The final score said that the Broncos lost to the 49ers 24-29. The game told a totally different story. The Broncos starters looked fantastic and totally outplayed the 49ers 17-7 until Manning and the rest of the Broncos offense was taken out and the Broncos backups lost the lead and eventually the game. The Broncos have a lot to be optimistic about. The starters looked good and are clearly ready for the season. Let's jump into the Studs and Duds.
10 of 12 for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. The 49ers woke up with complimentary backpacks, number two pencils and lunch boxes because Peyton Manning took San Francisco to school on Sunday. Manning was clearly in regular season form playing against the 49ers as he dissected the defense and led the Broncos to 17 points in 3 drives. Manning's touchdowns both went to Decker, but he spread the ball around and looked like the Peyton Manning of old. This was by far his best outing and ends his pre-season on a high note entering the season.
4 catches for 38 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not a bad day of work for Decker. Eric looked good and heads into the regular season on a high note. He will battle Demaryius Thomas for the majority of Manning's targets. Based on the pre season, I think Decker is set for a rather big year.
Clearly, Knowshon Moreno has not lived up to his draft spot. This year, he is in danger of not making the team and he played like it against the 49ers. Moreno looked fresh against San Francisco running the ball 5 times for 16 yards in addition to catching the ball 2 passes for 26 yards. Moreno entered the day battling for a #3/#4 role, but he ran hard and showed some shiftiness catching the ball out of the backfield. It's so easy to forget how talented he is because he can't stay healthy.
When it comes to the pre-season, I love watching the backups. The first 40 players are pretty locked down. It's the final 10-15 players that make their money in the pre-season. Steven Johnson is one player who has caught my eye this pre-season and could make the 53 man roster. Johnson had a very good game totaling 7 tackles including 5 solo and 1 TFL. Johnson also made a special teams tackle. The Broncos linebacker corps isn't very good and the depth is questionable at best. Johnson should have a fair shot at making the Broncos 53.
There have been quite a few people saying the Broncos should try to sneak Malik Jackson onto the practice squad. Any small chance there was of that has now been totally eliminated. Jackson had a great game applying pressure and playing well against the run. He finished the day with 3 tackles and 1 TFL. Jackson is a hybrid DE-DT with upside who just about locked up a spot on the 53 thanks to his play today.
The starting linebackers played very well against the San Francisco starters. After struggling to defend the run against the Seahawks, the unit looked much better on Sunday. Mays continues to look like a bullet being fired in busting up runs, Woodyard made some nice plays and Miller looks like he is going to start this year where he left off last year.
The Broncos are going to have to make a decision on what to do with their backups and this week didn't do anything to help their decision. Caleb Hanie started poorly throwing an atrocious interception, but he rebounded and ended the game 8/12 for 92 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He got into a groove and was able to get the Broncos in the endzone which is more then Osweiler and Weber could say. However, Hanie still didn't show he was clearly above the other backups. In addition to a terrible interception, he missed a wide open Stokley in the endzone right before his touchdown throw. Week 4 will be very important for the backups.
Brock Osweiler had a good showing despite poor numbers. He threw 4/9 for 27 yards but was the victim of several drops and poor offensive line play. Osweiler has shown a strong arm, but he has also shown that he can be calm and collected under pressure I like Osweiler and it's easy to see the upside in his game.
Adam Weber got into the game late in the 4th and was a pleasant surprise. Weber hasn't had a whole lot of opportunities, but I have liked the way he has looked. He finished the day 4/8 for 38 yards and was also the victim of several drops. I bet the Broncos don't give Weber too much playing time next week so they could try to sneak him onto the Practice Squad.
Doom had a rough first pre-season game, but has consistently gotten better and his pre-season has now been highlighted with a sack against the Niners. He and Miller look to be in regular season form and should wreak lots of havoc on quarterbacks this year.
Jack Del Rio
Del Rio has the Broncos defense looking very, very good. It looks like he has clearly taken a lot of time to work with the linebackers because Joe Mays has looked improved from last year and Wesley Woodyard looks like he is going to take the WILL linebacker spot and never give DJ Williams a chance at the spot when he gets back. Del Rio should make this unit top 10.
Hillman didn't have great stats, 10 runs for 29 yards, but he displayed some of the talents that make him so intriguing going forward. He is very quick and has a great jump cut that you saw a little bit. Hillman needs to focus on getting healthy, but there were some encouraging signs in the rookie's first game.
These replacement officials are absolutely horrific. If I didn't know any better, I would guess that half of these officials spent the last 10 years calling minor league baseball games.
The backup OL has consistently been poor in the pre-season and Sunday night was no different. Adam Grant looks horrific and should be cut by Monday. I would not be surprised if the Broncos replaced half of their backups with cuts from other teams. The backups are just that bad.
Willis ended the game with 2 catches for 24 yards, but he has looked less then spectacular this pre-season. He dropped an easy pass today, but my main complaint about Willis is his return skills. He has none. Matt Willis is not a returner. He muffed a punt today and was totally ineffective in his other return. Willis is competing to be the 5th WR, but the 5th WR has to be a ST player. Willis does have some skills as a WR so he is my number one trade candidate.
Florence has been in a pretty tight battle with Chris Harris for the nickel job. After this week, it seems pretty clear that Harris has won and Florence will be relegated to backup/Special Teams duty. Florence got abused this week. He tried to jump a route and ended up getting burned bad along with other poor plays. Florence would like to forget this week.
I don't want to kill Moore because I saw a lot of good in him. He did give up a touchdown due to poor coverage. However, I have consistently seen Moore be aggressive in run support and make solid tackles which was a problem last year. He obviously has work to do and the touchdown looked bad, but overall some good and some bad with Moore.
With the exception of Steven Johnson and Danny Trevathan, the backup linebackers were poor. I was particularly disappointed in the way Nate Irving played today. I was hoping he would show more, but he was mediocre in many aspects. Irving has been inconsistent this pre-season and could use a strong game next week.
Tamme was brought here from Indy as a safety net for Peyton Manning. However, so far this pre-season, he has not been on the same page as Manning. Tamme and Manning haven't connected on many passes so far and Joel Dreessen looks like he could overtake Tamme as Manning's go to TE if Tamme doesn't step it up.
I saw numerous dropped passes today in a sloppy effort from the backup receivers. Off the top of my head, I can remember Bubba Caldwell, Matt Willis, Cornelius Ingram, and Greg Orton all dropping passes. Many of these backups are fighting for jobs so they need much better games next week.
The Broncos will be releasing players to get down to a league-wide 75 players. Here is my list of players I think will be released on Monday.
WR Cameron Kinney
WR Mark Dell
TE Anthony Miller
LT Mike Remmers
RG Wayne Tribue
FB Austin Sylvester
DE Jamie Blatnick
LB Elliot Coffey
CB Ramzee Robinson
DT Sealver Siligia
RB Xavier Omon
LS Aaron Brewer
CB Tony Carter
That's all I have for you guys. Next week we will see the Broncos backups face the Arizona Cardinals backups in what will surely be a thrilling match-up. Until next time, MHR.