DENVER --It's time for the "dress rehearsal," as Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips put it.
While the process of building a team ready for Week 1 and avoiding any further injuries remain priorities, the Broncos also want to win Saturday's clash with the Los Angeles Rams.
"There's always emphasis on that," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's the number one thing. That's a habit. We have to go out there and play better than we did last week. We hurt ourselves as a team with a lot of negative football plays and those types of things.
"I want to settle down. We still have to look at a lot of people. We can't lose sight of that. I have to go and get some questions answered."
Three key areas of question include:
- OFFENSE: THE QUARTERBACK**
As of Thursday, Gary Kubiak had not decided who would enter the game after starter Trevor Siemian's stint concludes.
But one thing was clear -- with Siemian's shoulder healing well from the soreness that set in after he attempted to make a tackle last week, Kubiak wants to see the second-year quarterback get some extended work.
"Is he ready to play? Is he full load and go? It sure looks that way to me. I want him to play a lot of football, so I'll go from there," Kubiak said.
From all the quarterbacks, Kubiak and the coaching staff hope to see steadiness under duress and few mistakes. With Aaron Donald leading the way, Los Angeles possesses one of the league's most disruptive defensive lines, which will test the Broncos' reshuffled offensive line, and force the hand of Siemian, Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch.
"They might be one of the best in the game. They're really good up front," Kubiak said. "They're very active in what they do -- a very physical football team."
As a result, the quarterbacks' work against Los Angeles' front could provide plenty of evidence to go toward a decision for the Week 1 starter -- and perhaps allow for one of the quarterbacks to separate himself and seize the job.
- LEARNING MORE ABOUT LINE DEPTH**
On the offensive side, Darrion Weems remains in the league-mandated concussion protocol and backup center James Ferentz will miss the next few weeks following a knee scope he underwent Monday. The continued absence of Ty Sambrailo because of an elbow injury leaves Michael Schofield, Connor McGovern and Dillon Day in the spotlight, with Schofield expected to start at right guard and McGovern and Day both among the possibilities for center depth behind starter Matt Paradis.
"I just want him to continue to get better," Kubiak said of McGovern. "Connor is a young player who's in the mix at the right guard spot for us and our team. He's also having to play some center, too.
"As we try to get to suiting seven guys in two weeks, a big factor with that is how does Connor keep coming. I've been pleased with his work. I think he's been good."
Versatility will remain a key for determining the line's composition behind the starters.
On the defensive line, Phillips will work newcomer Henry Melton into the mix. Whether he starts depends on the availability of Derek Wolfe, who did not practice this week because he had to attend to a personal matter.
Denver's defensive front will look for an improved performance after being pushed back consistently by the 49ers last week once the first-teamers had finished their work.
- SPECIAL TEAMS: RETURN GAME AND PUNTERS**
Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis was not happy with the return game last week -- but that was about more than just returners Kalif Raymond and Bralon Addison.
"Not solid. A good way to put it -- not solid," DeCamillis said. "I'm disappointed in the way that we blocked."
Jordan Norwood is expected to handle the first-half work on returns, but his success will be tied to those in front of him.
"I thought that no matter who you put back there, whether it was Devin Hester, Mel Gray, whoever you want to put back there, we didn't open anything up for them [last week]," DeCamillis said. "I'm not happy in the way that went."
The punting competition between incumbent Britton Colquitt and rookie Riley Dixon also remains in the spotlight. Colquitt has better net and gross averages in the two preseason games, but the far more expansive sample size of training camp, OTAs and preseason practice will be given ample weight in making the decision, DeCamillis said.
Take a photographic trip through the head-to-head history of two proud franchises, dating back to Floyd Little and the Broncos' triumph in 1972, 16-10.