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2021 Preseason Preview: Week 1

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Last week's Hall of Fame Game officially marked the end of the offseason like the first tree coming back from winter.

Nothing says preseason is back like a major fantasy player getting hurt.

We also got to see the emergence of the Janikowskis of punters. This thicc boi nailed a beauty of punt you can keep on repeat.

We also got our first dose of Hard Knocks this Tuesday. Of course the most memorable moment, some would call it the Mojo Moment of the episode, was Jerry Jones salting his McGriddle.

Sadly, there is no All or Nothing this year. The Shield bent but it didn't break when it came to protecting the League from COVID last year, but having a camera crew around the Tennesssee Titans would've been dangerous. Also sad to see it might never come back because it's nice to see more behind-the-scenes stuff than what Hard Knocks gives you.

What I'm watching for

Getting used to a 3-week preseason

The first thing I'm watching for is trying determine the new preseason schedule for starters. With the shift in schedule, giving up a 4th preseason game for a 17th regular season game, I'm interested in knowing how coaches will dole out reps for the starters, position battles, and backups. In a four-week preseason, solidified starters would see about a drive in the first game, about a quarter in the second game, about a half in the third game, and would rest on the fourth week. My thinking is everything moves up a week so we'll see starters for about a quarter this week, next week will be the dress rehearsal, and the third game will be the battle for roster spots.

The QB Battle

It's the most important position on the roster and if you have two QBs, you don't have one. Sad to see Drew Lock hasn't created any separation between he and Teddy Two-Gloves. Teddy Bridgewater is like a kid who consistently gets C's on every test while Drew Lock flunks mosts tests but can ace others. C's get degrees but they're not going to get you to medical school. I assume Drew Lock will win the battle and start Week 1 like he does here in the preseason.

The real question is just how short is Drew's leash before they put Teddy in. Most say Drew needs a winning record coming out of the first 3 weeks with an "easy" lineup of at the G-Men, at JAX, and the home opener against the Jets in order to keep his job. Going 1-2 against these teams, barring injury, should lead to Teddy being thrown to the wolves in Week 4 at home against Baltimore. If I'm Vic Fangio and my job is on the line this season, I'm pulling Drew Lock as soon as the Broncos have a losing record after Week 2. If the Broncos start the season 0-2, the swap for Teddy should happen Week 3 instead with the hope of salvaging the season early. Going 0-3 puts you in too deep of a hole to make the playoffs. Even if Drew wins that 3rd game, the Broncos would still have a losing record after 3 weeks and would swap for Teddy then so just make the change early and give Teddy an easier matchup before seeing the Ravens.

Will the things that consistently plague this team ever stop?

The last Super Bowl run must've really left a lasting impressions on the Broncos Brass. Ever since, they've been convinced you can get by in this league with shitty QB play and a terrific defense. But even a crippled Peyton Manning playing in an outdated Kubiak scheme (only because y'know that's how John Elway won late in his career despite the fact they had a better offense just letting Peyton do his thing (which was evident in the week 2 comeback against KC!)) is still miles better than every joke they've thrown out there since. Since Aaron Rodgers isn't retiring to host Jeopardy or play for the Broncos so his girlfriend could watch him at home on cable, we can continue adding to our Browns Jersey of Quarterback Names with Bridgewater.

The hiring of Mike Munchak and the transformation of Garrett Holds to Garret Bolles has given me hope, but the Broncos seem convinced to get by with a bad offensive line. When you don't have the genius of Peyton Manning standing behind the center, a mediocre offensive line isn't going to cut it. Their free-agent signings on the offensive line have been abysmal, usually going for someone with enough injury concerns that they never really play so you get more mad at the player than the team. Look guys we signed someone to get better, it's not our fault he's injured and never plays.

This season I'd love to see Noah Fant enter the elite TE conversation. Ideally I'd love to see him paired with Big Albert O in 2 TE sets like the Pats had with Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. Besides these two, Jake Butt has been the most the athletic person we've seen at the position in years and he just retired from never being able to play. On the flip side, I'm still worried about TE coverage. The Broncos have consistently been burnt by TEs for years and I don't see that changing with a Fangio led defense and no change to our inside LBs.