Broncos Country finally got to see Joe Flacco, Von Miller, and most of the rest of the first teams in the new systems. It was just a handful of snaps, but there are hints to pick at for how guys will look going forward. Keep in mind that both the offense and defense are stripped down to the bones for evaluation purposes. Also remember it’s still very early so a lot could change between now and Oakland.
1. The Austin Fort injury really sucks.
2. Dalton Risner’s legit.
3. Rich Scangarello’s running game won’t be all ZBS.
4. The screen game is going to be nasty.
5. Don Barclay is a backup starting.
6. Joe Flacco’s probably better than he looked in the red zone.
First and foremost, the news that Austin Fort will miss the season because of a knee injury really threw a damper over the whole night. He played as the move tight end on Royce Freeman’s 50-yard scamper. While he still looked like he’d need time to improve as a blocker, his route running and ball skills will be missed.
On the plus side, Dalton Risner stood out in a big way on the above play as well as a few other times. With Noah Fant facing a steep learning curve and Lock firmly behind Joe Flacco on the depth chart, the second round guard has been the Broncos’ rookie who looks likeliest to make a big impact in 2019. Last night’s performance did nothing to alter that expectation.
One other area where Risner showed up is how Munchak and Rich Scangarello tried to get him out into space to lead the way. On Lindsay’s 2nd and 9 run, the Broncos utilized down blocks by the line and pulled Risner across to lead through the hole. Andy Janovich kicked out the overhanging defender and Lindsay was into the second level.
While I’m talking about concepts, the first team offense showed hints of the incoming screen game Scangarello brings over from the 49ers. Both Tim Patrick and Lindsay were featured on these plays, which becomes a lot more interesting when you realize Kyle Shanahan’s offense had some of the best screen designs in the league a year ago.
I mentioned immediately after the game how the Broncos line and play calling struck me as underwhelming in the red zone. With the benefit of coffee and slow motion to really break down the progressions, it looked a lot more promising. Take this completion to Freeman, for example.
One last thought I’ve had a few times between the Hall of Fame game and last night is Don Barclay. At least so far this preseason he has had a few good moments mixed in with some missed blocks. Right now he looks like the first lineman off the bench at guard, but his performance has me hoping Ron Leary can make it through the 2019 season unscathed.
1. Isaac Yiadom impresses.
2. Bradley Chubb quietly stands out.
3. A.J. Johnson’s the current LB1.
I mentioned last night how Isaac Yiadom impressed me with his play this preseason, and it only looked better with a cup of Joe. The penalty he was dinged for that gave the Seahawks new life on 3rd and 11 was the definition of a judgement call. I’d bet it goes uncalled in a game where the refs don’t throw 30+ flags.
What was even more encouraging was how Yiadom responded later in the game. On 3rd and 9 Geno Smith chose to go to David Moore on a slant. The Broncos 2nd year corner stuck like glue and reached in to disrupt the catch as the ball arrived.
It’s also impossible to ignore Chubb’s influence on the play above. He stuck to his assignment, then rushed Smith into throwing the ball into a contested situation. Chubb also impressed me with his performance on the Seahawks screen pass Adam Gotsis knocked down:
One of the big questions about Chubb this year is how he’ll fare in space after struggling in limited reps as a rookie. So when he plays the screen by getting width to provide himself an opportunity to force the ball back in, it catches my eye.
Outside of those two, the starting defense looked as good as advertised. Miller still looks plenty explosive off the snap even with additional weight, while Chris Harris and the defensive line held their own. De’Vante Bausby also showed off some promising play.
Noteworthy that Bausby's playing with the ones in place of Callahan who's out tonight.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 9, 2019
I'd write the AAF star down as CB4. pic.twitter.com/dSfujszuau
The plan is to keep a close eye on the linebackers as I proceed further into the game, but I’d bet if the season started today Alexander Johnson is the current LB1. Hollins, Keishawn Bierria, and Josh Watson also mixed in snaps with the first team D.
The results were a bit of a mixed bag. Watson was late on an assignment and skipped under a block, Bierria took a false step, but recovered to make a tackle, and Hollins gave up a little ground at the point of attack (and also looked solid in coverage.) Johnson looks like the sturdiest option. His skillset is similar to Davis’ and Jewell’s in that he’s sturdy at the point of attack, but lacks the pure athleticism that jumps off the tape.
I’ll let you know more once I have time to digest the rest of the game.