Josh McDaniels and Kyle Orton are under heavy scrutiny. No matter what they say or do, their time in Denver will be remembered by what they do together with the Broncos.
Orton had a terrible first game with the Broncos. His three interceptions in the first half definitely did not set Denver fans at ease from the Cutler trade, even though it was only the first preseason game.
Will McDaniels back off on the passing to take pressure off of Orton?
My guess would be not at all. I fully expect the Broncos to come out firing tonight, especially with the absence of Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter due to injury.
Here are some keys for the Broncos in tonight's game.
- Orton and the Offense must put points on the board—Last week, the first team offense was able to effectively move the ball down the field a couple of times, but three straight drives were ended by interceptions. This type of performance is certainly not expected, but is also not too far fetched given the fact Denver's players all had to learn a brand new offense. The rust was expected, and the Broncos certainly looked rusty. It is imperative that Orton's unit scores a touchdown, not just puts points on the board.
- Peyton Hillis—With Moreno and Buckhalter out of the game with injuries, it is expected that third string back Peyton Hillis will resume much of the running duties. Hillis was solid in the first preseason game, and he could have a big game tonight.
- Pass Rush—The Broncos' defense was able to get four sacks last week against the 49ers. They need a repeat performance tonight to prove that this unit is for real. This is also a critical game potentially for Jarvis Moss, who is on the fringe of making the team.
This is an important game for the Broncos. I will not classify it as a "must win," but it is certainly crucial for the first team offense to play well. Not to avoid scrutiny, but to show that progress has been made.