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Broncos to watch in tonight’s preseason finale

The starters will mostly be on the sidelines, but there are a lot of good roster battles happening that will get answered tonight.

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NFL: Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Tonight is the final preseason game for NFL teams, and for about half of the players, it’s the last game they’ll play this season. For some, it’ll be the last game they ever play in the NFL.

So while it may not seem like a big deal to fans who don’t want to watch second-stringers battle for a roster spot or third-stringers try to stay on the team, it’s a very big deal to those players.

And for that reason, I think it’s one of the more fun preseason games to watch - the guys playing are playing for their future, and that’s a lot to put on the line.

So here are some of the players - and/or positions - I’ll be watching closely:

Chad Kelly/Paxton Lynch

This won’t be to see depth chart order. That has been decided and it’s a no-brainer - Kelly is the clear the No. 2. But it will be important to watch one more game to see whether Kelly is truly capable of being the outright backup or whether pursuing a veteran is still a good idea. I lean toward Kelly being the backup, but it would be reassuring to see him in one more game.

As for Lynch, I’ll be watching - and hoping - he proves he deserves to be on a roster somewhere. I don’t have anything against the guy and would love to see him rebound tonight for his own future. Some of Lynch’s current situation comes from a sub-par mentoring scenario when he was a rookie; more of it comes from below-par performance when he needed to prove himself. My hope is that he makes a comeback - probably somewhere else to get a fresh start.

“I love it here. I’ve said that since Day 1, I’ve wanted to be ‘the guy’ here,” Lynch said Tuesday. “I’ve gone through some things, I’ve struggled, I haven’t played well at times, and at times I have played well. I’ve just got to find that consistency of constantly playing well. And I know that I can get there.”

I’d really like to see if he can.

Su’a Cravens

There has been a lot of hype around Cravens since the Broncos signed the safety in the offseason, but injuries have delayed the chance for Broncos Country to really see if he’s worth that hype.

Vance Joseph said he’s practiced “really well” this week and should be ready to play Thursday night.

But Dymonte Thomas had a great third game against the Redskins and has continued to practice well. It’ll be interesting how that depth chart shakes out.

And will there be an Adam Jones’ sighting? Perhaps on a punt return?

Phillip Lindsay v. Devontae Booker/De’Angelo Henderson

I know, I know. Booker is listed first (though I really expect/hope that changes by Week 1 to the rightful starter, Royce Freeman) and Henderson is the proven third-stringer. But I think Lindsay has shown more prowess as a running back than either of those and would like to see how he compares Thursday night to solidify a move up the depth chart. I know Joseph won’t make the bold move to put him at No. 2, but if Lindsay dominates tonight, he has to be No. 3. And there’s a chance Henderson is playing to make the team, though Joseph seems set on having four running backs on the 53.

“Royce and Book (Booker) have been the lead guys the whole preseason, so to say it’s open, it’s between those two guys. [The top two spots are] pretty much closed in my opinion,” Joseph said. “Again, it’s not a focus of mine right now because it’s going to take three guys, it’s going to take four guys.”

Offensive Line

A healthy O-line with Ron Leary and Jared Veldheer plus a more experienced Garett Bolles, a highly capable Connor McGovern and the always-impressive Matt Paradis spells big improvement for this position group. But how good are the backups? Max Garcia appears to be a solid replacement when necessary, but if the line is relying on Billy Turner or Jeremiah Poutasi, how dependable is it? And which players on the bubble for making the team or going to the Practice Squad get to stay? Hoping my guy Leon Johnson stays in Orange and Blue.

Jake Butt

Jeff Heuerman’s performance last week solidified him as the starting tight end for now, but I’m interested to see how Butt, Austin Traylor and even Matt LaCosse end up - on the depth chart and/or just on the team.

Mostly I’d like to see whether Butt appears to be the superstar he was hyped to be in last year’s draft. He had a nice catch last week against the Redskins, so I’m interested in his follow-up effort this week. Beyond that, I think it’ll be a good battle between Traylor and LaCosse for a chance to stay in Denver - and possibly fight for the second TE spot.

Third/Fourth-stringers on the bubble

Figuring out what to do with players like Jeff Holland, Keishawn Bierria, Brendan Langley, Tim Patrick and others is a decision I’m glad I don’t have to make, but it’ll be fun to see if some of these bubble guys stand out and prove tonight that they should still be on the roster next week.

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