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Broncos-Seahawks: Three Questions, Answered

Posted Aug 7, 2014

Andrew Mason looks back at the three questions he posed before the game to see how they turned out.

DENVER -- The concussion suffered by running back C.J. Anderson, the occasional post-play shoves and the ejection of Seattle cornerback Tharold Simon after a scuffle following a Kapri Bibbs touchdown run was testament to the choppiness and ferocity that dotted the preseason opener for the Broncos and Seahawks here Thursday.

But there were also questions that began seeing answers -- three of which I posed before the game. Here's how they turned out.

1. Which backup running back -- or running backs -- will step up?

Inserting the plural was apt, because the Broncos got stellar performances from all around their depth chart. Ronnie Hillman had a first-quarter touchdown run, but his best moment might have been in blitz pickup. Anderson looked strong going to the outside, even though some of his work was wiped out by  penalties, but his night ended early due to a concussion.

Kapri Bibbs ran hard, displaying some one-cut-and-go quickness, and showed good vision, particularly on his 4-yard touchdown run.

"That is the most important key to have in this league, because stuff closes up real fast," said Bibbs. "You've got to see stuff before it actually happens."

But the breakout runner of the night was Juwan Thompson, who showed why he was listed as the No. 4 running back, placing him above the other new running backs. Thompson had a blitz pickup to set up a Brock Osweiler third-down completion to Bennie Fowler, and ran through tacklers, frequently picking up at least two or three yards after contact as he burst upfield. Thompson's best asset is his 225-pound frame, and he used it well.

"I'm not the shiftiest guy, but I can get out in open space and make people miss here and there," Thompson said. "But I do like to make people feel the pain, just to make sure (that they) just don’t try to tackle me the next time."

Thompson was evaluated for a possible concussion, but returned, and delivered the block that set Brock Osweiler up for a 17-yard, third-and-10 completion to Bennie Fowler, demonstrating the all-around skill set that the offense demands.

2. How will the reserve quarterbacks fare?

For Brock Osweiler, it was a mix of the good and bad. His feel for the pass rush has improved, as he used his footwork and quickness to avoid a pair of sacks, including one in the fourth quarter in which he forced O'Brien Schofield to fly past him, turning a certain sack into a four-yard gain.

The negative? He underthrew two deep passes, one of which was intercepted, late in the third quarter. But he rallied on the next series.

"That's something that [Quarterbacks] Coach [Greg] Knapp preaches all the time in the quarterback room -- having short-term memory," Osweiler said. "No matter what happens the play before, you’ve got to erase, and you've got to move forward."

Erasing the mental DVR doesn't come any better than an 80-yard touchdown drive that included three third-down conversions -- two via passes, and one on a 15-yard scramble in which he paused to let Cassius Marsh miss him, and then took off downfield. One play later, Osweiler hit Jordan Norwood with a perfect 34-yard pass that hit the fifth-year wide receiver in stride for the touchdown.

"That was a heck of a throw," said quarterback Peyton Manning.

"(Norwood) has been my go-to guy all camp," added Osweiler. "He runs as good a route as anybody I've ever seen. There's a lot of trust I have in Jordan."

The flow of the game meant that Zac Dysert and Bryn Renner did not see any snaps.

3. Which rising young defenders will carry their training-camp performance into the game?

Just about all of them.

Marvin Austin had a sack and consistently broke down the Seahawks' blocking from the inside. As was the case in training camp, he appeared too powerful and quick for the No. 2 offensive line; at times it seemed like the matchup wasn't fair to the Seahawks' line.

Defensive end Quanterus Smith consistently generated pressure from the outside. He could have easily had a sack of his own, but was held by Eric Winston -- although it was not called. Linebacker Lerentee McCray was solid against the run and in the pass rush. Defensive end Kenny Anunike did not record a sack, but was disciplined. He was not caught out of position when Terrelle Pryor scrambled, and focused on containment, guiding Pryor to the edge, where the sideline could help limit his pickups on the ground and his range when he decided to throw. And cornerback Bradley Roby led the defense in tackles, forced a fumble and showed the aggression and instincts against the run he demontrated in practice the last week.

Along with rookies Shaquil Barrett and Lamin Barrow, these camp standouts demonstrated their performance at Dove Valley was not a practice-time fluke.

And one more …

Will there be any crazy stuff?

It depends how you define "crazy." Does a three-tight end set with Paul Cornick as one of the tight ends qualify? That was as exotic as it got for the Broncos, relative to their normal play. The Seahawks played within their norms, as well.

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