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Broncos Notebook: What to expect in Denver's third preseason game

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 22, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Outside of a regular season NFL game, what’s the next best thing? The third preseason game.

On Friday night, the Denver Broncos will get a taste of real football when they fly out east to take on the Washington Redskins in the closest thing to a regular season game in August.

Here’s what you can expect in the team’s dress rehearsal.

ON THE FIELD EXPECTATIONS

Typically, in the third preseason game, fans get to see at least a half, maybe even three quarters, from their starters. On Wednesday, in the team’s final practice before they head out east, head coach Vance Joseph wouldn’t commit to a timetable on how long his top units will play.

“We’re not going to count snaps, we’re going to count progress,” Joseph said, taking a unique approach to preseason playing time. “Last week we played about a quarter and a half. Hopefully, we can play more.”

Later, Joseph wouldn’t commit to the starters playing in the second half.

Once the starters are finished for the day, and thus Case Keenum, Chad Kelly will be the next quarterback up. It’s not a guarantee, however, that Kelly will be pulled before the game ends.

“Case goes out first, and Chad’s going to be second, and we’ll see what’s left for Paxton,” Joseph said, opening the door to Paxton Lynch not even playing. “Every man dressed has a chance to play. That’s how we’re going to proceed right now with the quarterbacks.”

As for the outcome, Joseph and the Broncos want to see what they saw in the second preseason game against the Chicago Bears, in which the first-team offense put up 11 points in three possessions and the defense got a safety and an interception.

“Just progress and positive football plays, that’s what the preseason is for, to make progress,” Joseph simply stated. “Obviously, last week, we didn’t win the football game, but when I watched the tape, I was really excited about our football team. Just playing good football, that’s what I want to see Friday night.”

OFF-THE-FIELD TEST

For the first time this year, the men in Orange & Blue will don a suit and tie and board a chartered flight to “take care of their business,” as many players will say during the regular season.

For 34 players, this will be their first time doing so as members of the Broncos.

Along with traveling for the first time with this group, Joseph called the trip itself “a great test.” It’s not just a dress rehearsal for the regular season, but the trip is a similar journey they’ll take three different times in the regular season.

The Broncos travel to Baltimore in Week 3, New York—to face the Jets—in Week 5 and Cincinnati in Week 13—all East Coast away games.

For all of those trips, including the third preseason game, the team will leave the morning before the game. Last year, Joseph contemplated leaving two days before the game, but ultimately settled on the day before.

He’s sticking with that decision this year, as well.

Joseph said there wasn’t much that went into the decision, adding, “Our players felt more comfortable going Saturday. Players play, coaches coach.”

MAX PRAISE

If Ron Leary is unable to go on Friday night (read below), Max Garcia will replace him as the team’s starting left guard. Over the past week, the former starter has drawn significant praise from many within the organization.

That continued Wednesday.

After saying Garcia has been playing like a starter during the preseason, on Wednesday, Joseph credited it to his improved pass protection this year, adding, “That’s upped his game a lot. In the run game, he’s always been a good run blocker, but his pass pro has improved.”

Earlier in the week, offensive Bill Musgrave stated “Max has had, not a good, but a great camp,” later adding, “He’s really playing football at a high level.”

Garcia has taken reps at left guard, center and right guard during training camp and will likely find his spot on the roster as the team’s backup swing guard.

INJURY REPORT

On Wednesday, Joseph ruled out Troy Fumagalli, J.J. Dielman, Marcus Rios, Andreas Knappe, Sam Jones and Su’a Cravens for Friday night’s game due to injuries.

Ron Leary will be a game-time decision. He missed Wednesday’s practice after competing in part of Tuesday’s.

Even if Leary is held out of the game, Joseph isn’t concerned about the health of his starting left guard.

“Same knee,” Joseph said, explaining the health concern with Leary. “He’s getting better, but we’re being really smart for the long haul.”

ADDITIONAL TIDBITS

  • Joseph said there’s no update on Carlos Henderson yet. Henderson visited with Elway on Tuesday, and the team is thinking about how to move forward with the second-year player after he did not show up to training camp.
  • Cyrus Kouandjio is “surely in line to be the swing tackle,” according to Joseph on Wednesday. The head coach cited the 6-foot-7, 322-pound tackle’s consistency as being key for him potentially landing a roster spot.
    • “We’ve got two games to go, but his first two outings have been pretty good.”
  • There’s “buzz” in the Broncos building this week about Pat Bowlen’s Hall of Fame candidacy, according to Joseph. On Thursday, the contributor subcommittee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will elect two members to be finalists for the Hall of Fame. Bowlen is one of the members being considered, and it’s widely believed this is his year.
    • “He’s obviously deserving of the honor,” Joseph stated on behalf of Bowlen’s organization. “Hopefully he gets in.”
  • Shane Ray was back at practice on Wednesday after missing Tuesday as he dealt with a personal matter.

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