The Denver Broncos play their third preseason game on Saturday night when they host the Houston Texans. The first two preseason games are about looking at a lot of young players in an attempt to make roster decisions. The fourth preseason game is mostly about getting the preseason over but some final jobs can be decided.
However, that third game is generally referred to as a dress rehearsal and is designed to get the starters ready for the regular season. The Broncos are no different but as I wrote earlier this week, I’d be surprised if Peyton Manning and the rest of the starters played much past the midway point of the second quarter.
Quite frankly they just don’t need it and the risk of injury outweighs the benefit. Both sides of the ball have looked good in the first two preseason games and the three joint practices with the Texans this week were game like.
While the starters may not play as long as some other teams, there is still plenty to keep an eye on tonight. Keep in mind the third preseason game is more about the team and less about individuals, especially early.
- Running game: The Broncos have run the ball decent through two weeks of the preseason but there is still work to be done. Starter Montee Ball is back practicing but won’t play tonight. An effective running game would take pressure off of both Manning and the defense in the regular season.
- Offensive line: The offensive line has been tremendous in preseason wins over the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers but they with get another test on Saturday night. JJ Watt is the best defensive lineman in the league and it will be interesting to see how the Broncos handle him.
- Get Emmanuel Sanders involved: Sanders has missed a lot of time due to a quad injury and won’t play in the fourth preseason game. Therefore it is important for Manning to get him a couple of catches so he feels comfortable heading into the regular season.
- Von Miller: Most believe that Miller will see his first action since his ACL injury last December and watching how he works with DeMarcus Ware will be fun. Miller has been dominant in training camp; does that translate in his first game back?
- Coverage teams: The Broncos have struggled this preseason with their kickoff coverage, that needs to be cleaned up starting tonight.
Those are some of the larger things to look at but there are also some individuals to keep an eye on as well.
- Isaiah Burse: With the season ending injury to Jordan Norwood, the Broncos are in search of a punt returner. Burse will get the first shot at it; can he take the job and run with it?
- Fourth running back job: Juwan Thompson is the leading candidate for the job but he still needs to play well to hang onto it. Both Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay still have a shot if they can play well over the last two weeks.
- Brock Osweiler: Osweiler took a step with his play last week versus the 49ers and will look to continue that process tonight.
- Backup jobs: There are still reserve jobs to be won and the second half tonight will feature those players fighting for those jobs. Some positions to keep an eye on after halftime include: offensive line, linebacker and the defensive backfield.
All of those things are important and worth watching but in reality there’s only one thing that matters tonight.
- Stay healthy: Tonight is really the last hurdle to taking a healthy team into the regular season. The starters won’t play next week and because of the short week, the Broncos probably won’t go that hard in practice this week. If all of the starters and key players are wearing a hat on the sideline in the second half tonight, then it’s been a very successful preseason.
The regular season is only two weeks away but there’s still work to be done.