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What to look for in tonight’s preseason battle with the Seahawks

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Hint: It’s not worrying about how well Paxton Lynch plays versus Drew Lock.

Denver Broncos v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

It’s Preseason Week 1 which means the Broncos are facing off against the Seahawks tonight (8 p.m. Mile High Time), and despite what you may think about preseason games, there is actually a lot to pay attention to in the matchup.

And I would remind you to keep a healthy perspective about what is trying to be accomplished in a preseason game. It’s a lot more about coaches evaluating players, testing situations, considering player combinations, etc., than it is about winning the game - or even about scoring a bunch of touchdowns.

I am totally cool with that. The only reason I care even a little about who wins is that winning is good for team morale - as Vic Fangio pointed out last week after the game. No one was doing cartwheels over a 14-10 win, but no one was complaining about a ‘W’ either. Mostly, I want the team to work out the kinks in the preseason. Make the mistakes here, watch the film, fix it in practice and be ready to compete in the regular season. I don’t mind drops and mis-timed plays and missed assignments in the preseason - as long as they happen now and then begin disappearing by Week 1.

And truthfully, I love watching the guys who are fighting for roster spots get after it in preseason. The genuine excitement for the game is infectious.

So here’s what I’ll be excited to watch tonight:

1. Flacco, of course

It’s a little odd to say this, but I’m genuinely excited to watch Joe Flacco play - in a game, as a Bronco, working with his new offensive coordinator, throwing to a bunch of young receivers. It helps that I don’t expect anything amazing or flashy. But I don’t even want that. I want competence, and I’m very interested in watching how Flacco handles the huddle, deals with defensive pressure, works with an improving-but-still-learning O-line and basically “leads” his new team. Even if it’s just a series or two this week.

Preseason games may not reveal a ton of scheme, but they do offer unplanned game-like scenarios that provide great insight into how players will deal with important situations.

Flacco is seemingly Joe Cool in training camp, so I’m interested to see if that translates to the games as well. I know a lot of fans just want to get a look at Drew Lock - and I’ll enjoy watching him too - but honestly, I want to get a sense of what Broncos’ offense could be like this season before I get too keyed up on franchise QB talk.

And of course, watching the QB, means paying attention to the O-line too.

2. Riddick, Muhammad, Jackson ... oh my!

We already know that our No. 1 and 2 backs are good. But now we have a whole group of backups who are speedy, shifty and have shown good field vision. Watching Khalfani Muhammad, Devontae Jackson and now Theo Riddick get some reps should make for an interesting running back competition.

Riddick would have to be terrible to not own the third-down back spot, but whether Muhammad or Jackson gets the RB4 designation is still to be decided.

3. Catch the damn ball!

Drops have been an issue in training camp as well as in the Hall of Fame game, so I’ll be less interested in who is catching the ball and more interested in whether a) the ball was catchable and b) if so, did someone actually catch it?

But seriously, rather than worrying about whether Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton are going to get that prime time Pay Per View slot for their next bout, I’m more interested in which receivers consistently show they can run good routes and catch “all the throws.”

JuWann Winfree showed up for a big TD catch in a go-ahead score with 1:33 left in the game (after a TD catch from Kelvin McKnight was reversed due to a penalty). But there is a long list of wideouts trying to take one of the two or three receiver spots available, including Nick Williams, Steven Dunbar, former defensive back Brendan Langley,

And then there are still the tight ends! Austin Fort didn’t do much to impress last week after two weeks of great camp reports, but neither did first-round draft pick Noah Fant nor Troy Fumagalli.

With Flacco playing a few series for this preseason opener, it will be interesting to watch how offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello employs the young tight ends in the passing game - and whether the rank is starting to shape up.

As if that’s not enough pass catchers to watch, with this Scangarello verison of the Kyle Shanahan version of the Mike Shanahan offense, running backs and full backs are likely catching the ball too. Let’s see who can hold on to it.

4. Interceptions, sacks galore

Although Broncos Twitter is going to focus on Paxton Lynch and making many lame jokes about video games or pirates or dumb dab dances, I couldn’t care less whether Lynch plays great or terrible. Frankly, I hope he does well in Seattle. Why not? It’s not like Broncos did right by him as a rookie, so fans shouldn’t blame the QB if he gets a fresh start on a new team and does well. That hate needs to die.

However, I won’t be mad if Broncos’ edge rushers pummel Lynch a few times or the defensive backs get an interception or two. It’s not personal, just football. As with the running backs, I’m just interested in watching what kind of depth is going to exist on this D and who will emerge as standouts for this defense - either now or in the year(s) to come.

And speaking of standouts...

5. Dre’Mont Jones FTW!

The Broncos’ third-round draft pick was relatively invisible during training camp. As the backup to Derek Wolfe, he spent most of his time with the second and third-team defense, not providing much chance to make a big impression on the coaches.

But he changed that last Thursday night during the Hall-of-Fame game where his near-sack of Matt Schaub caused an interception, which he followed up soon after by tackling Falcons running back Qadree Ollison for a four-yard loss. Altogether, Jones had one sack, one TFL and three QB hurries. Not bad for a guy finally getting to show off.

Fangio noted that that kind of production is “valuable stuff. That’s what we were hoping for when we got him.”

Bradley Chubb has certainly seen enough to be impressed - and that’s a damn good recommendation.

“I love Dre’Mont. He’s one of those guys that came in as a rookie and he gets it. I feel like a lot of guys—even me, I was a little lost. But I feel like he gets it right away....He’s been great out here in the preseason,” Chubb said. “So, I hope he just continues to get better each and every day. I feel like as a unit, like I said — we’re all a team. So, if one guy is doing well, then we’re all going to be doing well.”

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