I learned a whole lot about our team in week 3 of the preseason and was pretty happy with the long looks at our first and second team guys. It wasn't all pretty, but the ugly was so bad in such a good way. Seriously though...that play was the first time this season that I burst out cheering and jumped in my seat.
Thoughts on the current sheriff
I liked what I saw this week a lot more than what we saw in week 2. Manning huddled up. Manning took snaps under center. We saw a really big area for improvement as far as "What is he going to do about A-gap blitzes?"
Peyton Manning had a somewhat up and down night as far as accuracy. His bullet to Andre Caldwell in traffic was gorgeous. His INT to Demaryius Thomas was terrible. Even some of his completions were off (screen pass to DT too high and a little behind) enough to cost us chunks of yards.
Thoughts on the deputy
Brock Osweiler has me sold as far as being a stud back up for our team. I have full confidence that should anything untoward happen to our QB (don't even open your mouth Tim...just walk away), he'll be able to keep the train chugging along.
Osweiler looks pretty darn good in the new offense. He has the mobility to make some nice bootleg plays. He's making his reads well. He looks off the safety before rocketing the ball down the field. He looks calm and cool even under pressure. That's a big step forward from what we saw last year. I'm now officially thinking Elway is probably going to be working on an extension sooner rather than later.
What's in the stable
Pritchard: Broncos will 'evolve' by Week 1
It's important to remember the Broncos aren't showing all of their cards in the preseason.
We've got a real stallion in C.J. Anderson. He showed a lot of his ability we saw last year for running with power and being elusive enough to make guys miss. He hasn't broken any big runs, but his YPC is looking okay to me. In this game what stood out was his work in the passing game. He ran some very good routes and showed soft hands in a couple of catches.
Ronnie Hillman deserves the #2 spot and is our race horse. He's just flat out earned it. He has the best YPC of anything we have in the stable. This is the kind of play I saw from him last year that had me excited before his injury. He's going to be a big part of our offense this year.
Juwan Thompson looked like a solid draft horse for us. He ran with power. He looked like the kind of power back who could do 3.5 - 4 yards a carry ALL DAY. I liked the goal line running he showed and I loved the TD run from him of course.
Montee Ball is looking like the pile of stuff mixed with hay we scooted over to the side to be picked up and tossed at a later date. I like many of the fans in Broncos Country was really hoping this was the year that Ball returned to his rookie form, grabbed that 2nd spot by the horns, and made a name for himself in the stable. That's not what happened. Count me in as one of the fans thinking his job is on the line next week. 2nd round pick or not, I feel completely comfortable calling him a disappointment in what I've seen out of him this preseason (I hope you hear that Montee and come show us all how wrong we are on Thursday...it is time to either Bronco up or head out to pasture).
Credit Champ Bailey for it, but I sure do love me some cornerbacks that know how to plant some poor fool into the ground like a sack of potatoes. He had another big play where he was alone in coverage on the right side of the offense and he had a text book tackle. I'm excited to see what he and Chris Harris, Jr. is going to do this year. Anyone who doesn't think our tandem of corners isn't in the discussion for the best in the NFL is certifiable.
Also of note, Darian Stewart impressed me in this game. He was in on a bunch of tackles early on and knew where the ball was going. It still wasn't that deep test I've been looking for, but I love safeties that can lay the wood.
David Bruton was hit and miss for me in this game. He let an big pass happen in the open field...it was well thrown, but had he had a half more step on his guy he could have deflected it. Later in the game he had a couple of much better coverage plays. I'm probably being a little harsh, but to my argument he's been in the league quite some time and was going up against back-ups.
I'm so completely stoked for our pass rush this year. Von Miller isn't going to be the one man show. Demarcus Ware showed the goods. Shane Ray did as well. You really have to think that we'll be able to keep Ware fresh for a playoff push and Miller for that matter. Both guys have backups that can get it done.
Shaquil Barrett deserves his own paragraph. His preseason has been nothing short of phenomenal. He's speed. He's technique. He's been dominating the opposition every week. One thing I haven't seen is effective bull rushes from him, but I haven't been watching him closely to be fair (I've been watching more closely Ray).
Danny Trevathan was on the field with a big smile and more of the great play we are all used to from him. Brandon Marshall was there too and they are going to be awesome in this defense from what I've seen. Both guys are flying to the ball on runs and gliding with their assignments against the pass. There was a reason that Kaepernick didn't do squat passing the ball and it wasn't just that he kinda sucks at it...we also had solid coverage everywhere.
With the 2s, Todd Davis flashed again for me. He was in on a couple of tackles, had a great pass defense, and tipped a pass. Again, we're seeing depth in an area that had many of us worried in the off season which makes me a happy camper.
Big props to Britton Colquitt for the punts. The hang time was awesome. One of his two punts was 62 yards. More of that, please Colquitt.
Brandon McManus I thought looked very good in his kicking game. He had a miss on a 55 yard field goal, but I can let that go. If you are one of the fans dissing the guy for it, please go try kicking a 35 yard field goal, then come back and talk some smack. Making a 55 yard attempt is not easy. If he misses 4-5 more at 50+, I'll dog him. But for now, he's good going 4/5 on FGs.
My serious worry for our team heading into week 1 is our return game. No one looks stable back there. We've seen Omar Bolden and Isaiah Burse fumble. I have yet to see a guy that Denver put back to do returns look solid in the fundamental ability to catch the friggin football.
- I'm still not worried about the offense. Not even a little bit. This is a new coaching system for Manning. Just like when he first joined the team, it is going to take a few weeks of regular season play for things to get really clicking. In the meantime, we have a monster defense that should be able to help us still win those games with the engine not quite well oiled.
- Here's a caution on the defense: no one so far has really seriously tested our first string with the deep ball. Look for that week 1 against Baltimore.
- Jordan Norwood was phenomenal. I really like his game and think he solidified his spot on the team with that performance. I'd take him over Andre Caldwell all day, err day.
- Curtis Marsh probably sealed his fate with some really poor coverage in this game. I'd be surprised to see him make the cut to 53.
- One knock on both C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman is pass protection. Both guys sucked with great force in their blocking assignments that led to Manning getting hit.
- It is worth stating that Andre Caldwell looks good enough to make the team again this year. I kinda hate it, but if I'm the coach and he looked as good in practice as he has in game, there is no way I can objectively make that cut...it would have to come from the GM looking to save money.