The Denver Broncos put the absolute beatdown on the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, but the game could have been a lot closer had Dallas not committed a comical amount of penalties throughout the game. There were a few solid winners and losers from the game, but a couple of players stood out above the rest.
Here is who we have given our game balls out for this preseason opener.
It started out slow and was aided by many Dallas Cowboys penalties, but Josh Johnson still played fairly well all things considered. He threw two beauties for a touchdown. The first, a perfectly placed fade to Seth Williams and the other a deep ball to Kendall Hinton, which may have been his best pass of the game.
He took a big step to becoming the Broncos number two quarterback. It was far from perfect, but he flashed enough to gap Brett Rypien enough after this game. - Scotty Payne
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Broncos special teams unit (more specifically their punt/kick returns) had a spark on Saturday night! Washington was one of the main reasons for this. In the first half, Washington had electric punt returns of 18 yards and 27 yards. I fully expect him to break one off for a touchdown sometime during this preseason. On top of that, he had a couple impressive catches on offense early in the game. I’m excited to see what more he can do. - Rachel Strand
There’s been a lot of debate and discussion over Browning moving to edge this offseason. Reports out of training camp indicate he’s shining in his new role. Now after his first preseason game? Seems like it was a good move. He finished with a sack, tackle for loss, QB hit and a pass break up. As Nathaniel Hackett said after the game, “I think you guys saw it… He’s got great bend… He came out and played free.” - Ian St. Clair
This man Browning in his first NFL game at edge really said, "let me just try out this jab inside, spin out" executed it flawlessly, kept his balance, AND finished the play. pic.twitter.com/woH17xrhZd— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) August 14, 2022
I’ll go non-pass rusher/receiver and say Damarri Mathis. After a first quarter that saw Michael Ojemeudia heavily targeted (I believe I counted 5), he was removed from the game to be evaluated for a concussion and was sidelined for the rest of the game. This opened the door for Mathis to flex his chops.
Patience and footwork in off coverage is the type of progression coaches hoped to see out of Damarri from his days of primarily pressing receivers off the line at Pitt. Mathis’ sticky play in coverage forced the Cowboys backup QBs to look beyond first reads, and his disruption of an outside slant even lead to P.J. Locke’s interception.
Not only was he a force in coverage but multiple times we saw runs bounced outside towards Mathis and end in a textbook one-on-one wrap up. A big, fast, and physical playmaker who isn’t afraid to throw his body in a pile and finish a tackle. Mathis was the Denver corner I came away most impressed by after Week 1. - Frankie Abbott
Those wide receivers!
In the battle to replace Tim Patrick in the lineup, we were treated to quite the show as four wide receivers really balled out on Saturday. The four-headed beast of Brandon Johnson, Seth Williams, Kendall Hinton, and Jalen Virgil reared their heads all game long. Each deserves their own little subheading here with a game ball highlight for them. - Tim Lynch
Early on it was Brandon Johnson who helped spark some offense in the second quarter. He would pile up four catches for 64 yards. He wouldn’t find the end zone, but the big plays help lead to those first half scores. It was a big statement game for the rookie who is making his case to snag one of those roster spots on the 53-man squad.
Brandon Johnson with a great route on the out-and-up and even better focus to finish this catch through the bobble.— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) August 14, 2022
Also wanna highlight Josh Johnson for standing in and delivering, Borghi with a GREAT blitz pickup, and the creativity in route-combos. pic.twitter.com/UIjkHzCHqX
Seth Williams had a relatively quiet night of the four I’m mentioning, but his four catches for 29 yards were very impactful. The obvious touchdown from Josh Johnson above is one, but he also had a monster 19 yard reception in the first quarter that put the team into field goal range. However, they would ultimately go for it on a fourth down and would come away empty handed on points. Williams is young at just 22 years old and is a big bodied wide receiver. He could be in play for a Tim Patrick type role this season.
Fan favorite and former starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, Kendall Hinton showed up big in the first preseason game too. He hauled in three catches for 53 yards and one hell of a touchdown reception. This 24 yard diving catch showed his ability to go up and get the ball. He came up in a big way to make his case for the 53-man roster.
Saving the best for last, I came away incredible impressed with the effort and performance from undrafted rookie wide receiver Jalen Virgil. At 6’1”, Virgil is known for his speed. He ran a 4.37 40-yard at his Pro Day. The signing seemed to suggest more of a punt/kick return type guy, but he showed he could play NFL ball at wide receiver too on Saturday. He led the team in yardages with three catches for 83 yards, with none bigger than getting Brett Rypien and the Broncos offense out of a huge hole from their own one yard line.
Quite a good first step for this team as they showed off some depth. The NFL season is long and grueling, so it helps to feel confident knowing your team has some quality depth behind those starters to get them through that long haul of a regular season.