ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Gary Kubiak’s goal in the offseason was to bridge the gap between the Denver Broncos’ star-studded starting lineup and the backups.
He gave veterans lots of days off and the young guys plenty of snaps.
The fruits of that approach showed up in their exhibition opener at Seattle, where the Broncos flaunted their defensive depth and fourth-year quarterback Brock Osweiler posted his best performance of his prolonged apprenticeship under Peyton Manning.
Behind a young O-line that held up well after allowing a sack early on, Osweiler completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a TD and led Denver to scores on all five of its drives in Denver’s 22-20 victory Friday night.
It was testament to the extra work Osweiler has gotten every few days when Kubiak gives Manning the day off to keep his 39-year-old QB fresh.
“I saw him last year sitting behind Peyton and you could just see somebody who was super talented,” second-year defensive end Kenny Anunike said. “He’s the understudy of Peyton and he’s learning and you can see that. Now he’s kind of branching out and he’s able to take charge out there. He was commanding that offense and just marching down the field.”
After his strip-sack of Russell Wilson on the game’s second snap, Von Miller retreated to the sideline to watch Anunike, Darius Kilgo, Shaq Barrett, Josh Furman, Gerald Rivers and Malik Jackson also dump the quarterback.
Led by Anunike’s eight tackles, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble, Denver’s defense batted down five passes, pressured the passer 13 times, forced four fumbles and recovered two.
“I think we did kind of showed the world that we have a super deep bench,” Anunike said.
Pro Bowlers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders sat out against the Seahawks, but Virgil Green (five catches for 45 yards), Cody Latimer (four for 49) and Bennie Fowler (three for 67) all had big nights.
“I think it is an open competition,” on the depth chart, said Fowler, who hauled in a 41-yard reception from rookie Trevor Siemian. “Besides D.T., Emmanuel and Cody, the solidified guys, I think everybody has an opportunity. We all got opportunities last night. So, everybody is competing for those last couple spots.
“I think there’s room for everybody.”
Well, not everyone.
“You hope you can keep them all but we all know that you can’t,” Anunike said. “Every day is an audition out there and you’re not only auditioning for this team, you’re auditioning for all 32 teams. If you’re not playing here, you’re going to be playing somewhere else.”
Such is the state of the franchise, where the Broncos have already seen a player they cut — punter Karl Schmitz — snapped up by another team — Tampa Bay.
Not all the backups were feeling good about themselves heading into the weekend, however.
On special teams, the Broncos allowed the Seahawks to return six kickoffs for a whopping 236 yards and a touchdown. They also fumbled two punts.
“Obviously we have a lot of things to clean up there,” Kubiak said.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton