ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A long offseason comes one step closer to its conclusion with Thursday night's preseason finale against Arizona.
For rookies like defensive lineman Derek Wolfe and quarterback Brock Osweiler, it's the final step of their transitions from the college game to the NFL. Osweiler said he's made tremendous strides since initially arriving in Denver, particularly in his understanding of the Broncos' offense.
"Looking back all the way to rookie minicamp, I felt like I was drowning," Osweiler said. "I looked at that playbook and really had no idea where to begin. Now, I'm at a point where I'm fairly comfortable with the offense and I'm understanding what (Offensive Coordinator Mike) McCoy and the rest of the coaching staff are trying to do as an offensive unit. Things are getting better every day."
As one of three players vying to be quarterback Peyton Manning's backup, Osweiler expects this to be his last game action for a while. He said that makes it all the more important that he turn in a strong performance.
"This is really my last opportunity to go out there and show the team, show the coaches what I can do in a game opportunity," Osweiler said. "It's a good opportunity, I'm looking forward to it, and it should be a lot of fun."
For Osweiler, who played his college ball at Arizona State, the team's preseason finale is also a special chance for him to play in front of a number of friendly faces.
"There's going to be quite a few people there," Osweiler said. "It's pretty exciting to go back where you spent the last three-and-a-half years of your life and you have so many friends and family members down there to play in front of. It'll be a pretty special opportunity and I'm excited."
Wolfe, who quickly worked his way up to the first-team defensive line, said he's anxious for the start of the regular season. But he knows that before he can turn his attention to the regular season, he and his teammates must keep their attention on the fourth and final game of the preseason.
"Training camp starts to get kind of long," Wolfe said. "You have four preseason games, and preparing for this team, in the back of my head I'm thinking that the regular season is right around the corner and I can't wait for that to come. But we have to go out there tomorrow and take care of business. That's the first order at hand."
In addition to serving as one last test run before games start counting in the win-loss column, Thursday night's finale gives players fighting for roster spots one last chance to show coaches what they can do.
"Obviously, (the coaches) have to cut some guys, which is unfortunate but it's part of the business," Wolfe said. "That's pretty much what this is – to figure out who's for real."