Despite a 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins, Monday night's game became a good barometer in judging who may or may not make this years' team. Let's take a look at some of the offensive positions to see who may be moving up, moving down or not moving at all.
Jake Plummer is obviously the starter, but it's the number two slot that may play out to be the one of the most important position of the year for the Broncos. Danny Kanell comes into camp as Plummer's backup, but is receiving quite a bit of pressure from rookie Matt Mauck. The numbers play out pretty good for Mauck until you get to the interception column, where Mauck tossed up two, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Mike Quinn also made a name for himself during Denver's lone touchdown drive, but you have to weigh that against the fact he was playing against a semi-weak third and fourth string Redskin defense. Rookie Bradley Van Pelt, who has struggled at times throughout camp, did not play. Look for both Mauck and Quinn to receive some serious reps throughout the week, before heading to Buffalo for the second preseason game of the year this Sunday.
Quentin Griffin is the expected starter, and his numbers proved he can break the long ones, but the question mark that remains is his durability throughout a full NFL season. While Ahmaad Galloway and Mike Anderson may prove more durable, they lack the explosiveness of Galloway. It may not bee his first choice, but head coach Mike Shanahan may opt for a running back by committee system, distributing the number of carries among the three. The Ace in the Hole may be former San Francisco running back Garrison Hearst, who is expected to be brought in during short yardage situations. Hearst did not play Monday night.
The loss of Shannon Sharpe and Ed McCaffrey will obviously hurt the Broncos starting lineup, but there are may capable receivers waiting in the wings for their chance to prove themselves. Tight End Byron Chamberlain is a lock to make the squad, but other positions are not yet set in stone. Darius Watts and Charlie Adams have made the most noise so far in camp, and each had respectable numbers Monday night. The lone question mark is former first round draft pick Wide Receiver Ashley Lelie. Coming off a disappointing 2003 season, Lelie is in a make or break situation, and time may be running short. Lelie's backup, Adrian Madise, may find himself propelled into the starting lineup if Lelie's struggles continue. Rookie Wide Receiver Triandos Luke, a top candidate for punt returning duties, may also be thrown into the loop.
Matt Lepsis, normally a stronghold at the right tackle position was completely outmatched in his move to the left side of the line. Back to back holding penalties cost Denver a 10-3 lead in the second quarter when a Quentin Griffin 4-yard run was called back by the infraction. Lepsis was not alone in the miscue department, eight penalties for 88-yards were called in the first half alone. The normally secure front line must find a way to get together within the next four weeks or face a wrath far worse than than that of a lost game, exile into the darkness of Mike Shanahan's Dog House.
"It looked like flag day out there," Mike Shanahan told reporters after the loss. "I'm not sure how many penalties we had, but we had to set a record out there."
Record or not, preseason or not, 13 penalties for 118-yards is unacceptable under any circumstances.
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