- 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 Dysert did not play in the preseason opener last Thursday night, and 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 still shapes up to be a quality battle. Thompson continues to show he's a potential keeper. He's astute in pass protection, runs with power, catches the ball and has shown more speed than the Broncos may have thought he had when they signed him as an undrafted rookie. Anderson suffered a concussion in the preseason opener and will miss some practice time.
This is one of the spots where a roster spot currently being used elsewhere in this projection could go when the formal cuts do come. The Broncos have several undrafted rookie receivers who have shown enough that keeping six here will be consideration. Jordan Norwood, who had a touchdown catch in the preseason opener, and Isaiah Burse continue to work in the return game, primarily as punt returners. Norwood has shown more impact at receiver and will bear watching in the coming weeks.
Tight ends (3)
The Broncos kept four last season -- they kept three in 2011 and three in 2012 -- but keeping three, with perhaps another on the practice squad still looks to be the most likely scenario at this point.
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 so this is where a difficult decision awaits if they don't elect to keep 10. Ben Garland has worked with the second-team offense throughout training camp and played there in the preseason opener. But Garland doesn't play center so he's not a swing player in that regard. Despite the fact he deserves a long look to make it, it may take a tough call for the Broncos to do it.
Defensive line (9)
The Broncos kept eight on the initial roster here last season and could gain a spot for someplace else if they did it again. Austin continues to become a bigger part of the rotation, almost with each passing practice and the Broncos like what they have seen from Smith as well. They consistently created pressure up front against the Seahawks in the preseason opener.
There is still room here for a wild card, but this group looks like it's settling in. The Broncos played Barrow and Marshall at the two linebacker spots when they went to the second-team nickel against the Seahawks. McCray has worked with the starters in Miller's strong-side linebacker spot, as the Broncos continue to work Miller back into team drills.
Last season, the Broncos kept seven cornerbacks on the opening-night roster, including the injured Champ Bailey, but it's still looking like five here. Carter is getting plenty of work with the second unit in practice and still could be on the bubble, especially if one of the young, bigger defensive backs like Jerome Murphy show some special teams value.
They've played Bolden at cornerback a lot in camp so he present himself as a swing player who could play both corner and safety. He will also be one of the top options as a kickoff returner. How that impacts the Broncos' final total at defensive back remains to be seen. If they keep him and Carter, that's six players who get regular time at cornerback. So, to also keep Duke Ihenacho (Ihenacho played a team-leading 40 snaps, tied with Roby, in the preseason opener) at safety would push them to 11 defensive backs, which is what they kept last season. But it takes a roster spot from elsewhere.
The only question that still remains here, and it's still fairly large one, is at returner, where both the punt return and kickoff return jobs remain open.