ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Last year, 37 players who made the 53-man roster at the deadline did not play in the preseason finale. This year, the number of players who sit out could be smaller; Head Coach Vance Joseph suggested Monday that it could be "25 to 27."
Still, the Broncos team that takes the field Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals will look unlike any other that the team fields for any game this year.
That isn't a bad thing, because this week is also unlike all others. With the cut to 53 looming on Saturday at 2 p.m. MDT, Joseph, President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway and the coaching and personnel staff have to finish putting together the roster for the regular season immediately after the scoreboard clock flashes three zeroes.
What are some Broncos goals for Thursday's game?
- Get a long look at Kyle Sloter**
Before the Broncos decide whether to bring in another quarterback from outside to back up Trevor Siemian in Week 1, they want to see the rookie passer on hand first. With Paxton Lynch out because of a right shoulder injury, Joseph plans to play Sloter from start to finish.
"Kyle needs to be Kyle," Joseph said. "Be solid, be good with the football, operate the offense and do what he's done the last three weeks."
Joseph said Monday and Tuesday that the Broncos would look at every possible option. But first, they'll watch the undrafted rookie closely to see if he might fit the bill.
- Settle the back end of the roster ...**
... Because one game, even the final game of the preseason, can be a deciding factor in boosting a player onto the 53-man roster or the practice squad.
"Absolutely, one game can make a difference for the young guys," Joseph said. "We have a lot of battles that are really, really close. If a guy makes a great play, that can turn a coach. That can turn John [Elway]. Obviously, a guy making plays for [Special Teams Coordinator] Brock [Olivo], that could definitely turn myself or John.
"This game is going to be big for the young guys. Obviously for the roster, but also for the 10-man practice squad. That's a big deal for these young guys."
- Test the versatility of offensive linemen**
That starts with Ty Sambrailo, who is expected to receive some repetitions at center after working throughout training camp at left tackle and right tackle.
"We're going to try that with him," Joseph said. "Again, our backup four or five linemen, we want those guys to have flexibility in positions. Him playing center obviously helps him."
This isn't simply about choosing the players for the 53-man roster, but about determining which backup linemen will be among the 46 players active for Week 1. Teams typically activate only seven or eight offensive linemen, even if more are on the 53-man roster, making versatility essential for reserve linemen. The more you can do, the better.