1. It's Paxton Lynch's night to shine
With starting quarterback Trevor Siemian sitting out tonight's game and veteran Mark Sanchez sitting out and on the verge of being cut or traded, Paxton Lynch will start and play the entire game according to Head Coach Gary Kubiak.
Paxton Lynch will start and play the entire game Thursday Night vs. #Cardinals https://t.co/teK3EfBeQW pic.twitter.com/SDBW8s5ozY— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 29, 2016
Kubiak said Lynch needs every rep he can get right now.
"My plan is to play Paxton Lynch the whole game. He needs to play every rep he can play. Like I said, that has nothing to do with Mark. I’ve got a lot of stuff to go off of on Mark, but Paxton needs every rep he can possibly get. Chances are we’re playing young guys across the board, not just there."
Lynch has had a pretty solid preseason thus far. He has completed 27 of his 46 pass attempts(58.7%) for 244 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception.
His outing wasn't his best and Kubiak is looking for Lynch to improve from last week's performance tonight versus the Arizona Cardinals.
"Just to continue to improve. He’s going to play with a lot of young players. I thought he could handle his group a little better than he did last week, so he’s going to play with the same guys he did last week. I was to see him consistently improve. It’s not going to be very complicated. He’s going to play a little faster and see if he can take another step."
With Lynch being the likely backup to Trevor Siemian, a solid showing would be great to see from the Broncos quarterback of the future. The storyline heading into the season is when will be next time we see Paxton Lynch take the field for the Broncos?
2. Hillman vs. Bibbs
Probably the biggest roster battle remaining is the running back battle. The two guys fighting for one spot is 2015 team-leading rusher, Ronnie Hillman, and local favorite Kapri Bibbs.
#Broncos RB battle: Ronnie Hillman had a good rushing game last night, but didn't play ST. Kapri Bibbs played 72% of ST snaps, most on team.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) August 28, 2016
This is a very interesting battle to watch because Bibbs and Hillman are two different players. Hillman is fast, explosive, and his speed element is something none of the other backs have. He also proved last year that he can be an effective back at times. So it would make sense to keep him on the roster, right? Well here's the problem. They're likely fighting for the 3rd or 4th spot on the depth chart and a back in that position has to play special teams. Well, guess what Bibbs does? He plays on special teams, and guess what Hillman doesn't do? Play special teams.
Kubiak has mentioned how important playing special teams would factor in this decision as well.
"I tell you what, it's a really good group and they're all young -- all of them," Kubiak said. "It'll be interesting. I don't know. I've had three. I've had four. One thing about it, if they're special teams players and stuff, you can always find room for them. You can't keep too many if they're playing on all these special teams and doing other things. We'll see. It'll be a good battle. Special teams will probably separate them when it's all said and done."
So who does Gary Kubiak keep? The better and more explosive running back who doesn't play special teams or the back who can help out in multiple areas?
My money is on Bibbs making the team.
3. Does Jordan Taylor make the team?
One player who is on the roster bubble heading into the preseason finale is wide receiver, Jordan Taylor.
Jordan Taylor played the 3rd most WR snaps last night. Also played nearly half of the ST snaps. He's trying to force the #Broncos to keep 6.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) August 28, 2016
With Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Jordan Norwood locks to make the team, Jordan Taylor will have to have a big game to impress the coaches and make them keep six receivers.
These type of things are usually number crunches. Will they keep a fourth tight end or a sixth receiver, or maybe an extra offensive lineman instead. Often these decisions are already made prior to the game, but a big game should help Taylor make the squad.
Ultimately I see the Broncos keeping Taylor. His size and red zone ability should help him stick, but he'll likely be a game-day inactive since he's behind Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, and Jordan Norwood. Also, Bennie Fowler's health could help Taylor stick on the 53-man roster. It's unknown whether or not he'll be ready for week one, so we could see Taylor.
Taylor needs to make it tough for the Broncos to cut him. The final number crunching is going to be tough.
4. Watching the young guys
The final preseason game will have a vast majority of the Broncos starters on the bench with no pads and a baseball cap on. They're already preparing for the regular season opener, but the Broncos back end of the roster is fighting for their NFL lives.
We'll likely see guys like Kayvon Webster, Lorenzo Doss, Justin Simmons, Will Parks, Zaire Anderson, Vontarrius Dora, Sadat, Sulleyman, Henry Krieger-Coble, Kalif Rayman, Jordan Taylor, Kapri Bibbs, Kyle Peko, Adam Gotsis, Darius Kilgo, and others play significant snaps against the Arizona Cardinals.
Some of the players mentioned above already have a roster spot waiting for them, but some are fighting for a spot on the 53 man roster, and others are fighting for a spot on the Broncos 10-man Practice Squad.
This is why I enjoy the final preseason game. These young men are fighting for their careers and leave it all on the field. It may be a meaningless game to some of us, but it likely means everything to them. Some will make it, and dreams of a few will be shattered.