It has been a long off season, but Bronco football is FINALLY back in full swing. Last night, the Broncos faced off against the Bears in the first of four pre-season contests. After such a long off season, it is easy to overreact to the very first football we have had in months. So let's give it a try. The first pre-season game is a tool for the starters to get back in the football groove and to let the younger guys get some experience and reps. There was a lot to be excited about in the Broncos first outing so let's jump into it. Broncos football, Studs and Duds and Peyton F'n Manning are back!
It was clear that Peyton is a little rusty after being away from football for nearly 2 years. He threw a couple of questionable balls, but for the most part, game one was a success for Manning. He went out there, threw a few nice passes including a 19 yarder to Eric Decker over the middle, showed great pocket presence and nearly led the team to a touchdown. He got in, got some work and got out uninjured. I call that a success.
The Broncos highest draft pick had a fantastic debut for the orange and blue. Playing primarily with the 2nd team, Wolfe totaled 3 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 sacks. Wolfe's high motor was on display as he never gave up on any play. He was constantly fighting towards the QB. This was a great day for Wolfe. If his play stays consistent, he could get quite a few sacks this season . As opposing QB's step up in the pocket trying to avoid VonDoom, they will eventually fall prey to the scavenger, Derek Wolfe.
Throughout Training Camp, it was reported that Nate Irving was not putting any kind of pressure on Joe Mays for the starting middle linebacker spot. He was even moved from 2nd team MLB to 2nd team SLB. It was disappointing to hear the 2nd year LB was not making an impact. So imagine my surprise when I saw Irving have a very solid day for the Broncos. Playing with 2nd and 3rd teamers, Irving was active on the field finishing with 5 tackles including 1 TFL. He was a surprisingly effective blitzer and got good pressure on the QB. It's doubtful that Irving will unseat Mays for a starting role, but it was very encouraging to see Irving make a positive impact.
All in all, I was pretty pleased with all of the backup QB's. Caleb Hanie had a very rough start, but once he got going, he made some nice throws and showed his wheels finishing the day going 7 for 14 for 79 yards and 3 rushes for 23 yards. He had some bad throws, but he made some nice plays too behind a very shoddy offensive line.
Brock Osweiler was supposed to be a three year project, but he sure didn't look like it in his debut. The rookie made some nice plays while completing 4 of 7 for 38 yards including a 19 yard touchdown to Jason Hill. Osweilier showed some poise and some nice play-action ability. I thought Osweiler had the best day of the backups and it wouldn't surprise me if he was the #2 QB for the rest of the season.
Adam Weber was a surprise for me as well. After reading some not-so-good reports about him in Training Camp, I thought he played quite well, even if it was against the Bears 3rd string. Weber completed 2 of 5 for 47 yards and a touchdown. Weber still has a ways to go to make the team, but he had a very nice day.
Based strictly on their performances against the Bears, I would put the depth chart as Osweiler, Weber, Hanie.
I thought every running back had a good game against the Bears. McGahee looked good in his limited time carrying the ball 4 times for 16 yards. Lance Ball was unspectacular, but reliable in carrying the ball 7 times for 16 yards and a touchdown. Knowshon Moreno looked pretty good too. He is coming off an injury, but he showed some moves while carrying the ball 5 times for 20 yards. The most impressive guys were Xavier Omon and Jeremiah Johnson who each got a lot of work and made the most with their opportunities. Omon finished with 7 carries for 36 yards and a TD while Johnson had 10 carries for 33 yards. Omon in particular ran tough and looked very good, although it was against the Bears bench.
Matt Willis and Jason Hill
Matt Willis and Jason Hill are fighting for one of the last WR spots and it certainly showed in their play. Willis looked crisp in his routes and caught 3 passes for 43 yards. Hill showed some nice speed and caught 3 passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. This is a battle to keep your eye on in the coming weeks.
Ayers was demoted to 2nd string in Training Camp, and it certainly looks like the demotion got his attention. Ayers played well and got a good looking sack against the Bears. Hunter is still the starter, but Ayers isn't going quietly into the night.
Beal was drafted as a 7th round pick last year. He was deemed a tweener and was stashed on the Practice Squad last season. Based on this game, I would say he has put in a lot of time and effort into improving because he had by far his best outing of his short career. He had 3 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 TFL. Beal is fighting for one of the final spots on the DL and performances like this are going to make it difficult to cut him.
Look out for Joshua Moore. He flashed several times in the game totaling 4 tackles and an interception. He made a nice read on the interception, but more importantly, I saw him make a nice Special Teams tackle against the Bears. Moore is competing at a stacked position, but if he keeps it up, he has my vote to go on the Practice Squad.
Mike Mohammad didn't do anything flashy, but he made solid tackles in open field. He had 3 tackles on the day. Last year, he didn't have a great pre season, but he looks improved this year, just like Nate Irving. The Broncos are looking for LB's to step up and Mohammad could make the 53 if he contributes on ST.
Rafael Bush is another guy who caught my attention playing late in the game. He made some nice plays and finished with 4 tackles.
Cyril Obiozor is not a well known guy, but I kept finding myself asking "Who is number 54"? I kept seeing him actively around the ball and getting pressure on the QB. He finished with 3 tackles. Just something to keep your eye on.
Dumervil's stat line: 0 tackles, 2 penalties. Welcome to the pre-season folks.
Backup Offensive Line
If there was one area that I really was displeased with in the Broncos first game, it was the backup offensive line. There were times when they played decent and made some nice running lanes, but they had a lot of problems in pass protection. Adam Grant was bad....really bad. It should be noted that Ryan Harris did not play which is why Adam Grant got more time then he should have.
Was it just me, or were the referees absolutely horrific? These refs looked like they haven't seen a football game in 5 years. Give me Hochuli. Even if he messes up, he's still one buff dude.
Catch the ball Stokes. It was in your hand. Was it the best throw? No, it was a little behind, but you could have ran a better route too. On a normal day, I wouldn't even put Stokley in the Duds column, but there really wasn't too much to complain about in this game.
He didn't play against us last year when we played the Bears and he didn't play against us today. What gives? I'm just going to assume he was scared of VD2 (Von, Doom, Derek).
Ronnie Hillman and Julius Thomas not playing
I really was looking forward to watching these two. Hillman has gotten good reviews as a change of pace running back with a wicked jump cut. Julius Thomas needs to get healthy fast because as the old saying goes, "You can't make the team from the tub".
That just about does it for the first edition of Studs and Duds for the 2012 season. Overall the Broncos looked great and many players made positive impressions. The excitement continues to build here in Bronco Country.
Try to look at that picture and not smile. I dare you.
Until next time, MHR.