The last preseason game is part ending — of training camp — and part beginning — of the regular season.
And the Broncos close out the preseason tonight, trying to walk the line between staying healthy and being ready. Unlike Mike Shanahan, who often kept his starters and top backups out of the preseason finale, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels figures to play some of his starters well into the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings.
"Last year we played them a decent chunk in the first quarter," McDaniels said. "We don't put a play limit on them. There are some players that we want to see — if they can play this week. They're going to play and they're going to play more than three or four plays."
McDaniels did not play quarterback Kyle Orton in last year's preseason finale. Former No. 3 quarterback Tom Brandstater threw 30 passes in a 19-0 victory over the Cardinals. Orton missed the game with a finger injury. Then-No. 2 quarterback Chris Simms didn't play because of a sprained ankle, but the bulk of the starters played deep into the first quarter.
McDaniels said he hopes to play all healthy players some, so Orton should get a handful of snaps.
Left tackle Ryan Clady, who has returned to practice after offseason knee surgery, is expected to play at least some snaps against the Vikings, and running back Knowshon Moreno said Tuesday he hopes to play some as well.