Last week the Broncos defeated the 49ers 10-6 in their preseason opener. This weekend the Broncos head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Last week a few players furthered themselves from their competition, while others performed well, and are moving up the depth chart. There's a few position battles still up for grabs though. Lets take a look at those position battles.
|RB||Ronnie Hillman||Montee Ball||Knowshon Moreno||
Nothing has changed from last week. None of the top three backs really furthered themselves. Hillman only carried the ball 3 times for 9 yards against the Niners starting defense. It was hard to really get anything from that last start. Tough defense and he was only in for one series.
Look for Hillman to get the start again, and hopefully get 7-10 carries so we can get a better idea of what he can do in this offense. I'm hoping we see him average more then 3 yards a carry. A lengthy run or two would be nice. Seattle does have a tough defense, so it will be a good test for him.
A Player To Watch:
Like last week Ball is the guy i'm most excited to watch. Against the Niners Ball carried the ball 5 times for 9 yards. It wasn't what i was hoping to see, but in his defense the offensive line didn't do him any favors. Ball was met by 49er defenders when he was given the ball.
I'm guessing we will see Ball with the ones for at least a few snaps. I'm excited to see more from our rookie running back. I'm hoping our offensive line helps him out a bit too. If Ball wants to get the week one start he will need to start performing sooner rather then later.
A Dark Horse To Watch:
It might be a stretch to call Anderson a "Dark Horse". Anderson has gained a small fan base after last weeks performance. The Undrafted rookie carried the ball 15 times for 69 yards. What impressed me the most about Anderson was his tough running, vision, and cut back ability. He just looked good. It was against lesser competition, so that should be noted.
What to expect this week? Anderson will still be behind Hillman, Ball and Moreno, but he could see some action in goal line/short yardage situation. On Tuesday Anderson worked with Brock Osweiler and the 2's on offense. So he clearly is working his way up the pecking order. I'm hoping he has another solid showing Saturday night. It would be nice to see him get some work against tougher competition to see how he does.
|MLB||Nate Irving||Stewart Bradley||
I didn't include this position battle last week. I thought it was clear that Nate Irving was the starting Middle Linebacker. It was surprising to see Stewart Bradley out there starting with the 1's on defense.
I dont like calling him the "Favorite" but it looks like he's the starter right now at Inside Linebacker. Bradley didn't look too good against the Niners. He didn't past my "Eye Test". He looked slow, poor in coverage and didn't react well in the run game. Bradley finished the game with 5 tackles and 1 assist.
I think we will probably see Bradley start again. If he's the starter, lets hope he has a better showing against the Seahawks. They will run the ball a lot, so i'm hoping he does better in the run game.
A Player To Watch:
Nate was fun to watch. Irving ran into the backfield and caused a fumble that lead to the only touchdown of the game. Irving finished the game with 4 tackles, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. Irving was all over making impact plays on the defense.
I'm hoping Irving gets the start, but i'm not betting on it. Irving saw time at outside linebacker with the 2's, and i think thats where we will see him again. Another strong performance will be good for him. It would be nice to see Irving out there with the starters to see how he performs.
The Dark Horse
Johnson a undrafted rookie last year has looked good to me when he has been on the field. Last week against the niners Johnson totaled just one tackle. Johnson figures to see time with the 2's and 3's again this weekend
Johnson is a versatile linebacker who can play all 3 linebacker spots, and is also a solid special teamer. I'm hoping we see more of him in game action though.
|C||Manny Ramirez||C.J. Davis||Steve Vallos||
A Player To Watch:
It was really hard to gauge how well Lilja did last week. The 2nd and 3rd team offensive lines looked bad at times. However the guys over at Pro Football Focus had some encouraging words about his performance.
With Dan Koppen out for the year with an ACL injury — and the starter before him J.D. Walton out until at least midseason — the Broncos brought Ryan Lilja (+2.0) out of retirement to fill the void at center. Lilja looked as if he hadn’t been retired at all, playing 41 snaps and proving a force in the run game. A perfect example was at 2:16 left in the third quarter, when Denver ran the ball on 4th-and-1. Though the run ultimately fell short, it was no fault of Lilja’s, who drove NT Lamar Divens a yard-and-a-half off the ball. The center also posted a clean sheet in pass protection, providing early optimism that this offensive line won’t miss a beat once the regular season rolls around.
This is very encouraging. Sure it was against the Niners backups, but still good to hear.
It will be interesting to see if Lilja gets time with the ones this weekend. I'm not sure if Peyton Manning would like having a different center at multiple times during a game, but it is a possibility. Another strong performance from Lilja could push him into the starter role.
The Dark Horse
Kuper who was recently activated from the PUP list has been working on being a center. Yesterday Kuper was snapping the ball to Manning before practice started, and stayed after practice to work on snapping the ball some more. Are they trying to convert Kuper to center? It sure seems like it.
Now I do not expect to see Kuper on the field Saturday night, but he could see time in week's 3 and 4 during the preseason at center. If Kuper can learn the center position, and continue playing as well as he was when he was healthy, the Broncos have themselves a pretty good center. That's a lot of questions though, so we'll all have to just wait and see.
|SS||Mike Adams||Duke Ihenacho||Quinton Carter||Ross Rasner|
No player looked more impressive then Nacho last week. In about a quarter and a half Nacho racked up 7 tackles, and a forced fumble. Duke was in on every play it seemed. He was very active and had a few big hits. In my mind he has locked up the Strong Safety spot.
I think we'll see Duke for the entire first half Saturday night, and i'm excited to see what he can do. Another strong performance should lock him in as the starter. However a poor performance could make the coaches put the veteran Mike Adams ahead of him. Nacho has a lot of pressure on him again this weekend.
A Player To Watch:
It looks like Adams may have lost his starting job to Ihenacho, but he isn't going down without a fight. Adams looked solid in relief for Ihenacho last week. He finished the game with 2 tackles and a Interception near the end of the first half. It was a solid showing for the veteran.
Adams needs to keep playing solid. If Ihenacho falters, Adam can win his job back. Also Adams is fighting for the important 3rd Safety role. We could see Adams used in the Big Nickel defense during the season. There he would be covering the Tight End.
A Player Who Is On The Bubble:
I hated typing this. I was high on guy when he was drafted. However Carter missed all of last season, and has been out for a good portion of camp. With Moore, Ihenacho, Adams and Bruton all but certain roster spots, it's not looking good for him.
The longer he is out, the more his roster spot is in danger. The Broncos will have some tough decisions to make come final cuts. The Defensive Back cuts could be one of the toughest. Carter might be on the outside looking in right now.
|TE||Joel Dreessen||Jacob Tamme||Julius Thomas||
Thomas looked good last week. The big man led the team in receptions and receiving yards. He finished the day with 4 catches for 35 yards. As of now it looks like his job to lose. Dreessen will be out for a few more weeks, and Tamme has just returned from an injury.
As i said Thomas looked really good against the Niners. I'm excited to see him out there with Peyton and the three receivers. Julius should have many favorable matchups. If Thomas puts up another strong showing against a good Seattle defense, he should be our starter against Baltimore.
A Player To Watch:
In last weeks post i said that i wanted to see more from Green in the passing game. He showed me something. Green made a few good catches. Green looked good as a blocker too. Green finished the game with 2 receptions for 20 yards. With both of the veteran Tight Ends being hurt Green needed to show something, and i believe he did.
I think we'll see a lot of Green against Seattle. Thomas will be the starter, and i don't think we'll see Tamme on the field. He just returned from being hurt, and I don't see any reason to rush the veteran. Also Green is the best blocking Tight End we have right now, so we should a lot of Green. It would be nice to see him look good as a blocker and receiver again.