ENGLEWOOD – Case vs. Cousins. Trevor vs. Paxton III.
Darling of last year’s preseason (Kyle Sloter) vs. Darling of this year’s training camp (Chad Kelly).
The quarterback matchups bring a rarity to the Broncos’ first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings: worthy of viewing from beginning to end.
Here are my keys to the game from the Broncos’ perspective:
A reality check before we hype the quarterback matchups. Nothing about a preseason game matters much except for coming out healthy enough to play a second preseason game.
*Show ‘em, Case
Case Keenum was the Vikings’ quarterback last season. He was so good, he flung the Minnesota Miracle and led them to the NFC Championship. Then he got dumped for Kirk Cousins, who went 9-7, 8-7-1 and 7-9 in his three years as a Washington starter.
The nightmare scenario for Vikings’ management is Keenum, who is now the Broncos’ ace quarterback, plays well and Cousins plays poorly.
Therefore, that is the dream scenario for the Broncos.
*Come on, Pax. Let’s see it
Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian were Broncos teammates who were involved in preseason quarterback competitions the previous two years. Siemian won both.
After the Broncos went 5-11 last season, the team signed Keenum and traded Siemian (who posted a 5-5 record as a starter last year) to Minnesota, where he will back up Cousins.
Lynch is now Keenum’s backup. But instead of competing for the top job, Lynch must play well to keep his No. 2 spot. If not, the Broncos’ backup quarterback this year may not be currently on the team’s roster.
Lynch should be the game’s quarterbacks starting from late in the first quarter until early in the third quarter.
*Mop ‘em up, Swag
Kyle Sloter became a cult hero in Denver last year after the undrafted rookie completed 5 of 6 with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie in the preseason opener against the Bears. And he wound up playing well in all four preseason games.
For that, he was replaced by Brock Osweiler and wound up as Keenum’s backup in Minnesota.
Kelly has recently been outplaying Lynch in training camp, but the guy the Broncos call “Swag” remains No. 3 on the depth chart. A strong performance Saturday could give the Broncos’ decision-makers no choice but to move him up.
*Bring on the running back competition
Devontae Booker will start but probably won’t play past the second series. But rookie Royce Freeman has been pushing Booker for the starting role, while the No. 3 back is a healthy battle between De’Angelo Henderson and rookies Phillip Lindsay and David Williams.
*Chubb, rookie debuts
Bradley Chubb, the NFL’s No. 5 overall draft pick, will make his first appearance before Broncos’ fans as a starting outside linebacker. No. 3 receiver Courtland Sutton has generated the biggest buzz of training camp. Backup inside linebacker Josey Jewell and center Sam Jones will get plenty of action.