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Broncos’ first-team offense is a concern, but starting defense looks dominant

Mile High Report’s Jeffrey Essary appeared in his weekly segment with the “Morning Blitz” to review the previous game but also look ahead to the start of the regular season - is it a problem that the offense can’t score a touchdown?

San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Jeffrey Essary joined “The Morning Blitz” out of Kansas once again to talk Broncos football, and it should not surprise you to know Essary is definitely concerned that the first-team offense hasn’t score a touchdown, despite limited play.

“Yeah, absolutely it’s a concern. There hasn’t been a lot of rhythm or consistency on the offensive side,” he said, qualifying that it has looked like typical preseason ball with safe plays and basic schemes. “It doesn’t look like Scangarello is opening up the playbook in the red zone, but it is still a bit of a concern. You’d like to see the offense go out and light it up a little bit, but I get the balance of keeping players healthy.”

But if Essary is only a little concerned about starting quarterback Joe Flacco and the offense’s ability to punch it in, he’s a lot concerned about the likely backup quarterback Kevin Hogan, who showed very little in the recent Broncos-Rams game to feel confident about.

Despite decent protection from the offensive line, Hogan could not move the chains and that stalled the offense pretty quick.

“I thought [the line] protected the quarterback pretty well, but the QB play was just so poor in that game that the offense just wasn’t able to move,” Essary said. “You hope Joe Flacco doesn’t miss any time - especially now that Drew Lock is out with an injury - because Hogan just doesn’t look like he’d be capable of even spot filling-in at this point.”

But as disappointing as the offense has been, the defense has been quite impressive - even the guys fighting for backup spots.

The last game in which any defensive starters played was Preseason Week 2 against the Niners in which the defense just suffocated Jimmy Garoppolo.

“I’m really excited about the defense,” Essary said, noting that even though Garoppolo was pretty rusty after playing the first time since getting injured last season, the Broncos completely dominated the 49ers offense. “The starters played just 16 snaps and nearly had a pick-six, did have an interception and had a strip sack plus held [Garoppolo] to 1 of 6 completions for 0 yards. That’s a really impressive performance.”

The best part about it, Essary said, was the complementary football between the pass rush and the secondary.

“We talk about the pass rush. We talk about the secondary. But seeing those two units work together and create plays - pass rush getting to the quarterback and complementing the secondary, and the secondary causing the quarterback to hold onto the ball a little longer so the pass rush can get there - it was great complementary football. I’m excited by what we’re going to see this season.”

Essary isn’t expecting much in the way of scheme for the final preseason game this Thursday - as it will be backups only and that will mean an offense led by Hogan and Rypien again - but there are plenty of bubble players that will be exciting to watch:

Mike Purcell keeps making a case:

After Dekoda Watson and Zach Kerr were cut, the battle between Mike Purcell and DeMarcus Walker for defensive lineman will be a fun one. Essary practically predicted the fate of Kerr just hours before he was cut - and the main reason was great play from Purcell the last two games.

“I was really impressed with Mike Purcell in Week 3 against the Rams,” Essary said, noting that Kerr has been penciled in for the backup run-plugging spot, but he prophetically pointed out on the air that Purcell may have made a case to leapfrog Kerr onto the roster - which is exactly what happened Monday morning. “[Purcell] was getting tremendous push and blew up a couple plays. One in red zone where he nearly took the ball away from quarterback before the QB handed it off. Purcell has been really impressive.”

Some standout rookies on D

Essary also really likes the potential from fifth-round pick Justin Hollins and undrafted rookie Malik Reed - partly because it means John Elway is getting more adept at drafting solid players who will contribute right away.

“Reed has been tearing it up in camp and preseason,” Essary said.

Impressive defensive back backups

Finally Essary has been been impressed by De’Vante Bausby and Isaac Yiadom - two young guys who are likely the third and fourth cornerbacks on the roster and who have instantly helped the secondary this season.

“Bausby has played really well, and I think he’s locked up a spot at third or fourth cornerback, depending on where they play Isaac Yiadom, who’s been really good too,” Essary noted. “Guys on the defensive side down on the roster have been impressive and really gotten a chance to shine.”

Bausby - the cornerback of AAF fame who also spent some time with Vic Fangio’s Chicago Bears defense - told “Broncos Country Tonight” on KOA Radio that his focus all preseason has been just being more consistent in his reads and his level of play.

While Chris Harris Jr., Justin Simmons, Su’a Cravens, Yiadom and Bryce Callahan have been great mentors to Bausby, he said it’s the coach that really makes this defense run smoothly.

“He’s been the same Vic Fangio. He’s a guru, man. Just got to trust the defense, trust the process, you’ll be straight,” Bausby said, adding a bold promise to teammates and fans:

“I do believe we have one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, but the guys we got and coaching we got, it’s going to be crazy,” he said. “Put the team on our back and we’ll be straight.”