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Posted Sep 1, 2010

The Broncos preseason finale on Thursday night offers youngsters competing for the last roster spots a chance to leave a positive impression.


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Even after a breakout performance in Sunday's preseason win against Pittsburgh, Syd'Quan Thompson kept perspective on his quest to make the Broncos' 53-man roster.

The rookie cornerback's interception return for a touchdown and 62-yard punt return helped the team earn its first preseason win, but in the locker room following the game, Thompson said he still had work to do establishing his niche in a crowded secondary.

"It's going good," Thompson said. "We'll know by the last cuts, but right now, I'm just trying to work hard every day and hopefully be a part of this ball club by the end."

Thompson and the other Broncos battling for the team's final roster spots get their last chance to make a statement on Thursday night in Minnesota. The Broncos must trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday, and the preseason finale often offers the youngsters playing for their spot on the team an extended opportunity to leave a good final impression before the coaches gather to decide their fate.

"We kind of know who is right there on the cusp of making it at different spots and we also know who is competing across the ball from one another," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said this week. "It could determine a lot or it could not change much at all, we'll kind of see how it goes."

McDaniels said the starters played almost a full quarter in the fourth preseason contest last season, and while the coach won't a "play limit" on them, it's not likely the first units will play much more than that this time around.

That leaves plenty of time for those further down the depth chart to make their case.

When asked how many spots might still be undecided heading into the game, McDaniels smiled as he answered, "53." But the head coach continued to say that players don't know exactly what the staff is hoping to see from them, meaning there's only one surefire way to catch his attention going forward.

"I think it's to their best interest to keep playing hard," McDaniels said, "and I know they will all the way through the end of the game on Thursday."

McDaniels said one area he continues to play close attention to is special teams. That means that players are not just competing with their position group for spots but with others to prove who might be most valuable to the team as the regular season begins.

Spencer Larsen knows something about that. The fullback cemented his spot on the squad as a rookie in 2008 by showcasing his special teams ability.

Larsen said standing out on special teams is his best advice for young players at this time of year.

Of course, Larsen also boosted his own efforts to make the team as a rookie when he picked off a fourth-quarter pass against Arizona in the 2008 preseason finale.

"This is the most exciting and scary time for a lot of guys," Larsen said.

After the roster is cut down on Saturday, eight players will be brought back to join the practice squad. Teams across the league will be looking to fill their practice squads with players who can help them out in the future, meaning a good performance from a young player in the preseason finale can impress more than just their own team.

In 2008, Ryan McBean was waived by Pittsburgh after the preseason. The next day, the defensive lineman joined the Broncos. After spending a season on the practice squad, McBean emerged as a starter last season.

"They want to get themselves out there," McBean said of his advice for players heading into this game. "This is more like their application and not just for the Broncos. They just need to go out there and handle their business and have a clear mind."

After going through training camp and three preseason games with most of those players, McBean has a pretty good idea what they bring to the table. The third-year player said he's excited to watch his younger teammates give it their best shot agains the Vikings.

"I believe those guys will do great," McBean said. "We have a young, relentless team here."

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