What to watch in Cardinals' exhibition game

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Among the things I'll be watching to see when the Cardinals conclude their 2009 exhibition schedule Thursday night against the Broncos in Denver:

  • A pulse. Coach Ken Whisenhunt rallied around the Cardinals' recent poor showing against Green Bay to motivate his team heading into the season. Was his anger for nothing, or will Arizona's starters play with more of an edge when they are in the game? Games against the Steelers, Chargers and Packers tested and in some cases exposed the Cardinals' starters. Unlike those teams, the Broncos have serious problems at quarterback. They also lack depth. The matchup should give Arizona a good chance to impress.

  • Tight ends. Dominique Byrd, Anthony Becht and Leonard Pope could be competing for roster spots. Can one of them make a strong closing argument?

  • Alan Branch. Pope, a third-round choice in 2006, isn't the only recent early Cardinals draft choice facing an uncertain immediate future. Branch, chosen in the second-round of the 2007 draft, could be fighting for a spot at nose tackle behind Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson. Is it too late?

  • Oliver Ross. The Cardinals have changed some of their depth at offensive tackle. They placed Elliot Vallejo on injured reserve before reaching an injury settlement with him. Rookie Herman Johnson appears ready to back up Levi Brown on the right side. Ross played quite a bit against the Packers after groin soreness sent starting left tackle Mike Gandy to the sideline as a precaution. Quality depth at tackle is a luxury.

  • Lance Long. Early Doucet's latest injury clears the way for Long to make a final push for a roster spot at receiver. The team could still keep Doucet, a third-round choice in 2008, but Long probably has a chance. The Cardinals' strength atop the depth chart at receiver makes this a relatively low-stakes decision -- for them, if not for Long.

NFL Network is replaying the Cardinals-Broncos game after the Raiders-Seahawks game, which begins at 10 p.m. ET.