The Denver Broncos have a deep and talented team. Almost 40 players will be shown the door in less than a month; some of them will be solid players. Frankly, most of the team is already decided. There are, however, a few spots still available for the taking. These four players can put a stranglehold on those spots in Thursday’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Thompson has already leapfrogged the rest of the undrafted running backs vying for the fourth running back spot. Monte Ball is out with appendectomy surgery, leaving other running backs down the depth chart to get more carries in the game tomorrow.
As it stands right now, Thompson will be the third running back to come in the game. After Ball, he is the only back on the roster who possesses the size and running style to play physical and get tough yards. He can lay claim to that fourth running back spot, by first and foremost showing some rugged running. None of the other backs on the depth chart after him have his size or physical style. That will set him apart from the crowd and leave the other backs on the outside looking in.
He also must pass protect. Duke’s style of offense frequently had Thompson pass protect. He has shown a propensity for it in college and if he can carry that over to the first preseason game, he will earn a role on this offense. Of course all of this will be for naught if he puts the ball on the ground.
Chris Harris Jr. is not going to play and Aqib Talib probably won’t be in the game long. That leaves Kayvon Webster, Bradley Roby, Tony Carter and Bolden to play most of the meaningful reps. Bolden has the versatility to play safety and return kicks, plus he was a fourth round draft pick by John Elway, adding to his chances.
Bolden must show solid coverage, especially since he will likely be going against second team receivers. He has had a decent camp in the coverage area, but doing so in the game will lock up a spot early. His competition for a roster spot is not just Carter and Louis Young, but also safeties Duke Ihenacho and John Boyett. He could make those players expendable, but only if he doesn’t get burned by Seattle receivers.
Anunike has earned his chance to show what he can do in the first preseason game by having a great training camp. Having already suffered a minor injury, DeMarcus Ware will likely play sparingly, leaving Anunike and Quanterus Smith to get the bulk of playing time Thursday.
Smith is a lock to make the team and if Anunike can apply pressure during the game as he has all practice, the Broncos cannot afford to let him go. There is no way another team will let him slip through waivers to join the Broncos’ practice squad.
Right now Burse looks buried on the depth chart, both as a receiver and in the return game, but the Broncos didn’t give him the biggest signing bonus of all undrafted rookies to not give him a shot. If he were to make the team, he would rarely see the field as a receiver. His shot is as a return man.
By all reports Burse has had a decent training camp. That isn’t going to be enough on this talented and deep Broncos team. In Thursday’s game, Burse cannot fumble the ball and has to make some serious noise returning punts. He has to have at least one long run back and solid positive yardage on the rest of his punt returns. That will get him noticed and probably an expanded role with kickoff return duties. That will add to his value. He must be an exciting playmaker on special teams because his competition to make the roster is not just Jordan Norwood, but likely Andre Caldwell.
Early strong showings by all these players will have the rest of the players on the bubble playing to the grab attention of other teams in the NFL.