After only receiving a mere taste of what the 2011 season will bring against the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos fans were treated to almost a full half of what they could expect for this coming year, even if it was against a team that, let's just say doesn't have high expectations this season.
The Broncos' first unit--at least in my eyes--dominated the Buffalo BIlls, even with that first drive that resulted in a field goal. I think you saw a great performance from the Broncos' first unit in all three phases of the game. Kyle Orton and the offense looked much more in sync than last week against Dallas, the defense was fiery, aggressive, and fast, and the special teams play--namely the play of Britton Colquitt--was fantastic.
Here is what stood out to me from the Broncos' second pre-season game:
- Kyle Orton was at his best, hitting Brandon Lloyd four times for 55 yards. Orton finished the game completing 10 of his 13 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown on a swing pass to Willis McGahee, and I think if the Broncos can look forward to this kind of performance from Orton week in and week out, we could be in very good shape. Orton is kind of the "surgeon" of the Broncos' quarterbacks. He is content to chip away at the opposing defense, which can both work for and against the Broncos. Because Orton hasn't always been great in the red zone, at least in terms of putting the ball in the end zone on a consistent basis, chipping away at the defense for 8 minutes and only putting three points on the board can be really hurtful, but on this night, Orton and the Broncos capitalized and put two touchdowns on the board. I was very impressed with his accuracy, and he only took one sack which was pretty bad, but overall I'd have to say I was encouraged by Orton on Saturday night. He picked apart the Buffalo defense pretty well.
- Brady Quinn--save for that pick he threw in the end zone--had a very nice outing once again. I have been saying all offseason that Quinn is better than people have been giving him credit for, and he is proving that. He has engineered three touchdown drives so far this pre-season, both against second and third units. He is looking far more poised and comfortable than he did last year in the pre-season when Broncos fans weren't even sure if we could rely on him to be a competent backup. Now, if not for the fact that Orton wasn't playing/practicing "out of his mind" according to the DP's Mike Klis, I might even be comfortable throwing Quinn in with the number ones. He has shown great poise, accuracy, and again, aside from that one throw, I really like what I have seen from Quinn thus far. As Klis put it on ESPN today, he's finally playing like the first round pick Cleveland thought he could be.
- I am really encouraged by the play of our running backs. Thus far, it looks like the Broncos are going to be using Willis McGahee in short-yardage situations, and they have a ton of flexibility between the two guys on third downs. McGahee and Moreno are both excellent receivers out of the backfield, combining for four catches, 54 yards, and a touchdown last night. These guys are real weapons, and Moreno is showing that he's also made strides as a runner. I think this is going to be a breakout year for the Broncos' third year back. After those guys, the Broncos' depth at running back is less than suspect. You can attribute some of it to a bad offensive line, but I would simply be more comfortable if the Broncos brought in a more proven third string back to rotate in for maybe a couple of carries per game with Knowshon and McGahee. I simply am not comfortable with any of Ball, Johnson, Minor, or any of those guys. C.J. Gable wasn't even given any reps, so we don't actually know what we have there either.
- It wouldn't shock me to see the Broncos clean house with their second string offensive line at cut day. These guys are the worst backups in the league. Quinn and Tebow have had to deal with too much unnecessary pressure, and there are very few--if any--lanes to run through.
- Brandon Lloyd is an absolute stud, and I think the Broncos' receivers can endure the loss of Gaffney as well as the injury of Demaryius Thomas, at least for the time being. I love what Eric Decker brings to the table, but I was disappointed to see Eron Riley did not get any reps on Saturday night. I think he has talent. Also, I didn't see anything from Greg Orton, the former Arena League star. The Broncos didn't give many reps at all to their third team receivers/tight ends in terms of the passing game.
- Von Miller is astounding--plain and simple. His first step is so quick, he got called for offsides one time. In all seriousness, this guy is a star in the making. He is like the Derrick Rose of linebackers. He's so quick, so agile, and so supremely talented athletically that I don't think there are many offensive lines in the NFL that could deal with our edge rush tandem of Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Speaking of which, the Broncos have to be encouraged about the progress of Dumervil, who made plays both on third down in pass rush situations, as well as against the run. He definitely plays bigger than he has in the past when he was 250 or less, and it could really help him being in the 265 range. I think these guys are poised to dominate the NFL.
- Love what I saw out of Cassius Vaughn, Champ Bailey, and Andre' Goodman at the cornerback positions. Those guys looked like they could provide us with a very tough trio in the secondary in nickel situations, and I loved what I saw when Vaughn was out there in one-on-one coverage. He has vastly improved as a defender. There were multiple times when Goodman had tight enough coverage that Fitzpatrick had no throw, Champ showed again why he is one of the best corners in the league, but there was one play where I was sightly disappointed. Champ being the veteran that he is dropped the ball on a third down where the Broncos blitzed a safety off the strong side and Fitzpatrick was easily able to complete a quick slant to his receiver, a play that Champ should have been able to read blindfolded and pick off for a touchdown. He was late getting over, and the Bills were able to convert for a first down.
- Dennis Allen is doing a great job of mixing things up defensively, especially utilizing our deep crop of safeties. I think I really like what I see out of Kyle McCarthy through two pre-season contests. He has been excellent blitzing the quarterback, something he never did in college. McCarthy has good quickness and is a very fundamentally sound player, and he could wind up making the team over McBath and Bruton, who I have seen nothing from. I think Bruton hurt himself pretty badly in this game, so my thoughts and prayers go out to him, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Another bright spot last night was the play of Rahim Moore, who was flagged for a personal foul penalty and taken out of the game. I have to agree with the call, but Moore was not being malicious and he was not trying to hurt anybody. He was not looking to put someone out of the game, that stuff just happens because this is football, not FIFA. I think Moore will face a financial penalty for his hit, but I don't want him to stop being aggressive like that. The Bills were not able to get off any long passes in this one, which is a good indication that your safeties were playing pretty well. Moore also had a fumble recovered for a touchdown, but because of a roughing the passer penalty, it was called back. Again, you want the Broncos to benefit from those calls as well, so you just have to shrug your shoulders and cut the loss as a fan, even if it was a weak call on Dumervil.
- The Broncos hit the quarterback quite a bit on Saturday night, which was great. You'd love to see them get more actual sacks, but I will take an incomplete pass on third down just as quickly as I will take a sack. Putting pressure on the quarterback and finishing the job is huge for the Broncos this year. ESPN says the Broncos only got four hits on the quarterback, a number I disagree with. They don't have one on there for Kyle McCarthy, so they obviously missed some.
If you have any questions about the game for me, shoot them to me in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!