ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --On Friday, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway addressed a number of the team's decisions as the roster was trimmed down to 53 players.
Below are his thoughts on a handful of topics.
CARTER EARNS HIS ROLE
Cornerback Tony Carter, a fourth-year player who finished the preseason with a secondary-leading 10 tackles, was rewarded for his play with a spot on the 53-man roster. Carter beat out veteran Drayton Florence for the job as the fourth cornerback behind Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter and Chris Harris.
"He played better," Elway said. "I think that's the bottom line is it comes down to the competition and you look at what happened and (we) just felt that Tony at this point in time was a guy that was a better football player."
Elway noted that rookie Omar Bolden is the fifth cornerback.
VETERAN LEONHARD MAKES ROSTER
Coming off a knee injury last season, safety Jim Leonhard, a veteran with 309 career tackles, showed enough in one preseason appearance against the Cardinals to prove that he's still healthy enough for the job. An added bonus is Leonhard's background returning punts.
"It was good to see Jim out there," Elway said. "He was everything we expected him to be – very smart and in the right spots. I think he's going to perform very well in this defense and what he can do, because of his smarts. Plus, his leadership back there. Obviously with Omar's (touchdown) and (Leonhard's 17-yard punt) return last night, that was a big boost to us."
MORENO EMERGES IN BACKFIELD
One of the Broncos' most crowded positions prior to Friday's deadline was at running back. Knowshon Moreno rebounded from a torn ACL a year ago with a solid preseason capped off by his 49 yards rushing against the Cardinals in the finale. Moreno, the team's second-leading rusher during the preseason, beat out Jeremiah Johnson for a spot in the backfield.
"Knowshon had a great camp," Elway said. "We had to start him slow because of that knee surgery in the offseason. Jeremiah played well, too. When you look at the full package, we were excited about where Knowshon was, and how he ran the ball and continued to get better throughout camp. He's carrying more weight, and he's come back strong. He's a first- and second-down guy, as well as a third-down guy."
THOMAS EARNS TIGHT END SPOT
Thomas, a second-year player drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, will compete with Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen for playing time at tight end. Elway said the main thing holding Thomas back last season – his health – is looking like less and less of an issue every day.
"He's finally getting healthy," Elway said. "He's finally starting to get back up to speed physically. We think that now that he's physically healthy, he'll be able to get better and help us on the offensive side."
ELWAY PLEASED WITH DEFENSIVE LINE
One of the bright spots of the Broncos' entire preseason was consistently solid play from the defense, which forced at least one turnover in three of the four preseason games. Elway said a defensive line bolstered by the return to health of tackles Kevin Vickerson and Ty Warren played a big part in the unit's success.
"We've had some success with it, and I think we're better inside," Elway said. "Ty Warren's back healthy, and (he) got better each week. (Defensive tackle Justin) Bannan's experienced, and he'll do a good job holding the point. I think we're better inside with some depth there. Kevin Vickerson's had a good camp, and (defensive tackle) Mitch Unrein's done a good job in there too. (We're) keeping eight defensive linemen, and (we'll) move some people down, with (Derek) Wolfe at the defensive end, and (Malik) Jackson backing him up at the left defensive end, and (Robert) Ayers and (Elvis) Dumervil at right defensive end. We feel like we've solidified that defensive line, which should help us against the running game."