Jobs will be on the line Thursday night when the Denver Broncos face the Arizona Cardinals in the team’s fourth and final preseason game. While the vast majority of the starters will be resting, the fourth preseason game will be crucial for a variety of players trying to make the 53-man roster.
Of the players most notably on the roster bubble, none stand out more than quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Broncos traded up to select Lynch in the first round just two seasons ago, but the former Memphis quarterback has failed to progress since then.
Assuming that the team does not bring in another veteran, Chad Kelly essentially has the No. 2 spot locked up at this point. So if Lynch has any chance of making this team, it will be as the third-string QB. Through the first three exhibitions, Lynch has failed to make much of an impact with any of the units he has led. It is safe to say his future in Denver is very much in jeopardy moving forward.
Along with determining the final pecking order at quarterback, the Broncos will have to determine which running backs to keep on the 53-man roster. Devontae Booker, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman are all but guaranteed to make the team, but the future of De’Angelo Henderson and David Williams are still up in the air.
At the wide receiver position, Isaiah McKenzie should certainly be worried about his future. Tim Patrick is a better option in the passing game and both Lindsay and Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones are viable options as punt returners, so that hurts his cause from a special teams standpoint as well. There may not be anything McKenzie can do to save his roster spot at this point, but a big performance against the Cardinals would obviously not hurt his case.
Flipping things over to the defense, cornerback Brendan Langley was also put on notice after Jones’ acquisition. Langley has struggled to stand out this summer and will likely not make the 53-man roster as a result.
Regardless of whether Langley has a future in Denver or not, he and every other player on the field Thursday night are also auditioning for roster spots with the other 31 teams in the league.
Along with Langley, cornerback C.J. Smith will be fighting for a spot in the Denver secondary. Smith has made some plays this preseason, but it seems unlikely that he will make the final roster over players like Tramaine Brock or Isaac Yiadom.
Wrapping things up in the secondary, Su’a Cravens will be making his debut with the Broncos Thursday. The former Washington defensive back has had an odd career, but he definitely has the ability to be an impact player when healthy and in the right mindset. It will be interesting to see how many snaps Cravens plays against the Cardinals in his debut and what kind of impact he has on the game.
The NFL preseason is always quirky, but more than anything the team will just be looking to leave Phoenix with a healthy roster. The Broncos have lost a few players to injury, but the team has been able to keep most of its major contributors healthy. No matter who the player is, nobody wants to see them go down while playing snaps that do not really count.
The Broncos and Cardinals will kick off at 8:00 p.m. MT. The game will be televised on KTVD 20 and the NFL Network.