TV Coverage (MT)
6:00 p.m. KUSA – Pregame Special
6:30 p.m. KUSA – Kickoff
My friends, football is officially back.
I cannot recall ever being as excited about the preseason as I am right now. I suppose my heightened enthusiasm is a positive byproduct of the lengthy NFL lockout. (Still, I wish it had never happened). The Denver Broncos’ first preseason game is tonight at Dallas, and a show of hands: Who else is ready?
Even though preseason win/loss results are meaningless, there’s something special about this time of year – widespread optimism. No matter what the experts predict, all 32 teams have reason to be hopeful. Tampa Bay and St. Louis, two of the league’s worst teams in 2009, managed significant turnarounds in 2010, inspiring other teams to say, “Why not us?”
Since Denver Horse Force launched in late-January, this is my first-ever Broncos game preview. Much like the Broncos, I will use this preseason to evaluate performance. To be perfectly honest, I’ve longed for this day, but only thought big picture. In other words, I haven’t quite developed a formula for previewing a game, so what you see this week isn’t necessarily what you’ll see next week.
Tonight is the first opportunity for Broncos fans to see the John Fox regime in action. Here’s what I’m watching for:
1. Kyle Orton’s command of the first-team offense: Yes, this is a given. I suspect Orton will play at the most a quarter before being pulled. Thus far in training camp, Orton has done everything to firmly establish his role as the starter – all while dodging numerous distractions. Orton’s practice performance has rarely been questioned; it’s his game day performance on third down.
2. New and improved ground attack: Fox said bolstering the Broncos running game was a top offseason priority. It’s a make-or-break season for third—year running back Knowshon Moreno, who entered training camp in the best shape of his professional career. Newly-acquired Willis McGahee has impressed coaches during his short time in Denver, making Fox’s vision of a dual running back threat closer to reality.
3. Worst defense no more?: Via free agency and trades, the Broncos stocked up on defense, already adding to NFL Draft prize Von Miller and the return of Elvis Dumervil. Now back to a 4-3 defense, DE Robert Ayers is poised for his best NFL season – finally living up to the expectations of a former first-round draft pick. Can the Broncos’ front seven put pressure on the Cowboys’ backfield?
Is there a battle for backup QB? (Courtesy Jeffrey Beall)
4. Young wide receivers: Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal are the go-to guys, but Denver is deep at the position, even without Demaryius Thomas, out until at least mid-season, and Jabar Gaffney, traded two weeks ago to Washington. Keep an eye on second-year receiver Eric Decker.
5. Tim Tebow vs. Brady Quinn: There are rumblings Quinn could pass Tebow on the depth chart. Quinn is certainly a more conventional NFL-type quarterback, whereas Tebow’s strengths are his improvising, scrambling, and making something out of nothing. Tebow has openly discussed ongoing efforts to make his play more traditional, but at what price? Does that make Tim Tebow no longer Tim Tebow? Mark Kiszla thinks so, and I fully agree.
6. Rookie performances: Miller gets the bulk of the attention, as he should being the No. 2 overall pick, but three other rookies are making waves at Dove Valley. Free safety Rahim Moore is atop the depth chart, as is OT Orlando Franklin. Though further down on the depth chart, tight end Julius Thomas is proving a mid-round bargain for Denver.
Denver hasn’t confirmed which players will sit out, but Sporting News reports CB Syd’Quan Thompson, LBs D.J. Williams and Nate Irving, TE Richard Quinn, DTs Mitch Unrein and Louis Leonard and WR Demaryius Thomas are out tonight.
Learn more about Dallas on Aerys Sports’ new Cowboys site Straight Shootin’.
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