During the regular season, we will provide a variety of preview content for each 49ers opponent, but during the preseason, it's more just about the 49ers position battles. It's hard enough knowing the bottom of the 49ers roster. Figuring out the end of the Broncos roster is a whole other thing entirely.
Earlier this week, I took a few minutes to chat with Mile High Report about the game. MHR posted Tre9er's responses to their questions this morning. Head over to offer your own insight. Here are their answers to my questions heading into tonight's game.
Niners Nation: What kind of snaps should we expect to see from your starters? Speaking of which, will any starters not be playing on Thursday?
Mile High Report: That's a question that has been bouncing around the local media here lately. There's even speculation that Manning may not even play. However, I don't think that will be the case. You'll probably see two series maximum out of number 18 and the first quarter for the rest of the starting crew.
As for the guys not playing, it will mostly be those that are injured. Among the injured are Joel Dressen, Ryan Clady, Chris Kuper, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Orlando Franklin, and probably Jacob Tamme. As you can see the injury list is a bit long, those are only the starters that are injured.
The starting offensive line for this game won't resemble anything of the actual starting unit of the regular season. The starting left tackle, Zane Beadles, is normally the left guard. The left guard, Ryan Lilja, will be the center. The center, Manny Ramirez (no relation), will most likely provide depth at right guard. The right tackle, Chris Clark, will be filling in for the starter Orlando Franklin. So yeah, I wouldn't buy too much into the offensive line performance this game.
NN: How is the Peyton Manning-Wes Welker connection, and the passing game as a whole looking given all the weapons?
MHR: Oh boy, it's good, it's all so very good. Not only are both Manning and Welker at the top of the field, they are football junkies. Therefore, it really hasn't taken much time for the two veterans to gel. What's scary about the Manning-Welker connection is that he's not even the most dangerous guy out there. Demaryius Thomas had a beyond great season last year; however expect Thomas to improve upon last season's performance. Not to forget about Decker either, he's in a contract year and he'll make it really hard for the Broncos to resign him.
NN: What's going on with Von Miller and this suspension? How is it impacting the depth chart? What's the latest on the suspension?
MHR: Your guess is as good as anyone's. The thing about this situation is that it is supposed to be a confidential matter. Anything that hits the media is a rumor or some sort of speculation, and most likely the latter. There is some belief within the organization that Von will be able to beat this because hesupposedly hasn't tested positive for anything. Seriously though, no one has any idea.
If Von does get the four games, the Broncos won't be happy about it, but they will be prepared. The candidate most likely to replace most of Miller's reps will be Shaun Phillips. However, Jack Del Rio is very creative on defense and he will most likely use various packages that exercise a specific player's strength to help mitigate the loss of Von.
NN: Which deep roster guys should 49ers fans keep an eye on in the third and fourth quarter?
MHR: Of course the main attraction will be Manning's heir apparent, the big boy, Brock Osweiler (17). After spending his rookie year holding Manning's clipboard, Brock looks very much improved in camp. The kid has an arm and he feels much more comfortable on field. It's not that he's making crazy throw after crazy throw, it's that he's not playing like a rookie anymore. Brock doesn't hold on to the ball for too long, he sees the play develop and he is getting better at making the right decision consistently. Hopefully Osweiler's camp successes can translate to the field.
The player I'm most excited to see myself is strong safety Duke Ihenacho (33). This undrafted second year player has been making play after play every single day at camp; enough so that the coaches have given him significant time with the ones. The veteran, Mike Adams (20), will most likely get the start on Thursday. However, many believe that it will be Duke's job on opening day.
There is a huge battle for the last two receiver spots on the team. The battle is mainly between three players, Tavarres King (15), Andre Caldwell (12), and Greg Orton (89). King, a rookie, has been very impressive in camp, as has Orton.
One last intriguing play to watch is Jeremiah Johnson (37). Johnson has impressed at every camp for the past couple of years. Despite his great performances he has been relegated to the practice squad every year. The trick this year is that Johnson's practice squad eligibility has dried up. If the Broncos want to keep this talented guy around they'll have to put him on the 53 man roster and possibly carry 5 running backs, which is kinda ridiculous with the injuries on the offensive line. If Johnson wants to make the final roster he'll have to really wow the coaches in preseason.
NN: Do you buy into the Super Bowl preview hype?
MHR: You have to. Nobody signs Peyton Manning for enough money to invigorate a third world economy and settles for anything less than a Super Bowl. Broncos fans and 49'ers fans are in a similar boat. Both fan bases feel a bit cheated in their losses to the Ravens. Whether it's the missed call on Jimmy Smith's hold or Chykie Brown's pass interference leading to a pick-six, nothing but a Super Bowl will get rid of that bad taste for either city.