Well, that sucked.
The first half of the Broncos’ game looked a bit like they were sleepwalking through a sixth preseason game. The defense looked hapless, and the offense did nothing. The second half showed some glimpses of better days to come.
Anyway, here’s what we learned tonight.
1. Isaac Yiadom’s growing pains continue.
Heading into camp, I fully expected Kareem Jackson to play corner while Will Parks and Justin Simmons lined up at safety. Fangio had other ideas, and up until tonight it looked like it was going to go as smoothly as you could dare hope.
Throughout the preseason Yiadom looked like he was blossoming into a reliable contributor this year. Then the lights went on, and Denver’s 2018 third rounder disappeared into the black hole.
On the Raiders’ first drive, Gruden lined up his 6-foot-6 tight end Darren Waller out wide to match up against Isaac Yiadom. Then he did it again. After that Derek Carr smelled blood in the water and went after him all throughout the first half.
2. Courtland Sutton flashes serious promise.
Sutton is another sophomore I’ve been anxious to see in the Broncos’ full scheme. Flacco found Sutton on a couple thirds early in the game and showed some really nice chemistry. With the way everything around him looked like a bit of a meltdown, it certainly seems like Sutton is heading for a breakout on first glance.
Unfortunately, on the Broncos last drive of the first half, he took a questionable hit by the Raiders’ Vontaze Burfict.
3. The Broncos’ line is offensive.
You know it’s bad when Garett Bolles isn’t my biggest gripe here. Ja’Wuan James got hurt. His replacement Elijah Wilkinson gave up a big sack. Ronald Leary couldn’t stop holding.
The Raiders’ front 7 isn’t close to the best around the league, and yet the Broncos’ run game was stuck in neutral the whole first half. To compound the issue, Flacco looked lost against Paul Guenther’s blitzes time and again.
Chicago’s front 7 is among the best in the league. It’s going to be a really long week for Mike Munchak.
4. The defensive line showed a little promise.
As bad as the offensive line looked, the defensive line had some nice moments. Josh Jacobs ripped the Broncos second level on a catch and had a touchdown, but he averaged less than four yards per carry on the ground. Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris had a couple of really nice plays littered throughout the game. It just wasn’t anywhere near enough.
5. Second half surge, sort of.
Denver came out of the half and moved the ball down to scoring range in the second half, thanks to the third-down heroics of Phillip Lindsay. The blocking improved up front and Royce Freeman broke a huge 26-yard run behind a pulling Dalton Risner to get the Broncos into the red zone.
Great job by Risner out in front blocking for Freeman https://t.co/rmVjB8qqRN— Ryan Edwards (@redwardsradio) September 10, 2019
6. Kareem Jackson was a great addition.
Normally a good pass defense isn’t going to catch your eye. It isn’t a pick, it isn’t even a tackle for a loss. In the stat sheet it can get confused with a bad pass by the quarterback.
Not Kareem Jackson’s two passes defensed in the late third.
7. The Broncos’ sh*tty special teams continues to struggle.
There were blocks in the back, missed kicks, big returns given up. Something’s got to give here because the Broncos don’t have enough talent to win if they’re killing themselves in the kicking and return games.
8. Red Zone woes continue
I held back on complaining about the Broncos’ red zone performance in the preseason because the offense was running a simplified scheme. There was some improvement there tonight, but far too many players came up short.
9. The pass rush is nonexistent.
Derek Carr hit the end of the first half with all of one incompletion - a batted ball by Bradley Chubb. It was one of the only times either edge rusher made a positive impact on passing plays as Gruden dialed up a lot of quick passes to neutralize them.
10. Lindsay and Sanders are back.
As I mentioned earlier, Phillip Lindsay’s play in the third quarter was one of the few reasons for hope of a comeback. In the middle of the fourth, Joe Flacco uncorked a deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders. He did it again in the waning moments and finished with the Broncos’ only touchdown on the night.
11. Rich Scangarello’s growing pains.
Until I can get another look at everything, all I can really say is I don’t know what was worse - the Broncos’ first play of the game, the red zone split line look, or the clock management at the end of the first half that took points off the board.
My first overreaction of the Broncos’ young season may be that hiring Kyle Shanahan’s disciple is a whole heck of a lot different than hiring Shanny.
Much like the rest of the Broncos, he looked better in the second half. Let’s hope that carries over into Week 2. It will need to if Denver is going to have a chance.
Rich Scangarello looking at the Colts old playbook for trick plays?— ThatsGoodSports (@BrandonPerna) September 10, 2019
There certainly has to be better days ahead for the Broncos. I wish I could tell you the schedule gets easier, but more than a couple experts gave the Broncos one of, if not THE hardest schedule in the NFL this year.
For now, let’s just hope they don’t open with another tight end sweep next week.