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Competition Benefits Broncos

Posted May 18, 2013

Depth on the roster will lead to tough competition at the wide receiver and middle linebacker positions.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – After the 2013 Draft and free-agency period the Broncos’ roster stands at 88 players.

By the time Denver’s season opener against Baltimore comes around, that number will have to be cut down to 53.

“The deeper we are at each spot, the better that competition is going to be,” Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. “Our personnel department, and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) John Elway, they do such a great job of bringing in guys that compete for each spot. The deeper we get into camp, the more interesting it’s going to be.”

Gase’s eyes will be drawn toward his wide receiver group as the competition is expected to be fierce for the No. 4 and No. 5 wideout slots on the depth chart.

After the team’s three receivers that posted 1,000 yards a year ago – Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker – there are eight players fighting for what figure to be two more openings on the 53-man roster.

Third-year player Trindon Holliday set records as a returner last year, but caught just two passes for 17 yards on offense.

Andre Caldwell caught one pass for 18 yards for Denver last year, but has 125 career receptions for 1,190 yards. Greg Orton spent the 2012 season on the Broncos’ practice squad and Gerell Robinson competed in training camp with the club before spending the year on Arizona’s practice squad.

The team drafted Tavarres King out of Georgia in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft and signed college free agents Kemonte Bateman, Quincy McDuffie and Lamaar Thomas.

“We’ve got a good group of undrafted guys,” Gase said of the receiving corps. “Orton and Gerell Robinson, they’re really coming along, and ‘Bubba’ Caldwell, obviously being here last year, to me he’s really stepped up his game and you can see it in our Phase Two workouts. You can tell he’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s got some hunger about him.”

On the other side of the ball, eyes are on the middle linebacker position after last year’s 14-game starter Keith Brooking left the team as a free agent. Joe Mays started four games in 2012 but is still coming back from a season-ending injury that ended his 2012 campaign after six games.

Joining Mays in the mix are Steven Johnson, Nate Irving, who both played backup and special-teams roles for the Broncos last year. The team also signed free agent linebacker Stewart Bradley and added college free agents Damien Holmes, Uona Kaveinga and Lerentee McCray.

“I'm excited to see those two guys (Steven Johnson and Nate Irving) come to work,” Woodyard said. “Even Joe Mays, who knows? Last year, it was open competition at every position, and everybody's going to come to work ready to play. You can't count anybody out, but I'm excited to see Nate finally get a chance at the middle position, and Stevie, he's an undrafted guy like myself, so you can never count a guy out like that.”

The other linebackers on the roster are Danny Trevathan and Shaun Phillips, who are expected to back up Wesley Woodyard at weakside and Von Miller at strongside, respectively.

“There will be some (competition),” Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “We have a number of guys. Joe Mays was our starter last year, who is injured now. So other guys are going to get the first crack at working at it.  

“Nate Irving was drafted here to be a middle linebacker. He’s been a backup; he’s been a special-teams player. He knows our system. He is working hard to get himself in the type of shape he needs to be in and we’ll see if he can take a step forward. Stevie Johnson is a young man who caught our eye last year. He was primarily a special-teams player and a backup player. He knows our system and he’s excited about the opportunity. Stewart Bradley is a veteran guy that has played at a high level in the league at middle linebacker. He’s another guy in the mix. Again, we have a competitive situation there and we’ll let it sort itself out.”