way. He held onto the ball way too long and I would be terrified if anything happened to Cutler with Ramsey backing up. Don’t forget that Hackney put a ball right into Kolbert’s stone hands to convert a would be third down in one of the last drives of the game against the Pack. If hackney plays well against Arizona… Ramsey should watch his back.

    We have to keep Alridge. He’s definitely picked up by another team if we release him.

    Bly is staying… he’s too valuable as a veteran presence in the locker room and on the field. He brings fire to the defense and it was him, not Champ who led the team in picks last year… no disrespect to Champ because he’s the best ever… EVER.

    Sorry for the long post… just had to get some thoughts out there. I could go on all day about this team. Go Broncos!

  • E. Halsey Miles

    I am starting to lean toward Polumbus staying as a backup tackle. That might mean Pears goes. The O-line is so difficult to call right now in terms of who stays and goes. And I might be wrong — we might keep more than 8 men on the line because we have so many rookies as starters that extra depth is needed. I just don’t know where we’ll come up with the space for that depth, especially given that we want to keep a whole passel of running backs because we don’t have a single The Guy right now and it’s never clear which one is going to be able to carry the load.

    What if the backups are Polumbus, Wiegmann, Holland and K-Lich? That’s one extra body still, need to figure out who to drop from somewhere else, but that would be pretty interesting. It would leave us quite thin at tackle, with only a rookie — admittedly with some potential — able to back up Harris or Clady. I’d feel more comfortable with Pears remaining as a backup.

    But it’s true, you have to take these chances if you’re going to develop rookies.

    Maybe we do have to cut the Mustard, so to speak, to make room for another lineman.

  • Ryan

    Kuper can play tackle too… so if a tackle went down, (knock on wood not Clady) then you could slide Kuper over and start Holland.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    Well, with Holland out, I would definitely keep Lichtensteiger stays. Right now I lean toward Polumbus, K-Lich and Wiegmann as backups on the o-line, and putting at least 2 of the guys we cut onto the practice squad (or signing guys from other teams cuts onto the practice squad) to provide more available depth.

    And Ryan is right. Kuper makes sense as more backup at tackle as well. Versatility matters when you’re keeping so few players.