ENGLEWOOD -- Depth charts are road maps to a possible destination. They show avenues to success or reasons for failure.
As the Broncos aim to end their four-year playoff drought and three straight losing seasons, their roster brims with potential. The defense appears elite, especially if the Broncos can play with a lead. And the offense boasts an infusion of young talent that makes the days of 17 points per game seem mercifully over.
The offense required upgrades and, along with quarterback Drew Lock entering his first full season in charge, it will feature two rookie starters. Center Lloyd Cushenberry beat out Austin Schlottmann for the spot, and Jerry Jeudy will open at receiver. He is listed as a co-starter with Tim Patrick, but the Broncos play primarily in three-wide sets, meaning Jeudy will often open the game in the lineup.
My #Denver7 weather report, #Broncos injury report and news on fans returning to home games pic.twitter.com/emN8EStjPC— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) September 8, 2020
Jeudy made a first impression that will last, dominating the Broncos' first training camp practice.
For Cushenberry, it's been quite the dizzying ride, though more under the radar. He was the last member of his class to sign at LSU. He won a national championship with the Tigers, and followed it by winning a job with the Broncos.
No preseason means it's time to tame the butterflies in the belly and buckle up.
"It's more like college. Without a preseason, there's no excuse. Everyone is in the same situation," Cushenberry said Tuesday before practice. "When you get on the field you have a job to do. It's my responsibility to put in the work on the field and get home. There's really no excuse."
Given the way Lock finished strong — he strung together three straight terrific practices and displayed alarming accuracy last Saturday — general manager John Elway believes the arrow is pointing up under new coordinator Pat Shurmur.
“I still have confidence that the offense can score a lot of points. We have a lot of talent on that side. They’ve had a good camp. I like what Pat's doing a lot. They’ve been learning," Elway said. "I think we’re explosive on the offensive side. I think with the youth there might be some inconsistencies with it — that’s always going to be the case."
For the Broncos to win Monday, they must slow Titans star running back Derrick Henry.
Henry wrote a diary of havoc in the playoffs last season. In three games, including the AFC Championship, the former Heisman Trophy winner bulled his way to 446 yards on 83 carries. He delivered 21 first downs.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the Broncos limited Henry to 28 yards on 15 attempts in a shutout win last season, though the Titans improved dramatically after quarterback Ryan Tannehill took over, starting late in the Broncos game.
Part of the concern is that coach Vic Fangio chose not to do live tackling in training camp as a concession to health. Henry represents a heck of a reintroduction.
"You don't simulate that, a guy that big running with that type of power and speed. We just have to be ready for it," Fangio said. "And hopefully we will be."
Added safety Kareem Jackson, whose appetite for hitting is well known, "The key is going to be for us to get multiple guys to the ball. We know what kind of guy he is. But I think their team is totally different than when we played them last year. I think he's a totally different runner in how he finished the year. The key for us is getting multiple hats to the ball."
Fangio said Tuesday that he expects starting right guard Graham Glasgow to play on Monday night. Glasgow sustained a sprained left ankle 10 days ago. Bradley Chubb (left knee) remains on track to play as well after sitting out the past 10 days as well, but Fangio admitted with both it is "a fluid situation." If Chubb goes, he is expected to be on a play count. Per Tuesday's pool report, Chubb and Glasgow were in uniform and participated in the individual periods.
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (hip), WR KJ Hamler (hamstring), and TE Andrew Beck (back) also participated in individual drills. ...
Linebacker Mark Barron worked on the the side with the training staff. Fangio labeled Barron and Hamler as "highly questionable." Hamler appears ahead of Barron in his return to the field. If Barron is unable to play, Joe Jones becomes the backup to new starter Josey Jewell. It is a tough blow since Barron was signed to improve the team's coverage against running backs and tight ends. ...
No decision has been made on the third corner in the nickel package. Davontae Harris, Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey are vying for the spot. There will likely be a rotation initially. Had Ojemudia, a rookie from Iowa, not suffered a quad injury that cost him a week of practice, I believe he would have won the job. ...
Running backs Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon are listed as co-No. 1s on the depth chart. ...
The Broncos practiced inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse Tuesday because of the poor weather.
SuperBookSports lists the Broncos-Titans as a pick'em game with an over-under of 41 points, second lowest of the week.