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Broncos at 49ers: The Preseason No Bull Review

The Denver Broncos went to battle against the San Francisco 49ers on Friday. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the Denver Broncos’ most recent game.

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Another preseason match is in the books. While a bit boring, that’s the kind of slog-fest I expect between these two teams.

For the second week in a row, the Denver Broncos lost late. That’s no big deal in the preseason at all. Trey Lance is a pretty talented QB and our 3rd string defense leaves a lot to be desired.

The players that mattered to me had us up 13 - 9 in the 3rd quarter. The team looked ready to play and well-coached (which is all we can ask for at this point for a team that is rebuilding).


Our defense really worked out a lot of zone looks the whole night through for the most part. I’m really curious to see if that’s something that our coaches will be leaning on or if it is just something vanilla that is being used to get the team through the preseason without giving too much away as far as the scheme goes.

I thought our defense throughout the game looked feisty. They were punching at balls all night long and did a solid job of creating turnovers. You can tell it is a philosophy that Vance Joseph is preaching to them.

Front 7

Jonathan Cooper looked fantastic in his short 19 snaps on the field of play. He tallied up 4 tackles, a sack, and a TFL while looking like a real problem for the San Francisco 49ers up front while he was in the game.

I liked what we saw from Zach Allen as well. He showed a superb inside move to get a sack that was really impressive to see from a big guy working the inside on the play. He added a TFL as well along with 3 total tackles.

The other guy I am enjoying is Drew Sanders. He got a similar share as far as snaps go to most of the defensive players on the squad, but he led the team in tackles with 6. He also was credited with a pass defense which is something we need from our inside linebackers. Teams have been able to go over the middle on us for years when we aren’t in nickel due to a lack of serious coverage ability from our ILBs.


Damarri Mathis had great pass defense early on a 3rd down play. He knew how to use leverage, read the play, and deny the pass. We haven’t seen a lot of him this preseason, but with corners, that’s normally a good thing.

Essang Bassey for the 2nd week in a row got gifted another interception. While the raw stats may seem impressive, I’m not excited by what we see of him outside of those plays. He tends to play catch-up quite a bit and doesn’t seem to have the ability to quickly diagnose what is happening in order to stay with his receiver.


I’m not about to sing for joy about our offense. They haven’t really done much to wow Broncos Country in the preseason. But I do see an offense that looks competent and well-coached. We’re seeing this team run sensible plays consistently with a great mix of runs and passes.

The other thing at play is just the preseason being what it is. We’re not really getting exotic with what the offense is doing in either the passing game or the run game. It is very vanilla play-calling with a lot of basic screens mixed in.

That’s not a bad thing at all, I just feel it is worth pointing out. A lot of fans tend to get caught up in the stats and points when they just really don’t matter that much in these games. This is just another layer of practice for the team to use to hit someone else, see other schemes, and get prepared for week 1.


Jarrett Stidham's inability to read defenses worries me more than anything as far as his ability to be a solid backup for the team. He knows our plays well but has that tendency to decide his route pre-snap without any adjustment based on what the defender is doing to the route. This is very typical from young quarterbacks and really becomes and obstacle to getting a quarterback to the next level.

Can you win with a guy like this if your first-string guy gets injured? Yes.

The problem is that in the NFL, teams will start limiting those quick throws and it will lead to turnovers and lost games.

Ben DiNucci had a very similar game to Stidham though he did throw a TD pass. The offense wasn’t really effective for either guy though. I’d like to see them swap roles and see what DiNucci looks like with the 2s though. There are many times when he’s just not given the time to develop a normal play because of the lack of quality blockers up front.


One of the baselines I look for with good line play is whether or not the run game worked. I think you can safely say that it did on Friday. Our team averaged 6.6 ypc and got a TD. As far as pass pressure went, it was in the realm of acceptable. The first and second strings held up much better (though far from perfect) than the first preseason game.

Running Backs

It was so good to see Javonte Williams on the field again and looking strong. I liked that they didn’t keep him out there too long. I’m a big fan of Williams and am definitely wishing him nothing but health and good football for the rest of the season.

Jaleel McLaughlin just oozes talent. I love how we’re using him in space and letting him outplay defenders with his speed and quickness. He’s got the kind of ability that a coach like Sean Payton loves to use to drive defenses crazy. Every week I become more of a fan of the guy. He is the young player on this roster that looks like a serious stand-out to make noise in the NFL.


Jalen Virgil made the passing play of the game with a 50-yard gain that was sadly not called for the touchdown it was. He ran a stop-and-go route that caught the 49ers defenders flat-footed. What really blew my mind was that the NFL didn’t review that play. I’ll chalk it up to the NFL not wanting to slow down the preseason action or impact the games heavily. Hopefully, in the regular season, the officiating crew would take a peek.

Special Teams

Our kicking game looked much better this week with no missed kicks for points and a much more respectable punting game. We gave up one pretty big punt return, but that can be cleaned up (especially once the roster gets set).

Final Thoughts

I’m most encouraged watching this year’s preseason games because we see clean, quick football. The team just looks well-coached and ready to play which is a breath of relief compared to last season.

I think this year is a transitory year for our Broncos. Sean Payton is going to find out really what he has, tweak the team to his liking, and go into the next offseason knowing exactly what he wants in order to improve. That’s not to say this team can’t win this year. It is possible…especially if Payton can get Russell Wilson to come back into his winning form.

Yes, the games are boring right now, but underneath the ho-hum nature of preseason football, I’m seeing a lot of signs of professionalism and a team that is being prepared to play good football.