ENGLEWOOD • Denver Broncos tight end Tony Scheffler didn’t play much in the preseason in 2007. He was limited to two catches because of injuries.

“And that was the best year of my career,” said Scheffler, who posted career highs in catches and touchdowns.

How important is the preseason? Rookie running back Knowshon Moreno, receiver Brandon Marshall and safety Brian Dawkins will find out in Sunday’s opener at Cincinnati. Dawkins played only one game in the preseason after breaking his right hand, Moreno took part in only a few plays in the opener before suffering a knee injury, and Marshall didn’t play at all.

Dawkins is in his 14th season but said playing in the preseason is still helpful.

“I think everyone needs a touch of it, just to get used to that contact,” he said.

Moreno had only three carries in the preseason and also missed most of training camp.

“I know Knowshon missed some time, and it’s definitely tougher for a rookie that only played one game to come in and be hitting on all cylinders right away,” said Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who also missed three preseason games because of a sprained ankle.

Marshall returned from a team suspension Sunday and quarterback Kyle Orton said he and Marshall stayed after practice Tuesday for extra work.

“Maybe where some of us might hurt if we didn’t play at all in the preseason, he’s the type of athlete that can overcome it,” quarterback Chris Simms said.