ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Rarely can preseason play truly replicate the kind of environment a player will experience in the regular season. But facing the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field is the scenario that comes closest.
The Seahawks defense attacks. Their home crowd roars at jet-engine levels -- even in August, which the Broncos learned in their last preseason trip to the Pacific Northwest two years ago. For a team looking to learn what it possesses in its young offensive linemen, even a brief glimpse of action there will help as the Broncos try to find their line's identity.
"We're fixing to find out," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "They're a very young group led by a heck of a player in [Louis Vasquez], and I just think watching them grow up here throughout the course of camp, I'm excited about what they can be.
"Like I said [before], there's going to be a lot of bumps along the way, but I know they're going to play hard; I know they're very well-coached, and it's up to them to come together as a group and to be successful. But they get their first test on Friday, and boy is it a good one."
And every snap will help them find cohesion, and that's where the final collection of Takeaways prior to the preseason opener begins:
- MAX GARCIA'S QUEST FOR CONSISTENCY.**
Kubiak noted last Saturday that Garcia was "up and down," and as capable of powerful, spectacular moments as rough ones.
"Max is very strong, heavy-handed, so he has a lot of plays on film that are highlights," Kubiak said. "You go, 'Whoa, look at that,' but he has a lot of plays on the film that need to be better."
Five days after those comments, Garcia remains on the first team, having been placed there on the first public depth chart issued Monday afternoon. But he knows that Kubiak's comments were on-point. Garcia has the energy and tenacity part down pat. His technique is improving. Now he must become more consistent.
"I think that is something that the coaches want to have, just as far as a confidence booster goes -- someone who executes in and out every play," Garcia said. "I totally understand that, and that's something that I definitely want to work on.
"Something that I want to prove to them is that I can be consistent, that I can be able to dominate every play."
- MORE DEFENSIVE INSTRUCTION FOR THE OFFENSIVE LINE.**
If Garcia and the Broncos' young offensive line congeals from five disparate parts into an effective single unit that allows the offense to produce as a unit with four Pro Bowl skill players should, the linemen will have to include the Broncos' front-seven pass rushers in their list of thank-you notes at the end of the year.
OLB DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller have helped left tackle Ty Sambrailo. And Malik Jackson helps Garcia, who will face few foes more agile and athletic than the fourth-year defensive end, who consistently lowers his shoulder and gets underneath Garcia or any other opposing guard to create pressure from the inside.
"[Jackson] gives me a great look every play. [He is] definitely one of the more challenging guys that I've been against in my whole football career," Garcia said.
"He's been making me better and telling me things that I need to work on. He's like, 'Hey, don't do that. I can see it coming. I can read this in your stance.' He's been giving me great tips -- things that I will use against my opponents."
- WHAT KUBIAK WANTS TO SEE: AN O-LINE THAT WILL "PLAY TOGETHER."**
Building that cohesion is one reason why if the Broncos were going to shake up the depth chart at some point in training camp -- as they did in promoting Matt Paradis and Max Garcia -- that they made the commitment as soon as possible.
Garcia and Paradis made the jump to the first team together after working side-by-side on the No. 2 offensive line throughout OTAs, minicamp and the first five days of training camp. Thus, they have more cohesion with each other than their fellow offensive linemen, although with time and experience, that will come.
"I know what he's thinking. Come Friday, we just need to talk," Garcia said. "That's what our execution really comes down to: is talking."
Above-average chemistry between the linemen can help compensate for a lack of NFL experience -- especially in a zone-based scheme.
"I think offensive line is not about having one great player or two great players," Kubiak said, "It's about five guys playing together scheme-wise and staying out there on the field together. The great ones I've been around stay out there and find a way to be there every snap. That's a sign of a good offensive line. So we'll see.
"They'll build their identity, but we just need them to play good enough for our football team to be successful."
- UPDATING SHANE RAY.**
The first-round draft pick has enjoyed some flashes of brilliance working with the first team, and has been particularly effective in the open field chasing down quarterbacks who roll out. But he's having a camp typical of a rookie, defined by the search for more consistency and technical improvement.
"I think it's been up and down," Kubiak said of Ray's progress to date.
Ray's progress was hindered by his absence from nearly the entire OTA period due to the toe injury he suffered that kept him from full workouts in the months leading up to the draft. Kubiak said that Ray has now caught up physically, but is now learning from watching fellow OLBs Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware ahead of him.
With the toe no longer an issue, Ray must work on the mental side, Kubiak noted.
"He's fixing to play a lot of football. I think he'll settle down. The biggest thing with Shane [is] I don't want him to get too down when the days aren't good," Kubiak said. "He's really hard on himself. I'm trying to get him to go on to the next one when it's a bad play.
"That's a good thing that he's hard on himself, but that's pro football. There are good players. Sometimes you're going to get blocked; go make the next play."
5. MANNING MAKING THE THROWS.
Demaryius Thomas said it earlier in training camp. Emmanuel Sanders said it Wednesday: their quarterback appears as strong as ever.
"I don't feel like he's lost a step. I asked him the other day [about how] he doesn't wear the glove. I told him, 'Man, your arm's a lot stronger without the glove," Sanders said. "That's pretty impressive. He put a lot of work in the offseason."
"I do feel good," added Manning. I've had a good offseason of training and kind of body maintenance, health, nutrition. I've done some things a little bit differently. So I do feel good moving out there. The arm feels pretty good."
The fans are back and the Broncos are on the field for Wednesday's practice at UCHealth Training Center.