By Justin Adams

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– It’s finally here! The Denver Broncos will play their last preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Broncos Stadium at Mile High at 7 p.m. It’s one last opportunity for the players on the bubble to put their best foot forward to make the team. Here are four things to keep an eye on in Thursday’s game.

(credit: CBS)

Battle for Backup Quarterback

With Drew Lock unable to play because of this injured thumb, Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien will take the snaps to see who will be the backup quarterback behind Joe Flacco. Hogan could use a big game tonight as he’s struggled in the preseason, throwing for 173 yards and one interception.

Joe Flacco of the Denver Broncos warms up before a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on August 19, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Rypien on the other hand has thrown for 121 yards and one touchdown in the preseason. The undrafted rookie from Boise State could pass Hogan with a strong game, but if he doesn’t, expect to see Rypien on the practice squad.

Will Another Homegrown Talent Make the Team?

Last year it was Phillip Lindsay who made the roster as a Colorado native and Mike Purcell is trying to following in his footsteps. Purcell, a Highlands Ranch native, is competing for the one of the final defensive line positions and he’s familiar with Vic Fangio’s defense, playing with him in San Francisco in 2014.

(credit: CBS)

Another defender to keep an eye on is DeShawn Williams who’s looking to hold onto the backup nose tackle position. With a solid game, Williams could surpass Purcell for the final defensive line spot.

Inside Linebacker

One of the biggest competitions is at inside linebacker between Keishawn Bierria, Josh Watson and Jamal Carter.

Bierria made a touchdown saving tackle at the goal line in the last preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. He’ll look to be a core special teams player and one of the reserve linebackers.
Watson is another player who’ll look to fill-in a role in special teams, especially if Joe Jones is placed on injured reserve with a triceps injury.

PISCATAWAY, NJ – SEPTEMBER 01: Washington Huskies linebacker Keishawn Bierria (7) during the NCAA Football game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Washington Huskies on September 1, 2017, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Carter is the most versatile player out of the group but also a little undersized at 6-1, 215 pounds. The former safety made the change to linebacker during training camp. If he can should that he could not only physical in the run game but also cover tight ends, then he would be a tough cut for Coach Fangio.

Who Will Show Out On Special Teams

Many players make an NFL roster based off their performance in special teams and this year is no different. The biggest hole is at punt return. The Broncos had the worst punt return average last season at 4.4 yards per return and no one has been the clear leader. River Cracraft was the returner last year but has only five returns for 22 yards. Cracraft’s nearest competition is Kelvin McKnight who’s had five returns for just 16 yards.

What’s Next:

After the final whistle blows the waiting game begins. On Saturday the Broncos will have to cut their roster down to 53 players by 2 p.m. And on Sunday the team is able to establish their practice squad of up to 10 players after 11 a.m.

Justin Adams

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