The Denver Broncos, coming off of an impressive victory over the Seattle Seahawks in week one of the preseason, have another test Saturday night down in Texas.

The team will face off against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans in week two of the preseason and they will be hoping to improve across the board. Peyton Manning will make his debut in Gary Kubiak’s offense, Brandon Marshall will also see his first football game since his foot surgery in the offseason and two kickers will try and out kick each other on the road.

1. Peyton Manning

No quarterback has had a more tumultuous offseason, despite an overall successful year, than Manning. He lead the Broncos to another playoff berth, threw 39 touchdowns to 15 interceptions yet all the talk was about a leg injury and his pay cut. Now, as he takes on a new offensive scheme, Manning is primed and ready to show the NFL world Saturday that he is still elite and capable of evolving at 39 years old. Kubiak has loved working with Manning since his arrival and it is Manning’s mental approach that has refreshed the head coach.

“It’s interesting because early in my career, my first round as a coach, I was a young coach trying to coach a Hall of Fame player (John Elway), and now I get to deal with one at a stage—this is year 30-something for me or whatever. It’s been quite a few. It’s great to work with those guys. It’s so challenging. They’re so smart. They want all the answers. They deserve all the answers. To watch a guy as long as he’s been doing it the way he takes care of himself and how important it is to him, I’ll be honest with you, it’s a blast right now,” Kubiak said July 31. “But he’s a joy to work with every day because he loves ball. It’s what he loves to do.”

Manning has looked stellar at training camp. His accuracy has been impressive and his teammate, Demaryius Thomas, stated weeks ago that it seems the quarterback has even more zip on his throws than years past. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison has had Manning on the move constantly throughout camp as he gets ready for the play-action heavy offense and it hasn’t bothered the veteran quarterback. Saturday, facing a mobile and quick defense, Manning will have a tough test but Thursday he seemed confident in where he and the team stand.

“I think a lot of guys are looking forward to getting out there and playing against a good team,” Manning said. “You’re trying to get ready to play a four-quarter game and get ready for a regular-season game. That’s kind of your mental approach. I don’t know how long we’ll stay in there, but obviously you want to be in there and you want to try to convert some third downs. It’d be nice to finish some drives with some touchdowns and get a mix of the runs and the passes.”

Tuesday Kubiak stated that both Manning and Thomas will play up to an entire half of football Saturday. The offseason has been full of speculation and worry about Manning and his 18th NFL season. In Texas he could silence a lot of critics with a few solid drives and some down-field connections with No. 88.

2. Brandon Marshall

Wade Phillips followed his buddy Kubiak back to Denver this spring and happily returned to the team as the defensive coordinator this season. He takes over a talent-rich defense and his blitz-heavy schemes will be a welcome sight to Broncos Country. A big contributor to the defense will be inside linebacker, Marshall. He suffered a Lis Franc injury in week 15 of last season and missed two games before toughing it out against the Indianapolis Colts in the playoff loss. After surgery and rehabilitating all offseason Marshall is confident that he is ready to return to full playing duties Saturday.

“I thought I would recover well. Honestly, in March, when I found out I needed surgery, I was a little worried. I’m not going to lie, I was a little scared because it was so close. It wasn’t close to the season, but for this type of injury it was close. I was pushing a little bit, but I had faith. I rehabbed well, I ate well, I did what I needed to do and now I’m back up,” Marshall said Thursday.

Marshall was a stalwart for the Broncos in the middle of the defense last season. When he suffered the injury he was leading the team in tackles and was a pleasant surprise in his first year of being a starting linebacker in the NFL. The Broncos will need that same type of play in 2015 despite the fact that Marshall has stated several times that the injury will be felt throughout the season. Saturday’s full speed test will be illuminating for the team in regards to his true level of readiness for week one of the regular season.

3. Connor Barth and 4. Brandon McManus

Once again the Broncos have a kicker problem on their hands. Last season the team suddenly cut ties with the often troubled kicker, Matt Prater and scrambled to find his replacement. This season the two guys who joined the team in 2014 are battling for what appears to be only one roster spot, as opposed to the two slots they occupied under John Fox. The competition is very tight and any miscue by either player Saturday could be the deciding factor.

Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, as well as Kubiak, have stated several times that they want to keep just one kicker. Therefore Barth, who is more accurate on field goals but below average on kickoffs, must show more leg strength and McManus, who owns the most powerful leg but struggles with field goal accuracy, must earn the coaches trust. After a successful week one of preseason and a notable week of practice, one player must separate himself Saturday. Entering camp Barth explained how he has approached the offseason.

“All I did all offseason was work with my kicking coach up in Charlotte, (N.C.), Dan Orner, and he works with a bunch of guys kicking off in the league. It’s showing,” Barth said August 8. “If I can get as consistent on my kickoffs as my field goals, then it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m finding that and I’m kicking off ten times better than I ever have. It is completely different. Hopefully I’ll carry that over to the games and it will show.”

Barth has shown improvement in kickoffs from camp but still trails McManus by several yards on nearly every attempt. McManus got an opportunity to show off his strength and accuracy during practice Tuesday when he attempted a 70-yard field goal and he did not disappoint.

“We were doing the two-minute drill, and I actually told Coach DeCamillis that I could make this one. I don’t know if he believed me or not. I saw him smirk at me, and he went over to Coach Kube (Kubiak) and he told him, so I just waited for them to make the call. I knew I could get it there. It does look far away, though, I can tell you that.”

He cleared the crossbar by nearly three yards. It was an impressive display and just moments later Barth got an opportunity to answer McManus and he connected on a 65-yard field goal as well. The Broncos also added a punter, Spencer Lanning, who can kickoff. If he can overtake punter Britton Colquitt’s job then they may be able to keep both kickers but that is not a likely scenario. Barth and McManus will be under the microscope Saturday and just the slightest edge by either player following the game would be big.

The next two preseason games for the Broncos will be telling for a lot of player’s futures. While Manning and Marshall have their jobs securely intact, Barth and McManus must have great games in order to stay with the team. However all four players need good showings in order to feel confident in their abilities as the regular season is just three weeks away.

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