The only people who really care about the final preseason game of the summer are coaches, players on the bubble and rookies like Paxton Lynch.
And while Lynch secured his roster spot on the draft night, a handful of other players tried to do just that during Thursday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
With Trevor Siemian named the starter, the quarterback question has been answered, but there were quite a few question marks left on the roster. Let’s divide it up by position to make it easier.
Assuming Taurean Nixon and Lorenzo Doss make the roster is a safe bet. A less safe bet is John Tidwell. He made a great goal-line stand with Zaire Anderson early in the first half, but negated the brilliance by getting smoked for a touchdown on the next play.
It may seem harsh that one bad play can make or break his spot on the team, but the NFL is a harsh world. Tidwell’s dreams of playing for the reigning Super Bowl champs may be over.
Henry Melton, Denver’s most recent pickup in the offseason, went down with an apparent knee injury and is questionable to return. Denver can’t seem to keep their linemen healthy — offensively or defensively — so Melton’s audition was less about performance and more about staying on his feet.
His future with the team depends heavily upon what kind of injury he sustained, and what the recovery process may be.
The tight ends stayed pretty quiet during this preseason game in terms of production. John Phillips had one reception for 20 yards.
So far, Lynch doesn’t seem to target tight ends often, but Siemian does.
Jeff Heuerman and Virgil Green have established themselves as the main tight end tandem, but if the final roster cut was based on tonight alone, Phillips would take the third slot.
The running back competition might be the most difficult to decipher and the most awkward to talk about. Ronnie Hillman was Denver’s leading rusher last season. This summer he has battled for a roster spot with Devontae Booker and now with Kapri Bibbs.
Booker is secure in his position, but Bibbs, Hillman and Juwan Thompson are in limbo. Bibbs and Thompson are better on special teams, while Hillman has bursts of irreplaceable explosiveness on the field.
Bibbs received the most looks Thursday night, closing it down with 10 carries for 51 yards. Lynch himself nearly rushed more than the other two combined, if that tells you anything.
But honestly, this competition is contingent on what head coach Gary Kubiak thinks is most valuable to this team right now. It’s like predicting the weather in Colorado: It’s fun to try, but you’re probably wrong.
The most fun competition of the night by far was for wide receiver. Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor started off the night with a bang and a 57-yard touchdown. He and Lynch connected three more times, and the second-year player out of Rice University ended the night with 109 yards.
The athleticism, the sure-hands and the ability to make plays on special teams should earn Taylor a roster spot, for sure.
The other shining star on the field belonged to Mose Frazier, Lynch’s teammate at Memphis. He had 6 catches for 79 yards, and the connection between he and Lynch was evident. The problem is, he doesn’t have that same chemistry with Siemian, and that’s who we’ll be seeing under center from now on.
Siemian and Taylor? Practice squad buddies last year; the connection is there.
Last week, Kubiak said making roster cuts wasn’t difficult, it was “miserable.” After the exemplary performances from all those roster-bubble guys, his job just got a lot harder.