PHOENIX -- Like many of his teammates battling for traction as they attempt to get a secure grip on a roster spot, second-year running back De'Angelo Henderson has something simple he wants to prove Thursday night when the Broncos conclude their preseason against the Arizona Cardinals.
"That I can play football," he said. "I've got a lot of doubters. A lot of people that don't believe in me. But I believe in myself, and I know that I can play."
It's simple, but it is also the overwhelming storyline for Thursday's game. Rosters will be trimmed from 90 players to 53 fewer than 40 hours after the clock shows three zeroes at University of Phoenix Stadium. The cliches about auditioning for the entire league, not just your current team, are accurate.
The Broncos will play as a team, but for individuals, it is about seizing a job opportunity.
What other storylines are worth watching Thursday night?
Which non-starters will see action?
Joseph noted Monday that "22 guys" are not playing, referring to the starters on offense and defense. Beyond that, the decisions will come later.
Last year, Joseph sat 38 of the 90 players on the roster for the preseason finale at Arizona. That included 22 starters and 10 more healthy scratches who weren't technically starters, but played key reserve roles.
"We've got 12 guys like that," Joseph said, rattling off a list headlined by wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, running back Royce Freeman and defensive linemen Zach Kerr and Shelby Harris.
"Every team is dealing with this. It's a toss-up how much those guys play. You want them to play some, but you don't want to expose them to too many reps to get them nicked."
How will the work be divided at running back?
If Freeman and first-teamer Devontae Booker are both held out of the game, then that would leave the work to Phillip Lindsay, Henderson and Dave Williams. Lindsay could fall into the category of key situational backup, which might leave the workload in the hands of Henderson or Williams.
Henderson has averaged 5.2 yards per touch this preseason; Williams has averaged 5.0. Henderson has the better per-carry average (3.6 to 2.6), but Williams is averaging more yards per reception (13.5 to 8.8).
Both have shown flashes of brilliance in training camp, although it has been tough to find footing in a crowded room, which has forced each of them to find inner motivation.
"[I'm] just staying focused, staying positive," Henderson said. "Shutting out the naysayers, shutting out the criticism and just playing football."
How will Chad Kelly do in his first pro start?
In game-condition work -- the summer scrimmage and three preseason games -- Chad Kelly has delivered, consistently guiding the offense on productive drives from his two touchdown passes in the Aug. 5 scrimmage to three field goals in three series last Friday at Washington.
Kelly has handled his evolving duties well throughout training camp and the preseason. When he moved up to the No. 2 offense, he adjusted within two days and found his form, dicing up Chicago's second-team defense just as he did Minnesota's third team.