Today, the Denver Broncos will host quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago Bears in week two of the Preseason. Last week, the Broncos first team offense and defenses struggled against the Vikings, but Chad Kelly provided some excitement in the second half. How will things shakeup this Saturday night? I give you five things to watch during tonight’s week two preseason matchup against the Chicago Bears.
1: How will the first-team offense and defense rebound?
Last week, the first team offense entered the game against the Vikings with a ton of hype. Case Keenum was tossing dimes in practice, rookie Courtland Sutton was making big plays, and the offense in general just seemed much improved from last year. Unfortunately, they had two drives and both times went three and out.
Now this week, quarterback Case Keenum had a bounce back week during the joint practices and will look to continue that during tonight’s game.
“I think for me, the best part of adversity, the best part of not playing well is being able to get back out there and bounce back. I think it’s an opportunity to show that you can bounce back. That’s what so tough about going those two series, is that we never had a chance to bounce back on Saturday. Getting out on the practice field, Monday, Tuesday, today versus these guys, I think it showed that we can bounce back and I’m proud of the way we responded.”
As for the Broncos first-team defense, they also struggled. They struggled against the run and quarterback Kirk Cousins went 4-4 for 42 yards, and a touchdown. The Broncos leaky run defense was a big reason for these struggles, but Head Coach Vance Joseph believes it is something they can correct easily moving forward.
“The first run, it was basically a missed tackle in the hole, and the second run, we didn’t fit it up right. That was a strength of ours last year, so we can’t go backwards with that, and we won’t. Obviously, it happened tonight, but it’s preseason and we’ll fix it.”
This week, they will face the Bears strong rush attack led by Jordan Howard as well as the Bears tight ends who gave the defense some fits during practice this week. They bounced backed nicely during the second day of joint practices so it will be interesting to see how they perform on the field tonight.
2: Chad Kelly with the second-team offense
The big news around Broncos Country this week was Paxton Lynch being demoted to the third-team and Chad Kelly moving up to the second team offense. Now we will get to see how Kelly performs as tries to prove to the Broncos that he can be their backup quarterback in 2018.
Head Coach Vance Joseph told media earlier this week that the expectations for Kelly remain the same as he moves from the third team to the second team.
“It’s no different. He has to go out and continue to play well as our No. 2. It’s same with Paxton. He has to compete and get better as a quarterback. It’s not over. We’re still competing, but the depth chart is fluid and it rewards guys who are playing well. It’s only right. That’s what we live by with our players: if you’re playing well and you earn it, you push up and you get it. It’s a fair league.”
General Manager John Elway also spoke to the media this week and told reporters that he “had a feeling that he(Kelly) was play well”.
“I had a feeling he was going to play well. He’s a competitive guy, he’s played a lot of snaps and he’s instinctive. He took advantage of the opportunity that he had. He was looking forward to going out and playing and chomping at the bit. It did not surprise me, the way Chad played. He played very well. He’s got good instincts. He deserved the chance to play with the twos this week.”
Kelly threw for two touchdowns last weekend and added a spark to the offense that really was struggling before he entered the game. With Paxton Lynch struggling and being demoted to the third-team(and potentially off the roster) Kelly has a good chance to become the Broncos new developmental young quarterback on the roster.
He also has a chance to prove to Elway and Vance Joseph that he can be trusted to be their backup quarterback behind starter Case Keenum. So how Kelly performs, good or bad, will likely be a big topic at the end of this game.
3: Can Isaac Yiadom nail down the third cornerback job?
Last week, we saw Yiadom on the wrong end of some big plays against the Vikings. He was manned up against Stefon Diggs a few times which is a tough matchup for any cornerback in the NFL, especially a rookie playing in his first NFL game. In the end, he gave up a touchdown while covering Diggs during the Vikings first series last weekend.
Isaac Yiadom thrown into the fire on his first series in the NFL lined up against Stefon Diggs. Diggs with two catches on him, one for a TD.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) August 12, 2018
The silver lining for Yiadom is that he was in good position for a lot of these plays and wasn’t beat badly by any means, It shows that he knows what he is doing out there and reading/reacting well. Not bad for a rookie corner making his first NFL appearance.
Head Coach Vance Joseph echoed these thoughts when asked about Yiadom after the game.
“He did OK. He’s obviously in position to make plays. He didn’t make a ton, but that’s a good start for a young corner: to be in position to make a play. Obviously, he’s got to finish those plays, but I was pleased to see him play good technique and be in position to make plays.”
Against the Bears, we may see Yiadom start or get some valuable playing time with the first-team offense with cornerback Chris Harris Jr. likely sitting out this game. This will give Yiadom a chance to improve on his decent showing week one and try to lock down the number three corner job. Veteran Tramaine Brock will likely play as well so it will be a big game for the Broncos third-round pick in this years NFL Draft.
4. Royce Freeman the starting running back?
Rookie running back Royce Freeman put up the Broncos first offensive points in 2018 as he scored a 23-yard rushing touchdown against the Vikings last week.
Broncos RB Royce Freeman with a 23-yard TD.pic.twitter.com/sWvCECmDTM— LeadingNFL (@LeadingNFL) August 12, 2018
After the game, Quarterback Case Keenum was asked about Freeman and he praised the rookies pass blocking ability.
“A lot of those young backs I think put out there what they can do in the open field when you give them the ball. I’m excited to see those guys continue to get better because they did a good job in protection too a couple of times. I think it was actually in my series, Royce did a really good job of peeling back side for a blitzing safety. When backs know what’s going on, plus they can run the ball, it really helps.”
Pass blocking is usually where rookie backs struggle and why they do not see the field, so it is promising the see he is excelling in this area early on. Add that to his running ability, and Freeman could be on the brink of a breakout season for the Broncos.
Then earlier this week, Head Coach Vance Joseph dropped a nugget that could point to Freeman likely being the Broncos starting running back. He was asked about the difference between veteran Devontae Booker and rookie Royce Freeman. He called Booker a “third-down back” with good pass-catching ability while calling Freeman the “one cut, downhill pounder with good vertical speed”.
“Book (Booker) is Book. I’ve been around Book for almost two years now, so I’ve watched him play and he’s doing what he does well—that’s third downs, catching the ball, outside zone is his best run. Royce is a downhill pounder. He’s a one-cut runner with pretty good vertical speed. I’ve been impressed with both guys, and again to go back to the tight ends question, we need both guys. They’re both really different in what they do for our offense.”
To me at least, Joseph pretty much named Freeman the starter right here without officially saying it. You don’t call your starting running back a third-down guy while praising a rookie back with bell-cow running back traits.
If Freeman comes out and gets plenty of reps with the first-team offense and plays well, I think this running back competition will be all but settled.
5. Looking for a rebound from rookie Bradley Chubb
Entering the game. I had high hopes for the Broncos fifth overall pick thinking he would wreck the Vikings second-team offensive line. However, he ended up having a tough night and was responsible for a few big run plays. He also didn’t record any sacks.
I apologize to Zaire Anderson. I called him out last night for missing his gap on this play, but he played this how he was supposed to.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) August 13, 2018
Chubb and Wolfe should be embarrassed that they each got beat 1-on-1 by tight ends, Wolfe especially. pic.twitter.com/IkAYYfvray
Maybe it was rookie jitters, maybe the defense in general just played sloppily, or maybe it was a combination of both. Either way, it wasn’t a great showing for the Broncos fifth overall pick. However, I think he will bounce back in a big way tonight against the Bears.
Chubb has been having a great camp and was bringing the heat during the joint practices this week. General Manager John Elway was asked about Chubb, and he had some high praise for the Broncos first-round selection.
“He’s doing good. He worked his way up to the starting lineup. That just shows that he’s pushing and pushing. One of the things that I really love about Chubb is his coachability. He’s a really coachable guy, he’s a great player and all. A young player, but he’s willing to take coaching and accept coaching and learn. That’s what’s going to keep you in this league for a long time, always being a coachable person and trying to get better every day. I’m really excited for what Chubb is going to do, him and [OLB] Von [Miller] coming off of the edge. And then having some big dudes in the inside there, it’s going to be great for our defense.”
Chubb figures to get the start opposite of Von MIller once again tonight and will look to make life a living hell for Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.