ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos are closing in on their roster decisions and coach Vance Joseph offered some insight Thursday into some of what’s to come.
Rosters league-wide must be at 53 players by 4 p.m. EST on Sept. 2.
But the Broncos face some particularly difficult decisions, especially on the offensive side of the ball, with a crowded depth chart in the offensive line as well as at running back and wide receiver. The rub is the Broncos have some injuries in spots and may have to keep an "extra" player at least initially in some of those positions.
Joseph said one of those injured players -- running back Devontae Booker -- will make the roster and not start the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. If Booker were to start the season on PUP, he wouldn’t be eligible to return to the roster for six weeks.
Booker has not practiced during the preseason and will not play in any of the four preseason games after surgery to repair a fractured bone in his wrist, which was discovered when he reported for his physical the day the Broncos opened training camp. However, Joseph said Booker will open the season on the 53-man roster because the Broncos expect him to be ready to play by Week 2 or Week 3.
“Well, Book should be on the roster, so that should not be an issue. He’s a part of the roster," Joseph said after Thursday’s practice. “His injury should not put him out past two weeks, three weeks at most."
C.J. Anderson, Booker and rookie De'Angelo Henderson project to make the roster, as well as fullback Andy Janovich. Joseph consistently has said the Broncos are trying to get running back Jamaal Charles “ready for the regular season," so that would imply Charles would be the fifth running back. Charles, who has played eight games combined in the last two seasons because of multiple knee surgeries, will make his first appearance in a preseason game Saturday against the Green Bay Packers.
At wide receiver, rookie Carlos Henderson had thumb surgery after the preseason opener in Chicago so he likely is headed to injured reserve. Teams can bring two players back from injured reserve during the season, but those players have to be added to the active roster, meaning someone would have to be released to make room.
If Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway sticks to his usual roster breakdown -- 25 players on offense, 25 players on defense to go with kicker Brandon McManus, punter Riley Dixon and long-snapper Casey Kreiter -- then keeping five running backs and six wide receivers could impact how many offensive linemen the team can keep.
It’s possible the Broncos could keep eight or nine offensive linemen. Last season, the Broncos had nine offensive linemen, and all but two -- Russell Okung and James Ferentz -- are on the current roster.
Joseph said versatility will be a key point in the decisions on the linemen.
“That’s very important," Joseph said. “Obviously the first five are your starters, but you want guys in the second five that can play multiple positions, a swing tackle, a big guard who can play some tackle, so that’s definitely critical. That second five has got to have smart guys."