ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos move within a week of the league-mandated roster cutdown day, there are still plenty of players who have a chance to make their case for a spot on the initial 53-man roster.
"There's still some competition in positions that are undecided," Head Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. "I think this week will be important for some of those spots. We'll kind of take it by what we see. There will be a lot of meetings and a lot of discussions with this roster in the next two weeks."
Payton mentioned the offensive line as a position group where there "are a lot of guys who are pushing for those spots, in a good way." He also added that he doesn't view the competition for a roster spot to be isolated to an individual position group. When asked whether he tends to build a roster with five, six or seven wide receivers, he said the conversation is more holistic.
"We don't look at the number, per se, as much as we look at the qualified players to make a roster," Payton said. "You might say, 'Hey, there are 48 total players, and we need to find player 49, 50, 51, [52 and 53].' In other words, I think it's a mistake if you point to a number, fill it and don't pay attention to whether you think it should be filled. In other words, are they good enough to fill that number? I've kind of stayed away from saying, 'The receiver number would be this.' There are some thresholds, certainly, and some minimums. You have to look at it relative to the whole league and if you feel like they can help us win."
At times, Payton may talk one-on-one with the players competing for the final few roster spots.
"Periodically, you might grab someone aside and say, 'Hey, let's go,'" Payton said. "[The conversations] would be on an individual basis."
The Broncos will use the team's entire body of work as an evaluation tool — including practices and preseason games — and will gain more data via a pair of joint practices against the Los Angeles Rams.
"It's really about the fundamentals of practice and getting additional film and evaluation on a number of players that maybe are still right on the bubble," Payton said. "I think these two days give us two really good additional looks at guys that might be in that position."
PRESEASON FINALE PLANS
While some players will look to make a final push for a roster spot, Denver's starters may not see much time in the Broncos' preseason finale.
"We'll see," Payton said of the plan for Saturday's game vs. Los Angeles. "We certainly won't play them, if we do, more than a series. There'll be a number of guys that don't play."
Payton said the Broncos' starters would participate in the joint practices, which would be helpful work for the first-team unit. Following those sessions, Payton said, the team would make its decision for the game.
After recording two tackles in Denver's opening preseason game against the Cardinals, third-round pick Drew Sanders led the Broncos with six tackles against the 49ers.
"Week 1 of the preseason to Week 2 was significant," Payton said of Sanders' progress. "I would say it was that way on defense for him, and it was that way in the kicking game. When I heard the coaches talk [Monday] about snaps, how guys played, the grades and the film I watched, there was a significant difference in how he played. It's [about] getting a feel and understanding of where we are at in the down and what we are doing in the kicking game. I thought he had a good night on Saturday night."
Sanders also added a pass breakup and a special teams tackle.