The Denver Broncos wrap up the 2014 preseason tonight when they play the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. The only time Peyton Manning and the rest of the starters will see the field is during pregame warm-ups. After that, they will grab a hat and begin thinking about the regular season opener versus the Indianapolis Colts.
Tonight’s game is about the young players trying to make one last impression, and veterans trying to hang onto a job. The fourth preseason game is meaningless and boring unless you are one of those players fighting for a job, then it’s as big as a playoff game.
Here’s a look a few positions and players to keep an eye on tonight:
- Offensive line: The second team offensive line did not play well last week and the coaches will be looking for improvement. At some point this season, one or two of those second team guys are going to be asked to play and they need to be ready. The offensive line is also one of the areas where cuts are going to be difficult, so tonight is very important for a lot of those players. Names to keep an eye on include: Will Montgomery, Michael Schofield, Matt Paradis, Ben Garland and others. The Broncos need one or two of these players to show well tonight.
- Defensive line: The competition here is for one, maybe two spots. The Broncos are as deep as they’ve ever been on the defensive line and they are going to have to cut some players that other teams will be lining up to sign.
- Secondary: Cornerback Tony Carter and safety Duke Ihenacho were key contributors to last year’s team, but both are firmly on the bubble tonight. The question for Carter is do the Broncos go with a veteran backup as opposed to an unproven rookie like Jordan Sullen. Ihenacho is probably a little safer than Carter going into tonight but it would help his cause if he made a play or two tonight.
- Brock Osweiler: He’s on this list every week for good reason. Barring an injury or garbage time in the regular season, tonight will be the last action Osweiler sees until next August. He played well versus the San Francisco 49ers but took a step back versus the Houston Texans. The Cowboys defense is terrible; Osweiler needs to play well tonight.
- Receiver: There might be one spot open for a receiver, especially if they can also return kicks. The favorite going into tonight is Isaiah Burse and if he plays well, then he should lock up that spot. Keep an eye on punt returns and how Burse does, that will tell the tale.
- Kicker: This might be the biggest story tonight! With the news of the Matt Prater suspension, the Broncos need to find a reliable kicker for the first month of the season. Earlier this week, they traded a conditional seventh round pick for rookie Brandon McManus from the New York Giants. McManus has a very good camp with the Giants and will get the first shot at replacing Prater. If he kicks well tonight and makes a long field goal or two, then the Broncos have their guy. If he struggles, then look for the Broncos to bring in a veteran next week. This much is true, the kicker on opening night will not be Mitch Ewald.
- Surprise: Is there a player that has such a great game tonight, that the Broncos have to make room for him on the roster? It’s doubtful given how talented and deep the Broncos are, but it can happen.
The Broncos have to be down to the 53 man roster by Saturday afternoon, meaning 22 players who take the field tonight will be out of a job in less than 48 hours. Tonight’s game may not mean much to you, but it means the world to those 22 players.