ENGLEWOOD, Colo.- So many times, the fourth game of the preseason is written off, deemed irrelevant and unimportant because the starters will be the ones on the sideline.
But, for players like Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert, it's the most significant game of their season.
While Osweiler, who is expected to start on Thursday, has utilized his time on the field during the Broncos' first three preseason matchups, Dysert's game opportunities have been limited. When he did finally take the field in the middle of the third quarter during the Broncos' San Francisco win, he took full advantage of it.
"It was awesome to just get back there in the San Francisco game," Dysert said. "It's been a year pretty much so to get out there with the guys and to just play and have fun, it was a great time."
He went 8-of-11 for 63 yards and a touchdown. While the numbers he posted that day were impressive, he is looking at Thursday as a chance to repeat his performance during the Broncos' 2013 preseason finale, where he finished 9-of-20 for 163 yards and found Gerell Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown.
As more teams are shifting to keeping two quarterbacks rather than three, Dysert realizes that Thursday is key for him in impressing the coaches and he wants to "give them a reason" to keep him on the final roster.
After playing in 46 games and starting 43 of those at Miami (Ohio) University, coming to Denver in 2013 and watching games from the sideline is often frustrating for Dysert.
But, he realizes the importance of constantly improving and he tries to be a sponge -- soaking in what Quarterbacks Coach Greg Knapp, Peyton Manning and Osweiler have shown him.
"Obviously you want to be the guy out there, but then at the same time you understand that it's better for the team and you need to do what you need to do to get better," Dysert said. "It's kind of a motivator too, because you obviously you know what you need to work on to get better and be that guy. It gives you a little extra motivation to work harder."
Osweiler said Thursday's matchup against the Texans is a "huge game for everybody." Dysert acknowledges that he will "get some butterflies" right before he runs out of the tunnel, but once his first play is complete, the nerves will disappear.
"When you're not playing in the game I guess as a starter, all the second-, third-, fourth-string guys, we all have something to prove," Osweiler said. "I think everybody's trying to prove something different but we all have something in the end that we would like to show. It's a big game for everybody."
During his first two NFL regular seasons, Osweiler has completed 13-of-20 attempts for 107 yards. The preseason is Osweiler's time to prove to the Broncos that they drafted him for a reason. So far this preseason, he is 20-of-36 for 233 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Osweiler, whose last start was last season's preseason finale against the Cardinals, said there is a vast difference between starting and entering the game later.
"When you're coming in later in the game you don't necessarily know when you're actually going to go in so you go through the week of practice, then you travel, then you do pregame warm ups and then you just kind of hit the bench and you get cold and you don't really know when you're going in, whereas when you're the starter you can kind of ride the energy of the pregame and things like that," Osweiler said.
Especially during the Broncos' shutout victory over the 49ers, the 6-foot-8 Arizona State product proved that he has taken significant strides since last preseason. He calls the difference between how he feels going into this game versus the Arizona game last year "night and day."
Osweiler may be leading the Broncos' offense in the future and these limited opportunities he gets to show his progress in the preseason are critical checkpoints for him and his coaches.
"I thought we did some great things against the Cardinals," Osweiler said. "However, I'm expecting even bigger things this Thursday night down in Dallas and now we just have to go out there and play the game and make plays."