(CBS4/The Sports Exchange) – The Broncos travel to Chicago to face the Bears in their first preseason game on Thursday night.
The following are five things to watch for in the game:
1. Will one of the quarterbacks separate themselves from the others?
Mark Sanchez is starting on Thursday night and Trevor Siemian will also play in the first half. Rookie Paxton Lynch is expected to see a good chunk of playing time in the second half. Former Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley, the guest on the CBS4 show on Xfinity Monday Live this week, said this team needs to know soon who their starting quarterback is going to be. “The quarterback play has been mediocre — just nothing great there,” said Stokley. “Every day has just kind of been a good day. We need one of those two — whether it be Mark Sanchez or Trevor Siemian — to step up and take the job. Neither one of them is doing that right now.”
2. Offensive lineman Michael Schofield
Michael Schofield struggled at times working at right tackle last year, particularly in a Week 14 loss to Oakland when he allowed four of the five sacks racked up by Khalil Mack. But he has shown improvement this offseason and through training camp, and is on track to be at least the top backup offensive lineman. Schofield is listed as a co-No. 1 right guard along with the injured Ty Sambrailo, but will start Thursday at left tackle in place of Russell Okung, who is being eased back from a shoulder injury. A strong performance could give him confidence that he could apply to his bid to be the starting right guard.
3. A stronger emphasis on the run
The Broncos real strength is their defense again this year, so that’s going to mean a lot of running of the ball by the offense. And unlike last year, there’s not a Hall of Fame quarterback in the huddle whose tendency is to throw the ball a lot. That should mean a higher percentage of run plays. “This is (Gary Kubiak’s) offense and they’ve had all OTAs and all training camp to install it,” Stokley said, referring to Kubiak’s traditionally run-heavy system.
4. Can Mark Sanchez keep the ball out of the opponents’ hands?
As earlier noted, Sanchez has shown some inconsistency in training camp. Given the quarterback’s experience in the league, many thought the new Bronco would come into camp and clearly establish himself as the starter. A big reason for why that hasn’t happened? Interceptions. “Every day it seems like there’s a bad turnover,” Stokley said. “He’s the veteran, he’s the one that should be leading by example and not turning the ball over.”