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Preseason Watch List: AFC West

A detailed look at the key questions facing each team in the preseason

DENVER BRONCOS

Gary Kubiak chose his health and family over football. The veteran head coach decided to step away from football, which forced the Broncos into finding their third head coach in four seasons. The team moved quickly to hire Vance Joseph, the young (44 years old) defensive coach with deep ties to the Broncos. Joseph coached under Kubiak in Houston, and then served as Adam Gase's defensive coordinator last season in Miami. Broncos honcho John Elway chose Joseph because of his leadership qualities, believing a head coach needs to be able to command and maintain the respect of the locker room much more than he needs to be an Xs and Os trailblazer. Armed with an elite defense (4th in points and yards allowed), the Broncos have few questions on that side of the ball. The challenge in the preseason will be figuring out a way to jumpstart an offense that ranked 22nd and 27th in points and yards, respectively.

Camp Details:

  • When: 7/23 (Rookies) / 7/26 (Veterans)
  • Where: UCHealth Training Center (Englewood, CO)
  • Open to Public: Yes (See Website)

Preseason Game Schedule:

  • Aug 10 -- @Chicago 8:00 pm EDT
  • Aug 19 -- @San Francisco 10:00 pm
  • Aug 26 -- Green Bay 9:00 pm
  • Aug 31 -- Arizona 9:00 pm

What We're Watching:

  • Establishing the Vance Joseph era -- Joseph and defensive coordinator Joe Woods inherit an elite defense and won't do much to upset the apple cart. Joseph learned under exiting coordinator Wade Phillips in Houston, and the scheme and terminology remain in place. Mike McCoy returns as offensive coordinator after years away from coaching the Chargers. 
  • Trevor Siemien versus Paxton Lynch -- Broncos fans want 2nd year Paxton Lynch to win the job convincingly in the preseason because Lynch has a Pro Bowl ceiling. Siemien wasn't electric last season, but he wasn't ineffective, either. This battle is wide open, but the winner will take the field with a compelling set of supporting skill players. 
  • Is C.J. Anderson the clear-cut starter? -- New coaches ensure open competitions, and C.J. Anderson hasn't done enough to feel safe in his role as the projected starter. Fortunately for Anderson, improving the running back depth chart was not an offseason priority. Anderson will once again compete with Devontae Booker and Juwan Thompson. The X-factor is Jamaal Charles. Charles is a huge name, but his health is a huge question mark. Many injury experts are unclear whether Charles can even play anymore. 
  • Settling a crowded tight end depth chart -- Rookie tight ends struggle for relevance, so it's understandable if a 5th round rookie is lost in the ether. But Jake Butt would've gone much higher in the draft is he wasn't recovering from a torn ACL suffered late in Michigan's season. Butt projects as a possible Jason Witten clone when healthy, but he won't be healthy until mid-season at the earliest. A.J. Derby, Jeff Heuerman, and Virgil Green all theoretically have a shot at the starting role, but Derby is the one with compelling fantasy upside. 
  • Putting the offensive line puzzle together -- If things go as planned, Denver will have just two starters returning from last year's main lineup. Center Matt Paradis and guard Max Garcia are entrenched, but the Broncos drafted Garett Bolles in the first round to beat out Ty Sambrailo for the left tackle position. Ron Leary was signed to start on the left side. Right tackle will be decided between free agent Menalik Watson, Donald Stephenson and possibly Sombrailo. 

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