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Payton not worried about o-line: ‘We’ll clean that up’

The head coach was happy about offense’s successes; will go to the tape to see where to improve.

Denver Broncos v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

While you (and I ) may be more than slightly worried about the offensive line moving into this 2023 season, head coach Sean Payton is not.

At least he’s not showing it.

“The assignments were fine. We just got leveraged on a few plays and got hurried a few too many times,” he said about last Friday’s first preseason matchup for his new team. “We will be able to clean that up.”

Payton didn’t think the protection was without criticism, but he’s not concerned about the line or its ability to protect the quarterback. Notably, MHR’s Ross Allen would agree after checking the tape on every dropback from Wilson.

“I thought offensively, it took us a minute to get going. I think we can protect better,” he said. “It was good to see that the first group have success.”

That success came on their fourth drive - a number of drives almost unheard of for starting veteran offensive players in preseason games.

“We looked at the numbers and we went one more with the offense. …and then I wanted to, shoot I wanted to score and leave with a good taste in our mouths.”

The drive started with an 11-yard burst from Samaje Perine to midfield, followed by a catch and run by Courtland Sutton that was good for 19 yards. Then Russell Wilson his Adam Trautman for four yards before handing the ball off to Perine again for a couple.

Jerry Jeudy bobbled his catch on the next play but followed that up by grabbing a strike over the middle and then running into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.

“I thought it was really good how we responded,” Wilson said about the offense bouncing back from a bad first drive. “After the first drive, we really responded — the ball started moving. Third drive, and then the fourth drive obviously we finished it off. I thought it was a really great route by Jerry. Good job by him just getting open there on a split second. … He just did a great job of winning and getting a touchdown for him, and that was big.”

Emmanuel Acho here points out not only what a good route Jeudy ran for that TD but also the correct read that Wilson made on the blitzing defense (a correction from earlier in the game):

But don’t get the wrong impression.

Despite being pleased overall, Payton was not happy about losing the game in the end.

“What I told the team, regardless of whether it is a preseason game or a regular-season game, you can’t stand losing, especially in that fashion.”

Obviously Payton was talking about the backup defense giving up a touchdown in the final minute to a backup Cardinals’ offense.

Jeudy noted that the head coach doesn’t care if it’s a preseason game or regular season matchup, he likes to win.

“It’s a preseason game, but at the end of the day, it’s still football and nobody likes losing,” Jeudy said. “Coach Payton is a guy that doesn’t like losing. His team is people that don’t like losing.”

What Payton will be emphasizing this week will be who can improve on mistakes quickly in the second preseason game.

“When you get into the season and you have one of those games that are just fantastic and you come in and watch the film, it’s never quite as good as you thought. Then when you have one of those games that maybe it seems like the sky’s falling, typically speaking, it’s not as bad as you think,” he explained, noting that he tries to point out what needs work but also encourage what was done well. “We’re in a race. Everyone has played a game now. It’s preseason, but in Weeks 1, 2 and 3, who can improve quickly? That matters a lot.”

Among those needing some definite improvement - in addition to the offensive line - is the kickers.

Having missed on three kicks out of four, the two guys competing for the kicking job may both find themselves looking for work in a few weeks if this weekend’s showing isn’t better. And punter Riley Dixon needs to start punting like apparently he has done in practice.

“The kicking game—we didn’t punt it like we thought. We’ve had a good two weeks punting the ball when you guys watch out here,” Payton said. “I think he’ll be much better the next game we play.”

Although the running plays were roughly half the number of pass plays, the run game enjoyed some success, including a rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter by rookie Jaleel McLaughlin.

Payton added that the starters will play again in the second game but fans can expect a different approach in the third. In other words, Payton will play mostly the guys just looking to make the team.

“Jumping ahead, we’ll get a little bit more work with the [No. 1 units] in this game, and then certainly in the third game, we’ll approach it completely differently,” Payton said. “I was kind of pleased with the pitch count numbers. We had one player at 50 [snaps], which was high, but for the most part, our numbers were spot on. That worked out pretty well.”

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