Before the Denver Broncos took the field for Saturday's preseason finale in AT&T Stadium, head coach John Fox publicly offered the Broncos would "basically play 43 guys" in the game. While those 43 or so didn't include any of the team's starters, the Broncos showed the depth of a Super Bowl hopeful as the reserves closed out the team's August work with a convincing 27-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys in their final try to answer the last remaining questions on a deep roster of a Super Bowl hopeful. Here are some other thoughts on the Broncos' preseason finale in Arlington, Texas:
If the Broncos do keep just eight defensive linemen in the final cutdown, they are going to send a defensive lineman, or two, or maybe even three, into the open market who will end up with playing time for somebody else. To that end the Broncos took a particularly long look at defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson and Mitch Unrein. Both played well into the fourth quarter and played with the passion fitting of their predicament. Those two players may have been playing for one roster spot. Both performed well, but if the decision includes salary cap concerns -- and the Broncos have at least some -- as well as concern over Vickerson's hip, the pick will be Unrein. In the last two preseason games Unrein, who had a sack in the third quarter, was lined up for a few snaps at defensive end as well.
The Broncos handed Brock Osweiler the keys to the offense for the first three quarters Saturday night. The Broncos scored in the two-minute drill to end the first half -- Osweiler took a huge hit from Keith Smith and Kenneth Boatright to deliver a pass to rookie Isaiah Burse on the key play in the drive -- and Osweiler showed some additional patience in the pocket overall to go with a well-timed 26-yard run late in the third quarter.
Broncos showed they have some depth at running back. With Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman both getting the night off, C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs all showed what they would have to offer. Anderson and Thompson are likely the No. 3 and No. 4 backs when the roster gets picked. For his part Bibbs, who scored twice against the Cowboys, is a proficient runner with good vision, but he has a long way to go in pass protection and as a receiver so that makes him almost a specialist in a way as the backs on the Broncos roster have to do far more than just lug the rock. But with a 10-player practice squad, the Broncos figure to want to keep Bibbs there if they stick with just four backs on the roster. The Broncos did flash a two-back set, with Anderson and Thompson together in the backfield and Thompson at fullback, in the first half. The Broncos have also used the formation previously with tight end Virgil Green.
The Broncos offense did get things moving as the game wore on, including a 14-point third quarter, but the second-team offensive line was a little wobbly at times along the way. Rookie right tackle Michael Schofield, who has been good enough so far after the Broncos elected to cut veteran tackle Winston Justice earlier this week, had some rough spots. He was driven into the backfield early in the game by Cowboys' Dartwan Bush and was flagged later in the same possession for illegal hands to the face. In the second quarter Zach Minter beat Schofield to the inside on a zone run play to keep Anderson from getting a first down. Schofield also flashed some good footwork at times and good instincts in pass protection. He has starter potential, but is squarely on the learning curve.