What to watch for in Denver Broncos second preseason game

Flacco, Broncos

The Broncos’ preseason got off to a fantastic start in Canton, Ohio as fourth-string quarterback Brett Rypien found sixth-round pick Juwann Winfree for an incredible game-winning touchdown.

The defense was lights-out, holding the Falcons offense to just 10 points, but the offense struggled in what’s become a familiar sight to Broncos Country.

With Denver trying to get things rolling on offense while maintaining their defensive momentum against the Seahawks, here are the Broncos storylines to keep an eye on as the first week of the preseason gets kicked off throughout the league.

Joe Flacco gets the start as Drew Lock attempts to bounce back

On Thursday night, Joe Flacco will take the field in a Broncos uniform for the first time. With the offense mostly immobile throughout the Hall of Fame Game, it’d be nice to see it put some points on the board with 2019’s starting quarterback at the helm.

Also, the days of the “Legion of Boom” are over, as Pro Football Focus recently ranked the Seattle secondary as the second-worst unit in the league. What it means is this should be one of the easier matchups Flacco will face this season; he should look comfortable.

Meanwhile, Drew Lock will be taking the field for the second time in a Broncos uniform and will look to bounceback after a shaky performance in Canton.

There was a grand, knee-jerk over-reaction by Broncos Country to Lock’s first start, but it wasn’t impressive. He threw for under five yards per attempt, going 7-for-11 for 34 yards. Though it should be noted no Denver quarterback cleared that low bar, and of his four incompletions, two were drops and two were deep shots.

Despite Lock’s struggles last week, the Broncos showed no lack of confidence in him this week, giving him even more time with the backups as well as the starters. Head Coach Vic Fangio also told the media that Lock would get the lion’s share of the work on Thursday, as Flacco and Kevin Hogan play a little bit and Brett Rypien likely won’t even get on the field.

Johnson, Bierria trying to make a splash in absence of Jewell, Davis.

Linebacker Josey Jewell suffered an oblique injury that will keep him out of Thursday Night’s preseason game. This means the Broncos are down both starting inside linebackers now, as Todd Davis is still recovering from a calf injury.

The door is now wide open for the Broncos’ full stable of backup interior linebackers to try and make the final roster. This battle in the middle of Denver’s defense should be one of, if not the most interesting position battle of the night.

Alexander Johnson is currently the front-runner for the primary back up role after a standout showing against the Atlanta Falcons. Another performance like that could lock up a spot for the former Tennessee Volunteer who now looks like a potential starter of the future.

On the other hand, Keishawn Bierria, Joe Dineen and Josh Watson attempt to cling on to a roster spot. Out of those three, Bierria is most likely to make the final roster, but Watson has been gaining on him throughout training camp.

Who will be the Broncos’ 4th running back?

If the battle at inside linebacker isn’t the most entertaining position battle for the Broncos, then this one will be.

Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman already have the primary “Thunder and Lightning” roles all locked up, and it would be surprising if Theo Riddick was cut after just signing, leaving Devontae Booker, Devontae Jackson, David Williams, and Khalfani Muhammad all on the hot seat.

Muhammad was the offensive star for the Broncos in their first game, gaining 98 total yards (including special teams), 32% of Denver’s total yardage in the game (including special teams). While another game like that could solidify the job for Muhammad, his skills and play style might be too similar to Lindsay and Riddick’s.

Devontae Jackson had a strong start with multiple six-yard carries that saw him slice and cut through the opposing defense, but got stuffed a couple times to hurt his stats. He may be more talented than Muhammad, but if Muhammad out-shines him again, the chances of him making the roster are slim.

Meanwhile, Booker and Williams are hanging on to a roster spot by a thread and need dominating performances to survive the next wave of cuts.

Denver faces the Seahawks in Seattle on Thursday with kickoff scheduled for 8 p.m. MT.

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