ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Just as the Denver Broncos took the field for Monday's practice, the team released their first depth chart. As expected, the quarterbacks were listed as co-starters, but there were true starters listed at every other position.
After practice, Vance Joseph fielded a plethora of questions regarding the depth chart, and while he did want to stress that the only depth chart that matters will come out before the Chargers game, he also shed some light on the decisions that were made.
As expected, Garett Bolles was listed first on the depth chart after clearly looking like the best tackle on the team for most, if not all of training camp. The rookie started his career with the Broncos competing against both Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo for the first-team spot but has created more and more separation each day.
"Well we've watched the Spring, we watched the first two weeks of training camp, and he's played well," Joseph said Monday. "In my opinion, he's earned the right to start the game. With that being said, he's still competing there with Donald and Ty. He's played well enough to start the game on Thursday."
Joseph later added that they will continue their usual rep-split in practice.
One surprise on the depth chart was at tight end, where Virgil Green was listed first, Jeff Heuerman was listed second, and A.J. Derby was listed third. From our view at practice, Derby has been the TE to stand out in the passing game, making his listing behind Heuerman and interesting one.
Joseph, though, was adamant that you shouldn't read too much into that particular slot.
"Virgil has been solid, but that's a position where it's a weird deal with a depth chart," He explained. "When you are in two tight ends, who is the starter? When you're in three tight ends, who is the starter? When you're in sub with [CB] [Bradley] Roby, is he a starter or not? It's just situational football; it's part of our package. Tight-end wise, they're all starters. Roby is a starter. That's where the depth chart can get a little sticky."
Sent forget about Jake Butt, either, who will start the season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, but could cause a shakeup in the tight end room when he gets healthy.
In the RB portion of the chart, C.J. Anderson led the group, and Devontae Booker held on to his spot right behind. Beyond that, though, a crowd of backs listed at third. Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson, Stevan Ridley, Juwan Thompson and Bernard Pierce are all fighting for slots on the team and, as of now, are listed in the same slot.
"We placed the guys that are injured in the spot they would be in if they weren't injured. Book finished the Spring as No. 2; he had a helluva Spring. Book was pushing to be the top guy, so he is still No. 2. He is going to return probably Week 1 or 2 during the regular season, but right now he is No. 2 on the depth chart. Obviously, he's not playing so he can't be No. 2. That's my point with the depth chart, it's just a starting point four our football team to know who is slotted where, but he won't play the entire preseason."
Conversely, Jamaal Charles will play during the preseason.
"Yes he will, yes he will," the coach explained. "We have a plan for Jamaal, I won't reveal that yet, but he's going to play in the preseason."
One of the most intriguing competitions going on in camp, due to the sheer talent on the roster, is for the third wide receiver spot. On the depth chart, though, there is no spot for a third wide receiver, so we have to look at the backups listed at each position.
Behind Demaryius Thomas on one side is Bennie Fowler, behind Emmanuel Sanders on the other side is Cody Latimer.
Joseph was asked about how Latimer has responded this training camp and ended up talking about both.
"He's responded positively; he's worked hard as a gunner, first of all," he said. "I mean, he can be an All-Pro gunner, he's so big and fast. That's a huge deal to have two receivers—Latimer and Fowler—as dominant special teams players, that's rare. That's a third receiver; he's competing. If we are in three-receiver sets, who is the starter? If we are in a four-receiver set—which we are going to be—who is the starter? We're going to have a five-receiver set, who is the starter?"
The Broncos have plenty of decisions to make on all those fronts on have plenty of guys behind those two, including Isaiah McKenzie, Carlos Henderson, and Jordan Taylor, to chose from.
Maybe the biggest surprise on the initial depth chart was at the fourth cornerback position. Despite a widespread perception that Lorenzo Doss has had a great camp, rookie corner Brendan Langley is listed ahead of Doss on the chart.
When asked about it, Joseph confirmed.
"Yeah, right now," he said. "In the games, we'll make a determination on who moves up or who moves down but watching practice from the spring until now; he's right now—I would say—the second right corner."
As a follow-up, Joseph was asked what Langley has done to earn that nod.
"I would say this about the depth chart, guys," the coach said. "It's a starting point; those two guys are competing for that fourth corner spot, which is a big deal for our football team, they are one snap from being a starter on sub. What went into that, spring drills, the trianing camp practices thus far, that's what determined that he's ahead right now. Doss has played really well, he's made a lot of plays and Langley has a long way to go as far as learning what to do as an NFL corner, so it's open. The depth chart was a must; I had to put someone there, whoever I would have put there, there would have been questions, it's just part of the process. The final depth chart will be out versus the Chargers, that's the one that really matters, the rest, guys, it's a depth chart, someone has to go first, second and third."
Allen Barbre is listed as the second left guard, behind Max Garcia and ahead of Michael Schofield.
Jared Crick is still holding on to his DE spot ahead of Adam Gotsis.
Domata Peko is listed ahead of Billy Winn at nose tackle, while Zach Kerr is listed behind Derek Wolfe at DE.
Cody Latimer is listed at No. 1 kick returner, Carlos Henderson is listed second.
DeMarcus Walker is listed behind Von Miller at WLB.
Broncos Current Roster Breakdown
As the team goes from 90 to 53, these numbers will change drastically, but here's where they stand now.
OL: 16 (C: 2.5, G: 6.5, T: 7) (McGovern being the guard/center)