The Broncos enter the "dress rehearsal" week of the preseason where the starters end up playing an entire half or into the third quarter. It's the closest to a regular season game we will get until week one of the regular season.
This week we have an answer(hopefully) on who will be the starting quarterback for week one, a tough test of the Broncos offensive line, receiver and running back battles, and more.
1. Can Trevor Siemian win the starting job this time around?
Last week Trevor Siemian was given the start against the San Francisco 49ers and had a great shot to win the Broncos starting quarterback job.
Well, everything started out well for Siemian in a likely well scripted first drive that ended with a nice touchdown run by C.J Anderson. However, after that drive, Siemian really struggled.
Eric Reid pick 6 on Siemian https://t.co/n1S6jwGQ27— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 21, 2016
He threw an ugly pick 6 to 49ers safety, Eric Reid, he dinked and dunked a bit, stared down his receivers, and look rattled after the interception. It wasn't a terrible performance, but not enough to win the starting job.
For tonight's game against the Los Angeles Rams, Siemian will get the start again and will again have a shot at winning the starting quarterback job. If he performs well he should be the guy for week one, but a poor showing could open the door for first-round rookie Paxton Lynch.
So what does Siemian need to do to win the starting job? I would like to see him throw downfield more, not stare down his targets, not dink and dunk, and not turn the ball over. If he does all that, he can win the job.
2. Will Paxton Lynch do enough to win the starting quarterback job?
One development that we saw this week was rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch receive first-team reps ahead of veteran Mark Sanchez while Trevor Siemian sat out practice with a sore shoulder.
Would not surprise me if Broncos opened season with Paxton Lynch under center. Wouldn't surprise many people I've talked to either.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) August 22, 2016
While Siemian sat out practice this week, Lynch ran with the first team and the scout team offense during practice and this earned the praise from Head Coach Gary Kubiak.
"It definitely helps, but boy is it tough. The kid is out here today running the Rams’ offense and the Broncos’ offense. It’s very difficult. I shouldn’t say that because he’s going to know I said that. That’s what gives you a chance to get better. You have to wear a lot of hats if you’re going to play in the NFL and be a young player on a team. You have to come out here on a given day and do a lot of things. You have to work the other team’s stuff well and work your stuff well. That’s what he’s learning. Without Trevor practicing today, obviously his reps went up. That goes for a lot of guys, too."
Now Lynch will enter the week three preseason game with a chance to win the starting quarterback job. If Trevor Siemian falters or just looks average, it will open the door for Lynch to impress with the 1st team offense against the Rams 1st team defense.
I think Lynch will need to play flawlessly to win the job, but there's an opportunity for him to do so.
3. Broncos offensive line will be tested
The Broncos starting offensive line will get a tough test tonight when they take on the Los Angeles Rams defensive line.
The Rams have defensive tackle Aaron Donald who is arguably the best in the league and can take over a game whenever he wants. They also have defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, William Hayes, Dominique Easley and others. This is a tough unit that will figure to get after whoever is in at quarterback.
The Broncos first-team offensive line looked fine against the 49ers last week, but will have a tough test this week. Trevor Siemian already has a sore shoulder and could be in for a few more big hits tonight.
Hopefully Russell Okung, Max Garcia, Matt Paradis, whoever plays right guard and Donald Stephenson plays well tonight.
4. Todd Gurley vs. the Broncos defense
This might be the best matchup to watch during this meaningless game. Todd Gurley is already one of, if not the best running back in the league and will be going up against the Broncos top-ranked defense.
Derek Wolfe owning the 49ers against the run.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) August 21, 2016
Derek Wolfe and the rest of the Denver Broncos starting defense held the 49ers run defense in check last week, but it all went downhill after the starters left the field. This week they figure to play an entire half, so it will be a good test for them.
The Broncos lost Vance Walker who was one of the better run defenders in the game last season, so hopefully Henry Melton, Jared Crick, Darius Kilgo or rookie Adam Gotsis can take over for him and be just as effective.
5. The last chance for Ronnie Hillman?
With the first series of cuts only a few days away, could this be the last game we see Ronnie Hillman in a Broncos uniform? It's possible.
Devontae Booker was elevated into #Broncos No. 2 back role last night. Ronnie Hillman now trying to hold off Kapri Bibbs for No. 3 job.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 21, 2016
He is battling for a roster spot with Kapri Bibbs and seems to be on the outside looking in.
The Broncos will make their first series of cuts after tonight's game and there's a decent shot that the Broncos may cut/trade their veteran running back early and allow him to get with another team a few weeks before the start of the regular season.
Kubiak spoke on the roster cutting process and how the Broncos have probably already made a decision on who is getting cut and who isn't.
"You normally don’t try to look too far ahead, but we almost have to as an organization because two weeks from today, we play our opener. We have two games to play and I think 14 players to let go. There are just so many things going on. We’ve got issues going on with some injuries and some things like that. It is a grind right now. I know you guys are getting frustrated with me from the quarterback questions, but I’ve got a lot of things going on. I’m trying to get this team to opening day here in two weeks. We have a lot of questions to answer and things to get done."
How much playing time, if any Ronnie Hillman gets tonight could be very telling about his future with the Broncos. It likely will not be much at all.