- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos continue to grind through their preseason work, and as they get set to roll through their third week with Monday morning's practice, here’s are some things to consider:
Nate Irving has shown the coaches he intends to be the team’s middle linebacker, and it would take some unexpected events at this point for Irving not to be the guy in the middle of the base defense. Now, that is certainly a specialty package of sorts given that the Broncos line up in the nickel more than twice as often as they do in base, but Irving has done everything the team wants him to do. And more importantly, he has improved his game since the last time they tried him in the middle before eventually moving him out of the job. So far he has been consistent in his run fits, quick to the ball and reliable in finishing tackles.
The Broncos are a deep team, one that’s finished 13-3 in back-to-back seasons and retained a fairly youthful roster. With that said, there aren’t all that many roster spots in play. Still, two players who arrived a bit under the mainstream radar are making pushes to star. Rookie running back Juwan Thompson, if he maintains his current momentum, is a viable option to get snaps in the offense with the proficiency he’s shown in pass protection and the athleticism running the ball. Toss in his special-teams abilities and he should make it. The tougher question will be fifth-year wide receiver Jordan Norwood. Norwood, who has started four games in his previous four NFL seasons combined, has shown he fits the offense and could contribute as a receiver -- there are several rosters in the league he could make -- so if he can win the punt returner job, the Broncos will have to make room.
Rookie tackle Michael Schofield didn’t get a snap on offense in the preseason opener -- he did play six snaps on special teams -- but in looking at practice it’s clear the kid still deserves a chance at the right tackle spot. Sure, he’s going to make a mistake or two, but he looks to have the goods and will bear watching in next Sunday’s preseason game in San Francisco.
One of the best things the Broncos did in the preseason opener was to give backup quarterback Brock Osweiler a chance to rebound from an interception. He’s in his third season of one of the more odd apprenticeships the league has to offer. He knows the playbook, but he still needs to play. And if that means he gets more snaps than the usual No. 2 in a preseason, so be it. But the fact the Broncos let him play through three quarters last Thursday night is time well invested. Osweiler rebounded from his mistake to later make a touchdown throw -- a 34-yard rocket to Norwood down the hash -- that showed why he clearly has starter potential. Plenty of surviving as a quarterback in the league is bouncing back from a mistake to play with confidence. The Broncos need to know Osweiler can do that, and the only way to find out is to give him preseason snaps.
It will be a surprise if the Broncos don’t consistently create pressure on opposing passers. Their specialty packages -- nickel and dime -- will be intriguing once they unveil what they will do in the regular season. But having Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Quanterus Smith and Malik Jackson all in some kind of a front-seven mix gives defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio plenty of options.