COMMENTARY | The Denver Broncos set their roster to 75 players Tuesday.
Over the course of four days, the Broncos cut 11 players and put two on either the physically unable to perform (PUP) list or injured reserve. Among the transactions, three notable moves were made.
First, Greg Orton was waived after spraining his ankle earlier in the month. Orton spent two years on the practice squad and was impressing once again in camp before the injury.
The other two moves were placing safety Quinton Carter on injured reserve and center J.D. Walton on the PUP list. Walton, Denver's starting center who is rehabbing from numerous ankle surgeries, could be back by mid-October if all goes well. Carter, on the other hand, will miss the whole season with complications to a knee surgery.
However, the roster moves won't end there. By Saturday, the Broncos have to cut the team size to 53 players. That means Thursday's game against the Arizona Cardinals will be the last chance this season for many players fighting for a roster spot.
From undrafted rookies to longtime veterans, here are five players on the bubble that have to impress to make the team for the regular season:
Lerentee McCray, linebacker
Analysis: McCray has made quite an impression throughout the training camp and preseason. McCray, an undrafted rookie from Florida, came away with a blocked punt in Saturday's win against the Rams. If he makes the roster, the Broncos would extend their nine-year streak of having an undrafted rookie make the final 53.
Reason for making the team: McCray's work ethic and play could be too hard for the Broncos to pass up. If he gets cut, McCray is sure to get snatched up by another team before making it to the practice squad.
Reasons against: Is there simply enough room? The Broncos currently have 10 linebackers on their roster and have kept only seven the last two seasons. McCray could very well be one of the odd men out.
Verdict: McCray is a talented individual and the Broncos would like for him to develop into what Wesley Woodyard has for the team. His play Thursday will be the biggest test for him, but gut instinct says he will make the team.
Ryan Lilja, center/guard
Analysis: Lilja came out of a short-lived retirement after injuries to Dan Koppen and Walton created a massive need at the center position. So far, Lilja hasn't made the impact the Broncos were hoping for. Lilja has been dealing with a knee injury, which has limited his availability recently.
Reasons for making the team: Besides a scramble to fix the center position, Lilja has chemistry with Peyton manning from his years in Indianapolis. Lilja's ability to play guard gives the Broncos more flexibility as well. When guard Chris Kuper fully returns, Kuper could start at center and Lilja would provide depth by being a backup guard.
Reasons for not making the team: Lilja was added in late-July with expectations that he would beat out Manny Ramirez and become the starter. In addition to not doing that, the offensive line is packed with 15 players still on the team. The Broncos typically carry nine players in the regular season.
Verdict: Lilja's depth and versatility present a nice option, but at 31 years old and injured knees, the nine-year veteran could retire once again.
Quentin Jammer, safety/cornerback
Analysis: When the Broncos failed to sign Charles Woodson, John Elway signed former Charger Quentin Jammer to convert to safety. Jammer was expected to start across Rahim Moore for the strong safety sport. With the emergence of Duke Ihenacho, Jammer has been forgotten. Can Jammer summon up one game so big that the Broncos would think about keeping him?
Reasons for making the team: It would be a massive upset if Jammer made the final 53, but Jammer's ability to play both safety and cornerback could make him appealing. In the third preseason game, Jammer played cornerback opposite of Kevyon Webster when the starters went out. It was his best game as a Bronco to date.
Reasons for not making the team: Having already mentioned Ihenacho, Jammer simply hasn't performed the way Elway expected him to. Add in Jammer's age (34), and he is almost certain to be this year's equivalent to Drayton Florence.
Lance Ball, running back
Analysis: Ball is everything that Denver fans hate and everything that John Fox loves. Ball is a steady, workman-like running back who does nothing particularly well but is solid all around. It's a bonus that Ball plays special teams.
Reasons for making the team: Ball's willingness to play special teams gives him advantage over other backs who don't contribute in that area. It's this reason that Ball often was part of the 46 gameday active roster last season while Knowshown Moreno was not. Ball has proved over the years that he can be a reliable backup when needed an nothing more.
Reasons for not making the team: The Broncos have a youth movement at running back. Ball, 28, simply might not be part of their plans. Ball's spot also depends on whether the Broncos want to keep four (2011) or five (2012) backs on the roster.
Verdict: This is the year that Broncos fans can finally say goodbye to Ball.
Zac Dysert, quarterback
Analysis: In evaluating this year's quarterback class, Elway said that he was glad that the Broncos weren't in need of a quarterback. Despite this, Elway used a seventh-round pick on Dysert. So far, Dysert has had an up-and-down camp while improving as it has gone on.
Reasons for making the team: The Broncos have to decide if the team wants to keep two or three quarterbacks on their roster. Dysert, who has attempted and completed only three passes in the preseason, has to impress in Arizona. Dysert's potential upside and possibility to push Brock Osweiler for the backup job could keep him around.
Reasons for not making the team: For a Super Bowl-or-bust team, it's not necessary to carry three quarterbacks when there is such competition at other places. Dysert is only a seventh-round pick, so how high could his upside possibly be?
Verdict: The Broncos could gamble on Dysert by cutting him and hoping he's available for the practice squad. With most teams set on their quarterback situation, Dysert will make the team's practice squad.
Matthew Paras is a Journalism Major at DePaul University. He writes for multiple outlets, including Maxboxing.com, Operationsports.com, and DePaul's student newspaper, The DePaulia. He can be reached by email at Mparas1432@gmail.com or on twitter @Matthew_Paras. He currently resides in Chicago, but lived in Littleton, Colo. for seven years.
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