The following are three things to look for when the Denver Broncos open the preseason at Chicago on Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 8:30 ET:
1. Peyton Manning: I’m sure you are shocked by this entry. This will arguably be one of the most anticipated preseason appearances in NFL history. Manning, 36, is expected to play some for the first time since the playoffs following the 2010 season, his final game with the Colts. We won’t see much of Manning. He likely won’t throw too many passes in what will likely be a very vanilla package. Still, it’s Manning on the field, so it will be important.
2. Defensive growth: The Broncos’ defense must continue to build on last season's progress. Jack Del Rio is Denver’s seventh defensive coordinator in seven years. Yet he and head coach John Fox, a defensive specialist, are on the same page. The Broncos need to show cohesion in their first outing, especially on the defensive line, which is a work in progress.
3. Ronnie Hillman: The third-round pick will likely get a lot of time Thursday. This is a player who has a chance to be instant contributor. The Broncos will use him in the running and passing game. Tonight, you might be able to see some of the flash Denver expects from Hillman.