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Broncos' preseason games to answer a lot of big questions

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Unlike the last four years, some big questions at big positions are not going to be answered until the Broncos play a few real games. And that's going to start (finally!) on Thursday.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

Last night's canceled Hall of Fame game was a huge tease for the beginning of 2016 NFL football, and I have to admit that despite it being the right call for player safety, it was definitely a letdown.

But after a week paying more attention to the surf than football anyway, I found that watching Simone Biles rock her vault like nobody's business and Katy Ledecky and Michael Phelps get gold in swimming was a good way to ease back in to my sports viewing anyway.

But now I'm definitely ready for some football, and we'll get that in four days when the Denver Broncos play the Chicago Broncos (I mean, Bears) in the Windy City on Thursday night.

And with no more Peyton Manning plus tons of competition for second and third spots in key position groups this season, the Broncos' preseason games will be hugely revealing -€” if not far more interesting -€” than recent years.

Obviously, the competition at quarterback is the major question to answer. And despite daily probes on who will start and what coach Gary Kubiak thinks of each QB, the coach's only promise so far is that he's still thinking on it.

"I am going to make a decision on what we are going to do next Thursday in Chicago, and I haven't even come close to doing that yet," Kubiak said after Saturday's practice, adding that he's looking for his signal callers to be themselves, to be confident and mostly to be aggressive.

"I want them to go make plays," Kubiak said. "Obviously the responsibility of protecting the game, not just the ball, but the game is part of their position. You have to be a good decision maker. We're working on those things with all three of them."

Mark Sanchez seemed to be the clear leader in Kubiak's eyes as No. 6 got more reps with the Ones last week than Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, but Sanchez' struggles to move the offense at times and his two pick-sixes have kept this competition a dead heat as the first preseason game approaches.

"I can tell you right now, as a coach, one of the things I'm coaching Mark on is when plays get extended, sometimes plays get long and some of his decision process needs to be better," Kubiak said. "That's something we are working on."

With Siemian, Kubiak sees a confident kid, a second-year player with a strong arm who knows his stuff but is still learning when to make certain throws.

"He spins it really good and has the ability to get the ball down the field. He is understanding when to give guys chances, back shoulder balls, things like that," Kubiak said. "That's just him improving as we go."

While Lynch may be on a fast track to be the backup -€” or soon-to-be starter -€” Kubes and the offense are mostly looking for consistency with the rookie. Andrew Mason pointed out in his recent Mailbag that Lynch has made a lot of progress playing under center since OTAs, so the young gun is continuing to develop quickly.

"Perhaps the best sign to me is how he can drop back and get set from under center -€” with pressure bearing down on him," Mase wrote. "Being able to drop back from under center and look downfield while not tipping your intention is more difficult than it appears. Lynch's progress cannot be understated...but he also has a long way to go."

Kubiak promised a depth chart later today, but you can bet it is a very fluid chart in his mind as he plans to use Thursday's game as a major factor in final analysis -€” which is still weeks away.

"We'll have something for you, I know that," the coach said Saturday. "I think they are all doing good stuff. Our practices are very competitive. We do a lot of good things offensively. ...I think we are very competitive. That's a good thing."

It may not look as good from the outside as people want it to look, but we feel pretty good about how it looks from the inside. -John Elway

And that's what John Elway believes as well. In a multi-part feature in the Denver Post this weekend, the GM said he asks himself every new season, "did we get better as a football team?"

Despite the questions at quarterback, he believes the Broncos definitely did.

"It may not look as good from the outside as people want it to look," Elway told the Post. "But we feel pretty good about how it looks from the inside. We feel good about that spot in the years to come and of what Mark can do."

Although Elway's praise of Sanchez climaxed with "sufficient and adequate" -€” adjectives you'd prefer to use for your water boy than your quarterback -€” Elway is very comfortable with the team's approach to building a squad that can vie for a back-to-back championship.

"The overall philosophy I'm proud of — play great defense and continue to try to get better on the offensive side."

And thankfully we're only days away from finding out just how much better that side will be this season.

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