Denver Broncos Preseason Game 3: The Last Real Look Before JAX
OK, It is time to stop "horsing" around. The last real preseason game is fast approaching and it will be the biggest game so far.
No, it doesn't count in the standings but it will be the best test we will have to see what the Denver Broncos V.2010 will look like coming out of the chute in Jacksonville in a couple of weeks.
So let's see what we should be looking for this Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Walking Wounded are Starting to Run Again
Maybe that is why this man is smiling.
According to the Denver Post and some other sources, Denver is starting to look like a complete team for the first time since the end of last season.
Correll Buckhalter was at practice Tuesday and was joined by defensive co-captains Champ Bailey and DJ Williams. Back on the offensive side of the ball rookie Demaryius Thomas and RG Kris Kuper were also practicing.
What does this mean? It means that there could very well be a semblance of a running game that has been lacking in the first two games.
Kuper will shore up the interior of the line while adding some veteran leadership. And with Buckhalter teaming with Justin Fargas, we should see what McDaniels' run/pass balance really looks like, something we haven't seen so far this preseason.
And to add some frosting to this healthy cake, Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady is supposed to participate in practice today, if not at full speed, at least back with his teammates.
Building a Consistency on Offense
With some reinforcements back in the offensive line and the return of Buckhalter, this is the game to improve the timing, the blocking schemes and the finalizing of the playbook getting ready for the real season.
One area that I think will look better is the work between Orton and his receivers. With a beefed-up line and a better mix of pass/run, we should see what Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal, Marques Branson, Eric Decker and the backs can do with Orton's passes.
And this may very well be the make-or-break game for Brady Quinn. He will likely get some reps in the second half and better be on his game or he could be on the waiver wire,
We will see at least one long ball (50Yds+) and a nice mix of crossing patterns and deeper out patterns.
Getting the Nastiness MoJo Working on Defense
Granted, injuries have hurt, especially to Champ and DJ out last week and Elvis gone for most of the regular season. But what I haven't seen so far is a sense of nastiness from the defensive side of the ball.
Is Don "Wink" Martindale the right guy for the Defensive Coordinator job? Now is the time to answer that question. Being an ex-linebacker coach would lead one to believe he lives to be in your face.
This week, with a healthy starting 11 (other than Doom), we better see some licks being laid and some pads popping or I will begin to worry about this side of the ball. Because from what I have seen from the backups, there better be no more injuries to the starters. There definitely is no depth there.
Lining Up Against a Potential Postseason AFC Foe
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a storied franchise and are in what I would call a mini-rebuilding stage They had a tough season last year when they failed to qualify for the playoffs with a 9-7 record. And this was the third time they did that following a Super Bowl victory.
And to add to that tough finish, Ben Roethlisberger had some "issues" in the off-season and will miss 2-4-6 games due to Mr. Goodell's morality focus. So the Steelers will have to find a short-term replacement for Big Ben or they could be in a hole before his return.
Having worked in Pittsburgh for several years I learned a few things: This is one proud franchise and has some of the most loyal fans in the NFL. They DO NOT like not making the playoffs. And a Primanti Brothers burger with a cold Yuengling is the ONLY way to get ready for the game or to celebrate (or cuss) after the game.
Oh, and Mike Tomlin is one of the best young coaches in the NFL right now and is the perfect match for this team and this proud city.
This will be a hard-fought game and and a good test for both teams. It should be close and hard-fought, at least into the 4th quarter. And maybe an early look at a post-season matchup for the AFC Championship?
The Bottom Line
For all practical purposes, this is the last real test before the first game in Jacksonville.
The final preseason game is mostly to see who will survive the final cuts and be on the 53 man roster or on the Practice Squad. Some will also be auditioning for spots on the other 31 teams as well
So this is it! Strap those chinstraps tight, don't forget the jockstrap and let's see some Sunday smash-mouth FOOTBALL!.
Hey! I made it all the way through a Bronco article without mentioning Tim Tebow. Uhhh, never mind.
Broncos win their first Pretend Season game, 27 - 23.