For the record, the final score was Broncos 27 to Cowboys 3. Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler led Denver to a 10-3 lead at the half, then came back in the third quarter to lead the Broncos to two more touchdown drives. It was 24-3 when he left in the fourth quarter for Zac Dysert.
But far more important than the final score were the respective performances of the backup Broncos battling for roster spots. 75 men entered Thursday's preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys; roughly 25 starters and key contributors were benched. That left a little more than a gameday roster's worth of second-stringers to make their case for Denver's 53-man roster.
The key position battles and storylines were at defensive tackle, strong safety, third quarterback, offensive line, running back, and punt returner. We received some clarity on these position battles, while others will require a second viewing. Marvin Austin separated himself as the best defensive tackle of the four who played Sunday (Austin, Kevin Vickerson, Sione Fua, Mitch Unrein), but all four had their moments. The DT decision didn't make itself any easier. The Broncos offensive line left a lot to be desired and Osweiler with a lot of scrambling opportunities; they had an up and down game across the board.
Brock Osweiler finished 9 of 13 for 190 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. But his two-minute drill was on the mark; Cody Latimer's 54-yard run after the catch padded his stats nicely. Latimer was the star of Broncos training camp, and he was the star of Broncos preseason too. Dysert flashed inaccuracies in third team work that make me wonder how he justifies a roster spot in lieu of someone like Sione Fua or Mitch Unrein, who played with four quarters of pocket-collapsing ferocity Thursday.
The other emerging star from the game was Isaiah Burse, who was given every opportunity to lock down a roster spot. Burse lined up as punt return and kick returner and slot receiver, tallying a team-high four catches for 66 yards and another 87 yards in return work (four attempts). He bounced back nicely after a first half fumbled fair catch. That's a 22-yard average return. 150 all-purpose yards is impressive any way you slice it.
New Broncos kicker Brandon McManus had four field goal attempts. He missed from 54 and 52 yards, but made a short 20-yarder and another 39-yarder as time waned.
More game notes:
- Running back Kapri Bibbs vultured Juwan Thompson for two touchdowns despite half the carries.
- Linebacker Shaquil Barrett boasted two sacks, the only Bronco with a multiple-sack game this preseason.
- The Broncos defense held the Cowboys 2-for-11 on third down attempts (18.2%) and 0-for-1 on fourth down. Orange Crush backups, baby.
- Linebacker Corey Nelson and Vickerson co-led the team in tackles with five apiece.
- Cornerback Tony Carter had an interception in the first quarter, his second of the preseason.
- Defensive end Kenny Anunike suffered an elbow injury in the second half and did not return.
- Your team captains were CB Omar Bolden, S David Bruton, WR Andre Caldwell, LB Steven Johnson and QB Brock Osweiler.
What was your take on Denver's fourth and final preseason game? Who made the team tonight?