Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans
August 9th, 2008 - 6:00pm MST
Reliant Stadium - Houston, TX
At last the time for talk is over and the time to play is upon us. Regardless of what you personally think the Quest is all about it starts for you and the Broncos tonight with their first pre-season game against the Houston Texans.
Sure, the first game is usually a time to get your starters in and out without getting anyone hurt, and it is no different for the Broncos, but there are a lot of battle up and down the roster that games like these will help determine. There aren't many guaranteed roster spots out there once you get past the top 12-15 players. That means there are 65 guys battling for 38 spots. Good times to be sure.
As a new practice, I reached out to the main contributors here at MileHighReport to see what they would be watching for tonight. They are included after the "fold", but here are a few things I am focusing on tonight against the Texans --
1. Ryan Clady and the O-Line -- I'll start with Clady because he is playing the most important position on the O-Line if you have a right-handed QB - Left Tackle. The Texans have an elite pass rusher in Mario Williams and he will be a good first test for Clady. I also expect Clady to see a bit more playing time since he is playing such a high-profile position as a rookie.
I am also looking to see how Chris Kuper fares with a huge cast on his hand. While the injury is unfortunate, and Kuper is a true warrior for trying to play through it, if he struggles it could open the door for someone else.
Ben Hamilton will get his first live action since New Year's Eve 2006 when he laces them up tonight. He has shown no ill-effects of the concussion that ended his 2007 season before it began, and more importantly he has not looked timid at all. Even as important as Tom Nalen is to the offense, I look at Hamilton as the most important piece. If he goes down again, the line really has to start shuffling bodies around.
2. Rookies Get Their Shot -- So far so good for the rookie class of 2008. Eddie Royal is going to start at #2 receiver tonight, his first real test of whether he can be a factor on offense as well as special teams. While some will lead you to believe Royal's promotion is a statement against Darrell Jackson, I think Jackson is firmly entrenched as the #2, and will likely be the #1 while Brandon Marshall serves his suspension. If Royal proves to be effective at the #2 spot, Jackson, who is already comfortable as a #1, will slide over to fill Marshall's spot.
I also expect Jack Williams and Josh Barrett to see extended action tonight. I am high on both players, especially Barrett, and think both can make an impact in some way, shape or form in 2008. This will be their first chance to prove to everyone they have what it takes to play at this level and I expect both players not to disappopint.
3. Revamped Defense Needs To Make A Statement -- We've heard a lot of talk from the defense about how much they like the system being installed by Bob Slowik. Now it is time to prove it works. The Broncos will only go as far this season as it's defense allows, despite having a solid offensive group. The Texans do not have a stellar run game, and the Broncos need to start building confidence in their run-d.
The front 7 also needs to generate pressure on the quarterback to assist what I consider to be an underrated secondary that has a lot more athleticism and speed now that John Lynch is no longer around. You guys are really going to like Marlon McCree, and his acquisition could be a steal once this season plays out. Trust me.
4. Kicking Game - Not just field goals, but kick-offs and punts as well. The Broncos have been the worst, deal last, horrible, awful, etc when it comes to special teams and starting field position. An extra 10 yards on a kick return is one less first down the offense needs to try and move the ball down the field. Same goes for the coverage teams. The Broncos need to consistently win the field position battle, whether that is by forcing turnovers or by simply turning over the field with solid punt and kick coverage.
Now let's see what Styg50, HoosierTeacher, Zappa and MDierk think about tonight's game --
What I plan on watching:
1. Technique from the MLB position, all strings. I want to watch how they are fighting through traffic, their presnap reads, how well they get guys in position, how energetic they are, how well the defense plays around them. I will be watching their hips, seeing which guys cover their zone best laterally, and how they look turning in man coverage. I will be watching to see how well they shed blocks at the second level and how well they follow the play when trying to disrupt in the backfield.
2. Technique from the DT position, all strings, with the focus on Marcus Thomas. I want to see how quickly he is getting off the snap, which gaps and techniques he is assigned. I will be recording the DT rotation throughout the game, noting down and distance, and any other relevant situational notes. I will be watching to see how well they protect themselves inside, keeping their legs free so they can penetrate and pursue laterally. I will be watching for hand technique, especially from Thomas, looking for how well he is executing his rush moves. I will be noting how different tandems work together.
3. I will be watching Eddie Royal getting off the line of scrimmage, how well he beats man coverage and how well he runs his routes or finds places to sit in zone. I will be noting and recording every motion and position he plays from, as well as paying particular attention to any assignments he receives if/when Stokley or Marshall are still in the game. I will be watching his downfield blocking, and how long he sustains his plays, both blocks and routes. I will keeping a sharp eye out for signs that he has a feel for his QBs situation: how quickly he responds when his QB is in trouble, how well he presents his body when his QB has a tight window for the throw, how well he adjusts when the ball is in the air. I will be watching any passes that go his way and seeing how he controls his body, where he catches the ball, how he secures it, how he maintains space from the defender. I will be hoping to see very physical play from this young man.
4. I will be watching Clady for how well he moves in tandem with his line, and what combinations of lines he is in on. I will be watching for his hand jolt/punch specifically, to see how well it translates to the pros, and I will be watching to see if his kickout in pass protection is up to speed for pro ends (think Mario Williams here guys). I will not be watching overall technique with him as much as I will be evaluating what I think are his core skills, what he will be falling back on when the going gets tough, or when tiredness is setting in. I will also be comparing his speed and size to the rest of the line.
5. I am focusing on specific personnel when I watch, and my order of preference is Royal, Clady, Niko/Nate. In the event that none of these guys is in the game, I will be watching MLB/DT, or LT/RT.
1. My first interest is what kind of system Slowik will be running. Because this is the preseason, he may run a vanilla "man coverage" system. He might also run the '08 system, so I'm very curious.
2. I am also very interested in the DT, MLB, and SAM LB positions. They are the key to a succesful season, and they must able to stop the run.
3. I have some interest in the SAF positions, and am eager to see how well we do there.
4. I'm interested in Colbert, Jackson, and Young. Any one of these players that looks good can take some pressure of off Marshall. If more than one looks good, we will be unstoppable in the pass game.
5. The running game always looks good, but I want to see how each RB does individually.
I will stick with the theme on my last post, but really I'll be focused on two things:
1. Defense, specifically the Defensive Tackle position. Last preseason was telling to the disaster that was coming in the regular season, so I hope this preseason will show us that things are going to be better this year.
2. Red Zone. Remember, no points left behind was a major theme for us last year, so I would really like to see touchdowns instead of field goals in 2008!
3. Other than that, I will be watching certain key players. I want to see Eddie Royal in action and I also really want see just how good this Josh Barrett kid is. And the rest of the rookies of course. :)
1. How Ryan Clady does in his debut (as well as the rest of the line)
2. Jay Cutler's performance and how the WR's perform.
3. The defense handling the run and rushing the QB.
4. Rookie performance and players that make an impact after the 1st quarter.
Ok, your turn, what will you be watching for tonight?!?