Cardinals vs. Broncos: 3 reasons to watch the Cards' final preseason game

Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-31 17:18:18-04

We know, we know: We're as anxious as you are for the 2017 NFL regular season to finally arrive. But the Arizona Cardinals still have one more preseason game to play as they head to Denver to take on the Broncos on Thursday night.

While few (if any) starters will see the field Thursday, there are a few good reasons to tune in to the team's final exhibition game of the year, as the Cardinals prepare to cut their regular-season roster from 90 to 53 players at the conclusion of preseason play:

1. Chris Johnson's job on the line?

When veteran running back Chris Johnson re-signed with the Cardinals last month, it seemed to be a lock that the three-time Pro Bowler would not only make the regular-season roster, but would probably be the Cards' No. 2 running back behind starter David Johnson.

But after Saturday's performance at Atlanta (two fumbles and a dropped pass), there are rumblings that Johnson's future in Arizona isn't so secure, after all. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians never reveals all his cards (no pun intended), so it's possible he's already made up his mind about which running backs will stick around. But if the matter isn't settled yet, Chris Johnson's performance Thursday could be a deciding factor.

2. Other players on the bubble

Chris Johnson isn't the only player possibly competing for a roster spot Thursday. Here are some other positions to watch:

-Wide receiver: Cardinals insider Kyle Odegard says Brittan Golden, who has played 28 games for the Cardinals in the last two seasons, "seems like the favorite" to grab the team's final receiver spot. But Jeremy Ross, who signed with the Cardinals late last season, and newcomer Aaron Dobson could be in the mix, as well.

-Inside linebacker: Former Arizona Wildcats star Scooby Wright III signed with the Cardinals late last year, and while he's not a lock to make this year's team, he seems to have the inside track on a roster spot. He's currently listed behind 2014 first-round pick Deone Bucannon and 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick on the team's depth chart.

-Safety: Odegard said the final roster spot at safety could come down to the Cardinals' two most recent sixth-round draft picks: 2016 pick Harlan Miller and 2017 pick Rudy Ford. 

-Punter: It's been a tight battle between incumbent punter Matt Wile and former CFL punter Richie Leone. Leone has a better yards-per-punt average during the preseason, but Wile has NFL experience.

3. Chance of sloppy field conditions

Thursday will mark the last time the Cardinals will play outdoors for over a month -- and as of this writing, The Weather Channel predicts a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms in Denver on Thursday evening. 

So, players might get a chance to hone their skills in wet weather Thursday -- and for those who make the regular-season roster, that experience might come in handy during a potentially meaningful rain-soaked game later in the year. Hey, as long as no one gets hurt (knock on wood), there's nothing wrong with being tested by the elements for a couple hours.