The Denver Broncos will head east to take on Josh Allen and the AFC favorite Buffalo Bills in their week two preseason game. Both teams are coming off a victory in their preseason opener and are looking to move to 2-0 in the preseason.
One of the main storylines of this game will be to see how the Broncos' backups/second-team offense and defense fairs against the starters the Bills plan on playing for a decent chunk of the game. We know we won’t see many of the Broncos’ starters once again so hopefully, our reserves put up a good fight against the Bills' starters.
1 - Broncos backups vs. the Bills starters
This will be a true test for the Broncos' second and third-team players. The Bills' offense is explosive as it comes when it is firing on all cylinders and the defense now has Von Miller coming off the edge, so this won’t be an easy task for them.
Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett called this an “unbelievable opportunity” for the players who will be going up against some of the league's best on Saturday.
“That’s the best evaluation you can possibly get. We want to see who can come out there and play versus the best in the league. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for those guys to step up and show what they can do.”
It is exciting because if these second and third-team guys get pressed into action, they’ll be expected to perform against the best each team has. So, seeing how they’ll perform, especially the rookies and inexperienced guys is something I am looking forward to seeing.
If the Broncos come out and hold their own against the Bills with their reserves, that will be really encouraging to see. Now, if they struggle a bit, it at least gives them something to work on moving forward and they can use this as a teaching moment.
2 - The Broncos' backup quarterback battle continues
The writing appears to be on the wall for this one, but the Broncos' backup quarterback battle continues into week two of the preseason. Veteran journeyman quarterback Josh Johnson will get the second straight start and appears to be the frontrunner for the backup job.
Josh Johnson is coming off a solid two-touchdown performance against the Cowboys and now will look to repeat his success against the Bills' defense. Brett Rypien will likely come in after halftime like last week and will try to show the coaches he’s worthy of starting the preseason finale next week.
Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett mentioned that he’s looking for the quarterbacks to not turn the ball over, make smart decisions, and move the chains.
“Yeah, both guys have done really good. [QB] Josh [Johnson] had a really good game the other night. [It] wasn’t too big for him. I think he’s come out of here and he’s done a good job. [He] had a couple things that he needs to improve on but it’s everybody. Everybody has to improve. I do, those guys do and you just want to keep watching those guys battle and have a healthy competition because ‘Ryp’ (QB Brett Rypien) has done a good job. The idea is who can we get the most consistent? We want to be sure that we’re not turning the ball over, we’re making smart decisions and moving the chains.”
This job appears to be Johnson’s to lose, but him struggling against the Bills starters could give Rypien a chance (or the Broncos look elsewhere). So, this is an important start for Johnson and hopefully, he can repeat the success he had in the preseason opener.
3. Baron Browning’s dominance
The star of the preseason opener was second-year edge rusher Baron Browning. He recorded a sack, a pass deflection, a tackle for a loss, and QB hit against the Cowboys and also showed off his natural bend.
Baron Browning with the outside spin sack before halftime. @baronbrwnng shows great balance/body control to get the QB down— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) August 15, 2022
Perfect time to execute a move like that is last drive before halftime/end of game. You save the movement so it surprises the OL! #passrush #broncoscountry pic.twitter.com/dlBgkyMRJO
He was the best player on the field last week and if he can repeat this sort of success, especially against Josh Allen and the Bills starters, the hype train will be unstoppable.
Browning looked like the real deal and is pushing Malik Reed as the third edge rusher and likely earning reps with the starting defense as a situational passer. Also, with Randy Gregory slowly working his way back to form, we could see Browning play significant snaps in week one against the Seahawks.
I am hoping to see Browning continue his dominance, get a sack or two on Josh Allen and continue to show off that unreal bend and his other pass rush moves.
4 - Run game needs to improve
One of the few disappointments during the preseason opener was the Broncos’ run game and run blocking. They could get nothing going against the Cowboys and backs often had defenders in the backfield or just couldn’t do much with that they were given. Also, backs missed open running lanes and couldn’t create much for themselves either. It was just a poor showing for a team that is expected to be a strong running team.
Nathaniel Hackett unprompted brings up the Broncos' struggles running the football:— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) August 14, 2022
"That run game was not good enough. It's that simple. I'm not happy with that."
I think we’ll see more of third running back Mike Boone in this game. He played sparingly in the opener and should get some more snaps tomorrow. He’s the most explosive back the Broncos arguably have so hopefully he can find some room and make some plays.
Behind him, Stevie Scott and JaQuan Hardy will get the majority of the reps to close out the game. Neither of them really showed a ton against the Cowboys so hopefully, they can do better this time around. Both are longshots for a roster spot and are likely just logging preseason carries for the team so I am not too invested here.
I really just want to see the Broncos' offensive line get more push, open run lanes, and see Mike Boone rip off a few long runs.
5 - Wide receivers Brandon Johnson, Jalen Virgil, Seth Williams, and Kendall Hinton
The stars of the offensive side of the ball in the preseason openers were the Broncos' receivers. They showcased their depth and multiple receivers who are fighting for a roster spot made their case for a roster spot.
First, we have Hall Of Famer Kendall Hinton. He started the game and caught a long touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Johnson. I think his spot on the roster is likely safe, but another big game should help his status or at least raise his trade value a bit.
Next, we have undrafted rookie Brandon Johnson who I talked about earlier today. He has been taking first-team reps all week reportedly and also earned the start last week. He looks pretty safe right now too, but another big game showcasing his talents will be exciting to see.
Big Seth Williams proved he can be a red zone weapon by bringing down a jump-ball fade for a touchdown against the Cowboys. If he can showcase that and more, I think he could push for a roster spot as well.
Jalen Virgil is my x-factor here. He has speed and explosiveness you cannot teach and has consistently brought in deep balls all camp. He had 3 catches for 83 yards against the Cowboys and continued the impressive night by the Broncos' receivers. If he can do this once again, it will be tough to keep him off the roster.
I am skeptical that all four of these guys will be able to repeat or improve on their showings from the opener but hopefully, a few of them can impress once again. I am putting my money on Brandon Johnson and Jalen Virgil to both have big games.