The Denver Broncos used their fourth game of the preseason to allow their rookies, youth and fringe players see action in order to evaluate who is worthy enough to earn a spot on the final 53 man roster.
A handful of players impressed and took advantage of their last opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities, whereas others did not. By the end of this weekend, 22 players who you saw tonight in action will be cut. The NFL is a brutal business, and has aptly earned the moniker "Not Fot Long", yet some of these players NFL dreams will live on with invitations to the team’s practice squad, even if they fail to evade the last round of cuts.
For those players who do make the team or practice squad — congratulations on being a part of the 2016 Denver Broncos. To those that don’t — thank you for your contributions and efforts, and I wish you nothing but the bests. May the wind always be at your back and with your sails, and here is to hoping you find success in all endeavors in life.
In tonight’s gridiron battle, all eyes were focused keenly on rookie first-round quarterback Paxton Lynch, who manned down position for the game’s entirety. He started off the festivities with a bang — connecting with second-year wide receiver Jordan Taylor on a short pass that Taylor took 57 yards to give the Broncos an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Lynch’s traits and potential to be a top-tier quarterback in the NFL are undeniable, but he struggled on several occasions early this evening. Early on in the game, he was overthrowing his receivers and looked jittery and unsettled. One area of improvement that would certainly help correct some of these errors would be his footwork. Given his lack of experience playing underneath center, it is understandable that such an endeavor will take time.
However, it is important to realize that the offensive lineman he had protecting him did an awful job for most of the game (and most won't have jobs in the NFL in the next 48 hours). That being said, it is tough to get a true evaluation of a player’s capabilities given the porous situation the Broncos have in their offensive trench, but Lynch put his best foot forward and made the most of his longest learning experience on the NFL gridiron to date and registered another touchdown pass to Taylor on a play action bootleg in the third quarter.
Near the end of the game, Lynch made a forgettable rookie mistake, throwing an interception that was returned for a score by Cardinal defender Gabe Martin. It was clearly the low light of the night for Lynch, who finished the game going 13/22 for 214 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned pick.
At the end of the day, there is a lot to be excited about with Lynch and his future is incredibly bright. He has cannon for an arm, is accurate when given ample time in the pocket and runs a flawless bootleg which is pinnacle to Gary Kubiak’s offense. He will need time to learn the offense and the various nuances of the position in his continued transition from Memphis to the NFL, which tis something Broncos fans should demonstrate patience in regard to.
The blossoming of Lynch is worth wating for. His time may not be now with Trevor Siemian set to lead the Broncos in 2016, but it could be sooner than you think. If not at some point this year, certainly next year and undoubtedly, the future looks bright for him and the entire franchise.
Hart's Quick Hits
- The Broncos defense was horrendous all night. They surrendered 420 yards of offense and made former USC product Matt Barkley look like an All-Pro. The Cardinals moved the ball at will in the air and on the ground all night long, and scored a 58% efficiency rating on third down against Denver's defense. It was by far the worst defensive performance Broncos fans have seen (preseason or regular season) in quite some time.
- Speaking of the defense, lets go back in time. For all you old-time fans, do you remember when former Broncos defensive line coach Stan Jones compared former defensive lineman Ted Gregory to Lyle Alzado? That didn’t turn out so well. It’s not very fair to be harsh on current defensive line coach Bill Kollar’s prized gem and rookie second-round pick Adam Gotsis, but his play has been underwhelming this preseason.
Poor technique, no leverage against the run and consistently being pancaked during passing plays isn’t a very good way to convince fans it was the right decision to pick a player coming off an ACL injury high in the NFL Draft. Clearly, he has a long ways to go before he is a quality contributor at the NFL level.
- The poor individual performances on defense didn't stop there. Rookie cornerbacks John Tidwell and second-year player Lorenzo Doss struggled immensely in coverage, each given up their share of big plays that went for large gains or scores against the defense. Tidwell was never expected to make the final roster, but Doss was.
Doss, after being hyped up all preseason with his training camp plays, is starting to live up to his billing at Tulane — a player who at times can make big plays, but the lack of speed, instincts and overall discipline will hurt him in the NFL. While he may be the team’s fifth cornerback and make the active roster, he has a lot to work on before he is ready for anything more than a special teams role with the squad. Cardinals quarterback Matt Barkley made Doss do his best Roc Alexander performance this evening and folks, it wasn’t pretty.
- Sadat Sulleyman has been impressive all preseason long and had another strong performance tonight. The competition at linebacker, in particular OLB is fierce with Vontarrius Dora and Eddie Yarbrough looking solid as well. I think there is a good shot one of the, makes the active roster, but all should certainly be on the practice squad if that isn’t the case. Don’t be surprised if another team in the NFL gives them a chance to be on their final 53 if they have that opportunity here.
- Jordan Taylor’s performance tonight secured him spot on the Broncos final roster. Look for the Broncos to carry six receivers: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Jordan Norwood and Taylor this year. It’s definitely one of the team’s strengths in 2016.
- Denver decided to move on from veteran punter Britton Colquitt and give rookie Riley Dixon the opportunity to be their man. It seems the move was made strictly from a financial perspective and not a performance based decision. Riley had a lackluster night, shanking one punt for minimal yardage and only averaged 37.4 yards on 5 attempts.
- The Broncos were only 1/8 on converting third downs against the Cardinals. That's unacceptable, and Lynch's performance on third down is one of the reasons he isn't ready to be the quarterback to lead this franchise just yet.
- Henry Melton was injured in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury. We will keep informed on his condition whenever an update is given.