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8 things we learned from the Broncos’ loss to the Niners

Here’s what we learned about the Denver Broncos from their 24-15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With the Broncos third preseason game in the books, things are officially moving toward true prep for the regular season. Saturday’s matchup with the Rams will be the dress rehearsal, and the focus will move to the starters. So really, this is one of the last chances to gleam where things are moving as far as the final roster.

What did we learn?

This could mean nothing, but until I figure out how to be a fly on the wall in coaches meetings it sure seems noteworthy. Since camp opened, it looks like a foregone conclusion that Don Barclay was the backup to watch behind Leary.

As I mentioned before the game, I had my eyes out for the backup linemen in part because Barclay’s far from reassuring. It’s hard to blame any one lineman on the sluggish run game until I can look back through all the reps, so it’s hard to blame the undrafted guard there. It isn’t too soon to note how Schlottman did get beat pretty badly on a pass pro rep in the second quarter, though.

Sanders’ big return.

Earlier today news broke that Sanders would get the start and it was really cool to see him get a slew of targets from Flacco. The Broncos’ passing game is completely different with him on the field, so it’s good to see him so far ahead of schedule.

Bradley Chubb looks like a future Hall of Famer

It’s almost like Chubb heard what Louis Riddick said about him making the jump this year and decided to show out.

If you’ve followed along this summer, I consider Chubb only second to Von Miller as far as his value to the Broncos in 2019. If he can continue to achieve pressures at a similar rate to what he did as a rookie and grow in all other aspects of his game, I’m beyond stoked.

But if he can improve as a pass rusher?

Oh man.

Shelby Harris looks like an All-Pro

It seems notable that Harris played so much with the first team nickel package. It also makes a ton of sense. He finished second among Broncos defensive lineman in pressures last year behind Derek Wolfe, despite playing less defensive snaps than all but DeMarcus Walker.

At one point tonight, Joe Tessitore said Jimmy Garropolo did not have a single pass that wasn’t touched by the Broncos. Shelby Harris played a huge part in that as he kept getting hands up to bat them down.

Joe Flacco looks comfortable

If the Broncos hope to contend for a playoff spot this season, they probably need Joe Flacco to turn back the clock to 2014. Preseason’s not a great time to say with any confidence if that’s what they’re getting, but Flacco does look comfortable in the Rich Scangarello offense.

Every scoring drive in the first half ended in 3, so it’s hardly damning to criticize the first team for failing to score. I will admit I’m not a huge fan of red zone fade plays, so let’s hope the Broncos’ OC dials up something better when the games start to matter.

Drew Lock looks good. And bad. Then get’s hurt.

After a bobbled snap to start his reps, Lock settled in with a couple of nice short connections. He showed off his wheels on a decent scramble to get a first down that held up after a challenge and looked comfortable.

He mixed in a forced throw to Kelvin McKnight before leading a 2-minute drive to close the first half.

His second half came to an end when he hurt his thumb. Luckily, the 2019 rookie class dodged a couple of bullets as both Lock and Noah Fant’s injury reports came back as nothing too serious.

The Broncos young receivers continue to flash

Keeping in mind that I’m limited to broadcast angles for most plays, I still found Trinity Benson and Juwann Winfree’s play encouraging. Benson had a couple of plays where he had a chance at a catch along the sideline and brings legitimate speed to the position, while Winfree had a nice catch in the third quarter.

Reports out of camp suggest Winfree’s all but locked in for WR5. Nick Williams and River Cracraft are currently running the inside track for WR6. With a couple games to go, I currently think Benson and Kelvin McKnight are going to get serious consideration for the practice squad.

There’s clarity coming to the Broncos’ bubble battles

I mentioned last week how Trey Marshall looks like his stock has been trending down over the last couple of weeks. Between his performance in Seattle and tonight, it looks like Trey Johnson’s right there with him.

I’ve mentioned before how most NFL team’s in the league have depth questions about their offensive line. So it isn’t a surprise that the 2nd and 3rd team didn’t impress against a talented 49er defense. Even still, it is disappointing is how Sam Jones and Jake Rodgers looked like sieves on the right side time after time.

Justin Hollins had his worst game as a pro

It’s probably unfair to linger too long on Hollins’ rough night because he played so well the first two preseason games. At the same time, playing mostly edge he definitely showed one of his big weaknesses coming out tonight: he still needs to develop a better pass rush repertoire and get stronger.

Hollins wasn’t alone in his struggle. DeMarcus Walker and Dre’Mont Jones were both abused in the third quarter. It’s the second quiet game from Walker, and if he loses his roster battle it will be due to the fact that he’s been an unreliable run defender. Mike Purcell doesn’t earn the same kind of hype as a pass rusher, but he’s stout at the point of attack and could play in the base D if injuries strike.

One player who did stand out in the second half was Dekoda Watson. Now, he should. But considering the simple fact that you can never have too many pass rushers and that Elway just cut Jeff Holland, it’s nice to know the veteran still has it.