Jussel:  has a purpose for several Broncos

Finally, football. If not real, at least live and in color.

The Denver Broncos are in Chicago going against the Bears Thursday with kickoff set for 6 p.m.

Scores won’t count. Efforts will. For more than half of those suiting up, this game will be as important as the last real game we watched back in February.

The Broncos have a fluid roster of 90 at this point. I give you 30 players who are locks to make the opening-day 53-man roster, with every player not on the following list in danger of being waived bye-bye:

Punter Riley Dixon, place kicker Brandon McManus and long snapper Casey Kreiter are on the list by necessity.

On the offensive side, you can chisel in two quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch; two running backs, C.J. Anderson and Andy Janovich; two wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders; tight end Virgil Green; and five offensive linemen, Garett Bolles, Max Garcia, Matt Paradis, Ron Leary and Menelik Watson.

That’s a dirty dozen.

The defensive list is longer, starting with six defensive backs who are the strength of the team: Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby at corners and safeties T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Justin Simmons.

We add three inside linebackers in Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis and Corey Nelson and one outside linebacker, that little rascal Von Miller.

Then come six defensive linemen who will play a variety of spots, Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Walker, Domata Peko, Adam Gotsis, Zach Kerr and Jared Crick.

My cell phone tells me that makes 15 players on the defensive side who, barring injury of course, have spots on the roster sewn up.

Add it up and we’ve got 3 + 12 + 15 = 30.

There are also players who have been injured and will be added at some point after the regular season begins. Outside linebackers Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett, running back Devontae Booker and rookie tight end Jake Butt will be activated ASAP. When they are added, someone else must go.

Thursday night matters, of course, for QBs Siemian and Lynch. Time is growing short for Lynch. He must do something special to overtake the more seasoned Siemian. That’s No. 1 on my watch list.

Thursday night’s test in Chicago will also be a good starting point determining the final ingredients for the offensive line. The O-line, a sore point last season, now features depth and big-time competition.

There have been two big-ticket free-agent signings (Leary and Watson), a No. 1 draft pick (Bolles), three vets battling for their NFL lives (Donald Stephenson, Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield), and one recent trade acquisition (Allen Barbre).

The Broncos also moved weight-room freak Connor McGoven into Paradis’ center spot as Paradis recovered from two hip surgeries and thus acquired more versatility and depth.

Offensive line play, always hard to watch on the tube, will be well worth your effort and is No. 2 on the watch list.

No. 3 on Thursday night’s list is the battle for the third wide receiver slot and either two or three backup spots. Who will get a leg up? Veterans Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer or Jordan Taylor? Or will one of the rookies, Isaiah McKenzie or Carlos Henderson, stake a claim early? McKenzie already has an edge with head coach Vance Joseph saying last week he will be the team’s punt returner.

I’m going to stay on offense with No. 4 on my list. Let’s see how quick rookie running back De’Angelo Henderson is: lots of raves so far and he could stir the running back pot plenty. Henderson will see plenty of action vs. the Bears in sharing time with recent free-agent signee Stevan Ridley.

Don’t get too fired up about seeing Jamaal Charles. Lots of time left for a decision on the former Chief star. We already know what the veteran Anderson can do when healthy. Three series Thursday, then he’ll sit.

When the Broncos are playing defense, I’m not going to pay much attention to the secondary or linebackers. Lots of young people will be vying for special team spots.

We need to watch something, however, when Chicago has the ball and that will be No. 5 on the watch list, the defensive front.

Rookie draftee Walker is reportedly a great pass rusher. Kerr was picked up from Indy and is a 335-pound monster in the middle. Tyrique Jarrett is another 335-pounder, a rookie who could prove valuable in the rotation.

There you have it: preseason football with a purpose.


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