Real, actual football.
I’m absolutely stoked to see the Denver Broncos take the field against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night. It will be the first step to washing the taste of mediocrity that was the 2016 NFL season from our memories.
I typically don’t do a preview each week, but in the preseason I find it pretty fun to kick around thoughts on what I’ll be looking for for my game review. It gives all of us here in the Mile High Report community a chance to discuss all the interesting battles going on in camp and what position groups will be the most interesting to watch.
The Offensive Line
Much of last season was spent lamenting the poor quality of play all along the offensive line for the Broncos. We need better. It shouldn’t be hard after all. The product the Broncos fielded last year was one of the worst lines I’ve seen don the Orange and Blue since the 80’s.
But this year is going to be different. For that to happen we need to see tackles who don’t try to engage in a blocking technique that uses primarily their butts. It is going to take guards that don’t get turned sideways enough times that we notice it is a consistent problem.
Just to touch on it again: last year’s line weaknesses were at RT and both G positions primarily. Okung wasn’t great, but plenty of his problems came from not having anything close to a solid G next to him from what I saw.
So for this game I’ll be paying close attention to every lineman not named Matt Paradis. We have a lot of new faces worth focusing on in Garett Bolles, Ron Leary, Menelik Watson, and Allen Barbre.
I was intrigued last preseason by Connor McGovern. I see him as a depth player with upside and would like to see what he brings whenever he gets time on the field.
Max Garcia is in a new system that supposedly suits him much better than the ZBS. Good. Let’s see it...because No Bull he was the worst playing lineman on the field last year not named Ty Sambrailo.
The Right Side of the Front 7
The Broncos have some key guys out in Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett. Last year’s problems on defense centered on the right side of the defensive front specifically with Jared Crick and Sylvester Williams.
So now we have a lot to look at. In the middle can Domata Peko show that he’s still got the goods after a fairly mediocre looking season with Cincinatti last year? That one upgrade could make a huge difference in the stoutness of the front 7 and a return to Denver having the most dominant defense in the NFL.
Another guy I’ll be watching closely is Adam Gotsis. Bill Kollar is one of the best in the NFL at coaching defensive line talent and he pounded the table for Gotsis in last year’s draft. I give every defensive lineman a pass on their first year really. It takes time to get your body into shape for what they do and to learn enough technique to really be a stable force. Time to show up with the goods, Gotsis.
I love me some Brandon Marshall, but at ILB I have a lot of questions. Todd Davis is a very stout run defender, but looks to me to be a liability in coverage. I liked a lot of what I saw from Zaire Anderson last year, but it has yet to really translate to the field likely due to his size. Who is going to step out at ILB and help bolster what Denver does on 1st and 2nd downs?
The No Fly Fresh Meat
I love me some good secondary play and as a fan of the Broncos, I feel quite spoiled over the past handful of years. We’ve got the best corners in the league and highly talented safeties. Some of them are getting a bit long in the tooth (Ward, Talib). At some point you have to start finding replacements and a good GM will do that long before the time comes to part ways.
Justin Simmons is a young safety who really impressed me last year. He saw ~26% of the snaps and looked good doing it. Simmons needs to show some play making ability this preseason and help himself be seen as a starting quality player if he wants to break into the No Fly Zone any time soon.
The battle I’ll be keeping an eye on is Brendan Langley vs Lorenzo Doss. Why in the heck is Langley ahead of Doss on the depth chart? Don’t get me wrong...the players hype Doss. But other than make plays in practice, I’ve not seen much to toot a horn about Doss to date.
Is a Tight End Weapon in the House?
This story has been running for years it feels like. We have a superb blocking TE in Virgil Green and then a bunch of JAGs. There just HAS to be a TE who is a pass catching weapon somewhere on this squad. Hopefully an offense that utilizes the TE position and makes our QBs throw their direction more will help us find out who that guy is.
We saw flashes last year from both Jeff Heuerman and A.J. Derby. Can we see more than flashes? Who can attack the seams vs zone coverage? Who can beat a LB or safety in man? The days of Julius Thomas making guys looking like fools seems a very, very long way in the past.
Talk is Cheap, RBs
Every season I hear C.J. Anderson talk big this time of year. Yet, each year he ends with <1,000 yards and talks like he’s a premier NFL RB. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m tired of the song and dance. Stay healthy, run fools over, and show the goods for a whole season.
The exciting thing for me is that there’s some solid competition that has been brought in by the Broncos in Jamaal Charles and Stevan Ridley. Both of these veterans have the capability to help supplement our run game and morph it into something that will make defenses have to think about more than how to shut down our limited passing attack.
Watch out as well for De’Angelo Henderson. He didn’t impress me quite as much as Isaiah McKenzie did at camp, but he popped quite a few times and looked as good as any other RB in shells that day. Let’s see what he can do when the pads are all on and guys are bringing him to the ground.
I’m sure am ready for some football
What about you all out there in Broncos Country? Hit up the poll and the comment section and let us know what match ups you are looking at this Thursday. Are you intrigued by a player I didn’t mention? Maybe more stoked to see a return game from the Broncos?
Bonus hit: I mentioned Isaiah McKenzie. Keep an eye on him. He’s the one guy from this draft class so far that absolutely passes the eye test. We may have something special in him as a dynamic weapon on the field.
What position group are you most interested in watching in Thursday’s game?
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