SEATTLE — I remember two things about the Broncos’ 2013 preseason game at Seattle.
One, general manager John Elway let the players know in the postgame locker room he wasn’t pleased with their performance after his team was drubbed, 40-10.
Two, star cornerback Champ Bailey suffered a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, an injury that spoiled the final season of what can now be called a Hall of Fame career.
Other than checking out the fine telecast on Channel 20, I fall on the side that more bad than good can come from preseason games.
Having said that, Broncos’ first-year head coach Vic Fangio has no choice but to play such important players as quarterback Joe Flacco and outside linebacker Von Miller in the preseason.
This isn’t New England quarterback Tom Brady sitting out his share of the preseason as he begins his 20th season with coach Bill Belichick.
The Broncos are a team in transition. The coaching staff is new and the offensive and defensive systems are new so the players must play to get acclimated.
Still, wins only count during the regular season. Ask Vance Joseph whose Broncos went 6-2 combined in his 2017-18 preseasons. Or Rod Marinelli, head coach of the 2008 Detroit Lions who went 4-0 in the preseason that year, 0-16 in the regular season.
In a preseason that doesn’t count, nothing matters more than keeping the key players healthy. Here’s a Klis List of what the Broncos can hope for in their preseason game Thursday (7 p.m. Denver time pregame show, 8 p.m. kickoff on Channel 20) against the Seattle Seahawks:
Keep the core guys healthy
If there’s a game, chances are a player or two will suffer a significant injury. In last week’s Hall of Fame Game, it was special teams standout Joe Jones and rotational defensive lineman Billy Winn who wound up with partial triceps tears.
Players the Broncos can least afford to go down include Flacco, Miller, Bradley Chubb, Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, Chris Harris Jr., Kareem Jackson and either Garett Bolles or Ja’Wuan James (Elijah Wilkinson can replace one tackle but not both).
This group assumes Emmanuel Sanders and Jeff Heuerman will join the injured Bryce Callahan, Josey Jewell and Todd Davis on the sideline Thursday.
First-team offensive score
If Flacco and the first teamers are going to play, they might as well play well. The Broncos offense has been a concern for going on five years and will be until it can prove it isn’t. A confidence-building, 8-play or so drive with a Brandon McManus field goal would suffice.
No score vs. first-team defense
Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson is the NFL’s highest-paid player, drawing $35 million this season (Another $35 million in fully guaranteed signing bonus will be paid out in 2020).
No wonder Seattle coach Pete Carroll isn't going to play him in the preseason game Thursday. Former Jets second-round bust Geno Smith will start instead.
Von Miller/Bradley Chubb/Chris Harris Jr. and company shouldn't give up first-drive points to Smith.
Stop Paxton Lynch!
The former Broncos first-round bust is now the Seahawks' No. 3 quarterback, competing with Smith for Wilson's backup spot. Lynch figures to play about half the game against his former team. Denver doesn't need him looking good now.
Find a surprise
There is always one or two players who aren’t projected for the 53-man roster when the preseason begins but make it through eye-opening performances. Among other positions, the Broncos could use a returner to emerge.
The Broncos drew the third-most penalty flags last year with 149. Only Kansas City (173) and Indianapolis (155) drew more.
Pre-snap penalties (illegal motion, offsides) have been a problem in training camp.
Catch the ball
Nothing makes a game look sloppy more than penalties and dropped passes. With the Broncos have so many young receivers this year, drops have been an issue in camp.
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