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Mason's Mailbag: A look at the Broncos' special teams

Why did the Broncos sign a kicker to compete with Brandon McManus, but did not add a punter to push Colby Wadman?

-- Bill Davis

First of all, just because there isn't another punter doesn't mean that Wadman is not in a competitive situation. Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon noted at minicamp that he is "watching every single guy" who is in camp with any team, noting that Wadman's competition is among the punters with other clubs who don't make it.

Wadman is also younger than McManus and is at the point where extra repetitions can help his development. When Wadman worked during OTAs, placement punting was a priority. McMahon placed a particular emphasis on punts down the right side of the field.

"I challenged him with his right ball -- we call it a 'rip,' punting to his right," McMahon said. "That's hard for a righty, because as you guys know, in baseball, most righties pull to left field. So you'll see a lot of righties hit the ball down the middle when they miss, and his misses right now are few and far between, whereas last year, he pulled the ball a lot to the other field, and it would really hurt us in terms of our coverage."

Last season, Denver seemed bullish on Sam Jones. Where do you see him fitting in, and do you see a swing tackle?

-- Emmett Smith

The swing-tackle capability is there based on his resume, but based on his work to this point, that possibility seems to be a little ways off, as his work was at guard throughout the offseason.

That said, I'd like to see what happens with him in training camp. It is possible he could follow a path similar to the one taken by Connor McGovern (although McGovern received first-team repetitions throughout OTAs and training camp of his second season, since then-center Matt Paradis was recovering from two hip surgeries).

One factor in his favor is the fact that he does have the potential to be used at tackle in a pinch. Versatility could be a separating factor in determining the composition of backups on the 53-man roster. (This also helps Elijah Wilkinson, who started at right guard last year but has a background as a tackle.) Jones also has practice-squad eligibility, so that could be an option if the Broncos waive him at the cut to 53 players and passes through waivers.

Are there any favored undrafted free agents to make the team?

-- Kaleb Mora

You always start with the players who have the clearest path to a potential roster spot based on how the depth chart looks. At this point, I would place inside linebacker Joe Dineen and outside linebacker Malik Reed atop this list. Both looked like they belonged during OTAs, and while Reed went over the top at one moment when he collided with Drew Lock, his explosiveness off the edge was evident.

Wide receivers Trinity Benson and Kelvin McKnight also have a path to the roster through special teams, but establishing clarity there will take much longer. Their chances should crystallize when preseason games begin.

Austin Fort was a reliable pass-catcher during OTAs and minicamp. But with Troy Fumagalli, Jeff Heuerman and Noah Fant all playing well in the last month and Jake Butt working his way back from a torn ACL, the road to grab a 53-man roster spot appears rugged. A practice-squad place would not be out of the question.

What are your thoughts on UDFA Kelvin McKnight? Does he really compare to Tyreek Hill, and would the Broncos utilize him like Andy Reid might in our new offense landscape?

-- Jerry Hollon

McKnight is an intriguing prospect, but with how the receiver position looks to shake out, it's all about special teams for him. It's a wide-open competition that, as I noted in the previous answer, will remain muddled until preseason games.

"We've got a bunch of guys out here that are playing real hard. It's really going to solidify itself come about the preseason, game three," McMahon said. "The young guys, in their defense -- and I know I've said it before -- but college players don't catch 5.0[-second] hang times [on punts]. Every single punt they see is brand new to them right now. But we get into that second and third week of the preseason, there'll be some separation that will come. But right now there is none."

As for the Tyreek Hill comparison, no. It's unfair to McKnight or almost any player to compare him to Hill (only regarding terms of on-field skill set), given Hill's 4.25-second speed, fluidity and agility.

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