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10 key players to watch in NFL preseason Week 4

Jesse Reed
NFL news: Impact of the 49ers signing Josh Rosen
Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) looks to pass during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Sixteen more exhibition games are scheduled for Thursday as NFL preseason Week 4 gives teams one final chance to evaluate their rosters.

Starters won’t play, and for the most part coaches will be rolling out lineups of players who are fighting for the final roster spots on their respective teams.

So which players should you be keeping an eye on this Thursday? We’ve got you covered ahead of NFL preseason Week 4.

Brett Rypien, quarterback, Denver Broncos

The Broncos have quite a quarterback competition going for the third quarterback spot. The battle is between the rookie out of Boise State, Rypien, and veteran Kevin Hogan.

Because of the experience factor, Hogan has gotten more run in the team’s preseason games so far. Yet we should see a ton of Rypien in Thursday’s game against Arizona. He needs to improve on his accuracy and decision making, having completed just 57.6% of his passes so far. If he can do that, then Hogan’s days may be numbered in Denver.

Keelan Doss, wide receiver, Oakland Raiders

A Bay Area native who has been one of the “Hard Knocks” stars, Doss has certainly made a strong impression on the Raiders this summer. The undrafted rookie out of UC Davis has hauled in 11 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Oakland has played Doss quite a bit late in games, and he has delivered.

Firmly on the roster bubble, it’s time for Doss to really put the pedal to the metal in his final preseason game to ensure the Raiders have no choice but to keep him on the active roster. If he is placed on waivers, there’s little chance Oakland will retain him on the practice squad.

Deshaun Davis, linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals

This former Auburn star has been fighting for a roster spot all summer long. Selected in the sixth round, Davis has been mostly working with the third-string defense during preseason games and figures to get a ton of work Thursday against the Indianapolis Colts.

He’s struggled a bit in coverage, thanks to average speed and athleticism. Simply put, he needs to have his best game in the final preseason contest to lock up one of the team’s final roster spots.

Cardale Jones, quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers will not keep four quarterbacks on the roster, and head coach Anthony Lynn has already made it clear that a tight battle exists between Jones and rookie Easton Stick out of North Dakota State.

Believe it or not, Jones has actually outplayed veteran backup Tyrod Taylor this preseason — albeit against lesser competition. He’s looked very comfortable in the pocket and delivered strikes all over the field with a 72% completion rate, 8.3 yards per attempt and a sweet touchdown pass. Another strong performance should lock Jones into a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.

Charles Omenihu, defensive lineman, Houston Texans

Omenihu came into the NFL as an extremely talented, albeit raw defensive lineman. The former Texas Longhorn star showed out in the Senior Bowl but was still seen as a huge project, which is why he was ultimately selected late in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

This summer, Omenihu has made his case that he belongs on an NFL roster with strong play all over the line for Houston. He’s been tested at multiple positions across the line and even at linebacker as well. Clearly, the Texans love his versatility. He’ll likely get plenty of playing time early in Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. Keep an eye on big No. 94.

Mike Weber, running back, Dallas Cowboys

Coming out of Ohio State, Weber was seen as a potential big-play machine. He certainly showed off that potential last season with the Buckeyes. But so far through three preseason games, the seventh-round pick has struggled, putting it mildly.

No Dallas running back has carried the ball more than Weber, who has 17 preseason attempts. However, he’s struggled to consistently make his reps count, averaging 2.7 yards per carry with a long run of nine yards. There’s a chance that Weber will not survive the team’s cut-down after Thursday’s preseason game. He needs to show out to avoid that fate.

Darrius Shepherd, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers

An undrafted rookie out of North Dakota State, Shepherd has done nothing but impress so far this summer. In the team’s first three preseason games, the slot specialist has caught seven passes for 65 yards, including this absolute gem down the left sideline:

Now with the injury to Equanimeous St. Brown, there is a path for Shepherd to force his way on to the active roster. He’ll likely get a lot of playing time in Week 4 of the preseason and needs to continue putting on a show.

Gary Jennings, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks

This former West Virginia star racked up 13 touchdowns last year and was seen as a potential sleeper star after being selected in the fourth round in April. He had a rough camp, however, and only managed one catch for 12 yards this preseason.

It’s a far cry from the guy who dominated the past couple of years for the Mountaineers. Jennings has a chance to sneak his way onto the roster thanks to injuries to D.K. Metcalf and David Moore. But he’ll need to show up big time Thursday against Oakland to compel his coaches to pound the table and keep him around.

Christian Miller, EDGE, Carolina Panthers

Fellow rookie pass rusher Brian Burns has justifiably gotten most of the press over Miller this summer. Yet this former Alabama linebacker has shown the ability to apply pressure.

A fourth-round pick who has flashed first-round abilities, Miller likely has cemented his spot on the team’s final roster. But Thursday will give him a chance to really shine with some extended playing time. We expect him to make a big impression.

Josh Rosen, quarterback, Miami Dolphins

We don’t know what has gone on during every practice this summer. What we do know is that Rosen has worked his way into the first-string offense recently during camp, and that he has outplayed Ryan Fitzpatrick this preseason — by quite a bit, looking at Next Gen Stats.

Head coach Brian Flores hinted that he may play Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the team’s final preseason game. He has made it clear that the coaching staff has not yet made a decision. Rosen can put all this to rest with a dominant showing against second- and third-string players Thursday against the New Orleans Saints.