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Denver7 Things to Watch in Broncos' preseason finale

Von, Sutton take final steps in injury recovery
Broncos Football
Posted at 3:04 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 17:17:49-04

ENGLEWOOD -- Teddy Bridgewater smiled, and nodded his head. That is how he celebrated winning the starting quarterback job when asked by the media Wednesday.

This calm represents why, in part, he will become the Broncos' fifth different starting quarterback in five years on opening day. Bridgewater follows Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Drew Lock.

When Bridgewater takes the first snap on Sept. 12 against the Giants, he will represent Vic Fangio's seventh starter in his first 33 games. Only John McKay with the expansion franchise Tampa Bay Buccaneers has had more with eight, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Against that backdrop, Bridgewater will look to buck the ugly skid of four straight losing seasons, and five years without the playoffs. It starts in earnest on Saturday night as the starters will receive additional reps in the home preseason finale against the Rams, who will play backups.

With Von, Courtland Sutton and Melvin Gordon making their debuts, and backup jobs hanging in the balance at receiver, cornerback and offensive line, my Denver7 things to watch:

Teddy Time
For a team that is 0-7 in September, with the offense deserving a lion's share of the blame, there is a compelling argument for playing the starters. Bridgewater could use full reps with the ones in back-to-back weeks. The Broncos need to establish the run to ease the burden on Bridgewater. One connection to watch is Teddy to Jerry Jeudy. They have been in sync all camp. I expect that to continue this season.

Hello, Von
Von Miller waited to make his debut on natural grass, while noting the opening two games are on turf. He is fully recovered from surgery to repair a dislocated ankle tendon. He dominated against the Vikings in the joint practices, so this step should allow him to play with a clear head against the Giants. This could be Von's last season in Denver. Or he could rebound with 10-to-15 sacks and create a path to finish his career with the Broncos.

Holding Courtland
While I can argue Von need not play in the preseason, Sutton, for me, needs game reps. He admits that he wants to make cuts, blocks and get tackled in the final steps of his recovery from ACL surgery. He has appeared reluctant to consistently let it loose in practice. I am eager to see Sutton, who told me Thursday he will not advocate for a play count in the opener, though he might be placed on one. I believe it's fair to temper expectations the first few regular season games, not unlike Bradley Chubb a year ago.

Toeing the Line
The offensive line starting group remains set: left tackle Garett Bolles, left guard Dalton Risner, center Lloyd Cushenberry, right guard Graham Glasgow and right tackle Bobby Massie. Can Massie show he belongs in the lineup? And if so who will fill the reserve roles? Quinn Meinerz is a lock along with Calvin Anderson, the swing tackle, and Netane Muti, an intriguing guard. Meinerz has shown potential at guard, but remains a work in progress at center. Does that clear a path for Austin Schlottmann to make it as a backup? With Anderson's versatility, I don't see a path for Cam Fleming or Quinn Bailey to the final roster.

Feeling the Draft
GM George Paton appears to have struck oil with his first two picks. Cornerback Patrick Surtain oozes star potential. And while I would have taken Justin Fields, Paton stuck to this board, and Surtain's role will grow in significance this season and every one after that. Javonte Williams runs with violent intentions. He will make an impact even as Melvin Gordon's backup. Third rounders Meinerz and inside linebacker Baron Browning feature talented upside. Safety Caden Sterns has opened eyes with his range, and there's been no better story in camp than seventh rounder outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper, who has secured a backup job.

That leaves fifth-round safety Jamar Johnson, because of Sterns' emergence, sixth-round receiver Seth Williams, because of the depth at the position, and seventh-rounders cornerback Kay Vincent and defensive end Marquiss Spencer on the bubble. Spencer will be hard pressed to make it, though I would place him on practice squad. Vincent's elite track speed makes it more likely he is claimed on waivers.

Special delivery
The Broncos need better. Enough said. Beyond kicker Brandon McManus, there is not enough consistency. The coverage units have been spotty at best, and bad at worst. Can some of these young players find comfort on special teams, like linebackers Barrington Wade and Curtis Robinson?

Receiving and sending
The Broncos boast receiving depth, which is why Williams is not guaranteed to stick. Trinity Benson has turned heads with his speed and could find a role on coverage teams. As of now, Diontae Spencer is the punt returner. I would keep him, but there will be a tough decision between Williams and Benson.