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Broncos preseason 2014: Shutting out the 49ers, the No Bull Review

A review of the Broncos' 34-0 thumping of the 49ers with an honest, no-nonsense take on what happened on the field, high (and low) lights of specific players, and roster implications.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

For everyone that just joined MHR, welcome to the No Bull review. I'm a card-carrying member of Broncos Country till the day I die. I'm just an NFL fan. No, I never played football at any serious level nor coached it. My expertise here comes from being a fan, learning about the game by paying attention, reading great sources of material like MHR, and getting better at seeing the bigger picture of what happens play to play. So what I share here is what I note from the game. It comes from what I see. The perspective is absolutely no nonsense. I'm not some jacked up sports journalist trying to wow people about fluff and stuff. I like the truth. I like what really happened.

That being said I have gotten a fairly keen eye for the game and I like to share it with others. But the part that I love is the discussions in the comments. I learn more every game from other people who saw things differently or understood the reasoning behind a play better. So I encourage all of you reading to sign up if you haven't and talk with us.

Now that I have my annual disclaimer out of the way, let's dig into some football!


Running Backs

Let's start off here by saying that I like seeing our team make this part of our game a big focus right now especially with our first string offense on the field.  We are rotating the contenders in and out and testing the waters pretty well with each of them to get a good game-time look at what we have.

Overall I'm honestly not impressed with our running game outside of last week's clinic by Juwan Thompson.  The running backs for the most part are going as the line goes (no surprise there) with not a lot interesting happening from a personal talent perspective.  Nevertheless we've seen a couple games out of these guys against some very sound defensive teams, so there is some meat there for us to chew on.

Ronnie Hillman - I really liked a lot of what we've seen from Ronnie so far this year.  He's not putting the ball on the ground first and foremost.  But the big difference I've seen from him is a better decisiveness and burst to his chosen hole.  He's still far from wowing me, but I do see improvement in his game.

The downside on him is that he still leaves much to be desired in blocking and he doesn't bring much to the table on inside runs.  I've seen two plays where he's been soundly shoved aside by a defender with little to no impact on slowing the other guy down.  That's not acceptable in our offense and is something that hurts him in my mind as far as making the roster.  When was the last time you saw Hillman take an inside run and burst through to the second level with a 10+ yard run without a hole big enough you could drive a truck through?  That's right...I can't remember one either.  He's not good at staying up after contact, avoiding contact, or powering through contact and breaking free.

CJ Anderson - Late in the first half of this game CJ really started looking like the CJ from the end of last season.  He was making good runs and getting us chunks of yards even with contact.  I didn't see him whiff any blocks, but to be fair I wasn't really watching that with him.

Juwan Thompson - I really thought in this game Juwan came back down to earth a bit.  Sure he had a superb swing pass and straight up trucked some poor fool, but his running was fairly lackluster otherwise.  I still really really like his build and play, but he didn't have holes to work with playing against the scrubs and he didn't flash a lot.  I'm thinking he's easily still a lock for our #4 RB, but I doubt he'll be moving much farther up barring a really stunning game next week.

Offensive Line

You can't execute it much better than Brock did by scoring and leaving no time for the other team.

I honestly didn't focus a lot on the line in this game namely because the 49ers were missing way too many pieces of their front seven (I have to be picky about what I watch since I'm on antenna and only get one take).  Here's the one thing I did notice though: our left side of the line was alarmingly dominant in the run game on several plays.  Orlando Franklin was killing it like an absolute monster and Ryan Clady was unphasable.

Normally I'd commend the pass blocking of the 1s, but again keep it in perspective: the 9ers didn't have their best out there to test us with and they were playing pretty plane Jane defense just like were were.

Wide Receivers

Demaryius Thomas - I take great comfort in seeing Demaryius being dominant so far.  He's a dynamic player that I absolutely would put in the conversation for one of the best three WRs in the game today.  He has been putting on a show for us early with a full repertoire of routes, power, soft hands, and size.  Two of the best defenses in the NFL had no way to stop him.

Cody Latimer - The only other note I had on a WR was our rookie.  Cody got to lay some wood, then later got some love with a beautiful TD catch that was in no way as easy as he made it look.  The ball was just a touch overthrown and required Cody to dive for it.  I'm excited to see more from him especially after he was so quiet in the first game.

Tight Ends

Julius Thomas - Everyone oohs and aahs about Julius catching passes, but the big thing I liked was seeing him hold his blocks up front well on a couple of plays.  I liked hearing him say this offseason that he was getting better in that area.  I love seeing it though.  If this guy gets half-way good at blocking we will be in hog heaven if we can resign him.

Jacob Tamme - Yeah his contract is bloated.  Yes, we might be able to use that money better somewhere else.  But I just can't argue with anyone who wants to keep him on the team.  He still looks to me like too good of an asset for us.


Peyton Manning - One of his first passes was pretty crappy in all honesty (he threw wide and a little ahead of a guy IIRC), but in typical Peyton fashion, he completed like 90% of his next 10 passes or something insane like that.  I watch him sling the rock and have to pinch myself still.  I still can't believe our team has Peyton at the helm.

Note for Manning:  I NEVER want to see you run a draw up the middle again.  Throw the ball away instead.  And if Gase calls that play for you, just tell him to pound sand a beat himself in the head with a clue bat.

Brock Osweiler - Here's the cat I was putting most of my attention on for this game.  I don't know how many years Manning has left, but I sure as heck want to see some continuity when he retires and have an answer in-house.  It seems like every game this year makes me more and more comfortable with that prospect being Brock.

Last week I saw progressions, looking off safeties, and some impressive accuracy.  That continued this week and was even more fruitful than last.  There was a complete whiff by Ben Garland that ended up with Brock doing a superb job of getting the ball out to an outlet runner.  I was also impressed with his execution of our offense at the end of the half.  You can't execute it much better than he did by scoring and leaving no time for the other team.

Let me take the time to point out something that may not be obvious to all of you. Brock has a very accurate and strong long ball when he steps in and throws it right (last week he floated a couple).  His pass to Latimer was very nicely thrown given how far down the field he was.

Zac Dysert - Its all scrubs at this point, but let me say this: I don't think we can stow Zac on the practice squad which unfortunately is where I think he belongs.  He's not pushing Brock, but he's way too good to clear waivers.  I really don't like the idea of using a roster spot on him, but I think it is likely that we do just that.


Defensive Line

We weren't nearly as dominant up front as we were against Seattle, but this line is still probably the most impressive I can remember in decades for our beloved team.  Also I think a big part of us not having oodles of success should be credited to the O-line for San Fransico. They have probably one of the best O-lines in the NFL from what I've seen and I'd bet that will play out in the regular season as well.

Terrance Knighton - This is another guy I honestly pinch myself about a little.  If you want to know how a DT should 2-gap go watch the game tape on Knighton here.  He was an absolute force tossing one guy aside so he could arm bar the running back going by him which slowed him down and allowed our defense to collapse in and make the stop.

Quanterus Smith - This cat picked up this year where he left off from what I remember of what little we got to see of him last year.  Smith has the potential to be a very good starting defensive end if he can keep learning and improving.  He caught my eye on more than one occasion flying around the end to cause pressure or a scramble.


Lerentee McCray - This is another young guy that looks the part to me.  He's solid in coverage and he attacks the right gaps from what I saw.  To me he's a lock to make the team as depth for Von Miller.

Brandon Marshall - I really questioned our ability to hold up without Danny Trevathan playing, but Brandon made me settle down a bit in that regard.  He really represented himself well against a very strong run team.  He showed no weakness from what I saw.  I don't recall them manning him up on a TE or anything like that, but his zone coverage was played correctly and with good awareness.

Steven Johnson - Haters may hate, but this guy makes plays.  I want to see him have more of a consistent impact though.  I think the big problem with him is that Nate Irving is so entrenched ahead of him that he's not getting many chances to play with the big dogs.  If that is the case he should be able to produce in our fourth preseason game this year.


Omar Bolden - I have to start of by apologizing to Omar. Many of you who read my reviews from last year will know I don't have a high opinion of Omar's game.  Well, I look at my notes and "Bolden" is friggin all over them for good things.

Early in the game he was the picture of perfect coverage on a 3rd down stop.  I thought Chris Harris had grown dreads for a moment there honestly.

He's a guy that could start for probably ten teams in the NFL and would be a back-up on the rest.

Later in the game he played Champ Baileyesque off-coverage about 9 yards deep, read the play, and decisively attacked the ball to cause an incomplete.

The only bad note I have on Omar was his complete bumble of a gift-wrapped INT, but I'd rather see all that other stuff consistently than have one INT every blue moon.

Tony Carter - Here's another cat people like to hate on, but I'm telling you that I don't see us letting Tony go.  You may not like his handsy play, but I for one love his man-to-man skills still. He's a guy that could start for probably teams teams in the NFL and would be a back-up on the rest.  The only reason we cut him is if we have way too many tough choices because of needing to keep Dysert on the roster, etc.

Aqib Talib - My favorite thing about Champ Bailey was that he was a great tackler that would go in and put some punk down.  That's my favorite thing so far about Talib as well.  Welcome to the Broncos Talib!


Jerome Murphy - I don't think he'll make the team, but that dude was at least half of our goal-line stop late in the game.  He was playing his heart out and I for one commend him.  If we don't find room for him, I'm thinking he'll catch on elsewhere pretty easily.

Duke Ihenacho - I had some hope that we'd see some development from Nacho, but he's really disappointing me so far in two games.  He's not busting up plays, improving much in coverage, or anything else of note.  With strong play from Bolden, Murphy, and Quinton Carter, I don't see how we can keep Duke. Here's a guy who could do a lot for himself next game by having a strong outing.

Special Teams

I'm very happy to see Denver giving another kicker a shot.  I still think it should have been the punter getting competition, but nevertheless, I'm a firm believer in seeing what you have each and every year.  Especially when your kicker is so overpaid.

Kapri Bibbs may not make the final roster, but the kid should be able to go on the practice squad.  He made two very nice plays in the 2nd have in kickoff coverage.