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Broncos vs 49ers: Preseason No Bull Review

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In the 2nd preseason game of the 2016 NFL season, we are gaining some clarity on all things Bronco: QB situation, RB competition, offensive line play, and defensive depth.

San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Like many in Broncos Country, I came into this game expecting a complete decimation of the San Francisco 49ers by the Denver Broncos.

Like many in Broncos Country, I got a very blunt reminder that this is the preseason and there are no gimmies in this league.

I liked a lot of what I saw from both units to be honest from a personnel development standpoint. The outcome of the game wasn’t what we were looking for, but every bad play had a very simple reason. Most of those wouldn’t happen with the starters out there. In the preseason, it is far more fruitful to look at individual and unit play and less at the overall story of the game.

Offense

Let’s peek at a few stats to lay some groundwork:

  • Rush stats: 25 attempts, 124 yards, 5.0 ypc, 1 TD
  • Pass stats: 35/57, 308 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INT, Overall QBR 72.8

For all the ho-humming that I’m hearing about the Broncos offense, I have to say those stats look pretty decent to my eyes and a definite step forward from what we saw in 2015. Granted, this is the preseason, but there is decent production happening from our offense which is something that should leave Broncos Country with a feeling of hope to some extent.

Quarterbacks

This is honestly the most interesting QB situation I’ve seen in Denver since Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler. There is no clear-cut answer to my eyes. I’m seeing three very different quarterbacks with different sets of pros and cons. I do not envy the job of Gary Kubiak one bit in having to pick the right QB to lead the team this season. It is going to be even more choppy than our QB situation was last year (which in my mind was a mess, though many disagree).

Trevor Siemian

Siemian started the game and had a few very nice throws. His bootleg footwork looked a bit awkward to my eyes, but the kid made a helluva pass off his back foot to Virgil Green for a very nice gain that looked like a damn fine NFL pass to me.

I still like the velocity he throws with and he does very well with the 3-step drop timing routes that are used so often in the West Coast Offense that Kubiak utilizes.

Here’s the problem I’m seeing with Siemian though: he doesn’t read coverage players / situations well AT ALL. Several of his throws went to targets that had coverage players behind them in position to stop the play short of the first down. Some of those throws were on 3rd down where you have to look for a deeper option.

His progression work either isn’t very advanced or he’s flat out not doing it and that was one issue on his INT. It was a terrible pass into quarters coverage where the pass wasn’t ever going to be complete and at worst (which we saw live) a pick-6. Sure, it was one pass, but my problem here is that that coverage is super easy to notice. The route is running into the coverage. He never should have thrown that ball.

By the way, some complain about him playing like Alex Smith. I don’t buy that. He’s throws several very decent intermediate - long passes that I’ve seen. If he needs to throw more deep, the problem is one of mental, not physical capability. The kid has the arm for it, he just needs to have the confidence to start doing it or the coaches to start calling more of those plays.

The bigger problem I have here, though, is one of character. Siemian after that INT needed to step back on the field, shake off the mistake and get the team rolling again. Instead, I saw a guy playing scared. Whatever you want to call it, it wasn’t a look from any leader I’ve ever watched either on or off the field.

I’m not putting a nail in the coffin of Trevor Siemian yet, but I’m definitely leaning toward not wanting to see him as a starter for the Broncos at this point. His ceiling looks to me to be that of a Kyle Orton: decent NFL backup.

Mark Sanchez

Much of the work that I saw from Sanchez was positive. He threw a lot of nice routes and moved the team well. His command of the offense appears to be good. His accuracy was pretty decent too.

A ton of the criticism on Sanchez revolves around two fumbles. Let’s get some bull out of the way with this: of the two fumbles, one of them wasn’t his fault at all. The other one was ½ on his line, and ½ on him for not getting both hands on the ball to protect it. In both cases, our offensive line looked more like a row of fence posts on the right side than anything close to what you would call a NFL line.

I’m not saying Sanchez is some super good answer that no one is noticing. I am saying that he’s exactly what Elway was looking for when he offered him a contract: a solid veteran NFL QB who is here to compete and provide depth for the Broncos.

Just an interesting tidbit on Sanchez: of the three QBs, he had the highest QBR of the night at 80.5 .... which was better than Manning’s average QBR in 2015. Kubiak could do far worse than starting Sanchez this season.

I’m not crowning him or damning him either though. I just think at this point, he’s still a legit answer if we think neither of our young QBs are prepared to start Week 1.

Paxton Lynch

This kid needs to have some time behind the 1’s, in my opinion. He has better scramble ability than either of the two co-starters. His passing arm is stronger. His footwork looked very good and the dude plays Houdini like no other .....the sack he avoided was impressive as he was dead to rights.

The big problem I have is that I see so many good things from this rookie QB, but the results aren’t as impressive because he’s throwing to dudes who are 4’11 and will be selling cellphones at the mall in a couple of weeks.

I don’t see a lot of confusion from him, which should be very encouraging to Broncos Country. It is fair to say that may be because he has a simplified playbook he’s working out of, but nonetheless, you have to be impressed by the results.

His biggest play was his first TD pass. It was a fantastic bootleg that I could watch week in and week out this season. His other TD pass was honestly pretty ho-hum. His WR beat his guy big time and it was pitch and catch.

The bummer from this game is, of course, that he threw a pick late in the game. I honestly have to give him a pass on that though. His accuracy was close enough. If that was DT or Talyor, that would have been caught (probably Sanders too if he jumped for it).

Line

Our starting offensive line was pretty darn impressive. There were holes opened up in the run game with more consistency in their 2 drives than I have seen in 2 years in Denver (I’m probably exaggerating, but the run blocking looked very good). The pass protection was also solid from them. Russell Okung was a guy I focused on pretty heavily and I saw a very impressive tackle in his short time on the field. His technique is practically flawless.

Once the back-ups came in, though, things started falling apart. There was a lot of pressure on all 3 QBs. I saw a ton of problems from Michael Schofield (no surprise) and Kyle Roberts.

Overall, I think my biggest gripe in preseason is that the lack of quality depth for NFL linemen leads to a whole lot of really sloppy play that makes it pretty difficult to really see much of what the offense is going to look like in the regular season.

Running Backs

One of the more exciting prospects for me this year is that we are going to see a rushing offense again. I do think our line this year is better than what we had in 2015 and we are going to see a lot more consistent run production from them.

Another insight worth sharing from this preseason is that the offense is weighted very heavily to the passing game given the QB competition. Keep in mind the offense during the season is NOT going to look like what we are seeing today. In this preseason, the team is calling a ton of passes in situations that don’t make sense.

C.J. Anderson looks in my eyes to be in mid-season form which is a big deal for those of us who have been following him in the past couple of years. He runs with power, burst, and quick change of direction that is a joy to watch on the field and I really think he’s going to have a really impressive year in 2016.

The #2 back is clear to me at this point: Devontae Booker. I’m very excited about what I’m seeing from this kid on the field so far in a couple of preseason games. He looks to me to have a little more speed than Anderson, and while he doesn’t have as much raw power, I love how tough he runs through contact. He has some elusiveness to him as well which is a trait you see from really good NFL backs. Also worth noting his pass catching looks to me to be as good as all the hype. I can see us using him in the screen game to break a couple of big runs this year. I’m a believer in Anderson, but Booker looks to me to have the kind of potential to take the #1 spot sometime this season if he keeps improving week to week.

I’m still impressed with the running that I’m seeing from Kapri Bibbs. I’m excited to say for the sake of our locals up here that I think he’s tying up that #3 spot this year and has a future with the Broncos. His all around game is now more impressive than Ronnie Hillman’s and I’ve paid special attention to Bibbs’ pass blocking where I’ve yet to see him screw up this preseason.

Receivers

Can we get some love for Virgil Green going in Broncos Country? I’m stoked to see him getting more involved in the passing offense and showing what a solid weapon he can be for our team. He made a couple of tough catches in this game and led the team in receiving yards.

I liked a lot of what I saw from Jordan Norwood as well. His quickness and route running are both better than most of the scrubs we’re seeing on the field in the preseason. He’s a lock on this roster in my opinion. I don’t see any returners with more upside in ST or at WR.

Jordan Taylor is such an intriguing weapon to me. I don’t like how little separation he gets, but the kid catches everything thrown at him. He’s the kind of weapon you want on the field in the red zone for sure and I think he has a role on this team.

I also liked the few catches I saw from Henry Krieger-Coble. Kubiak likes his TEs bigger and more versatile, but HKC can carve out a spot on this team with another outing like we saw this week. At the very least, he’s a shoe-in for the practice squad.

Defense

Any defense giving up 30+ points has some issues. The vast majority of them had to do with gap integrity up front paired with a very big weakness in the secondary that was taken advantage of. The starters we still lights-out though which is the most important thing long-term of course.

Front 7

We sure did miss Derek Wolfe when he was done for the night. The line just didn’t look anything like themselves once he stepped away. Holes were blown open. ILBs got blocked out of the plays. It wasn’t pretty.

Darius Kilgo and Derek Wolfe both looked very disruptive and were the standouts to me in this game.

Adam Gotsis at LDE had some trouble that I saw and had a couple times where he was flat out pushed out of the way. I did like his work on the right side some and thought he does really well getting his arm up in time to try to bat down passes.

Yarbrough had a bad play that stood out for me at one point where he completely misplayed his edge contain which led to a TD by the scrambling 49er QB.

Todd Davis had a couple of problem plays where he couldn’t shed a blocker and get to the ball carrier in clear instances where the rush was coming to him. It wasn’t his best work by far and is worth noting as some other LBs behind him on the depth chart are flashing.

Zaire Anderson was the biggest LB standout of the game. He was consistently around the ball and caused a couple of fumbles. I don’t care about the guy’s size. He can play NFL ball and reminds me a lot of Wesley Woodyard from a few years back.

Dakota Watson is the other LB that is really showing up on film. The downside is he’s flashing while playing with the scrubs in the 2nd half. I’d like to see more of both him and Anderson with the 2nd unit.

Secondary

Let’s get this out of the way: John Tidwell probably should enjoy the short time he as left with the NFL. I don’t see much of anything NFL quality in his play. Granted, this is just one game and he might have had a bad day, but the dude was terribad. He was constantly a step behind his guy and got taken to the woodshed.

I also noticed Lorenzo Doss who has been a training camp hero so far had a couple of plays where he was big time out of position.

Will Parks also had a blown coverage play that I noticed. I’m not sure if he bit on playaction or what the problem was, but he was a solid step and a half behind his guy when the ball got there.

Obviously you know your secondary had problems when Christian Ponder gets a QBR of 151 on your team. SMH

Special Teams

I thought Riley Dixon had a better night than Colquitt overall. The difference was less than 20 net yards in punting, but Riley had more consistent depth on his punts. Also the holding for our extra point attempts looked completely smooth and normal.

I would have liked to have seen more from our kicking game, but it wasn’t in the cards as we were too busy scoring TDs.

Final Thoughts

I’m pretty excited about the prospects for our team this year. I like how both sides of the ball are shaping up and expect a lot of really good football to be played in 2016 by the Broncos.

The pressure is on Trevor Siemian this week. He’s got to get some gusto from somewhere and start showing more confidence and results on the field. Of the three QBs, he’s the lowest ceiling of all 3 currently from what I’m seeing on the field.

The more time that passes and the more I see Lynch on the field, the more I get the feeling that this whole preseason has been a game of Three Card Monte. The coaches are trying their best to get Paxton Lynch ready to play the game. He’s the future for this franchise.

In the meantime, we’re hyping up Sanchez and Siemian to the hilt so that the media keeps the focus off of Lynch. The less focus on him, the more focus he has for his training.

The bigger thing in my mind this year offensively is the running game. I’m really enjoying what we’re seeing on that front and it should open things up in a big way for whichever QB wins the starting job making their life that much easier.

Who else stood out in a good or bad way to you? Hit me up in the comments and let me know the guys you know are making this team or the guys you know are getting cut pretty soon.