Things to Watch for in Denver Broncos' Season Finale
The Denver Broncos' roster has been whittled down to 75 hopeful football players. Some guys have certainly secured a spot on the final squad, while others are still in a dogfight to make the team.
The final 53-man roster is due on the evening of Friday, August 31, and this final preseason game will be a litmus test to what it might look like.
The Broncos' staff should be happy with what they have seen from their first team guys thus far this preseason. The bottom part of the roster hasn't exactly performed up to par and will get one more chance 24 hours before final cuts to get noticed and earn themselves a final roster spot.
To most fans, this final preseason game is viewed as a waste of time, as most if not all of the starting players won't even take the field. However, front office and coaching staffs around the league will be paying close attention to what transpires as they decide on their final 2012 squad.
Here's a look at some of what Denver's coaching staff will be watching for as the Broncos take on the Cardinals just one day before those final cuts are due.
Running Back Roulette
Last year Denver carried three running backs and one fullback on their roster. What we do know currently is that Willis McGahee and Chris Gronkowski are the starters at running back and fullback, respectively.
What is yet to be determined is who will be joining them this season. It appears that four guys (Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Jeremiah Johnson) will be fighting for two slots on the squad.
The problem is, none of these ball carriers have performed well enough to edge out the others this preseason. All of their yards per carry have been about the same, averaging approximately 2.9. This number is going to have to improve in order to earn a spot running the ball for the Broncos this season.
Tackling their Tackling
While the first team defensive guys were very proficient in their tackling against the 49ers, holding the starters to only 61 total yards in the first quarter, the second and third units didn't hold up on their end.
With injuries so prevalent in today's NFL, the Broncos will undoubtedly be forced to utilize their bench throughout the season. The guys on the bottom half of the roster need to be on point and ready to go.
There needs to be some improvement from these backups in this final preseason audition, or some of them could find themselves out of the NFL next week.
Catch Me if You Can
This preseason there have been more butterfingers than a 10-year-old's trick-or-treat bag, by both Bronco starters and their reserves.
Andre Caldwell was signed to be the slot receiver and has seemed distracted, dropping passes that should have been caught.
There were five balls that hit the ground during the Seattle game that should have been caught by both the receivers and tight ends. Dropped passes have also been prevalent during practices by all levels on the roster.
Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Stokley are secure in their roster spot. Matthew Willis will make the squad primarily for his special teams ability. Other than that it is anyone's guess at who and how many receivers will be in a Broncos uniform next week.
My guess is that the Broncos will keep either Jason Hill or Andre Caldwell. Depending on their individual performances, either Hill or Caldwell could make a strong case for keeping six wideouts on the roster this season.
The Winner of the Peyton Manning Mentorship Will Be....
Earning the backup spot behind Peyton Manning is like landing a paid free ride scholarship to "Become an Elite Quarterback University." That kind of hands-on education is an opportunity of a lifetime for a young quarterback.
Heading into this final preseason game there are still four quarterbacks on Denver's 75-man roster.
With Manning as the signal caller, the Broncos may decide to only retain one other quarterback this season. That would mean that Caleb Hanie, Brock Osweiler and Adam Weber will all be competing for one place on the squad.
The quarterback position is one that will be closely examined on Thursday night in Arizona. All three of these guys have been inconsistent thus far and need some big plays against the Cardinals defense to stand out and solidify their place as a Bronco.
The coaching staff will most likely be breaking down film and deliberating the team's roster cuts on the plane back to Denver Thursday evening.
While most of the decisions have probably already been made, there are guys who can play their way on to that final roster with just one huge sack, tackle, run, block or pass.
Even though fans are eager to get the regular season started and would rather forgo this last week of the preseason, there are guy's careers on the line who would love nothing more than to still be a Bronco on Saturday morning.
Worth watching? I think so.
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