The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos square off on Sunday. We took some time to chat with Kyle Montgomery from Mile High Report. He provided some insight on what we kind of playing time we might expect from Peyton Manning, the potential Super Bowl hangover, and how the younger Broncos are developing.
Niners Nation: What kind of snaps can we expect from Broncos starters (particularly Manning)? Will any starters not play at all?
Mile High Report: John Fox hasn't indicated, but I actually think we'll see more than a quarter from Peyton Manning and company. I could even see him playing the entire first half. Here's the reason - a valuable away game experience for Peyton Manning.
Back in 2012, Manning utterly struggled in Week 3 on Monday Night Football against the Atlanta Falcons. He threw three interceptions in the first half, and it took him three quarters to find his groove. It was arguably his worst game as a Bronco. Manning talked about that game last offseason and said one of the reasons he struggled was because he didn't have any away game experience leading up to that point. Due to the way the preseason and regular season schedule had played itself out, it was Manning's first away game experience in nearly 20 months. He just had a handful of bad throws that put the Broncos in a hole that a valiant 4th quarter comeback effort couldn't quite dig out.
Fast forward to 2014, and the away game in Seattle looms large. And this is the only away game experience Manning will get. He won't play in Denver's Week Four preseason game, and the Broncos are at home the rest of the way. Opening up Levi Stadium will also give him a loud, thunderous crowd for a preseason game. The Broncos will give him plenty of snaps, because he wants them.
But that's all just my theory. Maybe we'll only see the one quarter from Manning.
Starters who are out are running back Montee Ball (appendectomy) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (shin). Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is questionable with a quad.
NN: Given how the Super Bowl went down, how have the Broncos gone about addressing the issues they had? Is there any concern about a hangover from that performance?
MHR: First and foremost, the Broncos got healthy. It's really nice getting an All Pro left tackle and an All Pro pass rusher in Ryan Clady and Von Miller back respectively. Then they added safety T.J. Ward to bring a physical presence to the defensive secondary. They basically got twice as mean this offseason.
There are concerns for a Super Bowl hangover, just because the season is a grind, even the playoffs are a grind, and Peyton Manning and company are having to push that boulder up the mountain again. I'm hoping Fox (and Manning, who will have no trouble doing so) can get them to focus on one week at a time.
NN: Is there a second year player the team is looking to emerge?
MHR: Denver's top draft pick last year, defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, is having an impressive camp and preseason. He's made some highlight-reel worthy plays in practice - intercepting Peyton Manning at the L.O.S., tipping passes to his teammates for picks - that guys have said would make Sportscenter Top 10. He came on at the end of last year, and if he takes another step in a positive direction he could make an incredible tandem with Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton.
Of course Ball is the guy everyone's hoping to emerge, given that he's the starting running back, but with him out for the rest of the preseason while recovering from his appendectomy, I'm eager to scout Williams. Ball will be ready Week 1.
NN: How are the rookies coming along? Which players are generating early excitement?
MHR: First round pick cornerback Bradley Roby is coming along after early struggles in camp. He's learning how tough it is in the NFL, though, and practicing against Demaryius Thomas and Manning can only help him. He forced a fumble against the Seahawks, and I think he's coming along nicely. He'll fill in dime or nickel back roles this season assuming Chris Harris gets healthy.
Second round pick wide receiver Cody Latimer was all the talk of training camp at the beginning, making big plays seemingly every practice, but that hype has cooled over the last week after he had a quiet preseason debut. He may see more playing time this week, though, if Sanders doesn't go.
Linebacker Lamin Barrow is competing with Brandon Marshall at weakside linebacker to fill in with Danny Trevathan. Both will have the green stickers on their helmet, as Trevathan does, so I'm really fascinated to watch how these guys do.
Undrafted running backs Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs both had really good preseason games last week, and fans are eager to see if they can keep pushing Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson.
NN: Who are a couple deep roster guys 49ers fans should keep an eye on in the third and fourth quarter?
MHR: QB Brock Osweiler. Broncos fans want to see him take "heir apparent to Peyton Manning" steps in Year Three. Defensive end Kenny Anunike is an undrafted rookie who is making waves. He may see some first team snaps too. Look for Barrow, Thompson, and Bibbs, the rookies I talked about, as well.