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Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers: Five things to watch

I give you five things to watch during tonight’s week two preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

We are in the 2nd week of the preseason and entering a game that will be very important for multiple Broncos players. There’s a chance that the Broncos quarterback competition could be settled tonight, chances for players to earn starting jobs and another chance for the rookies and fringe players to impress the coaches before the third preseason game.

So I’ll give you five things to watch during tonight’s week two preseason matchup between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers.

1: Make or break game for Paxton Lynch

This may very well be the game that decides whether or not Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian will get the week one start against the Los Angeles Chargers. Siemian had the start against the Bears last week and played like his usual self and only came away with 3 offensive points. So now Lynch has a chance to outdo what Siemian did last week.

This was a big week in general for Paxton Lynch. The Broncos had two joint practices against the 49ers and put together a pretty good week. By most accounts, Lynch won both practices which included what might have been his strongest practice all summer on Thursday where he went 12 for 12.

After practice on Thursday, Vance Joseph was asked what he wants to see from Lynch on Saturday night and he said he just wants to see him go out there and “play ball”.

“I want Paxton to relax and go out there and play his game. Make good decisions, move the chains and score points. Simple as that. I don’t want him to feel pressure. I want him to be himself and be an athlete when he’s called to be an athlete. Just play quarterback for us. Simple as that.”

If Lynch makes good decisions, protects the ball, moves the offense, and scores points he will make this quarterback battle very interesting as we head into the ever-important third preseason game.

Is it too little too late? It might be but this is Lynch’s best and likely last chance to earn the starting quarterback job. Very interested to see how this plays out.

2: Allen Barbre, Max Garcia, and Connor McGovern fighting for a starting guard job

Ronald Leary is starting at one left or right guard this season, but it remains to be seen who the other starting guard will be come week one of the season. Max Garcia has seen the majority of the reps at left guard, but veteran Alan Barbre and second-year player Connor McGovern are closing the gap on him.

Barbre did take plenty of first-team reps during the practices this week and could very well get the start tonight for the Broncos. Now with that said, Joseph was asked about this earlier in the week and wouldn’t comment yes or no on whether or not Barbre will get the start.

“I’m not sure of that. He has gotten first in reps, and so has [G/C Connor] McGovern with the ones as far as the guard position, once [C] Matt’s [Paradis] back in there permanently. We’ve got four or five guys working at the guard spot working to be starter.”.

Barbre is coming off a solid season for the Philadelphia Eagles and was one of the better run blocking guards in the league, so we know he can do it.

Another name to keep an eye on is guard/center, Connor McGovern. He has been getting first-team reps at center all offseason and those reps have really paid off. Vance Joseph said he has been impressive so far this offseason/summer.

“He’s been really impressive as far as playing center for us. Directing the offense as far as protection and those things. Then, moving to left or right guard and playing well at both spots, that’s been a real shot for us having him play well at two positions, especially at guard.”

A solid showing at center once again could go a long way in McGovern earning a starting job. Coaches are always looking to play their best five linemen and McGovern can play all three interior positions which will go a long ways in earning an important role in the offense.

3. Impressive rookies.

Two rookies stole the show against the Chicago Bears last week. Rookie receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie continued his strong summer by hauling in a long touchdown from third-string quarterback Kyle Sloter. Also, rookie running back De’Angelo Henderson had a long touchdown run late in the game as well.

Henderson has been turning heads all summer and he continued that against the Bears when he rushed the ball 7 times for 54 yards and 1 touchdown. It was a strong showing for the rookie and a performance that could earn him some looks with the 1st team offense tonight against the 49ers.

The other explosive rookie turning heads for the Broncos has been wide receiver/punt returner Isaiah McKenzie. The 5th round pick has already locked up the punt return job but could earn himself a bigger role in the offense.

McKenzie only had one reception against the Bears, but it was a big one.

He only caught one pass but he made it worth it. He beat defenders and hauled in a 47-yard bomb from Kyle Sloter. There was a lapse in coverage but McKenzie showed off his wheels and his big play ability. Now he’ll have a chance to once again prove himself.

What may work in McKenzie’s favor is that Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer may sit out the game tonight. Both have minor knicks but nothing to be concerned about, but this could lead to more snaps for McKenzie with the first and second team offenses.

4: Broncos pass rush

The Broncos will be once again without star pass rusher Von Miller who is just being held out for precautionary reasons. They will also be without defensive ends Derek Wolfe and Jared Crick as well as defensive end/edge rusher DeMarcus Walker for tonight’s game. Add all this on top of Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett being out and the Broncos pass rushing unit is rather thin.

This means that players like Kasim Edebali and Vontarrius Dora will have to show that they can get after the passer against starting caliber NFL tackles. The 49ers have a good one in Joe Staley and the massive right tackle Trent Brown who Von Miller heaped praise on after Wednesday’s practice.

If these two can get after the passer against these two they figure to do well against the rest of the tackles they face this year. This will also help ease the concerns some have about the Broncos being without Ray and Barrett to start the season.

Another name to watch is defensive end, Shelby Harris. He was overlooked against the Bears but turned in a pretty promising performance against the Chicago Bears last week.

He earned an 88.0 grade and was the 3rd best-graded edge and interior rusher during the first week of the preseason.

Harris is entering his third season in the NFL is a 6’2”, 290lb defensive end. He’s a former 7th round pick of the Oakland Raiders in the 2014 NFL Draft and has bounced around the league a bit since then. He has had stints with the Jets and Cowboys before signing with the Denver Broncos in January as a futures/reserve contract.

Now with injuries to Derek Wolfe and Jared Crick and Billy Winn being out for the season, Harris has a chance to earn a roster spot on the Broncos defensive line. Another strong showing tonight will go a long ways to make that happen.

5: Will Garett Bolles continue to impress?

One thing lost in the quarterback battle was how good Garett Bolles played against the Chicago Bears pass rushers. He continued his strong play during the joint practices when even talent evaluators have noticed how well Bolles has been doing.

He’ll get the start once again and will get to show again why he was selected in the first-round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Broncos. He is likely one good start away from officially being named the starting left tackle for the Denver Broncos going forward.

His balance, feet, run blocking skills, and nastiness all showed up during the Bears game last week. So hopefully those traits will once again show up against the San Francisco pass rushers tonight.


What are you looking forward to watching the most during tonight’s game vs. the 49ers

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Paxton Lynch getting the start
    (671 votes)
  • 5%
    The battle at guard
    (57 votes)
  • 12%
    Rookies Isaiah McKenzie and De’Angelo Henderson
    (143 votes)
  • 5%
    Broncos pass rushers vs. the 49ers pass blockers
    (60 votes)
  • 16%
    Garett Bolles being a bad ass
    (184 votes)
1115 votes total Vote Now