The 2013 Denver Broncos will take the field for the first time on Thursday night in a preseason matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
The franchise and fan base are ready to put the disappointing finish to last season behind them and begin the drive to Super Bowl XLVIII. Thursday night is the first step in that direction.
Most of the starters won’t see much playing time, if any, but there will still be a lot to watch. Not to mention any chance to see the Orange and Blue in action is appointment TV in Broncos Country.
One player who figures to see a significant amount of playing time is backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. He’s been getting a lot of praise for his performance in training camp and many fans will be watching him closely on Thursday. There is little doubt he is the future of the franchise and these four preseason games are big for his progression as a signal caller.
Another spot to watch will be at running back. Ronnie Hillman, Knowshon Moreno, and Montee Ball are all jockeying for the starting role and will get a big opportunity against the 49ers. A good performance by one of these players will give them the inside track for the rest of the preseason.
It will also be interesting to see who gets the nod along the offensive line. With all the injuries they’ve suffered several players will be watching in street clothes. But current starting center Manny Ramirez will get an opportunity to show the team what he can do, especially with newly-acquired center/guard Ryan Lilja still getting up to speed. One way or the other, it will be a big moment for Ramirez and the future of the offensive line.
Thursday will also be Wes Welker’s first appearance with the Broncos. As a newcomer to the club these games will be important for his transition into the offense, but with Peyton Manning watching most of the night they may opt to limit the perennial pro-bowler his first game out.
Regardless of how much he plays, expect to see him dominate when he does. All the updates out of training camp have included glowing reviews of what Welker is doing on the practice field.
On the defensive side you always have to keep an eye on Von Miller. And if you aren’t following him closely at the snap of the ball, he’ll make sure you see him by the time the play is over.
Miller is entering the prime of his career and has already established himself as one of the best players in the entire league. Despite the questions regarding his eligibility for the first four games of the season he is going to be a lot of fun to watch in 2013.
Aside from Miller, a lot of eyes will be on the Denver secondary. Duke Ihenacho and David Bruton are pushing their way up the depth chart and putting pressure on presumed starters Mike Adams and Rahim Moore. And with the injury to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, cornerback Chris Harris will have a chance to make a big statement in the preseason. Many are predicting Harris will have a monster year. If he does the defensive backfield has a chance to be very good, especially after DRC gets healthy.
The player to watch on special teams Thursday night is Matt Prater. He had a disappointing season last year and an extremely costly field goal miss in the playoffs. In order for the Broncos to perform like a true Super Bowl favorite Prater needs to regain his swagger from 2011.