Jussel: Broncos fans remember ... it’s only preseason
Hold your horses.
Don’t go getting all revved up.
On second thought, why not?
Go crazy! Freak out!
It’s football, Denver Bronco football, tonight!
That’s right, 7 p.m. MDT. Sit down, settle in.
You know the opponent — the downright detestable Seattle Seahawks, the same Seahawks that put that 43-8 beating on the Broncos in February’s Super Bowl.
That little factor is reason enough to get pumped.
But the real reason to bite nails and hike heart rates is all about gulping down the first helping of Bronco progress since that beatdown in New York.
First things first: The starters on both teams will play only a few plays, maybe 15 max. If Peyton Manning is chewing up the clock in the first quarter with a long methodical drive, something that certainly didn’t happen the last time these two met, he may get stretched out through a second series.
Then, it will be time for video crews to take over.
The purpose of the preseason games is to catch everything on film, evaluate and eventually make decisions on players best suited for a 53-man regular-season roster. Coaches know what Manning and other starters can do and don’t need to waste film on them.
Before we get down to a few position battles to take in, let’s keep our eyes on one thing that may chill the aggressive Seahawks as the season wears on, a point of emphasis for officials: illegal pass defense more than five yards from the line of scrimmage.
Richard Sherman, the cornerback everyone loves to hate, made a point of telling teammates last season to grab on, hold on and bump into receivers all over the field. “They can’t catch us all,” he said.
Now, however, NFL officials are targeting the Seahawks and their antics, saying this has to stop.
We’ll see, maybe starting tonight. Keep your eyes on the hankies thrown by the zebras in the direction of Seahawk defensive backs.
If officials are going to watch the secondary play more carefully and call the resulting penalties, 31 NFL teams will have gained ground on Seattle.
It’s something worth watching.
Now, let’s switch gears from those who cheat to those who simply want to play during the regular season at New Mile High Stadium:
We start with the easiest to watch, the quarterback play.
Sure, Peyton will get in a series or two, maybe even get to toss a bomb in the direction of new speedster Emmanuel Sanders. But the real story will be the continued development of second-stringer Brock Osweiler, who should see most of the action in the second and third quarters, and the fellow who is reportedly gaining ground in the battle for backup, Zac Dysert.
In the recent Bronco scrimmage, Osweiler was 3 for 3 passing and Dysert 7 for 8. Either or both could find a way to connect with the team’s second draft choice, Cody Latimer, who has already moved up to second team on the depth chart behind Sanders and will be another newcomer worth watching.
If Dysert over the course of the next month closes the gap on Osweiler, the Broncos may eventually have a quarterback controversy, maybe sooner than anticipated.
It’s tough to watch the battles in the trenches, especially in the middle of the offensive line. But locals should watch Grand Junction’s own Ben Garland.
The Central High School and Air Force Academy grad is now listed as second-string left guard behind Orlando Franklin. You’ll remember Garland as a member of the practice squad the past several years, mostly as a defensive lineman. He was moved to the offensive side because the coaches love his quick feet and his intellect.
If Garland, now far too big to be a fighter pilot at 6-6 and 308 pounds, is listed as a second-stringer, it means he has a chance to stick.
He should get plenty of reps tonight. Watch No. 63 just to the left of the big butt hiking the ball.
On the defensive side, several veterans return from injury and will see action early.
Safety Rahim Moore and defensive end Derek Wolfe are back and again listed on top of the depth chart.
Newcomers Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware will debut briefly.
Try to hone in on the team’s No. 1 draft pick, cornerback Bradley Roby (No. 29), who should see plenty of action throughout.
Others we haven’t seen before who should have an impact down the road include defensive tackle Marvin Austin, linebacker Lerentee McCray and defensive end Quanterus Smith, all of whom should see plenty of action.
Yes, it’s a tough task, but somebody has to do it: Sit back, evaluate, enjoy.
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one. His Broncos-related columns also are published on SI.com’s “Predominantly Orange” and “Fan-sided” websites.