CHICAGO -- My Wednesday morning: Land in Chicago. Check phone. Put headphones back on and crawl into the overhead bin for more sleep. The Broncos' quarterbacks have yet to throw a preseason pass, and they are under siege. A report, based on information from the Cincinnati side, circulated saying the Broncos were pursuing Bengals backup A.J. McCarron.
Multiple NFL sources told Denver7 the report was false. Broncos president of football operations John Elway took to Twitter to dismiss the speculation.
"Rumor of us being interested in anyone other than the QBs we have is another example of irresponsible, fake news!!"
Elway has repeatedly praised Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch over the last five months. Going to McCarron would signal a desperate move, unseating Siemian, the current leader in the derby, or Lynch, the kid with the high upside, with a career backup who is in line to make huge money in 2018.
Which brings us to my take -- 3 keys to watch in the preseason opener:
1) 'Sup, QBs?
The Broncos need improved play from their quarterback after ranking 26th in red zone touchdown percentage and fourth in three-and-outs last season. They are determined to get a better read after two preseason games. At that point, a starter will likely be named. And if the competition fizzles, perhaps the Broncos would look at external options. For now, they are intrigued by Siemian and Lynch, in part, because offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is promising an attack that will "be uptempo, that will change week to week, and (be) exciting for our fans."
Siemian and Lynch will play a quarter, to a quarter-and-a-half, receiving roughly 16 plays. Siemian has gained rhythm over the last four days, admitting something "clicked" during the past week. He appears decisive and comfortable. Can he translate it to the game, and establish an insurmountable lead in the derby? Lynch has struggled since the pads came on which coincided with the playbook growing. He needs to ace the game to close ground. Lynch has the hardware to do it, but needs the software. That's not a knock, only a reminder that the NFL is a mental game.
2) Run with it
The Broncos' belief in offensive improvement lies in McCoy's genius -- as coined by Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib -- and the upgrades along the line. From coach Vance Joseph to Elway to McCoy, all believe Denver will run the ball better after averaging 92.8 yards per game last season. So watch Thursday's game from the inside out. See how rookie left tackle Garett Bolles, right guard Ron Leary and right tackle Menelik Watson perform. Running backs C.J. Anderson, Stevan Ridley, Juwan Thompson and De'Angelo Henderson will receive reps with Jamaal Charles' debut anticipated against San Francisco. Ridley is an X-factor. How he plays could impact what Charles needs to show in the preseason to make the team.
3) Roster roulette
Joseph let out a secret Monday. Preseason, um, is not like it used to be. The Broncos are looking to make decisions on about 15 players regarding their final roster. Remember, there is no parsing of the cuts. The roster drops from 90 to 53, meaning scouts must be on point as nearly 1,000 names hit the waiver wire at once. A position to monitor Thursday: Defensive back. Can rookie Brendan Langley become the Broncos' fourth corner ahead of Lorenzo Doss? Will Chris Lewis-Harris grab a roster spot? Where does hard-hitting safety Jamal Carter, a college free agent, fit in the mix? And upfront what about Pot Roast Jr., Tyrique Jarrett? Can he help in the run game? Offensively, is this the season Jordan "Sunshine" Taylor loses out in a numbers game following the drafting of Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie?
Nobody remembers the preseason. But these games matter to a large chunk of the roster. And for the Broncos, that includes the quarterback.