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Analyzing the setting of the Broncos' 53-man roster

For now, team is heavy on defense and special teams players, a bit light in QB and receiver numbers.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As George Paton put together his season-opening, 53-man roster, the Broncos’ general manager took a broader viewer of 69 players.

There is the active 53-man roster and thanks (but no thanks) to COVID-19 worries, the NFL is allowing a second season of 16 practice-squad players from where two or three can pretty much be called up for any game.

The Broncos will begin to set their 16-man practice squad at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Until then, here’s a closer look at their 53-man roster by position with notable cuts.

OFFENSE

Quarterback

  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Drew Lock

Note: Head coach Vic Fangio said there was strong consideration given to keeping Brett Rypien as the third quarterback. If Rypien clears waivers, the Broncos will want him back on their practice squad where he can be called up to play almost as easily from there as the 53-man roster

"We struggled over whether to keep three quarterbacks or go the way we did,'' Fangio said.

“It’s a tough decision,'' said general manager George Paton. "You’re deep at other positions and how are you going to help our special teams? Is our fifth linebacker good enough to play special teams right now? You just kind of weigh your whole roster. It’s a big puzzle at the end of the day. You want to take care of your offense and you want to take care of your defense, but special teams, you really have to take care of them.”

Receivers

  • Courtland Sutton
  • Jerry Jeudy
  • KJ Hamler
  • Tim Patrick,
  • Diontae Spencer

Note: It was well-known there wasn’t room for Tyrie Cleveland, Seth Williams and Trinity Benson to all make the roster. The surprise was Paton and Fangio didn’t keep any of them. Special teams priority was why the Broncos traded away Benson, who otherwise opened eyes as a receiver in training camp and the preseason. There is hope Cleveland and Williams can return to the Broncos’ practice squad.

Running backs

  • Melvin Gordon III,
  • Javonte Williams
  • Royce Freeman
  • Mike Boone

Note: Preseason workhorse Damarea Crockett was one of the final cuts. Boone will go on short-term injured reserve Wednesday with a quad injury, making room for Freeman to stick as the No. 3 back.   

Fullback

  • Andrew Beck

Note: A good athlete who will swing from H-back to lead blocker on Gordon and Javonte Williams runs.

Tight ends 

  • Noah Fant
  • Albert Okwuegbunam
  • Eric Saubert

Note: Fant and Albert O have a chance to become a dynamic mismatch for opposing defenses while Saubert is a bigger version of Nick Vannett from last season.

Offensive line

  • LT Garett Bolles
  • LG Dalton Risner
  • C Lloyd Cushenberry III
  • RG Graham Glasgow
  • RT Bobby Massie
  • C-G Quinn Meinerz
  • G Netane Muti
  • OT Calvin Anderson

Note: A fourth offensive tackle, Cam Fleming, will sign back with the team Wednesday. A tough cut was center-guard Austin Schlottmann, a 32-game veteran who could return to the practice squad.

RELATED: Broncos reduce roster to 53-man limit

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons (31) confers with head coach Vic Fangio at an NFL organized training activity session at the team's headquarters Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DEFENSE

Safeties 

  • Justin Simmons
  • Kareem Jackson
  • P.J. Locke
  • Caden Sterns
  • Jamar Johnson

Note: Sterns and Johnson are fifth-round rookies. Johnson missed the early part of training camp with COVID-19 but he may have made the team with his strong performance in the final preseason game Saturday against the Rams.

“He started off slow because he was on COVID and that hurt him,'' Paton said. "I think he missed 12 days or so. He was raw and he’s talented, but once he got in the games you could kind of see the athletic ability, especially in the deep part of the field. He got better on special teams, but still needs to improve. He needs to tackle better. He needs to do some things better, but he knows that. He has a high ceiling—a definite high ceiling.''

Two-year backup Trey Marshall was waived, mostly because he has struggled to stay healthy.

Cornerbacks

  • Ronald Darby
  • Kyle Fuller
  • Bryce Callahan
  • Pat Surtain II
  • Kary Vincent Jr.
  • Michael Ojemudia

Note: Vincent was a mild surprise as a 7th-round rookie. Ojemudia will go on short-term IR on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. Don’t be surprised if veteran Nate Hairston, who was released Tuesday, returns to the active roster sooner rather than later.

"Vincent needs to improve on [special] teams, but he can really cover,'' Paton said. "He’s a really talented cover corner.”

Inside linebackers

  • Alexander Johnson
  • Josey Jewell
  • Justin Strnad
  • Baron Browning
  • Jonas Griffith

Note: Griffith was acquired Tuesday from the 49ers. He’ll be a larger version of former Broncos special teams standout Joe Jones. Strnad will be a third-down backer. Browning is a third-round rookie who after missing two months with a knee injury this summer may need a little more practice time before he’s game-ready.

Outside linebackers

  • Von Miller
  • Bradley Chubb
  • Malik Reed
  • Jonathon Cooper
  • Andre Mintze

Note: Cooper is a 7th-round rookie and Mintze is the latest undrafted rookie who made the Broncos’ opening-day roster. A Vanderbilt product, Mintze received a $15,000 signing bonus and $70,000 salary guarantee from the Broncos. He’ll now make the $660,000 minimum salary.

“Mintze—the game wasn’t too big for him the first day he showed up,'' Paton said. "He can set the edge in the run game and he’s gotten better as a pass rusher. A big guy like that can run down on special teams—you can’t have enough of those guys.”

Derrek Tuszka, a 7th-round draft pick last year, was squeezed out by the rookies but there is a good chance he stays around for a little more development on the practice squad.

Defensive line

  • Shelby Harris
  • Mike Purcell
  • Dre’Mont Jones
  • McTelvin Agim
  • DeShawn Williams
  • Jonathan Harris

Note: Shamar Stephen was released but will re-sign  Wednesday. Jonathan Harris was perhaps the No. 1 roster surprise. He was cut early in camp last year and missed the season because a non-football illness designation. But Fangio often finds a defensive line journeyman he likes and turns into a decent player. See Mike Purcell.

“Jonathan is a hard worker—really tough, really coachable,'' Fangio said. "He’s going to do things the way you tell him to do it. He just loves playing football, and he’s the really tough defensive lineman that’s good at grinding it out in there.”

Special teams 

  • K Brandon McManus
  • P Sam Martin
  • LS Jacob Bobenmoyer

Note: The trio is back for a second consecutive year together. McManus and Martin booted well in the preseason.

RELATED: Broncos trades: Acquire LB Griffith from 49ers, deal WR Benson to Lions