Preseason Game 1 @Seahawks – Preview
After waiting 214 days to see the Denver Broncos suit up and play football again, today is finally the day we all end that wait. As the Broncos travel up to Seattle with their young and hungry squad of 89, I’m looking forward to seeing evidence of key draft players, as well as fringe players showing why they should make that final 53. Below is the breakdown of things I’ll be looking for from each group.
With Peyton Manning reportedly not playing this game, it is the perfect place for Brock Osweiler to cement his place in the roster. Hopefully he will get a full half of football at the helm of this run first power run offense. Personally, I believe if he struggles in the first couple of games Osweiler may well get offered in trade while he’s still worth something, leaving Dysert and Siemian to fight it out for the backup role behind Manning. Either way, all 3 will feel the pressure of the blueprint defense in the NFL. Short, sharp, accurate and confident throws should slow the rush down allowing the 3 of them to fall into a comfortable rhythm.
GROUND AND POUND
With CJ Anderson seemingly locked in at the number 1 spot, the crowded stable of thoroughbreds should all get a good run out. Depending on who you follow or read on the internet, Ball or Hillman will emerge from the preseason as the number 2 back. It will be interesting to see if Juwan Thompson and/or Kapri Bibbs tear it up this preseason, which could result in Hillman and/or Ball placed on the tradeblock. I don’t think Bibbs will make it through waivers and find his way onto the practise squad as it stands now, so the Broncos have a ‘good’ headache. I also don’t see the Broncos taking 4 running backs into the regular season unless there is an injury, so there is a lot to play for going into the game.
With the prospect of the Broncos running a lot this year, the offensive line starters may get extended game time to add cohesion. The problem is – the line isn’t set in stone. With the prospect of 4 new faces protecting Peyton Manning and this potentially potent run game in the regular season, games like this are for the coaches to iron out and tweak little problems. I think the Broncos really struggle with depth along the line with cheap system players plugging in holes to ease the transition to a zone blocking scheme. Gradkowski, Harris and Shelley Smith won’t overtake Vasquez, Paradis and Clark respectively, yet all have experience with coach Kubiak and his offensive scheme. The offensive line has been my position to watch during training camp and preseason. If the run game is to be successful tonight, whoever lines up in the 5 positions will have to get to the 2nd level on run plays allowing the one-cut styles of Anderson and Ball to flourish for big gains.
Don’t be expecting a bombarding job through the air tonight. With Thomas, Sanders and Latimer set at wide receiver and Owen Daniels and Virgil Green at tight end, the remaining 10 receivers should get plenty of game time tonight. With Kubiak using an expected 90% base play-calling style tonight, I think we will see plenty of 2-TE sets unless a certain situation arises that the coaches want to see how the team performs against another defense that isn’t their own. The game plan should be to bed the running game, implement the zone blocking scheme and make the most of the play action pass opportunities. I hope Joe Don Duncan performs along with Dominique Jones, both are big guys who could provide a nice safe pair of hands as security blankets for the QB. Watch out for Jordan Taylor and Jordan Norwood; both are quick with nice strong hands.
DEFENSIVE TRENCH WARFARE
I’ve been reading some good things about Kenny Anunike to go along with the complete opposite for Marvin Austin Jr. With Wolfe suspended the first 4 games, I really hope Anunike can perform and show he is ready to step up and fill in beyond the 4 game suspension. I’m really excited to see Shane Ray playing wide outside linebacker along with Shaq Barrett. I know they probably won’t see time against the 1st string Seahawk offense but still, these guys need to show they can contribute early and be frequent backups to Ware and Miller. With the Seahawks vicious run blocking and heavy hitting running backs, it will be interesting to see the impact Sly Williams can make at nose tackle stuffing inside runs. Inside linebacker is another big position tonight. Trevathan and Marshall will get very few if any reps after major injuries last season, so its next man up scenario. I’ll be looking at Barrow and Johnson to perform well along with Davis and Nelson getting reps.
NO FLY ZONE
With all 4 starters locked in as the best secondary in the AFC, its time for the under performing backups to make a case for game time. A poor camp from Tony Carter, to go along with hit and miss camps from Doss and Nixon, means its wide open for the 4th and 5th cornerback spot. Hopefully when Carter, Doss and Nixon enter the game tonight against roster bubble receivers they will turn in a mistake free performance to get back on track. At safety, Bolden and Bruton seem the obvious backups with not much pressure from the 3rd string.
Omar Bolden is on kick and punt return duties as the number 1. I’m excited to see what Patton can produce if and when he gets his chance. Colquitt is a lock to be the punter after Karl Schmitz was cut this week. Brandon McManus and Connor Barth will still be in competition for kicker duties. Barth really needs to improve his kicking off length to make him a complete package at kicker. Where as McManus is the younger guy providing kick off duties for the time.
EVALUATION VERSUS EXPECTATION
Take everything in preseason with a massive pinch of salt. There will be base playcalling 90% of the time on offense and defense with no wild blitzes – its not coach Kubiaks style. Preseason doesn’t matter in terms of score. It does matter massively how the players perform in basic situational play showing they have the technique to perform at the highest level when called upon. For arguments sake I’m going to score all 4 games 24-17 to the home team.
Enjoy the game, enjoy cheering for the Broncos – it’s been 214 long long days since we saw them play last and now in a few short hours the draught will be over!!