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Final Impression

Posted Sep 2, 2011

Thursday's preseason game at Arizona was the last opportunity for players to showcase their skills before roster cuts this weekend.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- "This is it. You show up or you're gone."

That was the mentality of safety Quinton Carter and the rest of the roster playing in the fourth and final preseason game.

Head Coach John Fox rested his starters Thursday in preparation for the team's first regular season game, typical for the final exhibition.

Kyle Orton, Brian Dawkins and company only saw the field during warmups, which meant that the game against the Arizona Cardinals gave players further down the depth chart time to prove themselves on the field. The Broncos need to trim the roster from 80 players to the regular-season 53 by Saturday, so the coaching staff gave players on the cusp one last opportunity to show their skills.

"You never feel comfortable having to fire 27 people, but I think we got a good evaluation, and hopefully we choose wisely," Fox said.

One of the players who stood out Thursday was first-year receiver Eron Riley. Riley, who finished with three receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown, was responsible for the Broncos' two biggest plays Thursday.

The first play gave the Broncos their first points of the game. As Denver started a drive on its own 6-yard line with 4:33 left in the game down 26-0, Riley noticed that the Cardinals were playing him in man-to-man converge. As the drive quickly progressed, he and Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert decided to exploit it. One play after Tebow found Riley for a crucial 12-yard gain on third down to move the chains, Tebow dropped back from Arizona's 43-yard line and lofted a deep ball to Riley. Riley, who had blown by his man, caught it in stride as he ran into the end zone for the touchdown.

"I felt like me personally, nobody's going to stop me one-on-one," Riley said. "So when they called the play, Tim was like, 'Go run, go get the ball, I'll get it there for you.' I was like, 'Cool, you get it there, I'll make the play.' He threw it and I made the play."

The next drive, Riley turned a short pass into the Broncos' longest gain of the preseason. Rookie quarterback Adam Weber threw the ball to Riley on the left side, and after stopping to make a player miss, Riley had acres of open space. He ran 89 yards down the field before he was finally pushed out at the 4-yard line.

"I was able to make a play with it, roll out, kind of show off a little speed, but unfortunately I ran out of juice around the 10-yard line," Riley said.

Nevertheless, the receiver hopes that he showed the coaching staff enough to keep him around for the season. But he said that even if he doesn't make the cut, he gave everything he had.

"If I don't have any regrets about what I'm doing -- I feel comfortable," Riley said. "All camp, I feel comfortable I've been putting forth 100 percent effort and making plays when called upon. I left it all on the field, so whatever the guys upstairs decide they want to do tomorrow, I won't feel bad about it."

On the defensive side of the ball, safeties Darcel McBath and Quinton Carter made their imprint on the game. McBath had a diving interception, which he returned for 33 yards, and Carter led the team with 8 tackles, including a few for a loss.

Carter said that he and his teammates came out with the mentality to play every play as if it was their last play for the Broncos.

"In the back end, myself and (whichever) safety (was) next to me, every play we gave it all we had and approached it like it was our last play," Carter said. "I think I carried it pretty well, just executing the calls and when the ball was in front of me, just taking advantage of the opportunity and making a play."

Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, who didn't play, said he was impressed with the effort of not only McBath, Carter and Riley, but all the players who are vying to make the team.

"Effort's never the thing with the young guys, they always put forth the effort," Bailey said. "Guys like Darcel McBath, he had a good game tonight. There's a few others I can name. I'm sure (the coaches) are going to watch this tape and try to figure out how we're going to pick 53 (players), because it's going to be hard."