The Broncos first preseason game is finally here! The starters will not play a ton but there are plenty of storylines and positional battles to watch during tonight’s game against the Chicago Bears. We, of course, will see the quarterback battle between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch take shape tonight. We’ll also see who stands out at wide receiver, tight end, and how rookies Garett Bolles and others play in their first NFL action of their career.
So I give you five things to watch for during tonight’s week one preseason game against former Broncos Head Coach John Fox and the Chicago Bears.
Let’s be honest, this is the thing the vast majority of us will be watching tonight. We have been arguing about it all offseason and we’re finally at the point where this thing will (hopefully) begin to be settled.
9NEW’s Denver’s Mike Klis reported that Elway indicated that the Preseason is when this battle will truly be settled so tonight’s performance be important for both quarterback’s.
What Trevor Siemian has to do:
It’s pretty simple for Trevor tonight. Move the ball, avoid turnovers, score points and avoid the 3 and outs. Do that and he comes out looking pretty good in the quarterback race. If the 3 and outs and/or turnovers happen then all the momentum he gained this past week go right out the window. Putting points up, especially on that initial opening drive will be key for Trevor as well.
Here’s what I want to see from Trevor and the Broncos offense. Let’s have an intermediate passing game. It was completely non-existent last season. Let’s see if Trevor can do that tonight. I expect McCoy will want to see Siemian push the ball downfield more so we will get an idea on that pretty quickly tonight.
Finally, Trevor needs to come out of this game healthy. He has a rather long injury history dating back to his college days so let’s see how he reacts to taking contact for the first time since week 17 last season. Keep in mind, Siemian injured his shoulder for the first time against the 49ers last preseason. Any extended time missed with an injury will allow John Elway to kick that door wide open for his first-round pick Paxton Lynch.
What Paxton Lynch has to do:
He needs to dominate the Bears second and third team defense and have NO turnovers tonight. If Lynch struggles against the Bears backups it may put the nail in his coffin. Turnovers have been an issue for him all camp, so limiting them will also be key.
He needs to score points, ideally at least one touchdown or touchdown drive, have a big play or two and show off his plus athleticism. If he does that he can carry over that momentum into next week where he’ll get the start against the San Fransisco 49ers.
Here’s what I want to see from Lynch. Let’s see those improved mechanics. Against Jacksonville, he was making the correct read but his mechanics and footwork killed the timing and it was just bad. Let’s see how much he improved this offseason in that area.
Barring injury, Trevor Siemian will be making his last start as a Bronco on Thursday night. . . Write it down. . .
— Gil Whiteley (@Gilfest) August 9, 2017
I also want to see if Lynch’ field vision is improved. Will he go through all his reads and find the open man or will he take off running if his first or second read isn’t there?
Finally, I just want to see the big plays. Siemian is pegged as the safe/boring quarterback and Lynch is the big play/risky guy. So let’s see those big plays. Take those shots down the field and let your receiver make a play on the ball. Also, show off your athleticism. Lynch had a 50 yard or so scramble early in camp so let see if he does anything like that tonight.
With key players Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray already out, the Broncos turned to rookie defensive end DeMarcus Walker to fill the void at edge rusher. He was drafted to play an interior pass rusher but will get reps at outside linebacker until they return. So tonight will be our first extended look at Walker at edge rusher.
“We’re going to play him primarily outside linebacker. We moved him over to that position. He’s doing a good job as well. He’s learning. He always had his hand in the ground and now he has to stand up a little bit. It’s been a little bit of a process for him, but we want to get him into a live situation and see how he reacts.”
We’ll likely see Kasim Edebali and Vontarrius Dora play significant snaps ahead of Walker, but his transition will be interesting to watch.
I’m hoping to see Walker have a breakout game tonight and help ease our concerns about the edge rushing unit that is already down Ray and Barrett. Same would also go for Edebali and Dora as well.
3. Improvement from the Broncos offensive line:
One of the Broncos biggest weaknesses last season was their offensive line. This led to General Manager John Elway to spend significant money and draft capital on the offensive line this offseason. He added guard Ronald Leary and tackle Menelik Watson in free agency and spent a first round pick on tackle Garett Bolles. So the Broncos are hoping to make significant progress there this season.
I want to see how the tackles Garett Bolles and Menelik Watson hold up against the pass rush and how the unit as a whole does in the run game. Center Matt Paradis won’t play but second-year player Connor McGovern will make his first-career start tonight at center.
“We’ve got [T Garett] Bolles on the left, as the left tackle. [G] Max [Garcia] as the left guard. [C] Matt Paradis won’t play this week, so [G/C Connor] McGovern will be the starting center. The right guard will be [G Ron] Leary. He’s back, he’s fine and he’s playing. The right tackle is [T] Menelik Watson, so he’s back. Our o-line is intact for the most part.”
We need this unit to keep Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch up right and open up running lanes for the Broncos running backs. A nice showing tonight will help ease concerns the fan base has from last season. A poor showing tonight will be disappointing to see and will be a downer for players, coaches, and fans.
4. A breakout game for running back De’Angelo Henderson?
Probably the breakout star from Training Camp thus far has been rookie running back De’Angelo Henderson. The sixth round pick has shown burst, explosion, and power at times during camp and figures to see significant snaps tonight.
De’Angelo Henderson with 3 straight strong runs to give the offense a first down. He’s having a really nice camp
— Ryan Edwards (@redwardsradio) August 5, 2017
With Devontae Booker out with a wrist injury, Henderson has a chance to push for a role on the Broncos offense come week one. Veteran’s C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles have dealt with injuries and inconsistency in the past, so Henderson could end up playing a significant role in the Broncos offense before the season ends.
Look for Henderson to get some second and third team reps tonight and hopefully he will continue to flash that explosion and power tonight when given a chance.
5. Explosive Isaiah McKenzie
The other star from Bronco Training Camp was rookie receiver/returner, Isaiah McKenzie. The 5’7”, 173lb McKenzie has already won the Broncos punt returner job, but will now push for a bigger role on the offensive side of the ball this preseason.
.@_CRADICULOUS doesn’t care if you call him small.He’ll just run by you. https://t.co/4Sc1HqyP3d pic.twitter.com/H8TDLroccI
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 9, 2017
The rookie receiver will get his opportunity to shine in the punt return game and show why the Broncos drafted him for this role this past spring. Could the speedy McKenzie break one or two returns for a touchdown tonight?
We will also likely see him on the offensive side of the ball tonight. He has shown well on the offensive side of the ball during camp and will now get his opportunity to prove it in a game situation. McKenzie has the speed to take one to the house so it will be interesting to see how he plays at receiver. I expect quarterback Paxton Lynch to look his way a lot tonight.
What are you most looking forward to watching tonight?
Siemian vs. Lynch DeMarcus Walker at OLB