Five Broncos to watch in Thursday’s preseason opener against Atlanta
1. Drew Lock
Lock, a second-round pick, won’t start at quarterback against Atlanta (Kevin Hogan will). But when Lock enters, he will get his first live-action chance to win the No. 2 spot behind Joe Flacco. “Once you’re on the field, you go play the game, but in the end, it takes time to mature as a quarterback in the NFL,” offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello said. “There are no shortcuts.”
2. Jeff Holland
When last season ended, Holland was the third edge rusher behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. He begins the preseason behind Miller, Chubb, Justin Hollins and Dekoda Watson. The sledding has been difficult for Holland, who has struggled in the 1-on-1 pass rush drills and must prove he’s physical enough to play the run. Under the game lights, Holland needs to kick-start his camp.
3. DeMarcus Walker
The Broncos need to use this month to find out if Walker, a defensive end, is a) not in their plans, b) can be a useful rotational player or c) has some trade value. “He can be a contributor,” defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. “The first thing we’re going to do is play good run defense and he’s hitting (those) blocks. And he’s showing some improvement in the pass rush.”
4. Su’a Cravens
A semi-forgotten man at the start of training camp except when talking about players on the bubble, Cravens has been available for every practice and seems to have a grasp of the defense, which for him means all safety and no hybrid linebacker. “I want to look at him in the ball game,” Donatell said. “That’s when we see a safety. His preparation has been good. We’re intending for him to play well in the game.”
5. Nick Williams
Signed last Friday, Williams has impressed with his ability to find open pockets in coverage from the slot receiver spot and he is also in the punt return derby. The Broncos will be without starter Courtland Sutton (rest) and injured receivers Emmanuel Sanders, DaeSean Hamilton and likely River Cracraft. “He’s done well,” coach Vic Fangio said of Williams. “He’s quick, he’s elusive, he’s smart. He’s been in a similar system so the learning curve hasn’t been as steep.”
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