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Broncos vs Texans preseason 2015: Five things to watch

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I give you five things to watch for during tonight's preseason matchup against the Houston Texans.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

1. Peyton Manning making his 2015 debut:

The Broncos quarterback will make his 2015 debut tonight and expects to play a good amount of snaps. Manning has been getting some extra rest this summer and sat out the Broncos preseason opener last week, so he is ready to get out there.

"I think a lot of guys are looking forward to getting out there and playing against a good team. You get to see somebody different and get to play a little bit more and obviously see some of their starters probably for a little bit longer. We practiced against this team last year, so we had a good test against them last year. It’s another good test. It’s a good team to play against because you get some good work against obviously some really good players, along with some different schemes. I am looking forward to getting out there."

This will be our first look at Peyton Manning playing in the Manning/Kubiak hybrid offense. It will be interesting to see how that looks. They probably will keep the gameplan pretty simple for Manning, but I'm anxious to see how he does.

Many players have been commenting on how much stronger Manning's arm looks this year, and how he seems for "fit" than he has been in the past. I want to see how all that transitions into the game

The offensive line(more on that later) will continue to be an area to focus on, but I want to see the chemistry between Manning and new center Matt Paradis. Everything went smoothly last week between Paradis and Osweiler last week, so hopefully it all goes well this time around with Manning.

Manning said chemistry between he and Paradis is still a learning process for both.

"Obviously, you get a lot of reps. There’s nothing quite like game reps. To go against somebody different on Saturday and handle a little crowd noise and handle some of the different defenses, like I said, I appreciate all those guys how hard they’ve worked, trying to learn, trying to get better every day. We’re all learning. We’re all trying to get better. In many ways, we’re all in the same boat."

These will be valuable reps between Paradis and Manning.

2. Demaryius Thomas and Owen Daniels also making his 2015 debut:

Two of Peyton Manning's top targets will also be making their 2015 debuts tonight.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has been working into football shape after skipping OTA/minicamp practices this spring. The Broncos coaches started him off slowly, but during the last week of Training Camp he has worked back into playing shape.

Thomas has been Manning's favorite target ever since he joined the Broncos, and he's excited to have his playmaking wide receiver back.

There’s being in shape and there’s being in football shape. I know he continued to work out during his time away, but unless you’re out here practicing and doing drills and going through the course of a practice—between running routes and doing seven-on-seven and doing team drills—it’s hard to be in football shape. It’s taken him some time, but he’s really kind of turned it on this past week. He’s caught a lot of balls and he is finishing after the catch. To me, he looks like D.T. I am looking forward to getting out there with him on Saturday night."

Look for Manning to connect with Thomas a few times tonight.

3: J.J. Watt vs. the Broncos young offensive line:

J.J. Watt is a monster and will be a big test for the Broncos offensive line, especially tackles Ty Sambrailo and Ryan Harris. He plays all over the Texan's defensive line, so both figures to get tested by Watt.

Coach Kubiak believes going against DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on a daily basis will benefit these guys when going up against Watt.

"They'll probably have some wide eyes when they walk out of the huddle, but J.J. is a pretty good player. He plays everywhere, too, so when you game plan in the regular season, there is no way you know exactly where he is going to play. He's very disruptive, but that's good for them. It's kind of like going against DeMarcus and Von on a regular basis, and now they get to go look at him. That'll help you get up to speed real quick."

Hopefully, these guys do not allow Watt to hit Manning too many times.

Also, the Broncos second team offensive line needs to improve after a poor showing last week against the Seattle Seahawks. I will be looking for improvement from Chris Clark, Ben Garland, Gino Gradkowski, Shelley Smith, and Michael Schofield.

4. Running back competition:

C.J. Anderson still figures to be the starter for the Broncos going forward, but everything behind him is up for grabs. Right now Montee Ball is the "1B" to Anderson, but Ronnie Hillman has been having a strong summer and looking to push Ball for that job.

I would look for Anderson to work at least the first quarter of tonight's game, with a little bit of Hillman/Ball mixed in. After that look for Ball and Hillman to get the majority of the snaps for the rest of the game.

A good or bad performance from either back could go a long way in determining which back will be the "1B" to starter C.J. Anderson.

5. Brock Osweiler

Whenever Osweiler takes the field he is analyzed by coaches, GM John Elway, and Broncos fans, and that will be the case tonight when he comes in for Peyton Manning.

Osweiler is coming off a good performance against the Seahawks backups and third-stringers last week, and will look to carry that success into tonight's game.

Another good performance from Osweiler could go a long way in deciding if the Broncos and General Manager John Elway will offer Osweiler a contract extension.