5 Ways Broncos are Impacted by NFL's Reported Preseason Restructure
On Wednesday, news broke that the NFL is planning to reduce the 20 preseason to two games.
The reasoning, per ESPN's Kevin Seifert, is that players need more time to get into football shape. Players won't play the Week 1 games (canceled), will have three weeks to prepare for Week 2, then will play Week 3 and have no Week 4 games (canceled), with two weeks to prepare for the start of the regular season.
It leaves the Denver Broncos with the Aug. 22 home game against the Chicago Bears and an away game at the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 29.
So how do these preseason changes affect the Broncos? Expect the following to happen.
• Veterans guaranteed starting jobs will play few, if any, snaps.
It's hard to imagine the likes of Von Miller, Justin Simmons, Todd Davis, and Kareem Jackson taking any snaps this preseason. Others who might not play at all are Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Ja'Wuan James, Dalton Risner, and Alexander Johnson.
The same could apply to the new veterans expected to start, those being Melvin Gordon, Graham Glasgow, A.J. Bouye, and Jurrell Casey, even though they will enter a new system.
It could even apply to Drew Lock, despite him needing time to acclimate to a new offense. The starting quarterback job is his and the Broncos may want to keep him off the field during the preseason, rather than risk him to injury if the starting lineup isn't in full force, especially since he suffered a thumb injury in the preseason that cost him 11 weeks of his rookie year.
• Other veterans might not play, either, if the Broncos are content with them in their roles.
Consider Garett Bolles, who was reportedly going to compete for Elijah Wilkinson for the left tackle job. Do the Broncos really want to go through with that with limited workouts?
Phillip Lindsay might not top the running back depth chart going into camp, but the Broncos know what he can do. The same thing can be said for Shelby Harris, even though his one-year deal might indicate he'll be competing for a starting spot.
And the Broncos might choose to keep Bryce Callahan — who missed all of the 2019 season with a foot injury — out of the preseason if the team is confident he can be the No. 2 cornerback. There might be others, too, whom the Broncos will choose to keep off the field, if they're confident about what role they'll play.
• Rookies will take longer to acclimate to the NFL game.
The learning curve for rookies can be steep at some positions. That means you might not see as many Broncos rookies make an immediate impact.
Of course, there have been exceptions — a few rookies pick up on things quickly and are making big plays from the start. But in most cases, you don't really see what rookies can really do until later in the season.
So it's important to be patient with guys such as Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Lloyd Cushenberry, even as they are expected to play key roles.
• Veterans on the bubble are under more pressure.
The Broncos have a lot of tight ends on the roster and there's not enough room for them all. So the likes of Jeff Heuerman and Jake Butt will find it harder to make the final cut.
Some might ask why the Broncos don't just part ways with them now, but it's a wise move to keep them around in case somebody gets injured. But if everyone stays healthy, Heuerman and Butt will really have to impress.
The two incumbent tight ends aren't the only ones on notice. DeMarcus Walker, Christian Covington, Isaac Yiadom, and Royce Freeman are among the players who really need to stand out in whatever snaps they can get.
For veterans who don't make the cut with the Broncos, they'll hope for the chance to sign with other teams. But with fewer preseason games, that means fewer chances to make an impression.
• There's a reduced chance of training camp surprises.
If there's one thing Broncos fans love about the preseason, it's finding out what undrafted rookie or former practice squad player makes a good impression and earns a roster spot.
But with fewer preseason games, that's fewer chances for those guys to make that key play that proves they deserve a spot on the roster.
That doesn't mean there won't be any Cinderella stories this preseason. But trying to become one isn't going to be as easy as it was in previous seasons.
What if there's no preseason?
Some players have hinted that the preseason might be reduced to one game, or not played at all. If that's the case, certain veterans on the roster bubble are as good as gone, while it's going to be even harder for an undrafted rookie or former practice squad player to make a splash.
I understand that player safety is paramount and the concerns about COVID-19 spread are legitimate. However, eliminating the preseason could lead to certain veterans on the bubble not even getting the chance to show what they can do, especially if teams think a younger, cheaper player can do their job just as well.
For veterans, it's not just about a chance to stick with their current teams, but a chance to show other teams what they can do, in the hopes they'll find another team should they be released. That's particularly true of younger players such as the aforementioned Walker, Butt, and Freeman who are still on rookie contracts.
But preseason or no preseason, it's going to be a different NFL season, simply because players have had fewer opportunities for offseason work. In some cases, it may take more time for players to gel as a team.
Considering the Broncos have a new offensive coordinator and many new additions, fans might not see the team at its best to start the season. The potential is there for the Broncos to be very good this season, but patience will be key.