Posted Sun Sep 5th by Ian Henson
This isn’t speculation, it’s here. The Denver Broncos have updated their depth chart following the final cuts of the day.
On the surface it’s basically the same, but there are some things that need to be noted.
- Why is there no movement at quarterback?
- Is Lance Ball really the fourth best running back in Denver?
- Eddie Royal is listed as number two with no one behind him.
- There are two backups at offensive tackle D’Anthony Batiste and Zane Beadles (starting left guard).
- New tight end Dan Gronkowski is immediately third on the depth chart.
- Eric Decker is third on the depth chart at wide receiver behind Jabar Gaffney and Matthew Willis.
While I don’t see the depth at quarterback changing, I can see Brady Quinn being made the third string/emergency quarterback on game day. Bruce Hall must have a heck of a fan in Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville (both came over from Buffalo), Ball clearly outplayed Hall in the preseason. The Broncos are either masking Decker by not putting him directly behind Royal or there’s something we’re not aware of. Depending on how hurt Ryan Harris is, Batiste could start week one and is the only backup for the recently returned Ryan Clady besides Beadles who is scheduled to start at left guard. Willis being listed in front of Decker at outside receiver makes sense, Decker not being listed behind Royal doesn’t.
Defense and grades after the click.On to the defense:
- Ryan McBean is listed as the starting left defensive end.
- Marcus Thomas is listed as McBean’s backup and as third nose tackle.
- Jarvis Moss & Robert Ayers are the starting outside linebackers.
- Baraka Atkins & Jason Hunter are the only players listed behind them. 97 tackles and nine sacks in seven seasons between the two.
- There are ten players in the Broncos secondary, three rookies, two second season players and four players over thirty.
McBean looked good last season and throughout the preseason and the Broncos must think even higher of him than I do as the other immediate option at defensive end is LeKevin Smith and Marcus Thomas. The Moss/Ayers one-two punch better be even more spectacular than we have seen in the preseason or the Broncos could have a whole lot of trouble heading their way. Atkins & Hunter (Moss & Ayers backups) provide veteran depth, but that’s about it, the two have 97 tackles and 9 sacks between them in seven season as NFL players. Hunter is a special teams juggernaut and started nine games last season as a defensive end in Seattle.
Quarterbacks– Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow
Analysis: There has been much speculation as to why the Broncos started off 6-0 last season, though Orton doesn’t deserve all the credit, he does deserve some of it. The man threw one interception (to Randy Moss none-the-less) in those first six games. He ran a good offense that only sputtered once it hit that brutal Baltimore Ravens defense. Quinn is an upgrade over Chris Simms, but should we see Quinn in any action outside of fourth quarter relief the Broncos may be in for it. Tebow showed nothing short of what anyone expected of him during the preseason, he had his moments of brilliance and his moments of ‘Whoops!’. What Tebow does allow is diversity and extra options, the man has a nose for the end zone and can be unstoppable with the ball in his hands in the open field. GRADE: B
Running Backs– Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, Bruce Hall and Lance Ball
Analysis: Moreno did suit for the final preseason game, but he did not play. McDaniels felt as if he just wasn’t ready. I would expect McDaniels to do the same against the Jacksonville Jaguars if his feeling is similar. Talk from anyone who saw Moreno play during training camp was all about an improved running back that got off to a slow start last season due to several factors. If Moreno is able to actually stay healthy he should be brilliant. Buckhalter did great last season in his role and from what I’ve seen in the off season looks to be just the same, another injury concern however. With Moreno and Buckhalter the Broncos are as good as any team in the NFL at running back. After that it gets sticky, I think Ball is the clear number three back, yet Hall remains in at third. The Broncos require their backs to catch often and all are capable of turning those catches into extra yards. Ball shoots out of the backfield with power though and punishes would-be tacklers, where as Hall is more of a reliever. GRADE: B+
Wide Receiver– Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, Demaryius Thomas, Matthew Willis and Eric Decker
Analysis: Lloyd forced a lot of fans to remember that he was on the team last year in the final two games of the season (after being inactive for much of 2009) and has maintained that significance throughout the preseason. Finally getting his chance to shine as the Broncos number one receiver. He is also a personal favorite of Orton’s. Royal is the biggest question mark (and I believe the Broncos reason for drafting Decker) in my opinion, he will see more opportunities this season presumably and is still the same talent he was as a rookie with two seasons under his belt. With more opportunity he should see more catches and more success. Gaffney went from my preseason Brandon Marshall replacement to my seasonal Marshall replacement, he’s completely capable of being everything Marshall was and more (with less headache). I don’t know that he’ll replicate his success that he had in the final game against Kansas City, but he will make Denver forget Marshall. Thomas, who was actually brought in to replace Marshall did not play a down in preseason and may not be available for week one could go either way on the disappointment factor, but there is very solid depth behind him. Willis is a deep and underneath threat and Decker has proved to be an underneath threat and a catch machine. GRADE: A
Tight End– Daniel Graham, Richard Quinn and Dan Gronkowski
Analysis: Early in training camp fans became aware of the want in Denver for a throwback, an H-Back type player who could function similarly to the way Shannon Sharpe had in his time with the Broncos. This was Marquez Branson who may possibly clear waivers and the Broncos will undoubtedly put him on the practice squad. The teams willingness to allow Branson to walk shows and the trade for Gronkowski shows that Denver is much more concerned with having their tight ends block than catch. Graham is hot and cold as a receiver, but remains one of the best blocking tight ends in football. Quinn can block that’s for sure, but has yet to show in a game that means anything that he can actually catch. Gronkowski had a decent preseason with the Detroit Lions, but will need time to adjust to the Broncos offense. He’s another number three of three in tight ends on the Broncos who are capable of blocking well. My opinion is he’s not much of a factor as a pass receiver until the ball gets near the goal line. That’s not a bad thing though. GRADE: C- (for receiving ability)
Tackles– Ryan Clady, Ryan Harris and D’Anthony Batiste
Analysis: Clady and Harris are the best tackle tandem in the NFL arguably. Batiste has been in the NFL since 2006 and played last season on the Broncos practice squad. So he’s got a year in the system as well, he’s a player with a heart of gold and if you get a chance to ever research him do just that. That being said, with Clady just coming off an injury and Harris going down in the final preseason game the Broncos are one twisted ankle away from seeing the Ryans replaced by Batiste and Zane Beadles. GRADE: A-
Guards– Chris Kuper, Zane Beadles, Eric Olsen and Stanley Davis
Analysis: Kuper got paid this season, which is normally not a good thing for most NFL players, but thankfully Kuper isn’t most NFL players. Beadles the rookie has already got a very significant amount of time under his belt and has faced some of the better nose tackles and defensive tackles in the game (between practice and preseason). Olsen is very much a rookie and anyone who saw the Minnesota game can attest to that, I’ve been nothing but impressed with Davis though throughout his time in Denver. GRADE: B+
Center– J.D. Walton and Russ Hochstein
Analysis: Walton is making his best case to be the shining star of the 2010 Broncos draft and it’s very close between him and Beadles. The rookies have stepped up in a major way and made fans forget about names like Pouncey and some other ones I’m not going to get into here. Walton, like Beadles will only benefit from being handcuffed to Kuper and can learn the offense from Hochstein who has many years in the system. Hochstein is a guy capable of filling in any position on the Broncos roster and this has earned him the respect of his coaches as well as allows him to teach all of the youngsters playing around the offensive line. GRADE: A
OVERALL OFFENSE– Fans (and NFL defenses) have yet to see the best team the Broncos offense can put forward and that’s a good thing. Moreno, Thomas, Clady, Harris and Orton have all yet to be on the field at the same time. That’s a scary thought, because despite not having hardly any of them in the preseason Orton was able to orchestrate scoring drives on more than 80% of his drives. All without Moreno, Buckhalter (with the exception of one drive), Clady and Thomas. With the Broncos offense at full force, as ridiculous as this sounds, they should be able to hold their own against those incredible defenses they face in before the bye week. GRADE: B+
Defense coming later today, keep it tuned. In the mean time, feel free to call me an idiot in the comments.