When the Broncos host the Bears on Saturday night, the preseason game won’t count in the standings, nor will the box score mean all that much – but there are things that can be gleaned from certain performances.
With the starters expected to go for a the entire first quarter, and the backups expected to play until well into the third quarter, here’s what to watch for if things go right – or wrong – for the Broncos on Saturday night:
Case Keenum and the starting offense move the ball down the field on each drive
Keenum was entirely ineffective in the Broncos’ preseason debut last week. The Broncos’ starters had only a cameo appearance, so it’s important not to overreact, but as Keenum gets a chance to take control for a full quarter, it’s not points that fans need to see; merely efficiency.
Royce Freeman gains yards between the tackles
Freeman has clearly jumped ahead of veteran Devontae Booker in the running back pecking order, and as a more powerful back, his ability to move the chains on third-and-short will be needed for the offense to succeed over the long haul.
Jake Butt takes as many snaps as possible
With all apologies to Jeff Heuerman, who tops the depth chart, it’s Butt that the Broncos are counting on the solve their long-standing tight-end issues. If he can fill the role as both a blocker and a receiver, the Broncos’ offense will dramatically improve in versatility – and production.
Jared Veldheer and Conor McGovern struggle in against the Bears’ pass-rush
In the opening preseason game, neither the Broncos’ starting right tackle or right guard took many snaps – and when they did, they were still still facing the Vikings’ top-tier defense. In either – or both – struggle against a lesser Bears’ defense, it bodes poorly for the offense… and Case Keenum.
Tramaine Brock and Brendan Langley struggle at cornerback
Brock has been injured for much of training camp, but the veteran is being counted on to fill Bradley’s Roby’s shoes as the third cornerback. Brock isn’t Roby; he’s average-at-best, but if he falters, the job falls to Langley or rookie Isaac Yiadom. Langley, last year’s third-round pick, has been abysmal in training camp, and may not even make the roster unless he improves dramatically.
Paxton Lynch is aces against the Bears’ third- and fourth-stringers
Ordinarily, a good performance by any Bronco is a good thing – but Paxton Lynch’s oddball career breaks all the rules. Lynch, by any measurement, has been a spectacular bust; backup quarterback Chad Kelly passed Lynch on the depth chart after only one quarter in his NFL debut – and he was a seventh-round pick, like Trevor Siemian before him… and Siemian beat out Lynch for the quarterbacking join twice already. A good performance by Lynch might spark up a debate that been all but settled; the Broncos need to rip the proverbial Band-Aid off, so Lynch’s usual, underwhelming effort is probably best for the Broncos in the long-term.