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Denver Broncos vs San Francisco 49ers: Five things we learned

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How did the quarterbacks do and four other things we learned from last night's preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.

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1. Trevor Siemian and Mark Sanchez struggle and fail to separate once again

It all started nicely.

The probably well scripted first drive for Trevor Siemian dink and dunked his way down the field and the drive ended with a nice touchdown run from running back C.J. Anderson.

It appeared that this would be the night that Siemian would clinch the starting quarterback job, but much like Sanchez's first drive against the Bears, but it all went downhill quickly from there.

The second drive for Siemian wasn't nearly as good. He didn't look as comfortable and the series ended with him settling for a pass well behind the first down marker on third down. Former Broncos safety John Lynch who was announcing the game pointed out that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had one on one coverage and seemed upset that Siemian didn't target him.

The dink and dunking continued.

Siemian's play was becoming predictable and he was staring down his receivers. Even during the preseason defensive coordinators and players will pick up on these tendencies and adjusted their play.

The next drive, Siemian stared down wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and was baited into an interception by 49ers safety Eric Reid who jumped Siemian's short pass and took it back for a touchdown.

It was an ugly interception for Siemian who was hoping to lock up the starting job and has been playing it safe all summer.

After the ugly pick six, Siemian didn't look the same. The look rattled and his play really suffered because of it. He sailed a few passes and just looked like a completely different quarterback than the one who started the game.

After the game, Siemian seemed to realize he had a huge opportunity and really blew it.

Siemian finished the game 10 for 14, for 75 yards and 1 interception. Not the showing he or the Broncos were hoping to see.

After Siemian struggled and exited the game, Mark Sanchez took over with a great opportunity to win the starting job. Unfortunately for Sanchez, he struggled mightily and ended up turning the ball over multiple times.

Sanchez had his moments where he looked like "the guy", but two lost fumbles in back to back drives really hurt his night. Add that to his interception against the Bears and 4 pick 6's during Training Camp and Sanchez really has a turnover problem. That's nothing new, though, it was his issue when he was traded to the Broncos, but most assumed/hoped that Gary Kubiak would clean these errors up. Obviously, nothing has changed and these turnovers will not get him the starting job.

Overall both quarterbacks looked disappointing last night. Siemian looked better than Sanchez, but neither looked like a starting quarterback. Siemian's failure to stretch the field and staring down his receivers will end badly during the regular season, and Sanchez's mental errors will cost the Broncos games.

Kubiak said after the game that they both need to cut down on the turnovers.

"They both have done some good things. Obviously we’re coming out of this one game, so we’re talking about some turnovers that we have to go get fixed. If you’re not turning the ball over, and moving the ball the way we moved it, I’d be a lot happier right now and hopefully the result would have been better. We have to hang on to the good things they do, because they are both doing some really good things. We also have to find a way to protect the game and protect the ball. What is it now? Four turnovers in two weeks? We can’t have that."

So nothing has changed with our "co-starters" after Training Camp and two preseason games. It's time to try something different(Paxton Lynch).

2. Virgil Green is your starting tight end

The veteran tight end looked like a player on the verge of a breakout season last night. Green caught four passes for 57 yards in limited action.

Green now has been targeted 7 times and caught 7 passes for 83 yards this preseason. He has that spot on lockdown with second-year tight end Jeff Heuerman dealing with a hamstring injury, and veteran Garrett Graham and rookie Henry-Krieger-Coble well behind Green.

Kubiak said after the game that Green is taking advantage of the opportunity presented to him.

"Jeff Heuerman was nicked on us a couple of days ago and was missing some time with a hamstring. He’s had a hard time staying healthy. Virgil’s been a warrior. He’s stayed in there. He’s been battling. This is an opportunity in Virgil’s career to become a starter. He’s obviously taken advantage of it."

He has always been known for his blocking skills but was rarely used in the passing game under Peyton Manning. Well,that appears to be changing this year. Look for Green to get a ton of targets this season.

3. Jordan Norwood is making the team and is likely your punt/kick returner

One thing that stood out to me during last night's game was veteran wide receiver, Jordan Norwood.

Norwood is fighting for a roster spot with a host of other wide receivers, but the veteran seemed to be ahead of the pack last night. He was getting some first team slot work in with Trevor Siemian at quarterback and ended the night with four receptions for 30 yards.

What really helped his case was rookies Kalif Raymond and Bralon Addison struggling at receiver and kick/punt return last night. The only way either of the two explosive rookies would make the team is if they flashed in the return game and make plays at wide receiver, but neither happened.

Kalif Raymond routinely returned the ball when he simply should have taken a knee, but it's understandable why he would return everything when given the opportunity. Addison had once decent return, but also fumbled another snap which is never good. Neither player really made any notable plays in the passing game either.

So unless an injury occurs, or something drastically changes in the coming days, Jordan Norwood is your starting kick/punt return man.

4. Is Ronnie Hillman the odd man out at running back?

Many have assumed this for awhile, but it seemed obvious that Hillman was on the bubble during last night's game against the 49ers.

Rookie Devontae Booker received some first-team reps and looked really good in limited action. He had 9 attempts for 36 yards

After him, veteran Ronnie Hillman received some reps at running back, but most notably saw reps on special teams. He was on the coverage unit and even returned a kick 21 yards.

Kubiak said after the game that the running back position is a very competitive battle right now.

"‘Book’ split with C.J. and then ‘Book’ split with Ronnie. Ronnie looked good. Early in the second half he had some nice runs. It looked like he picked up a couple of blitzes really well. Ronnie is a veteran player. I know he played on special teams for Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis, so I have to go back and look at it. It’s obviously a very competitive situation for our team."

If Hillman wants to make the team he will need to show he can contribute on special teams as well as on offense. I don't really see Hillman becoming a player on special teams so I think the edge goes to Kapri Bibbs in this scenario.

This battle is likely coming down to the final preseason game, but I think Bibbs wins this battle.

5. Linebacker Zaire Anderson is becoming a playmaker

One player on defense that continues to make play after play is linebacker Zaire Anderson.

The undersized linebacker has all but locked up a roster spot for himself with his performance during Training Camp and so far during the preseason.

Anderson had two total tackles during last night's game against the 49ers and also forced two fumbles. This type of playmaking ability certainly has earned him a spot on the Broncos 53-man roster.

After the game, Kubiak said that Anderson has been doing some "good stuff" lately.

"Zaire’s had a good camp. He’s become a good player. He’s got a good grasp of what we’re doing. I have to go back and look at the game, but obviously he got some extensive time tonight against a tough scheme to work against. I’ll go back and look, but he’s been doing some good stuff."

I think Anderson will carve out a role on Special Teams early on, but could end up pushing Todd Davis and others for some reps in some sub-packages.

I've been a fan of Anderson since he signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft. He's a little undersized, but he's a tackling machine who would do well in nickel and dime packages.