Welcome to the No Bull Review!
For those of you who are new to MHR, welcome! This is the No Bull Review and it is a labor of love for me as a Bronco fan going back years here at the best Broncos blog on the Internet. I started this years ago as a community member and am excited to be here still and to be able to continue on my now five year journey with these.
What is the No Bull Review? It is my opinionated analysis on our games. I call things like I see them week in and week out. I am an optimist by nature, but with my posts I really do my best be a realist. If a player looks like they suck, then I will say that. If they look awesome, they will get props. I carry no favorites (to the best of my ability of course...I'm a far from perfect man), but I care about what the team did, how they performed, and I enjoy analyzing the games.
Why do I do it? My number 1 goal is always to foster more knowledge gaining for our community. Mostly that means good points to discuss in the comments. Sometimes that means you guys educate me on different angles you saw that I missed. At the end of the day we all win.
Disclaimer: Don't bother going full-Richard with my posts. You will always get the same answer from me: If you don't enjoy it then I invite you to skip reading it. We have a ton of great minds on staff at MHR. All of us love to write about our Broncos and you have a lot of choices for game reviews and posts. If my writing isn't your bag, by all means skip it...that's what I do for the writers I don't enjoy on SB Nation after all and I find it a very healthy practice.
Let's get down to business though. Many of my knee-jerk thoughts were wrapped up in our instant reactions post, but there's still a lot of notes that I didn't dig into for us to kick around. Let's break it down and glean what we can from week 1 of the preseason.
I remember being just bent at the end of last season because we had a gimpy Manning looking very unlike himself to close out the season. When we hired Kubiak, I said that how he handled the QB situation is a huge part of how I will judge his tenure year 1 back home with the orange and blue. I have to say I'm thrilled with it. He's been playing Brock through training camp with the ones and let him get some serious work in week 1.
I liked the game plan Kubiak employed. It was somewhat conservative (get used to it Broncos Country...Kubiak runs marathons in his coaching style, not sprints), but that works when you have a complete team with a good defense. I would have liked to have seen him go for it a little more given that it is the preseason, but on the flip side, we get to see a lot of the kickers and that really was a need.
Defensively I loved what we did. None of it was super fancy or complicated, but it showed that our guys are playing well and they are going to be an attacking defense all year long.
The Special Teams coach needs to get to serious work though. The coverage units were plain terrible (which we've seen plenty of in the past few seasons). I know we are trying guys out an all, but the lane discipline looked pretty bad and that could be a coaching issue if it keeps happening.
Brock is not as accurate as Manning. That much is for certain and is the only big knock I had on his performance. He threw a few balls behind and/or low to his targets and it cost us big chunks of yardage. That being said, he moved the team very well and I'm encouraged to see what he did with the offense. I really thought he had some great touch on his TD throw to Virgil Green...it could not have been put in a better spot.
The other QBs
Zac Dysert looked a little intimated and wide eyed to me in that game. It wasn't necessarily unexpected as last preseason his good looking play came against 3rd and 4th stringers, but you'd hope he would do better in his 2nd year.
Trevor Seimian on the other hand played behind the same line and mostly against the same opposition and looked head and shoulders better than Dysert. If he keeps playing like this, he'll be our 3rd QB and may even not be able to be stashed on the practice squad.
Montee Ball I thought looked very good tonight in his limited action. He was leaps and bounds better looking than his work last season and that's a very good thing for our team. I liked most his reads as a big part of his problem last year was being indecisive. He seems at least so far to be much more comfortable with Kubiak's zone blocking system which should of course be expected.
Ronnie Hillman was the stud of the night in the backfield. He was fast, decisive, and powerful (did I just say that!?). If he can stay healthy he is going to be a seriously strong weapon for our team this year and may actually start looking like that change of pace back we've all been wanting him to be for a few years now.
Juwan Thompson looked like he took a step back from last year as he couldn't get anything going in week 1. He didn't show much of that signature power or burst we saw last year from him.
Jeremy Stewart was on the field. That's about as much as I can say about him. He didn't look bad, but he didn't look overly good either.
Everyone's biggest worry
The offensive line overall to me looked solid, not spectacular. We had a preseason gaffe of the highest order that led to a big sack (both the TE and LT let a guy go through their gap...not sure which one had the assignment but someone blew it). They were mostly coordinated in the first half with solid pass blocking and very solid run blocking.
Ty Sambrailo still has yet to sell me. He was up and down (though you have to expect that for a rookie tackle in his first preseason game). There were flashes there of really solid technique though and I can see why the coaches are throwing him out there.
I'm pretty darn excited about Matt Paradis more so than any of the other linemen. His combo blocks were good in the running game and he blocked well in the passing game too. If he can hold down center the rest of the year like he did in this game, we'll be just fine in the middle.
It is also worth noting that both guard spots looked very well. Louis Vasquez belongs at RG which is no news to us here at MHR. Max Garcia really looked like a solid LG to my eyes as well. He had some really strong blocks in the run game and I saw no problems with his pass protection.
For the backups, I thought Chris Clark looked pretty darned good at LT and Gino Gradkowski represented himself very well at C. The rest of the backups looked pretty average to me. I thought Ben Garland had a couple of shaky plays stick out, but really a lot of the backup lines had some issues in pass protection outside of the two I mentioned above.
The unsung heroes
You know who I don't think we gave enough props to? Cody Latimer...he seemed to go pretty unnoticed in a lot of post game discussion outside of a few of the community out there who had good things to say about him. His play was really solid from my notes. I thought his routes were well run and he made some very tough catches (again...if thrown better he probably would have had some pretty significant stats). I think Cody has taken a big step forward this off season compared to what we saw from him last preseason.
Of the rest, Bennie Fowler and Jordon Norwood stuck out in a good way.
Andre Caldwell I thought looked much like the player I've been seeing the past year or so...a sub-par NFL WR. He knows the plays and runs his routes, but he just doesn't have the goods in any area (speed, quickness, hands, etc) to make himself look like the real deal. I stand by my off season arm-chair GM point that he's probably chewing up cap space that is better spent elsewhere.
I'll say here also that Virgil Green represented himself very well. He's not dynamic in the passing game like many of us hope he would be. He can't replace Julius Thomas straight-up. That being said, he's got the soft hands, size, and speed to be a weapon in the passing game. His skinny post really showcased that well and showed he can contribute more in the passing game as we move forward into the 2015 season.
As a big proponent of dominating defense (something we haven't seen a ton of in recent years in the Orange and Blue) I have to say I'm pretty giddy about what I saw in this game from our defense. I try to temper that with the realization that this is still pretty meaningless football overall. That being said, it is encouraging to see the new scheme at work and a lot of our players looking really good in that scheme.
The front 7
I liked what I saw from Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, Kenny Anunike, and Darius Kilgo a lot. Of those, Anunike was hands down the most impressive though we have to remember he wasn't up against the starters for much of the time. Nevertheless, good NFL players take advantage of backups just like that. It is absolutely worth be excited about and interesting to think of how many pass rush weapons we have at our disposal with our depth and rotation.
Sylvester Williams looked pretty average to me, which is a step up from what I saw from him last year. He didn't handle some double teams well in the run game which let some pretty big holes happen. It remains to be seen if that is a schematic issue with the LBs needing to take care of the gap better or if he really should be handling that differently.
As for the linebackers, I already gave Von Miller my game ball so you know I think he's the cat's meow still. I really loved what I saw from Saquil Barrett as well. He looked like a different version of what Von Miller brings to the table. The other big impressive showing we saw was Todd Davis who was all over the place early in the game.
Shane Ray had ups and downs in his debut, but I thought he looked pretty darn good coming around his end and forcing a fumble. If he can come in and contribute in the rotation, we are going to be very excited about this rookie.
Lamin Barrow surprised me with his play. This falls under the same caveat as Anunike with the competition level, but he still made it look easy and if you belong in the NFL, you should be doing that against backups.
Our early coverage by Bradley Roby, Aqib Talib, Tony Carter, and Curtis Marsh was smothering. If this game shows us a preview of our defense for the season we can expect a lot of corners to be matched up in man coverage. TC couldn't get out of a game without a penalty as is his play style, but that's nothing new either. The encouraging thing there is that we may have younger, better options available as Tevrin Brandon and Lorenzo Doss both looked solid in the backup squads.
Darian Stewart was a guy I had my eye on in the secondary as many of you who follow my stuff know I have been pining for a real answer at free safety for years. I really liked his coverage skills which looked just as good as what I saw from David Bruton at the end of last year.
Ross Madison stood out from the safety back ups as well. I'll be looking more for his play in the next few games to see if it was a fluke or not.
Brandon McManus made a statement in this game. The problem is that he has to back it up with consistency. If he can go the next few games nailing his FG attempts and kicking off as well as he did this week he will cause Connor Barth to hit the road.
I honestly loathed Connor Barth's performance probably the most of anything I saw in our first game. There was a lot of big talk made about how he had worked on his technique in the off season to make his kick offs much deeper. If this game is any indication to that work then we know that the only thing he did was lower the angle so they would travel farther at the cost of hang time. The gaffes we saw in return coverage had every bit as much to do with that lack of hang time as they did with lane discipline.
That being said, the return coverage had some serious derpage going on. I expect this to be cleaned up as the preseason goes on though, especially once we trim the roster down to smaller numbers and the coaches start honing in on what their real unit is going to be. While many of us hated the return problems, keep in mind that this isn't the finished product. Preseason units rarely match what the regular season units end up looking like.