Jamaal Charles will finally get his chance Saturday to prove he can be a healthy and productive member of the Denver Broncos.

Coming off back-to-back seasons cut short by injury, Charles knew coming into training camp that a roster spot with the Denver Broncos was no guarantee.

“I just want to come in and compete,” Charles said during his introductory conference call, and then again during minicamp.

Head coach Vance Joseph and the coaching staff have been cautious through camp and the first two preseason games, easing the four-time Pro Bowler back into action as he tests his surgically repaired right knee.

Make no mistake, Charles is ready to get out there and show that he’s still capable of being the 5-plus yards-per-carry back that he was over the first seven years of his career.

“I’m out here and whenever they throw me in the fire, I’ll be ready,” Charles said on Aug. 12.

Barring any setbacks this week, he’ll get his chance on the 26th against the Packers.

But as the coaching staff has eased Charles back into action, the backs around him have elevated their game, raising the bar for what Charles may need to do come Saturday to ensure his spot on the roster.

Last year the Broncos kept four running backs, including fullback Andy Janovich. It’s possible, albeit unlikely, they keep as many as five (with Janovich) this year because of injury concerns throughout the group.

C.J. Anderson is a lock as Denver’s feature back. On 12 attempts through two preseason games, Anderson is averaging 3.8 yards per carry with a touchdown. The coaching staff is being cautious with Anderson as well, as he is also coming off a meniscus injury.

Rookie De’Angelo Henderson continued to impress on Saturday and effectively guaranteed his spot. The Coastal Carolina product had 30 yards on six carries and 10 yards on two pass receptions. He also had a touchdown reception called back for holding. All that, coupled with his 41-yard TD run against the Bears in the preseason opener, made it impossible for the Broncos to hide him on the practice squad this season. Besides, he’s clearly earned a spot.

That leaves just one, maybe two, spots available for Charles, Bernard Pierce, Stevan Ridley and Juwan Thompson.

Second-year back Devontae Booker, last season’s leading rusher, is healing from a broken wrist and will not play during the preseason. He can be stashed on the PUP list, as he didn’t participate in any preseason practices, but that means he would not be available for the first six weeks. Vance Joseph thinks he could be back as early as Week 1 or 2, which further complicates things.

“You know, we’ve got four or five backs that we feel good about. You know, Booker should be back in Week 1 or 2, so it’s a good group,” Joseph said.

Ridley took the greatest share of handoffs in the 33-14 victory over San Francisco on Saturday, rushing for a team-high 40 yards on 14 carries. He added seven yards on three targets in the passing game, as well. He’s averaging 2.6 yards per carry on 22 attempts through two preseason games. It initially appeared that Ridley was nothing more than a camp body, but he’s been surprising enough to give a second thought about a place on the roster.

Thompson had the Broncos’ other rushing touchdown Saturday night, busting loose for a 20-yard score. His four other rushing attempts this preseason have produced nine additional yards. Last season Thompson contributed on nearly 23 percent of special teams snaps, increasing his overall value.

Pierce is the obvious casualty, as he’s been held out of most practices and unable to participate in any preseason games.

Note: Pierce was waived a few hours after this post went live. The Broncos waived Pierce after claiming RB Stanley Williams from Cincinnati off waivers.

That still leaves a big hill for Charles to climb in the third preseason game.

The Broncos will be executing a full game plan during the first half, which means we’ll see plenty of Anderson and Henderson. Charles is the logical choice to take any remaining “full game plan” snaps behind those two, and he should see the lion’s share of touches in the second half.

Ridley took 14 handoffs and had three targets in the passing game against San Francisco. Charles should have a similar workload against the Packers to show what he has left in the tank.

Realistically, he needs to be demonstrably better than Ridley or hope that there are enough question marks about the group’s overall health for Joseph to expand his running back corps. The fact that Ridley plays special teams and Charles does not also makes things more difficult for the former Chief.

“There’s no question I can still play; I know I can still play,” Charles said during training camp. “The only thing right now is knowing the playbook and controlling what I can control. One day at a time.”

His biggest one day is coming Saturday.