The most significant game of the preseason is in the books and Broncos Country was treated to some pretty darn good football from top to bottom.
As we inch closer to regular season action, the clouds are starting to part quite a bit about what our team is going to look like and where the problem areas are on the roster.
Given that, I’m going to focus this review a little more closely on what I see as the teams strengths and weaknesses.
Again in this game we saw a weakness in run defense. You wouldn’t know it based on the post-game interviews as the coaches and players all talked like it was a pretty stout outing from the defense, but my eyes told me a very different story.
That being said, it is always important to keep in mind the nature of preseason football: vanilla schemes, mix-and-match personnel, and experiments from the coaching staff are the order of the day. So while I point out the flaw, let me say that I’m by no means saying it is a glaring issue.
The best showing of the game from the front 7 belonged to Adam Gotsis. He did it all: 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, and a partridge in a pear tree. Honestly, I’m very comfortable with him taking a lot of early snaps or stepping in for Wolfe if there’s an injury. He’s got a ton of game.
Domata Peko again stood out to me for his play early on. He’s a beast of a man and on two different plays I saw him occupy and move 2 blockers on the line. It is the kind of thing that oftentimes goes unnoticed, but is the very key to a great pass rush or run stop.
Another guy that stood out to me as a guy many in Broncos Country probably aren’t noticing is Demarcus Walker. He had two hits on the QB and was a disruptive force on the interior. He’s shaping into the kind of player many of us thought he would become when we drafted him last year
Bradley Chubb got a lot more work in this game. He was in on ½ a sack, had a couple of QB hits himself, and was mostly up with one down play I noticed against the run. What I’m seeing mostly here is the coaching staff feeding him as much action as possible to get him coached up as quickly as possible to the NFL level.
The rotational guy worth talking about is Josey Jewel. Once he joined the fray, it was kind of a showcase of how well he plays the run. He was in on everything when Washington tried to run.
Shane Ray did himself a very good favor with a sack and a TFL with the 2s...though I honestly about fell out of my chair with the big time celebration. C’mon son. This is the preseason and you are out there owning backups at best. Let’s not get carried away.
Dymonte Thomas was eye-popping good coming in as a safety. He was in on 5 tackles and had a really impressive pass defense. He’s the young guy out of the safety group that I think is likely to make the team assuming the numbers work out.
At this point we know the Broncos have made a move to get Adam Jones to strengthen the cornerback position. It is a darn good thing they are honestly. While the team has some guys that look like they may be able to develop like Isaac Yiadom, none of them has stood out to me as actually being ready to play week 1. Yiadom is by far the best of the bunch behind our starters and while he’s shown excellent technique and being in the right position, he’s made no plays that have been there to make.
Brendan Langley hasn’t had a good showing so far in 2017. He looks like a guy I try to stash on the practice squad as I honestly don’t see how another team would look at his film and think he’s worth going after on the waiver wire.
I thought the offense looked all the way around pretty darn solid. The run game worked (as long as talent was carrying the ball), the pass game flashed, and for the 1st and 2nd teams, things looked to be clicking fairly well.
What I liked most about the offensive performance was that in the only game in the preseason where the team had any kind of game plan, the offense looked well prepared and ready to play. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been able to say that about this offensive team.
Case Keenum looked like the solid QB we all hoped we were getting. He was highly accurate with the ball and didn’t throw a pick. While I’m just a little concerned about the lack of passing TDs, the team kept getting close and then winning with the run game.
Chad Kelly looked like a guy that sealed the deal on being the Broncos backup QB to start the season. No picks, looked super comfortable as the leader of the offense, and had some really impressive read progressions.
Paxton Lynch again showed us that he doesn’t have what it takes to make it in the NFL. Sure he didn’t throw any picks, but he also looked mostly lost / ineffective.
Honestly I was most impressed with the play of our offensive line moreso than any of the other position groups. It looks very much like the Broncos have a line that is going to be able to win up front and open some lanes for the run game and hold their ground against the pass rush.
One guy I’m going to point out specifically is Max Garcia. He was a monster at both run blocking and pass blocking. I was blown away with how good he looked in this game. While I’m still solidly behind starting Ron Leary and Connor McGovern at guard, I’m honestly very comfortable going into the season with Garcia being our backup G/C.
Royce Freeman is the truth, ladies and gentlemen. He runs the best of any of the running backs and looks like a #1 RB out of the backfield. He belongs as our #1 back and should start the season as such in my opinion.
Davontae Booker on the other hand is JAG. He has always been JAG. He will always be JAG. Sure it was only 3 carries, but he still only averaged 3 ypc. He just doesn’t have any kind of upside you want to see in your backfield. He’ll likely make the team because the coaching staff doesn’t have the stones to cut him, but I’m honestly more comfortable with Freeman, Henderson, Lindsay, and Janovich than I am making room for Booker.
Finally, we need to give it up for Phillip Lindsay. That kid is busting his ass and it is paying off big time. I can’t see any way that the team doesn’t take him on the roster heading into the season. He looks like a serious speed weapon a la Christian McCaffrey.
Emmanuel Sanders is going to have a career year by the looks of it. He’s looking so quick and fast and excited to play football with a guy who can get him the ball in space. Look for him on that end around a few times this season...I bet he’s likely to have similar results to what we saw in this game if the team blocks for him like they did.
Courtland Sutton also really jumped out to me as a guy who’s got the stuff to play big time football in the NFL. He looks honestly like a young Demaryius Thomas and is likely going to get some big time rookie success with us this year.
Really the team looks to be in very good shape with Wide Reciever talent. We have threats for every level of the field and guys with talent galore as possession receivers (Thomas, Sanders), deep threats (Sanders, Sutton), quick route runners (Sanders, Hamilton), and jump ball specialists (Thomas, Sutton, Patrick).
The only worry I have at all in the passing game is our tight ends. They didn’t get much work in this game. While I liked what I’ve seen especially from Jeff Heuerman this preseason, there just hasn’t been the volume that has me feeling confident in what they’ll be able to do in the regular season.
I honestly think Isaiah McKenzie isn’t long for the team (and I had that noted before the signing of Adam Jones for the record). He had the one really awesome return in week 1, but he just hasn’t shown much more and hasn’t found a niche to help the team outside of Special Teams. Holding a roster spot just for a guy who’s track record says is an iffy returner just doesn’t make sense to me.
But enough downer stuff...let’s talk about Brandon McManus. My goodness, what a friggin’ machine he was in this game. The dude hit 2 really big time 50+ yard kicks and was 5 for 5 on field goals with 2 for 2 on extra points.
While this week’s game won’t be terribly interesting in all honesty, it has been a pretty promising preseason for the team. We have two QBs who look like they can play, an offense that appears to be dynamic and solid in both areas, and a strong defense with a ton of talent.
Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you thought of the team. Who is your dark horse guy that is going to be a big surprise to make it on the final roster? Who’s your surprise cut?