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Broncos’ stock: Who’s up, who’s down entering 49er week

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Who has helped his cause so far this preseason? Who has hurt it? These are the players who are fighting for a spot on the Denver Broncos roster and depth chart.

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

There aren’t a lot of things that matter less than preseason stats. Coaching staffs run stripped down versions of their scheme in order to evaluate players on a trait by trait basis across four games. The Broncos’ Vic Fangio even suggested they’ll run plays into the teeth of an opponent rather than adjust in order to see how players handle it.

All this to say, I’m not especially concerned with Paxton Lynch completing 11-of-15 for 109 yards and one passing TD. I care even less that he ran four times for 39 yards and another score. Especially when you stop to consider that 73 of those passing yards came on three plays.

What carries far more weight is how the Broncos defenders performance may have contributed to those three 20+ yard plays. Or how Drew Lock looked. Or how the competition at receiver, running back, and any number of other positions are shaping up.

How things look as of August 12, 2019.

Stock up

  • Isaac Yiadom
  • De’Vante Bausby
  • Dalton Risner
  • Bradley Chubb
  • Troy Fumagalli
  • Malik Reed
  • George Aston
  • David Williams
  • Devontae Booker
  • Alexander Johnson
  • Justin Hollins
  • Su’a Cravens
  • Will Parks
  • Horace Richardson
  • DeMarcus Walker

I’ve already talked about the Broncos starters at length last Friday, but if you missed it, you can follow find it here.

I’ll continue to carry the torch for Justin Hollins as the most exciting rookie on the roster, and nothing from Seattle dampened my flame.

So far this preseason, he’s logged as both an off-ball linebacker and along the line of scrimmage. He looks a lot more comfortable at the point of attack and in space than even I dared hope for when he came out of Oregon, and his edge play is really exciting.

Hollins anticipates the snap and shows off his wheels, flushing Lynch from the pocket and chasing him down.

Malik Reed is another edge rusher I’ve been sky high on since March who looks like he’s going to prove the Broncos smart for giving him a $15,000 signing bonus.

The Sunday release of Jeff Holland confirms that Reed is all but certainly a lock for the active roster. The two would be a bit challenging to carry simultaneously as both are sub-250-pound rushers.

What helped Reed survive is that he’s a better finished with more ankle flexion, while Holland’s ceiling is something similar to Shaq Barrett: a stout run defender who can pressure, but not necessarily sack, opposing quarterbacks.

Reed, Walker, and Hollins (52) are a fun trio to watch.

Another player who continues to impress is DeMarcus Walker. He and Dre’Mont Jones did have some trouble with down blocks and double teams against the Seahawks, but that’s to be expected for lighter interior rushers.

The big thing hanging over them is what the coaching staff wants out of the 6th defensive lineman. Mike Purcell remains a viable option if Fangio wants another big bodied nose tackle, while Walker stood out as a pass rusher.

Johnson is a physical presence in the middle.

One Bronco who looks like he’s all but assured a spot on the 2019 roster is Alexander Johnson. He’s made the most of his reps this preseason and looks like the starter if either Todd Davis or Josey Jewell miss the opener in Oakland.

Following the Hall of Fame game, I concluded Horace Richardson had all but insured he’d make the 53 with his play against Atlanta. It’s easy to forget he even played against Seattle; he logged all of 13 total snaps and didn’t see any action go his way. Without the benefit of the All-22 to double check, I’ll make a tentative assumption it’s because he locked his assignment down.

Elsewhere in the secondary, the fourth safety positions look as though it’s become a two horse race between Su’a Cravens and Dymonte Thomas. I’ve been pretty skeptical of Cravens hype after he burned me in 2018, but he’s been a solid run defender and looks more comfortable in space last Thursday. Here’s hoping he can keep it up.

Will Parks roster status has never been in doubt, but it’s reassuring to see Fangio recognize how versatile he is. The Broncos head coach admitted as much after Monday’s practice when he spoke to other roles Parks could have in the sub defense. Just a reminder, in 2018 Parks logged 39% of his snaps in the box, almost 35% at free safety, and then a smattering of plays at slot, outside linebacker, and cornerback.

Parks spent a chunk of the 2nd quarter playing slot in the Broncos’ nickel package while Bausby and Yiadom played outside. Cravens and Trey Marshall lined up behind them. Early in the second half Parks took over a safety spot. It should come as a surprise to no one that he was a huge asset in run defense.

Parks cleaned up this open alley.

Aston is the first name to come to mind when I stop and think of Broncos who’s stock has gone up in part because of others’ going down. The undrafted rookie from Pitt has quietly had himself a promising start this preseason, but the injury to Andy Janovich creates a huge opportunity for him. Jano previously looked like the road block for Aston’s chance at the 53:

2019 Denver Broncos roster review: UDFA Fullback, George Aston - Mile High Report

With Janovich’s playing out the last year of his contract and carrying a $761 K cap hit in 2019 the competition could be tilted in the younger, cheaper Aston’s favor. To make the roster he’ll need to prove he’s a reliable special teams contributor as well as fill Janovich’s shoes on offense.

Troy Fumagalli is the other Bronco whose roster status looks a lot more secure today than this time last week due in part to injuries. I’ve yet to see much from Fumagalli to suggest he’ll be a reliable contributor on offense, but the season ending injury to Austin Fort leaves all of Bug Howard, Moral Stephens, and Jake Butt between him and the active roster.

The Sunday news that Theo Riddick will be out for 6-8 weeks is clearly going to help Devontae Booker. Some in Broncos Country had written Booker off after the signing, and there were rumors circulating that Denver was interested in trying to trade him. When the younger backs struggled in week 2, the fourth-year veteran looked great by comparison. Now he’s an appealing option as RB3 in the short term.

While I’m on the topic of the younger ball carriers in the backfield: Dave Williams did a heck of a lot more good with his 15 offensive snaps than most of his competition did. It didn’t hurt him that he avoided blowing a huge block in pass protection. This time last week I had written him off, but depending on how the Booker situation plays out, he’s certainly given himself new life.

Stock down

  • Khalfani Muhammad
  • Devontae Jackson
  • Brett Rypien
  • Sam Jones
  • Chaz Green
  • Trey Marshall
  • Keishawn Bierria

While pass protection remains at the forefront, it’s a good time to address an elephant in the room on Muhammad’s miss and a certain rookie quarterback’s subsequent safety.

Lock is far from blameless on this sack.

I’ll be going over Drew Lock’s preseason at length soon, but it’s important to note that numerous studies have shown quarterbacks play the primary role in sack totals.

Rypien is a big loser because he didn’t play against the Seahawks. It also hurts him that his chances at the active roster depend almost as much on Hogan and Lock as his own performance. Neither rookie has yet shown they’re ready to take on regular season NFL defenses thus far, which means Hogan is likely to stick around. Barring a drastic change over the next couple of weeks, Rypien’s working to be practice squad candidate.

Jones is the offensive lineman affectionately nicknamed “Aquaman,” and he’s another practice squad candidate. Both he and Chaz Green have left a lot to be desired. The line as a whole struggled in the third quarter, but even in the middle of that mess, these two stood out.

Which brings me to defense. Trey Marshall did a poor impression of Will Parks against Seattle after he looked like the main culprit on Kurt Benkert’s touchdown in the Hall of Fame game. It’s early enough for him to turn it on down the stretch, but he’s got a hole to climb out of.

Seahawks with another double down on Jones, but this time Parks isn’t there to clean up the alley.

Lastly we have Kieshawn Bierria, who really struggled in Seattle. I’ve said time and again this off-season how Davis’ and Jewell’s athletic limitations won’t be exposed as much in Fangio’s system as Vance Joseph’s. A big reason for that is how both bring an above average ability to diagnose the action. Because of this, they both play faster in pads than they run in shorts.

Most linebackers will bite on play action, but it’s crucial to recover quickly.

Unfortunately, Bierria’s athletic ability is limiting enough that when he takes a false step, he struggles to recover. This also looked like the case against Atlanta when he was caught out of position on a screen. It was a concern I mentioned this summer: the 2nd year pro was clocked at a 4.79 40-yard dash coming out of Washington and also looks a step slow changing directions.

He simply seems like a fish out of water in space, a glaring weakness in the modern NFL.

Your Broncos News

Scangarello’s offense, Fangio’s defense will bring plenty of innovation - Mile High Report

MHR’s Jeffrey Essary joins Ross Volkmer of The Morning Blitz to talk about the Broncos - and how this team is mixing old and new school concepts in its schemes.

Emmanuel Sanders reveals he had offseason ankle surgery – ProFootballTalk

Sanders originally injured his ankle in the fifth game of the 2017 season. It wasn’t right all of last season, and Sanders speculates that compensating for his right ankle led to tearing his left Achilles’. “I feel like that was kind of the reason I tore my Achilles,’’ Sanders said.

Theo Riddick injury: Denver Broncos running back out 6-8 weeks - Mile High Report

It’s a good thing the Denver Broncos have depth at running back, because they just lost their latest addition for two months.

How good could the Denver Broncos defense be? - Mile High Report

The defense could really be good, but keep an eye on Flacco and the offense. That unit could surprise people.

Denver Broncos waive OLB Jeff Holland; sign CB Rashard Causey - Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos have waived OLB Jeff Holland and signed CB Rashard Causey on Sunday.

Fangio: Lock should consider his plays ‘learning experiences, not failures’ - Mile High Report

The rookie showed improvement, and that’s what the coach was looking for.

Preseason grades, Week 1: Kyler Murray, Deebo Samuel shine - NFL.com

The Broncos’ young quarterback isn’t quite ready to challenge Joe Flacco for the QB1 spot, but he does flash big-time potential whenever he steps between the lines. Lock dazzles as a flamethrower delivering fastballs to receivers in tight windows while also showing a deft touch when connecting with running backs and tight ends on checkdowns to the flat. No. 3 has the potential to be a top-10 player at the position if he can eliminate the scattershot throws and poor decisions that eventually lead to turnovers. Lock improved from the Hall of Fame Game (7 of 11 for 34 yards, zero TDs and a 68.0 passer rating) to Week 1 (17 of 28 for 180 yards, one TD, one INT and a 76.5 passer rating), but he still has a ways to go before he can challenge for a starting job.

2019 Denver Broncos Training Camp: Day 15 news and notes - Mile High Report

One surprising nugget that came out of Broncos camp today was that safety Jamal Carter would be moving to inside linebacker from his original safety position.

Injuries at key positions put a strain on Broncos’ offense, defense - Mile High Report

Broncos have taken a hit at tight end, fullback and linebacker - three key positions for the Broncos’ offensive and defensive schemes.

Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks: The Preseason No Bull Review - Mile High Report

For the first real preseason action of the season, the Denver Broncos faced the Seattle Seahawks in the Emerald City. Get my No Bull take on the game and what we can take away from what we saw Thursday night.

Tuls’ Takes 6.0: Preseason Week 1 Rookie Winners | The Draft Network

With a sack in each of his first two preseason games, undrafted EDGE Malik Reed is making his case to compete for a rotational role on the Denver Broncos. That same juice he showed at Nevada as an ultra-productive pass rusher has been on display for this Denver coaching staff for most of camp, and now, the first two preseason games. If Reed can keep this momentum going, he will not only be a lock for the 53, but he may also carve out a role as a situational pass rusher.

Biggest Steal of the 2018 NFL Draft | The Draft Network

Lindsay watched his home town team selected two running backs in the draft that weren’t him, and after the draft Lindsay said that he almost didn’t choose Denver because of how upset he was that they drafted two players of the same position before him. But after talking with his parents and examining the running back situation in Denver, Lindsay realized that this was his best spot -- plus it would allow him to continuing living at home with his mom and dad, something he did throughout his entire rookie year.

A look around the AFC West

The Chiefs Have a Plan for Patrick Mahomes’s Upcoming Mega-extension - The Ringer

Kansas City’s team-building decisions will become more complicated when it comes time to make Mahomes very rich. But the Chiefs have been prepared for that moment ever since they drafted him.

Five things we learned from the Chiefs-Bengals preseason opener - Arrowhead Pride

On Saturday night, the Chiefs rolled to an easy victory over the Bengals to open the preseason — and here’s what you need to know

Five winners and five losers from Chiefs’ 38-17 win over the Bengals - Arrowhead Pride

The Chiefs won their first preseason game Saturday, and we have the day’s winners and losers.

Winners and Losers from preseason week one - Bolts From The Blue

Thank goodness that game didn’t count towards their actual record, because as a guy who lives on the East coast, I would have hated having to stay up until 1:30am my time to watch the Chargers...

REPORT: Chargers activate LB Jatavis Brown from PUP - Bolts From The Blue

He’s got some catching up to do

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden offers unwavering support for Antonio Brown through foot injury absence and helmet grievance - Silver And Black Pride

Jon Gruden is not known for being a patient man. Last year’s camp, he regularly railed about how frustrating it was to have Martavis Bryant

Raiders Film Room: Rookie defenders preseason week one performances vs Rams - Silver And Black Pride

Football is officially back. There has been plenty of drama surrounding the Raiders with Antonio Brown’s feet and helmet grabbing many headlines.

Raiders claim CB Hamp Cheevers off waivers from Falcons - Silver And Black Pride

Following the Raiders’ first preseason game, they had a few injuries to deal with. One of which was apparently to cornerback DJ Killings, causing the team to send him to injured reserve.

NFL News

Arbitrator rules against Antonio Brown – ProFootballTalk

The decision isn’t a surprise.

Seattle Seahawks-Broncos: How 5 players on the roster bubble performed - Field Gulls

A view from the other sideline.

NFL preseason winners and losers: Raiders delightfully chaotic - NFL.com

Who’s up and who’s down after the first weekend of preseason games? Gregg Rosenthal sees positives for the Raiders amid their drama and a frighteningly long list of injured players for the 49ers.

The NFL’s Great Sean McVay Experiment Has Officially Begun - The Ringer

Nearly half of the league’s teams enter this season with new play-callers as they try to replicate the Rams’ offensive magic. What will determine who succeeds in a world where the coaching phenom is football’s most precious commodity?

Mike Tomlin: Urgency of now, not longevity, is my focus – ProFootballTalk

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin signed a one-year contract extension last month that leaves him under contract in Pittsburgh through the 2021 season. Tomlin has signed two-year extensions in the past, but said at the time he signed the deal that he wasn’t bothered by the change.

Antonio Brown threatens NFL with liability if he’s injured in a new helmet – ProFootballTalk

One of the first lessons in law school goes like this: When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When neither is on your side, pound on the table. Antonio Brown’s legal team is pounding on the table.

FMIA: Sense Has To Prevail in Antonio Brown’s Unsafe Helmet Gripe. Right? – ProFootballTalk

NFL training camp tour stops to see the Packers, Steelers, Texans, Saints and more, plus a look at Antonio Brown’s helmet problem.

Vikings will release Kevin McDermott – ProFootballTalk

The Vikings special teams shakeup extends beyond the trade for kicker Kaare Vedvik. Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that the team will release long snapper Kevin McDermott.

Jerry Jones: Tony Pollard capable of carrying the load – ProFootballTalk

Ezekiel Elliott remains out of Cowboys camp and the team has been using rookie Tony Pollard as their top back in his absence.