- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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Examining the Denver Broncos' roster:
The Broncos carried three here last season and thought enough of Dysert to keep him despite a long list of injuries on defense that eventually saw five starters on injured reserve. It could be more difficult to use that third spot on Dysert again. The Broncos would like to, but it might be a luxury they can’t afford this time around, especially if they want a return specialist.
Running backs (4)
The Broncos kept five at this spot as recently as 2012, but this position shapes up to be a quality camp battle, and last year’s rookie to make it -- C.J. Anderson -- could certainly hold off this year’s crop. It would be a rarity to have two undrafted rookie running backs make the final 53, but Clay’s pass-catching ability is intriguing, and the 225-pound Thompson would give the Broncos a bigger back with an understanding of pass protections to go with some special-teams ability.
The Broncos have two undrafted rookies at this spot who have turned some heads already -- Isaiah Burse as a returner and Bennie Fowler at wideout -- but Latimer will be the youngster on the depth chart barring an unexpected injury. Latimer and Caldwell give the Broncos some insurance against any potential concussion issues for Welker. Latimer figures to get plenty of quality snaps. The Broncos have kept five here for the past three seasons, although last year's five included returner Trindon Holliday.
Tight ends (3)
The Broncos kept four last season -- they kept three in '11 and three in '12 -- and could keep four again if Joel Dreessen shows some improvement as he recovers from offseason knee troubles. But the need to keep an extra spot open for a potential return specialist or an extra defensive lineman looms large.
Offensive line (9)
The Broncos have kept nine players at this position for the opening week roster in all three previous seasons of the John Fox/John Elway regime, but with all of the shuffling in the search for swing players, they may feel the urge to add one here just in case. But the starting group up front looks to be Clady, Franklin, Ramirez, Vasquez and Clark. However, Montgomery could push hard at center and Justice got a long look at right tackle in offseason workouts and rookie Schofield should get a shot there as well. Perhaps Ryan Miller or Ben Garland could earn the extra (10th) spot.
Defensive line (9)
The Broncos kept 10 here in '11, kept nine in '12 and had eight on the opening night roster last season. They could trim to eight again if they have a glaring need elsewhere, but Vickerson and Smith are both coming back from stints on injured reserve.
The workouts when the pads go on will mean plenty for this group, and there is room here for a wild card, including a late roster pickup, to make the depth chart. McCray likely would have made it as an undrafted rookie last season had he not been injured in the preseason. As it stands now, the final slot may be a battle between Brandon Marshall, who spent much of ’13 on the Broncos’ practice squad before being promoted to the active roster, and Chaney, who was a 16-game starter for the Eagles as recently as 2011.
Last season, the Broncos kept seven cornerbacks on the opening night roster, including the injured Champ Bailey, but this time around Carter will enter camp squarely on the bubble, especially if one of the younger corners with some additional size, like rookie Louis Young, shows promise and some special-teams chops. But the top four spots are solidly in place, and the Broncos can sport the four-cornerback look they’d like to in the dime.
If Carter’s knee holds up in camp as it has through the team’s offseason workouts, he should be among the final group. Duke Ihenacho made the roster last season but will have a tougher road this time around. Bolden’s ability to be a swing player at corner and safety as well as having some potential as a returner gives him the edge as well.
The only question here is if a returner such as Burse or a player to be named later can show enough pop to lure the Broncos into keeping a return specialist.
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