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Three things we learned from Broncos-Texans: Horse Tracks

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Good morning, Broncos Country!

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How's the orange and blue coffee tasting this morning? Pretty good, right? It always goes down a little smoother the day after a win. Even a preseason win.

What the preseason is, is a time to evaluate. A time to grade personnel, note strong performances, and document areas that need improvement.

What the preseason is not, is a time to overreact. It's not about the final score, and it's not (too much) about stats.

So with that in mind, after the Broncos' 14-10 win over the Texans, here's what we have learned.

1. Dat Denver defense doin' darn good

In short: the Broncos defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in two preseason games and have a dozen sacks between roughly a dozen players.

But let's not comb this over too quickly. Let's dig in.

The Colorado Springs Gazette's Paul Klee thinks this is the beginning of a transition for Denver - before Peyton Manning calls it a career. A transition to a Seattle-like, defense-first team.

"Until they (Seattle) get dethroned — which they were last year, but they made it twice in a row — I guess they're still the standard for the defensive side of the ball. But I think we'll be the standard this year," Marshall said after the Broncos' first-team defense barely allowed the Texans to take a breath of the humid, soupy air inside NRG Stadium. Denver won the preseason game Saturday night, 14-10, and those are the types of final scores Colorado should be getting used to. This will be different.

"I like where we are," Von Miller said. Over two preseason games, the Broncos starters have 12 sacks and haven't allowed a touchdown.

"That's what this defense is all predicated on - getting pressure," said DeMarcus Ware, who played in this Wade Phillips-designed defense in Dallas.

DenverBroncos.com's Andrew Mason notes -

Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips dialed up blitzes from start to finish. He blitzed inside linebackers Todd Davis and Steven Johnson. He also experimented with his outside linebackers in coverage, which resulted in mixed results, including one play where Shane Raywas beaten to the outside.

Phillips moved T.J. Ward around, lining him up in the box and in the slot while usingDarian Stewart and David Bruton Jr. as the deep safeties in dime packages.Brandon Marshall was also active in his first game back from foot surgery, finishing with three tackles and a team-leading two passes defensed in one quarter of work.

2. Ronnie Hillman rushes ahead of Montee Ball

I know, just a few paragraphs ago, I advised you not to look too deeply into stats in the preseason. I stand by that. But sometimes a player's numbers jump off the stat sheet in a way that merits attention.

Ronnie Hillman's 2015 preseason represents such a time.

Hillman currently leads all NFL running back in preseason rushing yards with 120. He's done that on only 16 carries, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. That's not of utmost important in the preseason in an of itself, but when you compare his numbers to teammate Montee Ball's, the depth chart finds a natural pecking order. Ball has 30 yards on 12 attempts, a 2.5-yard average. More importantly, Ball just hasn't looked as fluid or patient or explosive as Hillman. Hillman is passing the eyeball test, and Ball isn't, launching Hillman into Denver's #2 running back position. If he keeps it up, he'll push C.J. Anderson for starting reps.

Via 9NEWS -

"I'm not worried about 1B and all that because that'll drive you crazy," Hillman said.

What is it about the zone-blocking system that benefits Hillman?

"It opens up holes," Hillman said. "I don't know what the offensive line is doing but they're doing something right because I'm getting some lanes. There was one play where I saw Ty (Sambrailo, the rookie left tackle) fall down and get back up and still came back and made a block. That just shows you the athleticism he has and all those guys have up front."

Which leads us to our third lesson learned.

3. Broncos o-line stepping up

As The Denver Post's Woody Paige notes:

Peyton wasn't sacked, knocked down or touched in anger Saturday night. His outfit wasn't even wrinkled. He might have walked down an aisle early in the second quarter after retiring to the sideline for the rest of the evening. Thanks to his young knights, Manning survived very nicely indeed in the Broncos' 14-10 victory.

It's all the more impressive due to the youth movement on the o-line, with Ty Sambrailo, Matt Paradis, and Max Garcia leading the Broncos o-line revolution.

Of course, J.J. Watt didn't play, giving this o-line a less-than-true test of the NFL challenge. It's not bad to ease them into it, though, and it's increasingly looking like this will be the starting lineup come the regular season opener, as ESPN's Jeff Legwold concludes.

Denver has rushed for 4.3 yards per carry in their two games to go with the one sack the starting line has surrendered -- the Broncos have surrendered just two sacks overall. The Broncos have two wins, with one more preseason game remaining where the starters will see significant playing time.

So what was a wait-and-see endeavor when the month opened now looks more and more like the way things will be.

Your take

What were your takeaways from the game?