It is a new season for the Denver Broncos and it feels like years since we’ve seen competent football played by this team. I went into this game looking forward to the Sean Payton era, while trying not to put too much weight on a preseason game.
At the end of the day, not a lot matters about this game or what happened. Both teams were obviously trying to warm up their operations and get the kinks worked out of how game days run.
I liked that Payton kept the first string out there longer. They were atrocious with many MANY bad habits last season. I think it is good to give them lots of practice in the preseason to set the foundation for successful offensive football.
I will note, I think it is cool to see preseason action as it is the only way to really get a feel for who down the depth chart has the goods to make it in the NFL. That being said, I really don’t put a lot of weight in what happens past the first-stringers playing. Mostly, what is of interest with the 2nd stringers and beyond are the players that look like they consistently winning.
The defense overall looked solid. I noticed that Vance Joseph spent the vast majority of the game running very vanilla schemes (and rightly so).
I saw a defense largely bend but not break early on. We didn’t even have our starting cornerbacks out there which is a pretty huge impact on how the defense overall works.
Alex Singleton made a solid open-field tackle in the flat. Later in the first drive, he made a superb TFL for a 3-yard loss to stop Arizona’s first drive. I really like Singleton against the run. My hope is that his play against the past this season takes a step forward. He’s an up-and-down player, but one that has a lot of potential even as a veteran.
Nik Bonitto was only on the field for 14 snaps, but he looked great when he was out there. He was ½ of a sack, had a nice QB pressure, and had 3 tackles in the game.
Elijah Garcia of all the depth players up front really made the most out of the game. He had 2 sacks, 2 TFLs, and 2 quarterback hits to go along with 3 tackles in the game.
Essang Bassey was the only guy in the secondary to really make a splash play. It was almost not worth talking about as largely the interception he had came from a slip by the receiver on the play. That being said, he did catch the ball and make the play. That has to count for something.
The biggest thing that Broncos Country wants to see from this team is an offense that can score points and move the ball somewhat consistently.
We didn’t see a ton of that from the offense (especially when they were facing the Cardinal’s first team). There seems to be a lot of kinks to work out across the offensive line both in run blocking and protecting Russell Wilson.
Given that is the first preseason game of the year, I don’t think we need to start jumping off cliffs about Wilson or the line. It will be something to keep an eye on for next week’s action.
A 3 and out is not what you want to see from your starting QB to kick the season off. I’m going to refrain from too much of a knee-jerk reaction on this though. Thankfully we are seeing Wilson work out the kinks in the preseason instead of week 1. He still had a very efficient body of work with a TD and a QBR over 100. The TD pass was what you want to see from a quarterback who had seen the defense bring multiple blitzes on big plays two times before. If the defense wants to keep pressing that button, your QB should be able to hit that slant over the middle to make them pay.
Jarrett Stidham overall got a lot of work in this game and didn’t look very good. His bad pick was against a guy who had perfect coverage. You have to just see it and go elsewhere with the ball. When the defender is on your target’s hip like that such a throw is very dangerous.
Ben DiNucci had a far better game with the 3s. He was efficient with the ball and was able to lead a scoring drive. Some of the weight of his performance has to be seen through the lens of weak competition, but he played well.
The starting offensive line looked very shaky. It was rare to see Wilson having a clean pocket with the requisite 3 seconds to make a good pay happen. Your offense is going to suck if you can’t stop the pass rush.
Garrett Bolles had an especially horrid game. Arizona got him out in space and he got taken to school on more than one occasion. Hopefully, this is something he can clean up, otherwise, Payton will have to do something with the protection to give him help out there.
The positive for the line was that they were able to open up enough space for the run game to work. It wasn’t beautiful, but early on they were averaging over 4 ypc which is what you are looking for to keep a defense on its heels.
Samaje Perine showed real fight in his carries. I was impressed with his 2nd and 5 run for 5 yards where the Arizona Cardinals had him dead to rights at a 1.5-yard gain and he just kept fighting through the tackles. It was a beastly run and I’m excited to see him get more carries for us as the season wears on.
I also was very impressed with what we saw late from Jaleel McLaughlin. He’s got the speed and quickness to be a real NFL weapon out of the backfield. I’m curious to see if Sean Payton sees the same thing and finds a way to use him in our offense without things being predictable.
Courtland Sutton looks like a brand new player. He was playing big, fast, and looked superb. I honestly thought much of the talk about his training camp was largely hype, but after seeing him on the field, I’m changing my tune. If he can stay healthy, he’s going to have a big season for this offense.
Jerry Jeudy looked really superb as a route runner as usual. His drop in the 2nd quarter was pretty disappointing though. You have the catch the ball first.. especially when you catch half the ball with your thigh. I loved seeing him bounce back and score the TD on the next play though. Having a short memory in the NFL is a big benefit. I love what Jeudy brings to the field. With Payton calling the plays, he’s going to be a nightmare for defenses in 2023.
The Broncos Special Teams was a hot mess in this game. Better now than in a real game, but it is still worrisome to see a shanked punt and multiple missed field goals in a game where we lost by one point. We’re trying out two placekickers and this game really didn’t tell us anything about which one is better.
Football is back with a chance for something better for Broncos Country. Hopefully, we’ll see this team grow and learn as the weeks pass in the 2023 season. I do think this team has the right coach to right the ship.
The defense looked good, the offense got it rolling in the 2nd quarter and looked very good. Hopefully, these are steps the team can build on in order to build some momentum for the games that actually mean something with real play calls.
There’s a lot of work to be done before this team will be ready for regular season play. Friday was the first big on the field step for the team. I’m excited to see where the team goes next… compared to last season the only direction they can go is up.