The following are three things to look for when the Denver Broncos open the preseason at Chicago on Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 8:30 ET:
1. Peyton Manning: I’m sure you are shocked by this entry. This will arguably be one of the most anticipated preseason appearances in NFL history. Manning, 36, is expected to play some for the first time since the playoffs following the 2010 season, his final game with the Colts. We won’t see much of Manning. He likely won’t throw too many passes in what will likely be a very vanilla package. Still, it’s Manning on the field, so it will be important.
2. Defensive growth: The Broncos’ defense must continue to build on last season's progress. Jack Del Rio is Denver’s seventh defensive coordinator in seven years. Yet he and head coach John Fox, a defensive specialist, are on the same page. The Broncos need to show cohesion in their first outing, especially on the defensive line, which is a work in progress.
3. Receivers: This is an extension of the Manning item. Starters Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker need to get as much work in Manning’s fast-paced, anticipation-based offense as possible. So, even though it will be in a cameo role, the work Thursday night is an important part of the process.