Here are nuts and bolts for Thursday’s Bronco preseason debut


Players show their appreciation for the fans who waited (Photo by @MaseDenver)

They’re back!

  Sure, it’s only preseason and, sure, first-teamers won’t see much action after the referee has blown his whistle maybe a dozen times.

  But, it’s football and it’s the Denver Broncos.

  Thursday, the Broncos will be in San Francisco for a glorified scrimmage against one of the teams expected to give the Denver boys some competition in Super Bowl XLVIII.  The Broncos and 49ers, according to Bovada web site, are 6-1 co-favorites to win it all.

  A good way to start the preseason, eh?

  Let’s get the nuts and bolts out of the way early.

  The game will be telecast locally by KUSA, with Kevin Burkhardt doing the play-by-play and former Bronco John Lynch to provide the prerequisite analysis (as if we needed it).

  Burkhardt is a newcomer to the Bronco telecasts, joining KUSA after working Dallas Cowboys games. This season, he will begin his first year calling NFL games on FOX.

  And just so you don’t have to go scrambling throughout the preseason, know that the Seattle game on Aug. 17 and the home game against Arizona on Aug. 29 will also be broadcast by KUSA locally, with the third preseason game on Aug. 24 in Denver against the Rams to be a nationally televised CBS affair.

  If you find you need listen to the radio, all preseason and regular-season games will be broadcast locally by KOA-AM, with old standby Dave Logan doing the play-by-play and Ed McCaffery doing color.  It will be McCaffrey’s first full season providing commentary after being a guest commentator for three radio games with Logan in 2009.

  So much for the broadcasts.

  Now, here are five top items to watch for Thursday:

  No. 1 is running back, where second-year man Ronnie Hillman is battling rookie Montee Ball.  Focus not so much on their running abilities – the two have very different styles — but on what may make the final decision on who starts the season No. 1 on the depth chart, the ability to protect the quarterback.  Both of these youngsters will have plenty of work to do as blockers and it should be relatively easy to follow their progress.

  You know head coach John Fox and running backs coach Eric Studesville will be paying close attention, as will the guy who is being protected, quarterback Peyton Manning.

  No. 2, check out the patchwork offensive line against one of the best defenses in football.  Tackle Ryan Clady won’t play and the other tackle, Orlando Franklin, may not after an early week injury.  Also, watch the play of Manny Ramirez at center and look for the newly signed Ryan Lilja to make a brief appearance.

  No. 3, let’s see how new free agent wide receiver Wes Welker fits in.  Manning will certainly want to get him in the flow and comfortable quickly and he might play a bit more than other regulars just for that reason.

  No. 4, and it really doesn’t need be mentioned, but we just can’t help it:  Let’s watch Manning and the quicker pace of offensive coordinator Adam Gaze.  Does Denver really want a significant faster pace and, if so, will we see it rear its head this early in preseason.  And while we’re at it, let’s pay close attention to the whims of Manning, who hates to sit on the sideline even in preseason.  Will he allow backup quarterback Brock Osweiler to get in some much-needed work?

  No. 5 would be newcomers on defense.   Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams will be on the inside of the line.  Shaun Phillips is backing up – at least for now – Von Miller at linebacker, and Nate Irving is taking over at middle linebacker.

  Also watch the battle for pecking order points at the safety slots with former practice squad member Duke Ihenacho and veteran special teams player David Bruton reportedly pushing hard for starting spots with incumbents Mike Adams and Rahim Moore.

  There you have it, nuts and bolts and Denver Bronco preseason football.

  We can all breathe easier now.

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