Denver Broncos football is back.
It feels good to say that. Sure, it might only be an exhibition preseason game that doesn't count in the standings, but it does matter.
There's a reason the NFL has four preseason games. The teams need them to flesh out the fullness of their roster. Preseason answers questions.
For rookies and young players trying to break into the NFL and stick to a roster, the preseason games are of the utmost importance.
The Broncos might be coming off a Super Bowl victory, but they've had a tremendous amount of personnel turnover, and at some very key positions. Thursday night's bout with the Chicago Bears will provide us a with a yard-stick with which to measure how well the Broncos are poised to defend their World Championship.
Consider it a litmus test of sorts. GM John Elway built a Super Bowl-winning roster by acquiring elite depth across the board.
As the Broncos take on the Bears tonight, we'll get to see if that elite tradition has carried over to the 90 guys on the 2016 roster.
Which QB Will Take Control?
Through two weeks of training camp, no one in this QB triumvirate has really set themselves apart as the clear, superior option to start.
Nevertheless, when the Broncos released their first depth chart of 2016, Sanchez and Siemian were listed as "co-starters", with Lynch bringing up the rear at No. 3. Tuesday, Gary Kubiak gave us a little more insight into how he views the state of the competition by naming Sanchez as the first QB to take the field in Chicago.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1693600-broncos-camp-week-2-riser... Sanchez will play the first quarter, with the ones. Siemian will play the second quarter and Lynch will play "most" of the second half. Sanchez will get the benefit of not only playing behind the first-string offensive line, but he'll be handing the ball off to C.J. Anderson and throwing to a Pro Bowl tandem at wide receiver in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
I won't go so far as to say it's now or never for Sanchez, but this is his opportunity to prove to the coaches that he can be trusted with the keys to the kingdom. If he falters, it'll give Siemian a shred of daylight and with how close the two have been in the competition, that might be all the second-year signal-caller needs to take control.
The wildcard is Paxton Lynch. He's on deck to receive the most playing time, albeit with the third-team offense. We've seen Lynch flash his big arm and athleticism at camp, but tonight will be our first chance to see him under the lights of NFL competition.
Let's hope one of Denver's trio of quarterbacks can rise above the fray tonight and serve as a lightning rod the team can coalesce around. The sooner the Broncos name a starting quarterback for September 8, the better off they'll be.
Bradley Roby & Kayvon Webster
Aqib Talib will not play in Chicago, so we're going to get a healthy dose of Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster—probably moreso Webster than Roby. With a possible suspension on deck for Talib, the Broncos will rely heavily on Roby and will likely want to play it as safe with him as possible in the preseason.
But with a possible suspension in mind, the Broncos need Webster to really turn the corner this year. He does too, entering a contract year.
For the No Fly Zone to weather the storm sans Talib in the same way that the D-line did last year without Derek Wolfe, these two young corners must take the next step in their development.
Tonight, it'll be interesting to see how far they've come.
Rookie Progress Report
We've talked about the first round pick, Paxton Lynch. But tonight we'll get to see Denver's crop of rookies compete in the orange and blue for the first time. How does DE Adam Gotsis look? The second round pick out of Georgia Tech has been working his way back into full participation at camp, coming off a knee injury last fall.
Can Justin Simmons slide in to Denver's role as the No. 3 safety and mesh well with the No Fly Zone? And what about Will Parks? Since camp began, he's been relatively quiet and needs a big preseason to secure a roster spot.
Devontae Booker has created a buzz at camp. He's already earned a "co-spot" with Ronnie Hillman as the No. 2 running back. Kubiak told us earlier this week that all the running backs will receive a healthy dose of snaps in Chicago. It will be interesting to see if Booker can flash.
Connor McGovern, the fifth round pick out of Missouri, received some reps early on at right guard with the first team, after an injury to Ty Sambrailo. But McGovern has been leap-frogged by Darrion Weems on the depth chart. Weems, not McGovern, will start at RG tonight. Still, expect McGovern to receive a lot of playing time.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1694029-broncos-waive-dl-anunike-... I expect fullback Andy Janovich to play most of the game, with Juwan Thompson spelling him briefly. Janovich is more than a blocker, so it'll be exciting to see him in action for the first time.
We haven't seen much movement in the punter competition. But that competition will begin to shake loose a front-runner with the arrival of preseason games. Can the rookie Riley Dixon unseat the veteran incumbent Britton Colquitt?
The Broncos also have a grip of undrafted rookies who have already generated some buzz out of camp. DL Kyle Peko will see the field a lot in Chicago, but we'll also be keeping a close eye on WRs Kalif Raymond and Bralon Addison, OLBs Sadat Sulleyman, Eddie Yarbrough and Vontarrius Dora.
Which First-Year Players Have Developed?
The Broncos have several intriguing first-year players—guys who spent 2016 on the practice squad. WR Jordan Taylor has been a human highlight reel at camp. I had hoped to see some progress from O-linemen Dillon Day and Kyle Roberts, but they've been quiet thus far in camp.
Inside linebacker Zaire Anderson is in the top-4 on the depth chart. Last year, he showed tremendous flashes in the preseason but he needed more time to develop. To solidify his standing with the Broncos, he needs to be productive tonight and moving forward.
Taurean Nixon was a 2015 seventh round pick, and although he did get promoted to the active roster late, he spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. He's buried on a cornerback depth chart replete with talent and will need to out-shine fellow Tulane teammate Lorenzo Doss to earn a place on the 53-man roster this year.
John Elway has assembled a balanced group of rookie and first-year talent. It'll be exciting to see them all compete for a seat at the table.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
To get instant Broncos notifications, download the NEW Scout mobile app for iOS HERE!null