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What to watch: Broncos-Seahawks

SEATTLE -- Denver's first-team secondary watched from the sideline last Thursday as the Broncos made their preseason debut against the Atlanta Falcons in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

In terms of Broncos experience, the most seasoned member of the defensive backfield to play last week was safety Will Parks, who took part in 16 snaps. While Parks played, the Falcons did little -- three punts and a long field-goal attempt that fell short. Atlanta converted just one of its five third-down attempts.

It was just a glimpse of what the defense could do, but it left Parks eager for more -- and giddy about seeing what his teammates could do.

When Parks went to the bench, he approached the longest-tenured member of the secondary, Chris Harris Jr. with a simple message.

"I kept going to the sideline and I was like, 'Chris, when you get in the game, you're going to like this,'" Parks said.

"And I'm not just saying this because it's the first game. We've practiced with it for four or five months, and now we're in camp, and we're doing it, and the offense is giving us different looks, so it's helping us play even better and more attentive in the game."

It's only a rehearsal, but with the first-team defense expected to see some first-quarter work Thursday night, expectations are high. Justin Simmons has made interceptions a regular occurrence in practice. Kareem Jackson had two picks Monday. During the 14 practices to date, more plays have ended in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb reaching the quarterback than one could accurately count.

How the first-team defense looks at game speed is the first thing to watch Thursday night.

What else deserves a look at CenturyLink Field when the Broncos face the Seahawks?


He isn't expected to play long, but Seattle's speedy defense offers a good test for Flacco as he makes his Broncos debut. The range of Seattle's linebackers in coverage also creates a challenge for the running backs and tight ends who will run routes into the flat and within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.


The issues with snaps -- both in shotgun and under center -- timing and false starts haven't completely ebbed, even after the preseason opener. A clean game in what should be a raucous environment would provide evidence that the bumps of practices were part of the process toward playing clean football when it counts next month.


Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll announced Wednesday that Russell Wilson will not play, but backups Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch are as likely to take off and scamper out of a play-action fake as they are to remain in the pocket and throw, which adds an element to the discipline required by the Broncos' outside linebackers when they attack off the edge.


With Todd Davis, Josey Jewell and Joe Jones all dealing with injuries, the game represents an opportunity for Alexander Johnson, Justin Hollins, Keishawn Bierria and Joe Dineen, all of whom will be busy.


Kelvin McKnight's 18-yard punt return in the first quarter last week allowed him to make the first big impression among several players jockeying for position. But with River Cracraft back to health after missing nearly two weeks of training camp, the group now has its incumbent -- and, for the moment, the man atop the depth chart issued by the Broncos as the preseason began. Cracraft's path to the roster could rest on his ability to win the job.


Defensive end Dre'Mont Jones and outside linebacker Malik Reed both earned praise from Head Coach Vic Fangio for their work last week. Reed had a sack and a tackle for loss. Jones had consecutive plays that ended in a tackle for loss and a pressure that led to a Trey Johnson interception. Back-to-back games with explosive plays could lead to plenty of rotational snaps in the regular season.

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