The Denver Broncos visit the Chicago Bears on Thursday night in their first preseason game. Here are three things to watch for:
One – The quarterbacks
It’s fascinating for fans to ponder a quarterback controversy. Lines are drawn. Strong feelings develop. In Colorado this summer, Trevor Siemian vs. Paxton Lynch became the dominant sports conversation. The topic has rescued many a lagging conversation and added fuel to sports talk radio. But a quarterback controversy is draining for a team. Coach Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy must soon decide who will lead the Bronco offense, and it won’t be a simple decision. Trevor Siemian, the incumbent, has more experience and throws with more accuracy. Paxton Lynch boasts a stronger arm and more potential. Neither quarterback has taken control of the battle to start. The controversy soon will end, and Thursday’s game should play a crucial part in the struggle to seize the starting job.
Two – The running game
A sluggish running game is a prime reason the Broncos missed the playoffs in 2016. The Broncos stumbled to 28th (out of 32 teams) in yards per game, which left the offense one-dimensional and predictable. (A powerful running game doesn’t solve everything. The 2011 offense, powered by Tim Tebow, led the NFL in rushing with 164 yards per game, and the Broncos finished 8-8.) Vance Joseph gave the running game a feeble endorsement, first saying it was the most improved slice of the offense before adjusting his praise. “Running back,” he said. “I would say yes. Sort of.” Jamaal Charles boasts the potential to remove the “sort of” from descriptions of the run game, but we won’t see him against the Bears. The longtime Chiefs superstar still is recovering from severe damage to his knee. We will see C.J. Anderson, who says he is lighter and quicker and better. “If it’s time to bulk some muscle and hit somebody in the mouth, call No. 22,” Anderson said, referring to himself. Anderson promises a more powerful rushing attack. We’ll start to see Thursday if his promise will come true.
Three - The rookie offensive tackle
The Bronco offensive line was a mess in 2016. Trevor Siemian was often on the run, trying to escape pass rushers who were barely hindered by the Bronco line. Garett Bolles. a 6-foot-5, 300-pound left tackle, was drafted to lessen the mess. He faces a tough challenge against the Bears. He’ll battle against Leonard Floyd (the ninth pick of the 2016 draft) and Willie Young, who combined for 14.5 sacks in 2016. Bolles is a fascinating rookie. He arrives in the NFL as a 25-year-old who spent two years in Colorado Springs on a Mormon mission effort. He’s never seen an NFL game in person. He’s been solid in training camp, impressing Joseph with his work against the Broncos' fierce pass rush. Against the Bears, in the first NFL game he’s ever seen, he’ll start to reveal if he was worthy of first-round selection.