Stop worrying: Analyzing the Broncos’ roster cuts

Happy Saturday, friends. In the wake of the Broncos' roster transactions from today, I looked at Twitter to get the pulse of Broncos Country. What I mostly saw was some misplaced freakouts happening. I thought I'd quickly talk you off the ledge if you're super-worried. Alternatively, if you think you know better than Johns Fox and Elway, I thought I'd let you know that you don't. All is well, Broncos fans.

Kerfluffle #1 Not enough WR depth

I love the word kerfluffle and used it at work yesterday to describe, well, a kerfluffle. I saw a lot of this when word came out that dime-a-dozen fifth-round WR Tavarres King had been waived.  How can you not have backups for the outside WRs, went the wailing.

There are two reasons why this is silly:

  1. Andre Caldwell can play outside as well as inside, so he's physically capable of backing up all spots.
  2. Caldwell will be lucky to see 100 snaps on offense this year if the top three guys don't get hurt, so why worry about a #5 guy if the #4 guy is hardly going to see the field?

The Broncos use two primary personnel groupings, which are 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR for those who are rusty) and 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR). They almost never play 4 or 5 wideouts, and it's very rare that they'd use more than 1 RB at a time.  (More on that later.)

The nice thing about being so limited in the number of groupings used is that the Broncos can run all of their plays from either grouping. That is, the same route concept or running play can be called whether there are 3 WR and 1 TE in the game, or there are 2 WR and 2 TE in the game. This is probably the biggest reason why the #5 WR doesn't matter.

I expect the Broncos to be heavy on 11 personnel this year. If one of the WRs gets hurt, they can just adjust and play more 12 personnel. Or, they can go sign a dude who's as good as King off the street.

As for the apoplexy about cutting a fifth-round pick, good teams do that sometimes when they're trying to keep their top 53 guys. I thought King might show better than he did, and that there was some upside there, but the reality is that he was pretty underwhelming in his time in Denver.

Kerfluffle #2 What's with all the RBs?

I somewhat agree that five RB is too many if you're only going to play one at a time.  All I can think is that C.J. Anderson showed the team something more than I saw, and that's cool.  I thought he had a very Xavier Omon-like first preseason game, and I laughed as Broncos fans got purple-veined woodrows for him like they did for Omon last year, and tons of fringy backs in past preaseason openers.

Anyway, the other four guys have specifically identifiable roles, and earned their way onto the team:

  • Knowshon Moreno - Reliable pro, and best receiver and pass-protector of the bunch, and it's not close. Probably should be the primary RB till somebody legit beats him out.
  • Ronnie Hillman - The home run threat, if he can quit putting the ball on the ground. Not good in pass protection, and may never be.
  • Montee Ball - Hopefully emerges as the primary back, and is the hardest runner of the group, but still lousy in pass protection.
  • Jacob Hester - Has HB/FB versatility, and portends to be a core special-teamer.

Depth has been a problem at RB in the Broncos' recent past, so I think keeping five guys is defensible, especially if Anderson ends up having some game for the future.

Kerfluffle #3  Why'd my boy go on IR?

I like both Lerentee McCray and Quanterus Smith as prospects, and I think McCray earned his way onto this 53-man roster if he hadn't gotten hurt Thursday. High ankle sprains are no joke, though (ask Julius Thomas), and it's very difficult to keep an undrafted rookie on the active roster while he can't play for as many as 6-8 weeks.

As for Smith, I've never thought he looked right all preseason. He doesn't have the burst he showed in college, when he was making Cyrus Kouandijo and D.J. Fluker look like bums. The reality is that he wasn't ready to help this team in 2013, so IR is the right place for him.

For those who believed Peter King that Q was going to be a big-time player this year, remember what happens when you trust anything that comes out of his skunk-spot mocha-choca-latte strawberry banana berry cream ale addled brain - you make an ass out of you and umption.

Kerfluffle #4  I don't like the interior linemen!

I think everybody should be pretty comfortable with Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, and Chris Clark (who impressed me this preseason) on the outside. It gets a little dicier inside, though, if you want to be a pessimist. Zane Beadles and Louis Vasquez are locked in as the starting guards, and it looks like Manny Ramirez (a quality backup) will get the first shot at starting at center.

Behind them, there's Chris Kuper (a starting player when healthy), John Moffitt (a recent high draft pick), and Steve Vallos (just a guy). Honestly, I think that the Broncos will be fine.

I don't get the crying for C.J. Davis that I saw; the best offensive lineman the Broncos cut was Paul Cornick. Hopefully, he's on the practice squad. As for Vinston Painter, he was horrible in every game I saw.

Kerfluffle #5  Why so many secondary players and so few DL?

My biggest concern is that there's a minor roster imbalance with only seven defensive linemen being present, and 11 DBs. I was surprised to see Quentin Jammer stick, but I suspect that it was because of Champ Bailey's near-term injury status. As a vested veteran, though, his salary is guaranteed if he's on the roster for Week 1.

I was pretty impressed with Kayvon Webster's preseason, and Omar Bolden is a star on special teams who showed decently well in his first game at safety. The rest of the DBs all made excellent cases too.

Only keeping seven defensive linemen is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Shaun Phillips can play some defensive end too. It also helps that Derek Wolfe plays as many snaps as he does, and that Malik Jackson seems to have improved enough to play just about any position on the line in reserve.

Kerfluffle #6  Why are the Broncos bucking the two-QB trend?

From noted trend-diagnoser John Clayton:

It looks like more teams are going to having two quarterbacks on their rosters. So far seven teams are down to two quarterbacks

— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) August 31, 2013

I think Zac Dysert is a luxury, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's waived and sent to the practice squad during the season. For now, though, the Broncos kept him because they saw enough talent to try to develop. This is another example that "win-now" vis-a-vis the Broncos is just something that stupid people say.

Is this really a roster to be worried about?

Check out the updated roster here. I'll wait.

Is that really a roster that has you worried about how the Broncos are going to compete? I sure hope not, because it's as good a group as any in the NFL. Take a chill pill, wash it down with a coke and a smile, and get ready for a fun ride this season.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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