Tomorrow, the Denver Broncos will travel to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the first game of the Gary Kubiak era. Echoes of Super Bowl XLVIII will be pinging in the minds of many of within the Broncos organization.
But this is a new team—a year and a half removed from that bitter loss.
Change has been a constant at Dove Valley in 2015. New coaches, new systems, new players. One thing that hasn’t changed is the face of the Broncos franchise, Peyton Manning. Alas, he will not play on Friday, but there are plenty of storylines and points of interest to compel us to watch.
How will the Broncos young O-line hold up against the physically explosive Seahawks front seven?
Will Brock Osweiler make the most of his start and show signs of taking that quantum leap forward, like the Broncos are hoping?
Will the Broncos running game break loose and bring back shades of the Mike Shanahan era when no matter which player carried the ball, they’d rush for 1,000 yards?
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These are but a few of the questions on the minds of Broncos Country. To prepare for tomorrow’s game, I recently caught up with Rob Rang of SeahawkFootball.com to get the insider’s take on what we can expect.
Rang: Graham has made a pretty seamless transition to Seattle's offense. He isn't likely to rack up the numbers in Seattle's offense that he did in New Orleans, as the Seahawks will remain a run-first team as long as Marshawn Lynch is on the roster. Graham seems determined to quiet the talk that he's "soft" and unwilling to block.
Of course, what makes him special isn't his power at the point of attack but his unique blend of size, athleticism and ball-skills as a receiver. He and Wilson have already shown impressive rapport. Graham is likely to lead Seattle in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns this season.
Rang: Chancellor provides an element of physicality that Seattle's primary backups at strong safety -- DeShawn Shead and Dion Bailey -- simply don't possess. He's also considered the leader of the defense, so his holdout impacts Seattle in other ways, as well. Shead and Bailey have performed well in his absence, however, and as long as the speedy Thomas is ready by the start of the regular season, the Seahawks' pass defense shouldn't be significantly impacted.
Shead and Bailey, while not as physical as Chancellor, are fluid in coverage. Bailey, in particular, has shown a knack for making plays on the ball. Thomas was taken off the PUP list approximately a week ago but hasn't yet practiced in pads and certainly won't play against Denver. The Seahawks appear content to ease him back into the field.
MHH: What young Seahawk should Broncos fans be watching out for on Friday? Which guy is poised to explode?
Rang: The Seahawks are excited about their top two rookies -- versatile defensive lineman Frank Clark and speedy slot receiver and returner Tyler Lockett. Clark is seeing action at defensive end and defensive tackle, providing a quality second option behind Michael Bennett up front. Lockett's quickness contrasts nicely with the size Seattle has at tight end and wide receiver.
As mentioned previously, Bailey has made some big plays in camp. Another undersized defender -- outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis has also impressed. One of the more interesting positional battles has been at running back behind Lynch. Robert Turbin is the primary backup but something to watch is the competition between 2013 second round pick Christine Michael and undrafted free agent rookies Thomas Rawls and Rod Smith, each of whom have flashed in camp.
Here’s how to watch the Broncos take on the Seahawks tomorrow night.
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