The offseason workouts for the Denver Broncos are now a thing of the past, and training camp looms right around the corner. The draft picks are signed, the roster is set and all of the injured players are on track to be ready sometime during camp.
The players and coaches are enjoying a break before reporting back to Dove Valley in late July, but it’s never too early to look ahead. The roster is loaded from top to bottom with talent, some of it very young talent. That young talent means that there will be some surprising names on the final cut list in late August. Here’s a look at some veterans who could be looking for work after the final preseason game.
Kevin Vickerson-Defensive Tackle
It’s almost hard to believe but the position of defensive tackle is now a strength for the Broncos, and Vickerson is no lock to make the final roster. He’s coming off of an injury and may not be ready to practice at the start of camp. The starters will be Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams. Knighton is coming off of a career year and Williams has a huge upside.
Vickerson will be competing with Mitch Unrein and free agent Marvin Austin. If Austin finally plays up to his potential and Vickerson is not ready to compete due to his injury, the he could be on his way out. It’s also important to remember that both Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson can move inside in certain formations, and their versatility may make Vickerson expendable.
Ronnie Hillman-Running Back
This one is not going to surprise too many people. It’s a make or break summer for Hillman who has all of the physical tools, but has yet to show it on the field. The Broncos would love to see Hillman take that step because his skill set is a perfect fit for this offense. He’s explosive in the open field and would be the perfect back in passing situations.
For Hillman to make the final roster, he must demonstrate two things. He must hang onto the football and show more mental toughness, especially when running inside. The Broncos have some young backs they really like and if Hillman is going to be around in September, then he must find a way to beat out Kapri Bibbs and the other rookies. Just as a reminder, the top two backs going into camp are Montee Ball and CJ Anderson.
Andre Caldwell-Wide Receiver
The Broncos are stacked at the receiver position and have two rookies that could make it very difficult for Caldwell. Cody Latimer was the Broncos second round selection and they love him. The Broncos would never admit this publically but my guess is Latimer has all ready been penciled in as the number four receiver behind Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker. That leaves Caldwell fighting for the fifth and probably final spot.
Isaiah Burse, an undrafted free agent was one of the bright stars of the offseason workouts. The Broncos knew Burse was a great return man and that’s why they made him a priority once the draft was over, but he has surprised them with his ability as a receiver. If Burse shows he’s ready to be the fifth receiver, then Caldwell will be looking for work.
As with Hillman, this one is not going to shock anyone and it will probably make more than a few Broncos’ fans very happy. Carter has all the physical tools to be a good cornerback in the NFL but outside of a stretch in 2012, his play has been spotty at best. Carter doesn’t tackle well and gets called for far too many penalties to really be counted on.
The Broncos are set with their top three corners in Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and rookie Bradley Roby. They are extremely high on the rookie and believe he can contribute as a starter from day one. In addition to those three, Kavon Webster enters his second season and should make a big jump from year one to year two. The truth is Webster was having a solid rookie season before breaking his thumb late in the year. The top four cornerbacks are set and even if the Broncos do keep five, my money would be on a younger player over Carter.
Joel Dressen-Tight End
This would be a tough one for many Colorado fans who have watched Dressen from high school to Colorado State to the Broncos. Dressen is a good NFL tight end who is just on the wrong team. The Broncos have one of the best tight ends in football in Julius Thomas and one of the most versatile in Jacob Tamme.
In addition to Thomas and Tamme, the Broncos also have Virgil Green who is the best blocker and can lineup in the backfield to give the offense a different look. The player who may make it the most difficult on Dressen is Gerell Robinson. Robinson converted from receiver to tight end this offseason and has all ready turned some heads. Robinson has the athletic ability and hands of a receiver. If he continues to develop, then he would be a natural backup to Thomas.
How each of these players performs in training camp and in the preseason games will ultimately decide their fate but make no mistake, there will be surprises on the final cut list.