Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (96) celebrates after a stop against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos: Players With the Most to Gain (or Lose)

As the Denver Broncos now sit halfway through the 2014 preseason; there are plenty of players who have made big impressions, while those who have yet to do so still have time.

We’ll look at players who have the most to gain or lose over the course of the next two and a half weeks of preseason action. One big play or one big mistake could end up being the deciding factor at the end of the day.

The fate of these players rests in their ability to play well in the remaining opportunities afforded them.

“The price of success is hard work” – Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi once said, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” And Babe Ruth once said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Success means varying things to each one of these players on the Broncos. Some are vying for the last few open roster spots, some safely on the team are battling over valuable playing time, while others are facing long odds to make the team but are desperately trying to make a name for themselves in hopes of being noticed by other teams.  Each player has much at stake, but all will be well served by listening to Babe Ruth and putting it all on the line to achieve their version of success.

Battling for a roster spot –

Mitch Unrein #96 and Kenny Anunike #68 – The Broncos seem to have 8 Defensive Linemen who will make the team, but they could keep a 9th and Unrein and Anunike are the two most likely battling for that 9th spot. Should Unrein win the competition with his effort and versatility, Anunike will likely be a practice squad invitee. Should Anunike win the competition with his youth and explosiveness, Unrein will be looking to sign with another team.

Aug 17, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver David Reed (10) runs with the ball after making a catch in front of Denver Broncos strong safety John Boyett (20) in the fourth quarter at Levi

Duke Ihenacho #27, John Boyett #20 and Quinton Carter #38 – The Broncos would like one of these players to separate from the pack as none of them have yet to do so. Carter and Ihenacho have a lot at stake, because if they get cut they could be without a job altogether, while Boyett could still be a practice squad player.

Battling for playing time –

Nate Irving #56 – When Irving was drafted by the Broncos out of NC State, they envisioned him taking over the MLB duties, however he has failed to be the type of player they were expecting him to be so far. This is perhaps his last and best opportunity to garner significant playing time. If he fails to win the starting MLB spot this year, then he could be at the end of his career with the Broncos as he is a free agent after this season.

CJ Anderson #22 and Juwan Thompson #40 – Both of these players are battling for the 3rd RB duties. Anderson has the lead at the halfway point, but Thompson could certainly surpass him with two excellent weeks. The 3rd RB spot could be in-line for significant playing time should injury or fumbling arise for Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman.

Kayvon Webster #36 and Bradley Roby #29 – These two are in a battle for the nickel corner spot and valuable time on the field during games. Webster needs to show he is progressing enough to be an integral piece moving forward with the Broncos and Roby wants to prove his draft status and potential.

Cody Latimer #14 and Andre Caldwell #12 – There perhaps is not a more valuable role than a WR for Peyton Manning. He makes bad WR’s look good and good WR’s look great. Everybody knows Peyton is in the twilight of his career, but is still at the top of his game, which is why it is extremely enticing to gain playing time this season for Latimer and Caldwell. Nobody knows what the future holds for Manning, so it would be of great value for either Latimer or Caldwell to play very well over the last two weeks and force the coaching staff to put them on the field with Peyton during this season. The experience would be invaluable to a rookie like Latimer and could extend the career of a veteran like Caldwell.

Trying to make a name for themselves -

Aug 17, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos running back Brennan Clay (34) runs the ball against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at Levi

Kapri Bibbs #35 and Brennan Clay #34 – Neither of these RB’s seem likely to make the team at this point due to the depth the Broncos have in the backfield. However, they could be battling with each other for a practice squad spot. The one who loses out on that competition will be hopeful to have made a name for himself with his play  and will be looking to latch onto another team.

Shaquil Barrett #48 – Another victim of the depth the Broncos have at pass rusher, Barrett won’t make the team, but he could perform his way onto another team if he plays well. Without a strong effort to finish the preseason however, he will likely be without a job.

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