As I write this, the Denver Broncos appear to have escaped the preseason without a significant injury to any member of the starting offense or defense. Knock on wood. Done? Good. So here is what I noticed on the live view of the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams.
There is no QB controversy
Early in the game it looked like Teddy Bridgewater was going to leave the door open for Drew Lock to make people question a merciful conclusion to the never ending QB competition. After opening 0-4 he began to find his footing and finished with a pretty touchdown to Courtland Sutton. More than the throw itself, what stood out about the play is how Bridgewater maneuvered the pocket to steer clear of the Ram who beat Calvin Anderson. Poise in the pocket isn’t flashy like a big arm or 4.4 speed, but helps the offense stay on track as he can mitigate the rush and keep his eyes downfield.
Drew Lock entered the contest following the touchdown, and had a first half I’m sure he’d like to forget. Box score scouts may be able to overlook it because Lock did finish 1/1 for 12 yards and a 116.7 passer rating, but Lock isn’t blameless for the strip sack that killed the Broncos’ two minute drive to end the first. Cameron Fleming got beat around the edge and I promise we’ll get to that tomorrow, but Lock held onto the ball way too long. It’s an ugly trend that emerged in training camp that Lock needs to break if he wants to fight his way back into the starting lineup.
Cameron Fleming is beat around the edge. Drew Lock never feels the pressure. Strip sack. pic.twitter.com/atsZt3k8Yu— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
Overall, Lock’s night was a mix of good and bad. He threw a nice touchdown to Austin Fort and had a fun scramble out of muddy pocket where the Rams failed to take him down on their first attempt. He also missed a streaking Tyrie Cleveland. More troubling, Lock continued to show signs that his mechanics will break down once he begins to feel the rush.
While the talking heads and radio pundits will surely continue to fan the flames to stir up drama, I doubt any of the Broncos’ decision makers are second guessing their decision to start Teddy Bridgewater in week one.
The defensive line looked as good as hoped.
I suspect there’s going to be a ton of talk about how the Rams’ backups were able to move the ball with relative easy against the starting defense. The Broncos’ playoff hopes will live and die on what Fangio can do, after all.
If we’re looking to cast blame, look past the defensive line and edge rushers. They looked nigh unstoppable in limited action. Dre’Mont Jones and Shelby Harris really stood out when I was looking back at the plays with their burst off the snap. Jones also did a nice job holding up to a double team on a short yardage play. While it’s far too soon to say, both Von Miller and Bradley Chubb definitely looked promising.
Are the linebackers a cause for concern?
Looking past the first line of defense, I thought it was a bit of a mixed performance from the linebackers. Josey Jewell looked better than I dared hope after he missed a bunch of time to the groin injury. He had a nice sack on third down and continued to play the kind of team defense I came to expect from him last year. Alexander Johnson had a sloppy penalty and looked like he ran too far upfield on one of the screens.
On 3rd and 7 Josey Jewell gets a sack to and the Broncos D is off the field. pic.twitter.com/yadjZXFz8B— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
Special teams shenanigans
Going into the game it looked like the return job was wide open with Trinity Benson, Kendall Hinton, and Damarea Crockett getting snaps tonight. Turns out I didn’t think about it enough, because Denver’s thin air made it nearly impossible for any of them to do a thing with the ball. It was really disappointing for both Benson and Hinton; they’ve outplayed Spencer on offense, but may have needed to make an impression on special teams to secure a roster spot.
The other big issue I had with McMahon’s teams tonight is how the coverage unit continued to show issues with shedding blocks. This was supposed to be a point of emphasis this week. While I’m fully aware rotating players through kickoff and punt probably impacts the performance, definitely anxious about how they’ll fair when the opposing returners can actually hurt the Broncos.
Broncos ought to sign Corey Bojorquez after the Rams cut him.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
Thoughts on the Broncos’ roster battles
Due to a lengthy second drive by the Rams, the Broncos rotated their defensive line and edge rushers. It seems telling for the current depth chart: Shamar Stephen and McTelvin Agim came in for the interior line while Jonathon Cooper and Malik Reed relieved Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Another thing I noticed early in the game is that when the Broncos were using 21 personnel (two receivers, a tight end, and two running backs) it was Tim Patrick, Courtland Sutton, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Andrew Beck. Part of this may be due to the Broncos giving enough snaps to Jerry Jeudy to rest him some tonight. It also seems to hint that Beck has definitely won the fullback spot over Adam Prentice.
Barrington Wade and McTelvin Agim gets to Bryce Perkins with some unsung help from Jonathan Harris. pic.twitter.com/h6jCxjHi8r— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 29, 2021
Looks like they made the 53
2 QBs: Lock and Bridgewater
3 RBs: Gordon, Williams, and Boone+
4 TEs: Fant, Okwuegbunam, Saubert, Beck
8 OL: Bolles, Risner, Cushenberry, Glasgow, Massie, Anderson, Meinerz, and Muti
4 WRs: Sutton, Jeudy, Hamler, Patrick
6 DL: S. Harris, Jones, Purcell, Agim, Williams, Stephen
4 ED: Miller, Chubb, Reed, Cooper
4 LBs: Johnson, Jewell, Strnad, and Browning
8 DBs: Fuller, Darby, Surtain II, Jackson, Callahan, Simmons, Sterns, Ojemudia+
3 ST: McManus, Martin, Bobenmoyer
1 DB: Locke III
1 QB: Rypien
1 RB: Freeman
2 WR: Benson, Spencer
1 DB: Johnson
Still fighting in a bubble battle
2 RBs: Crockett, Scott
3 TE/FBs: Prentice, Beyer, Fort
4 OLs: Fleming, Schlottmann, Bailey, Himmelman
4 WRs: Cleveland, Hinton, Williams, Pierson-El
3 DL: Spencer, J. Harris, Mack
2 ED: Mintze, Tuszka
2 LBs: Robinson, Wade
7 DBs: Vincent, Hairston, Motley, McCain, Smith, Marshall