Football is in the air, folks. Sure, it may be preseason, but after missing the playoffs for a second straight season, the Denver Broncos have much to prove in 2018 and it all starts with tonight’s exhibition contest against the Minnesota Vikings.
A matchup filled with intriguing storylines, tonight’s game will pit former Vikings quarterback and current Broncos starter, Case Keenum against former Broncos quarterbacks, Kyle Sloter and Trevor Siemian. Sloter and Siemian are now both backups behind Kirk Cousins in Minnesota, but both of the young quarterbacks started their careers in the Mile High City.
While the return of the former Broncos quarterbacks really does not matter a whole lot in terms of amplifying the intensity of a preseason game, it will make the matchup a little bit more interesting for Broncos fans.
Along with a pair of familiar faces under center for the opposing Vikings, Saturday night’s matchup will be compelling for Broncos fans because it is really the first opportunity to see the team play real football. Much like the rest of the league, the Broncos have really emphasized limiting contact in training camp, so a lot of what the coaches will have to evaluate on film will come in the four preseason games.
With that in mind, here are three players that need to step up and perform well this evening because they may be at risk of being cut.
(QB) Chad Kelly: Kelly has outperformed Paxton Lynch throughout most of training camp and is likely more NFL ready than his counterpart will be anytime soon. If this was truly an open competition between the quarterbacks, Kelly would be Keenum’s No. 2 this season. Considering the team is financially obligated to Lynch and appears to be content with riding out with him as the backup though, the pressure will be on “Swag” Kelly to give the Broncos no other choice but to keep him as the backup quarterback. He certainly has the physical tools. Has the young quarterback from Ole Miss. matured and mastered the offense enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster?
(RB) DeAngelo Henderson: Henderson’s athleticism and impressive collegiate football resume intrigued the front office enough to use a sixth round pick on the former Coastal Carolina running back in 2017, but the versatile back has failed to make much of an impact in a crowded Broncos backfield since. Henderson scored in 35 straight games to set a Division 1 record at Coastal Carolina, but he only totaled nine touches in his rookie season, finding the end zone once. With Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman likely to make the roster, Henderson will be battling with players like hometown hero Phillip Lindsay for that third running back position.
(TE) Austin Traylor: The Broncos offense must get more production from the tight end position in 2018. One would assume that production would come from guys like Jeff Heuerman or Jake Butt, but maybe Traylor will the guy that proves he can get it done. The young tight end has made some plays in training camp and has a chance to step up with Heuerman sitting out Saturday night.