ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** For players who don't start atop the depth chart, the final game of the preseason is perhaps the biggest game of the year. The lights are brighter on them as the starters usually take a breather before the regular season begins.
With the last round of cuts to get the roster to 53 players coming shortly after Thursday's game, that's the last time for a player to put an exclamation point on their preseason résumé.
The Broncos will be looking to cement their running back depth after that game, and could be left with difficult decisions to make, with rookies Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs' futures in Denver hanging in the balance.
"I definitely think that this is a great opportunity for me and Juwan," Bibbs said. "We're going to get a lot of snaps on special teams and the offense. It's going to be the most playing time we've gotten this preseason and this is going to be a lot of our film for the Broncos to watch and for all 31 other teams to watch as well. This is a big game."
Thompson understands the importance of this game and knows that he'll have to lay everything he has out there on the field. "Every game you want to give it your all. You want to show them different abilities every time, and show them that they're not making a mistake choosing you. This is another preseason game, but it's a game to showcase my talents."
Bibbs and Thompson have both had promising moments this preseason. Bibbs has totaled 52 yards on 12 carries (4.33 yard per carry average), and Thompson has carried the ball 16 times for 102 yards (6.38 yards per carry) with two catches for 19 yards.
With Thursday's game in mind, both are looking to show a bit more of their repertoires and to add to their records.
"I don't think I've proven myself enough because, me as a football player, I want to be the best at this position," Bibbs said. "I want to work as hard as I can to be the best at this position, I want to work as hard as I can to be the best at this position. Not only for myself to think that I'm the best, but for other people to think that I'm the best as well and to see that out there on the field so that's what I'm striving for right now. Obviously people don't think, 'Kapri Bibbs is the best NFL running back,' but that's what I'm working for and that's what I want to be."
Thompson, too, has his goals. "I just want to continue to make the right corrections and keep growing as a player," he said after practice Tuesday. "At the end of the day, Coach is going to see the differences between each player and I'm just going to try to do my skill set my way and do the things right that he's teaching me."
Many veterans understand the tough position younger guys are in when it comes to waiting on those tough decisions.
"My main message to the young guys is to play all out, because they're the ones who's gonna play most of the time during the game," special teams captain David Bruton said. "I always realize how important the fourth game is, to play well, to put good film out there regardless of your position on the team."
How important can it be? Well, just ask Head Coach John Fox.
"I've seen guys make a showing—or the reverse of that—that affect the final pick," Fox said. "These guys understand that. They understand that every one of these [games] is a résumé. It's on tape and gets sent throughout the league, so even if it doesn't work out with the Broncos due to our situation, it's an opportunity to put a good showing on tape for somebody else.
"These guys have tough jobs—it's a tough way to earn a living. They earn every penny."