On Thursday, the Denver Broncos will be in Dallas to play the Cowboys in their first 2011 preseason game. To no surprise, Kyle Orton will be starting quarterback for the Broncos in that game. He was listed as the No. 1 quarterback in the first 2011 preseason depth chart for the Broncos.
The quarterback position follows the depth chart we saw for most of the 2010 season. Orton is at the top, Tim Tebow follows as the backup quarterback and Brady Quinn is third. Undrafted rookie Adam Weber is fourth on the depth chart and is more likely to be on the practice squad than on Opening Day roster.
At this point, the entire depth chart can be considered fluid, but it will take a lot out of Tebow to overcome Kyle Orton over the course of the preseason. The tougher challenge for Tebow may be to halt Brady Quinn's challenge for the No. 2 spot. With the NFL dropping the third quarterback rule, there's always the possibility that the Broncos could keep three quarterbacks active during the season, but we're far away from a decision on that point.
The offense is shaping up as on this first depth chart. Knowshon Moreno is first and Willis McGahee is second, as expected. Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal are the starting wide receivers while Matthew Willis and Eric Decker are the respective backups. David Anderson, signed last weekend, is behind Decker on the depth chart for now, but he's likely to help in the receivers 4-6 range.
Rookie Orlando Franklin is entrenched as the starter at right tackle right now, but Ryan Clady anchors the line on the left side. Second-year players Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton are still the starters at left guard and center, respectively, but will need to prove they can be strong players for an entire season.
At tight end, Daniel Fells, signed as a free agent, sits atop the depth chart over Richard Quinn and Dan Gronkowski. The latter two could be displaced by Dante Rosario and rookies Julius Thomas and Virgil Green by the end of training camp.
The defense has been fairly easy to project and most predictions have been spot on. Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers are the starting defensive ends and Kevin Vickerson is one of the starters at defensive tackle. Brodrick Bunkley, acquired through a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, is starting their right now. Maybe a mild surprise is that Ty Warren, picked up after the New England Patriots released him, is a second-teamer behind Bunkley. Jeremy Jarmon and Derrick Harvey, picked up via a trade and through free agency, are the backup defensive ends.
The starting linebackers are Von Miller on the strong side, D.J. Williams on the weak side and Joe Mays in the middle. Rookie middle linebacker Nate Irving is third on the depth chart behind Mario Haggan, who is strictly a linebacker this season. Deron Mayo, undrafted rookie and younger brother of the Patriots' Jerod Mayo, is fourth on the weak side.
Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are the starting corners. Perrish Cox, in legal trouble over an alleged sexual assault incident, is third on the depth chart behind Cassius Vaughn. Brian Dawkins mans the strong safety spot while rookie Rahim Moore is the starter at free safety. Fellow rookie safety Quinton Carter is third right now, but he did receive first-team reps while Dawkins sat out to rework his contract.
All in all, a fairly reasonable first depth chart. Nothing controversial to be found here, but there will be changes after Thursday's game with the Cowboys.