ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The urgency of Thursday night's preseason finale against Arizona is hard to overstate.
Throughout training camp and the first three weeks of the preseason, each of the 75 players in the Broncos' locker room has fought to make the team's 53-man roster, which will be decided by Friday evening.
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio knows from experience that what happens Thursday against the Cardinals will go a long way in deciding who makes the final roster.
"Every year, somebody comes out of a spot, maybe, where they're not likely to make it into a 'made it,'" Del Rio said. "Every year, every team I've ever been on. You look for somebody on special teams, on defense, on offense, to stand up, make plays and maybe push it across at the finish line to earn a spot on this team. If not on the team, then on the practice squad. It's an important time to finish."
Not every single roster spot is up for grabs -- several players' positions have long since been determined. But for a number of others, the trip to Arizona represents the final chance to carve out a definite role.
"It's going to be based on players' performances," Head Coach John Fox said. "We'll evaluate it just like we have the first three (preseason games,) and we'll make those decisions come Friday. Rather than go into details, I think some of them we have pretty locked up."
Whether they end up being made based on injuries, numbers or other factors, Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy knows that roster decisions will have to come soon. Friday's deadline means Thursday night will be crucial for every position on the roster, for not only the Broncos, but for every team in the NFL.
"We're going to evaluate everything as an organization," McCoy said. "Injuries come into play also. You don't know how this last game's going to pan out, or (how) injuries from a previous week (will affect players). You might have thought you're going to keep this number at a certain position, but because there's an injury, you might be short (on) game week, and now another guy has to step up, so you've got to take that spot somewhere else. It's big for everybody. It's not in on our football team; everyone is playing for the entire league right now. It's a job interview for everybody, because there's going to be a lot of guys out on the street, unfortunately, come Friday. Everyone's got to play their tails off and say, 'Every play is my last play opportunity.' As an organization, we have to make tough decisions. That's part of our job."
The final game of the preseason serves as more than just a way of deciding who will or will not be on the Broncos roster for the regular season opener. Through training camp and three preseason games, the Broncos have shown flashes of being in midseason form, but have also struggled with consistency at times. Del Rio said it will be important to finish the preseason strong.
"We've had a preseason where we've been good in spurts and there have been times when it's been really good and there have been times when you go back and say, 'OK, we've got some work to do,'" Del Rio said. "A little less than two weeks before we open, and this is our last chance we have to get on the field and compete and play against somebody besides ourselves. It's important in that standpoint."