Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers: Broncos' Preseason Week 2 Game Preview

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Correspondent IIAugust 16, 2014

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers: Broncos' Preseason Week 2 Game Preview

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Denver Broncos will help the San Francisco 49ers open up the new Levi's Stadium with a preseason game at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.

    After defeating the Seattle Seahawks in their preseason opener, the Broncos now face another NFC West opponent. While it is still preseason, having back-to-back games against the two teams that played in the NFC Championship Game is a good way to measure your talent level.

    Still, evaluating the players the team has at positions such as running back and linebacker will be far more important than the final score in this one.

    And since the teams also meet in Denver in Week 7 of the regular season, they probably won't show all that much.

    For a more in-depth look at what to keep an eye on in this game, click forward.

     

Broncos' Preseason Week 1 Recap

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    The Broncos opened up the season exactly how they would have liked—with a victory over the team that pummeled them in the Super Bowl.

    Sure, it may not count for anything, but don't tell that to fans in Denver who had been waiting six months to get back at Seattle. While the win may not count in the standings, it had to give the Broncos confidence, which they can now build on going forward.

    What was especially encouraging was the way the starting unit moved the ball against Seattle's defense.

    Aside from the victory, the Broncos had plenty to be encouraged about following their first preseason test.

    Running back Juwan Thompson looks to be a diamond in the rough as he carried the ball six times for 59 yards. Wide receiver Jordan Norwood is making a big push to make the final roster as well. Not only did he outshine Isaiah Burse as a punt returner, but he also grabbed the game-winning touchdown pass.

    The development of Brock Osweiler seems to be coming together nicely as well. He went 6-of-12 in the game for 85 yards and the 34-yard touchdown to Norwood.

    Wow. Brock Osweiler went from surely-sacked to over 50 yards for a touchdown in two plays. Way to bounce back from that INT.

    — MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 8, 2014

    But the Broncos still have some things to clean up as well, which should be expected after just the first preseason game. The area that stands out the most is penalties. The Broncos were assessed 12 penalties for 95 yards.

    However, it seems clear that the team has a strong core of players as well as some very good depth.

News and Notes

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Von Miller Back to Speed?

    The Broncos hope to have a tough, stingy defense this season, similar to the one they faced in the Super Bowl.

    Though they added DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib through free agency, perhaps nothing would be bigger to this defense than a healthy Von Miller.

    According to the team's official Twitter page, he has been dominant in practice.

    #Broncos LB @Millerlite40 was dominant Thursday at #BroncosCamp. QUICK HITS: http://t.co/ixK6pzzHbq pic.twitter.com/LAHy898pgL

    — Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 15, 2014

    That is great news for the Broncos, yet they have to be patient with his return to the field. A "dominant" Miller would spell trouble for any team the Broncos face this season.

    Miller should thrive in the defense that has been assembled this offseason. With one of the best pass-rushers in league history, Ware, on the other side of him, he should see less double-teams and have plenty of chances to get after the quarterback.

    The Broncos were missing several starters in the Super Bowl last year, but Miller's absence was probably the biggest.

     

    Brandon Marshall Ready to Step Up

    Remember when Brandon Marshall was a key member of the Denver Broncos? Now, it's a player with the same name, yet an entirely different position, that is ready to make a name for himself.

    Brandon Marshall, the linebacker, looks to be the player who will get the first chance to replace Danny Trevathan, who could miss up to eight weeks with a fractured knee.

    When speaking of the new opportunity to start, Marshall told ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold that he will "get it done."

    #broncos Brandon Marshall plays in nickel packages. Now has challenge of playing more. Says has confidence that he's ready

    — Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 12, 2014

    The Broncos have to hope he's right because Trevathan won't be easy to replace. He led the team with 129 tackles last season and is one of the most active players they have on defense.

    Marshall, a former fifth-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has just four career tackles.

     

    C.J. Anderson Returns With New Helmet

    Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com reports that C.J. Anderson is sporting a new helmet in training camp. Getting adjusted to the new headgear won't happen overnight for the second-year running back, either.

    After getting knocked out of the team's first preseason game with a concussion, Anderson has definitely lost ground in the battle for the backup running back spot. At this point, he needs to hope he doesn't get surpassed by undrafted rookies Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs.

    Still, safety is key in today's NFL, and Anderson needs to make sure he is protected from further head injury going forward.

Injury Report

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    Byline Withheld/Associated Press

    Updated injury report for Denver can be found here once it has been released.

     

    Currently, the Broncos don't have anyone listed on their official injury report. However, it's safe to say you won't see Danny Trevathan in this game or again during the preseason.

    Running back C.J. Anderson left the team's first preseason game following a concussion, so it will be questionable whether or not he is ready to return to the field. Since he just returned to practice Thursday, he will likely miss the game.

    Montee Ball will also miss the game as he continues to recover from an appendectomy.

    With these players out, it leaves a handful of players to keep your eye on Sunday against San Francisco.

    Linebacker Brandon Marshall will be playing with the first-team defense as he attempts to become Trevathan's replacement, but don't forget about draft picks Corey Nelson and Lamin Barrow. Nelson was actually the team's leading tackler against Seattle.

    At running back, Ronnie Hillman will likely start the game, but the door will be wide open for Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs and even Brennan Clay. Look for Thompson to have a big game and all but clinch a spot on the final roster.

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Many people predicted these two teams to meet in the Super Bowl last year. There may be just as many people who are predicting it to happen again this season.

    But on Sunday, these two teams will merely be playing a preseason game against each other, looking for the best 53 players they have to comprise their final rosters.

    Still, these are two of the premier teams in the league at the moment, and places like ESPN and NFL Network will likely show extensive highlights.

    Here are some matchups to keep an eye on in this one.

     

    Denver Defensive Line vs. San Francisco Offensive Line

    The offensive line of San Francisco has long been touted as one of the best in the NFL. Built on strength and physicality, these guys like to push you around.

    But against Baltimore in the preseason opener, the unit struggled. On top of that, starting guard Alex Boone continues to hold out.

    This makes for an interesting test for the Broncos, as becoming more physical on defense is the key to the 2014 campaign.

    Defensive tackles Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams and Marvin Austin will be the players to watch for Denver. If they are able to muscle the San Francisco offensive line around, it will be very encouraging.

     

    Denver Secondary vs. Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis

    Anquan Boldin presents an exciting matchup for the revamped secondary in Denver. If you want a physical receiver, they don't come any more physical than Boldin.

    He is big, strong and tough to tackle.

    Tight end Vernon Davis is similar to Boldin, but he is much quicker. The 49ers love to use him in the vertical passing game. Seeing him matched up against T.J. Ward could be a treat.

    It will be key for the Broncos to slow these two down.

     

    Brandon Marshall vs. Colin Kaepernick

    If Brandon Marshall is truly going to replace Danny Trevathan, he must be versatile. Stopping a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick requires a defense to be versatile.

    Kaepernick is one of those quarterbacks who can beat you with his arm or his legs, and Marshall may be asked to stay in and "spy" Kaepernick on passing downs. Kaepernick is very versed at tucking the ball and running with it.

    In coverage, Marshall may be asked to step in and defend the 49ers' intermediate passing game, something they are very good at.

     

    Broncos' X-Factor Player of the Week: Juwan Thompson

    This is a name Broncos fans are going to hear more and more of. Thompson showed flashes of being a terrific find as an undrafted free agent last week, running the ball six times for 59 yards.

    Guarantee teams looking for a young #3 RB with ST value will be watching the #Broncos situation closely. Kapri Bibbs & Juwan Thompson.

    — Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) August 13, 2014

    He should see a fair share of carries in this game, and hopefully, fans are treated to his ability as a receiver. He may be the best running back on the team at catching passes out of the backfield.

    Thompson was considered a fringe player to make the roster when training camp began and was likely looking at the practice squad as a best-case scenario.

    After his performance on Sunday, it will be clear that he makes the final roster, possibly even as the No. 3 running back.

Prediction

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    In the grand scheme of things, the score of a preseason games means very little. Still, I can guarantee you the Broncos wanted to beat Seattle last Thursday.

    With that said, they may not be as hungry for victory against San Francisco and will just be focused on how certain players fit this year's system.

    Does Peyton Manning know anything less than 100 percent, though? He will come out looking to get in sync with the first-team offense. Knowing that San Francisco has had one of the league's best defenses over the last several years will likely push him to find the end zone at least once.

    As the game gets into the late stages of the first half and beyond, the score will become nearly meaningless. Denver will be searching for the players who are going to make the final roster.

    On top of the guys already mentioned, here are some other names to look for if you stick around long enough in this one.

    Wide receivers Isaiah Burse and Bennie Fowler need to get it going if they want a roster spot. Burse should get additional opportunities as a punt returner. Jordan Norwood's play has been hard to ignore, and that has made it tough for either of these guys to do anything more than make the practice squad.

    Defensive end Kenny Anunike has had an impressive camp, and he has an outside chance of earning a spot on the practice squad.

    Finally, safety John Boyett turned in a good week of practice. On Thursday, according to David DeChant of DenverBroncos.com, he had two interceptions of No. 3 quarterback Zac Dysert.

    Oh, you want a score? How about this...

     

    Broncos 16, 49ers 13