SAN FRANCISCO -- The Broncos' 10–6 win over the 49ers here Thursday was a textbook example of a preseason opener.
The action was choppy, the game was halting and didn't have much flow, and the story was told as much by the plays that were not made as the ones that were.
But as is usual for the preseason, the game wasn't defined by the result or elegant play.
Those are destinations. This game was part of the process, which is why defensive tackles were shuffled, the starting safety combination stayed in the game well past most other first-teamers, and why
Going into Thursday, five questions stood above the rest. The answers became obvious as the game progressed.
1. Who starts at safety next to
It came as no surprise that Ihenacho ended the night as the Broncos' leading tackler; he had seven solo stops, more than twice as many as anyone else in the secondary.
Many wondered how Ihenacho would look when the lights went on. The answer? Exactly like he did in practice.
2. How much progress has
Substantial, even though his performance was about ensuring that disaster — a.k.a., turnovers under pressure — were avoided.
It would have been nice to see Osweiler display the touch on deep passes that he has frequently demonstrated in practice. But once the starting offensive line ceded work to the second team, Osweiler was under attack. Even with reserves, the 49ers did not temper their potent pass rush, attacking with speed from the edges that quickly forced the second-year quarterback to step up, step out or accept the sack and focus on protecting the football.
Osweiler was not spectacular, but he was steady. He evaded the pass rush at times, but didn't try to force his way out of the pocket. He was accurate when he did throw — 13 of 18 for 105 yards.
3. How will the Broncos keep Manning upright?
Denver's first-team offensive line wasn't as compromised by injury as originally feared, since
4. Which unheralded players will emerge?
5. Among young cornerbacks, who's in the lead?
Whether the Broncos keep six cornerbacks is still a valid question, but given that the nickel package is likely to be the most-often used alignment — as has been discussed since the spring — it wouldn't be a stretch to keep six cornerbacks, especially given Bolden and Webster's draft pedigrees and potential roles on special teams.