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The Denver Broncos may be the defending Super Bowl champions, but they won’t get much time to celebrate in the preseason. Their quarterback battle will get started in earnest in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bears.
It’s not often you see a team win the Super Bowl and immediately get into a quarterback controversy, but that’s what Denver ended up with after some odd circumstances. Peyton Manning retired after going out on top, as everybody expected. However, the man Denver drafted as Peyton’s heir apparent (Brock Osweiler) bolted town after the Houston Texans made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
The Broncos traded for Mark Sanchez as a veteran stopgap and made an attempt to acquire Colin Kaepernick from the San Francisco 49ers, but the deal fell through after Kaepernick wouldn’t budge on a contract restructure. So Denver went with Plan B and traded up in the draft to select Memphis’ Paxton Lynch in the first round, which is where we find ourselves now.
Sanchez is currently penciled in as the starter but Lynch could change that with a strong preseason performance. An interesting wild card is Trevor Siemian, a 2015 seventh-rounder who spent most of the spring ahead of Lynch on the depth chart. It leaves Denver in a bit of a quarry: go with the unproven option (Lynch, Siemian) or the infamous proven option (Sanchez)? Gary Kubiak has a tough choice to make this month.
Sanchez will get the start Thursday night, but all three quarterbacks will play. Kubiak said earlier in the week that Siemian will take over in the second quarter, while Lynch will be under center for the second half.
The good news for the Bears is that their quarterback situation is settled, at least for one season. Jay Cutler returns for an eighth year in the Windy City after something of a career resurgence in 2015. The big concern is the loss of offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who took over as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Nevertheless, the Bears have a lot of upside on offense, even without Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. Alshon Jeffery, when healthy, is one of the league’s best receivers, while Kevin White will finally get a chance to break out after a lost rookie year. At running back, Jeremy Langford and rookie Jordan Howard are tasked with replacing Forte, and it will be interesting to see how they split the carries.
Defense is getting the biggest makeover on the team thanks to coordinator Vic Fangio, who took a talent-barren unit and made it halfway passable. Now Fangio has an injection of real talent to work with — Chicago signed Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, in addition to drafting Leonard Floyd.
Those new faces, along with incumbents Pernell McPhee and Willie Young, should help make this front seven one of the more underrated in the league. The Bears aren’t a playoff team yet — particularly in a tough NFC North — but it wouldn’t be surprising if John Fox and company finish their rebuild ahead of schedule.
How to watch
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago
TV: WFLD 32 (Chicago), KTVD 20 (Denver)
Announcers: Sam Rosen, Jim Miller (Bears feed); Ron Zappolo, John Lynch (Broncos feed)
Online: NFL Game Pass
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