The Denver Broncos kick off their 2014 campaign with a preseason bout against the team that knocked them out of the Super Bowl. Rather than focusing on Super Bowl revenge, though, I'll be focusing on evaluating Denver's personnel and analyzing the on-field happenings.
You know, preseason stuff.
Here's who and what I'll be watching, with jersey numbers included for your co-scouting convenience.
The offensive line
Here are some of the questions I have for the Broncos' reshuffled offensive line:
- Will Chris Clark (#75) solidify his ownership of the right tackle position?
- Has Orlando Franklin (#74) learned to adjust his hands and weight to the left guard position?
- Are there any noticeable after-effects from Ryan Clady's (#78) Lisfranc foot sprain?
- Is Michael Schofield (#79) at a place where he could make Winston Justice expendable on the roster?
- Is Ben Garland (#63) ready to take the next step?
I won't be able to scout them the first run-through (I'll have some live-blogging to do and a recap to write after all), but during viewings 2 and 3, I'm looking forward to to shedding some light on these questions.
The 2014 rookie class
I'm really interested in watching Bradley Roby (#29). He's had an up-and-down camp so far, and while I don't expect him to be perfect by any means, I am looking for signs of potential and growth in the rookie. More than anything, if he gets burned, I want to see him shake it off, stick his nose back in there, and show he can have a short-term memory, an absolute must for cornerbacks in the NFL.
Wide receiver Cody Latimer (#14) is the surprise star of camp, so I'm curious to see if that success translates to stadium play this early. A touchdown for Latimer would be exciting indeed.
Lamin Barrow (#57) should get a lot of playing time in both special teams and with the second team, so I'm eager to see the rookie in action. The Seahawks are looking to sort out their running back rotation, so he should get plenty of chances.
There are a handful of undrafted guys I'm interested in as well. I want to see Kenny Anunike (#68) sack someboday, Kapri Bibbs (#35) separate himself from the running back pack, and Isaiah Burse (#19) give the Broncos a return on him as a returner. More on those two right now.
Kickoff and punt returners
The Broncos enter the preseason with not one, but two return-duty question marks. The Broncos' depth chart lists punt returners as Wes Welker, Jordan Norwood, and Isaiah Burse. At kick returner we have Andre Caldwell then Omar Bolden.
Throw that depth chart out the window. Hopefully.
I don't want to enter the 2014 season with Welker and Caldwell as the Broncos' return men, and preseason is the opportunity for the Broncos to find someone else to take those reins. The most obvious choice is Burse, whose main justification for being on the Broncos' 90-man roster is his collegiate return-duty success, but I'll be hoping to watch Jordan Norwood (#11) and Omar Bolden (#31) in special teams work as well.
Derek Wolfe and friends
The remarkable comeback of Derek Wolfe (#95) is complete. After missing the tail end of the 2013 regular season, and all of the postseason, with a mysterious illness that saw him lose pounds of muscle mass and threatened his career, Wolfe is healthy and hungry. I read Andrew Mason's excellent Five Observations the other day, and he talked about how Wolfe "terrorized" the offensive line and used an "MMA-esque hand move" to school Vinston Painter. I tweeted out hashtag #drool with that link, because I'm pretty sure my mouth was agape at reading that, a trail of saliva trickling down my chin. Like a wolf.
Meanwhile, Wolfe is surrounded by good defensive line company. Sylvester Williams (#92) looks to take a huge leap in his second year, and I'm stoked to watch him tonight. Maybe he'll get on Sportscenter Top 10 for real. Marvin Austin (#76) is a promising addition I'm eager to scout, and Anunike, previously mentioned in "rookies," is my undrafted rookie most likely to make the roster at this point. Finally, we're all eager to see pass rush specialist Quanterus Smith (#93) in action after he missed his rookie 2013 season due to injury. Let's see this d-line eat some Seahawk.
I'd add DeMarcus Ware to this list obviously, but I don't think he's going to play. Just a gut feeling. They'll rest the veteran like they did in the summer scrimmage last weekend.
It's time, Brock (#17). We need to see clear-cut, unquestionable growth in year three, or the Broncos will be looking to add steeper competition to the backup QB position a year from now. Get busy living or get busy dying.
The committee of running backs
Here's the depth chart heading into the game, along with notes about what I hope to see.
- Montee Ball - OUT, appendectomy, get well soon Ball(er)
- Ronnie Hillman (#23) - I need to see a mistake-free performance from Hillman. A nice 10-yard run would be good too.
- C.J. Anderson (#22) - Does he have a grasp on the playbook now in his sophomore season? In addition to general run-scouting, I'm hoping to see him run a few routes and aid in pass protection.
- Juwan Thompson (#40) - He's the tallest and heaviest back the Broncos have at 5-11, 225 lbs. Does he have the speed to lock down a roster spot?
- Kapri Bibbs (#35) - Bibbs set school and NCAA records behind a not-so-great o-line at CSU (no offense, Rams fans). I'd like to see some of his renowned vision lead to a touchdown Thursday.
- Brennan Clay (#34) and Jerodis Williams (#33) -These guys probably won't get a lot of snaps and will need to make a splash on special teams.
Who and what will you be watching when the Broncos play the Seahawks Thursday night?