Broncos training camp is almost over, and the season is nearly here. After our earlier off-season predictions, we now finally have a good idea as to how the Broncos offensive depth chart for 2020 will shake out. Let’s break down how the various different positions will shape out this season.
Could Brett Rypien challenge Jeff Driskel for the backup job?
For the first time since 2015, the Broncos are entering the season with a clear-cut starting quarterback in Drew Lock. He’s had an excellent training camp so far, which means the question marks surrounding the Broncos quarterbacks this season are about the backup and scout team jobs.
Neither Brett Rypien nor Jeff Driskel have impressed in practice so far. That makes you wonder if the Broncos would’ve been better attempting to find a free agent quarterback, like the Saints, Cowboys, and Patriots did with Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, and Cam Newton respectively.
In terms of training camp performance, you could make the argument that Rypien should be Lock’s backup over Driskel, but neither has separated themself as being clearly better than the other. Based on contracts, it would be surprising to see Rypien overtake Driskel this off-season, but it appears likely to happen next year as Denver stands to save $2.5 million against the cap by moving on from Driskel after 2020.
Has Phillip Lindsay cemented himself as the No. 1 RB on the Broncos offensive depth chart for 2020?
The Broncos running back depth chart was one of the murkier position groups before training camp, but now, it’s one of the more straightforward units to project. Phillip Lindsay has been lights-out in training camp, and thanks to added muscle and improved ability in the passing game, both as a receiver and a blocker, Lindsey has made it clear he should be the Broncos’ bell-cow back. Melvin Gordon has been fine, but he’s definitely been outshined by Lindsay. However, he should take over the role that was Royce Freeman’s a season ago.
Speaking of Freeman, there were whispers that undrafted free agent LeVante Bellamy could challenge him for a roster spot. However, with his impressive training camp performance, Freeman has made it so that won’t be the case and he will be Denver’s No.3 running back behind Lindsay and Gordon.
Will 2020 finally be Jake Butt’s year?
Noah Fant is the unquestioned starter in Denver’s tight end room, but there has been some flux behind him on the Broncos offensive depth chart for 2020.
Albert Okwuegbunam has been one of the stars of training camp, and as a result, should see the field a lot more, especially in the red zone. Throughout the Broncos’ practices, he’s consistently been one of the toughest players to defend around the endzone, and he has the potential to form a tandem reminiscent of the Patriots’ tight end pairing from the start of last decade, with Fant. Meanwhile, Nick Vannett has played as advertised so far during the Broncos training camp and has arguably been the team’s best blocking tight end, which should be his primary role this season.
That leaves just one tight end spot available on the roster, which should go to Jake Butt. Despite being a longshot at the start of camp, Butt has outperformed the competition in almost every facet of the game, making him the new favorite for the No.4 tight end role. Andrew Beck is the last remaining competition because of his ability as a fullback, but because offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur rarely utilizes a fullback, that might not be enough to save Beck’s roster spot.
Who is lining up at WR next to Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy on the Broncos offensive depth chart for 2020?
Sutton and Jeudy entered camp as the Broncos top two wide receivers, and that decision has proven to be the right call by their impressive training camp showings. However, the competition behind them is very much still up in the air.
The battle to be Denver’s third wide receiver was initially between K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, and DaeSean Hamilton. Unfortunately, Hamler’s hamstring injury took him out of the running and likely landed him fifth on the Broncos depth chart, at least for the start of the season. Patrick and Hamilton have both played well at camp to make their competition close. With that said, because Jeudy has been more comfortable in the slot and Patrick is primarily a perimeter receiver, while Hamilton is primarily a slot receiver, it would make more sense for Patrick to get the No.3 receiver job.
The last two Broncos with a good chance of making the final roster are Tyrie Cleveland and Diontae Spencer. Cleveland has been one of training camp’s most pleasant surprises and looks like he could be an upgrade on Patrick in the future while making an immediate impact on special teams in the present. It’s hard to see how Spencer would fit into the offense, but he should make the roster purely based on his exceptional ability as a returner.
Will Demar Dotson or Elijah Wilkinson start at tackle?
Ja’Wuan James’ decision to opt-out of the 2020 season removed Garett Bolles competition at left tackle, and instead shifted the focus to the right tackle battle between Elijah Wilkinson and Demar Dotson. While Dotson is the more proven of the two, he’s at the tail-end of his career, and it would be surprising at this point if he stole Wilkinson’s starting job before Week 1.
Instead, he and Jake Rodgers should serve as the team’s insurance plan at tackle behind Bolles and Wilkinson. Last year, the Broncos had no one to turn to when Wilkinson and Bolles struggled, but in 2020, they should have alternatives to turn to if they desire to do so.
Could Netane Muti see the field as a rookie?
The starting guard positions are solidified as much as any position on the Broncos offensive depth chart for 2020 with Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow. Risner was arguably Denver’s best offensive lineman last year, and he’ll look to build on that with another season under offensive line wizard Mike Munchak.
Behind Risner and Glasgow, watch for the Broncos to hold on to Netane Muti and Austin Schlottman for depth. Muti was the Broncos’ sixth-round pick this year, and while he’s incredibly raw, his upside is tremendous. He shouldn’t see the field in 2020 unless the injury bug continues to bite the franchise, but he could be an elite starter before too long. Schlottman makes sense as the other backup guard because he already has starting experience there, and he’s been Lloyd Cushenberry III’s stiffest competition at center.
Will Lloyd Cushenberry III win the competition for the starting center job on the 2020 Broncos offensive depth chart?
To ease him into the starting role, the Broncos have brought Cushenberry along slowly, initially running him with the third-team offense in camp. He’s played fantastic at camp though and quickly climbed his way up the depth chart to capture the starting center job.
As of now, he’s still in competition with Schlottman for the starting job, but it’s easy to see which way that battle is headed.