Tonight’s victory might not mean much on the grand scheme of things, but it sure was nice to see the team put together a complete game in all three phases and finish their preseason endeavors with a mark in the win column.
There aren’t many big critiques to give, so tonight’s reactions installment will be mostly positive musings with some roster questions moving forward. Let’s take a deeper look at who impressed and made the mark in the Broncos’ victory this evening.
The Broncos’ First Half Offense Was Impressive
Jarrett Stidham leads the way with masterful command
Some parts of Broncos Country had been concerned with Sitdham’s preseason performance to date. There were even those that floated the idea that Ben DiNucci should be the team’s backup quarterback for the regular reason.
But that talk should quickly be put to bed after his performance tonight. I thought he looked sharp and had one heck of a game.
After starting off 7-for-7 including a 50-yard bomb to Marvin Mims, Stidham missed five in a row after taking a rough hit halfway through the first quarter. But he gutted it out, looked poised in the pocket, and worked well through his progressions. He connected with six different receivers and targeted nine through the course of the first half. That sort of passing diversity is a great development to see on his behalf.
Under his guidance, the Broncos’ offense scored 27 points. That’s pretty darn good—and even though it’s just the preseason—fans should be excited to see the team put some serious points on the board. He finished with 17 completions on 28 attempts for 236 yards and 1 touchdown. That’s about as good as you could ask for.
A Significant Secondary Choice
Essang Bassey makes his case for the final 53-man roster
If you are a cornerback in the National Football League and have the ability to take the ball away—you usually stick on a roster. After all, it’s a rare skill to have. The Broncos’ defense has struggled to create turnovers the past few seasons, but Bassey has been shaking things up in that regard this preseason.
Early tonight, he notched his third interception in three games and made several nice plays on the ball. He has been one of the most impressive players throughout camp and the preseason. Based on that, he should have a firm grasp on the nickel spot behind K’Wuan Williams.
With Riley Moss a likely candidate to be placed on IR to start the season, Bassey appears poised to earn the sixth cornerback role for the franchise. I’d be surprised if he was someone the Broncos let go—at least with an outright cut. But maybe a cornerback needy team would offer a late-round pick for him?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Two Rookie Standouts — Offense & Defense
Alex Palczewski continues to impress
Earlier this week, I had wrote about Palczewski as being the top candidate behind Jaleel McGlaughlin from Denver’s undrafted free agent class to make the squad.
When Pat Kirwan interviewed Head Coach Sean Payton on SiriusXM last week, Payton had remarked that the 7th through 9th offensive line spots would be a key positional battle to watch in the final two preseason games. After a nice showing against the Cardinals, he earned praise from Payton and got some first-team reps during practice.
With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say Palczewski has earned one of those aforementioned spots up for grabs. Against the Rams, I thought he looked good in pass protection [only one QB hurry allowed by my count] and helped get some quality push in the running game.
After years of not drafting offensive tackles or having any long-term developmental prospect in the fold, it would be foolish for the Broncos to try and pass him through waivers and get him back on the practice squad. They definitely need to keep him in the fold.
Drew Sanders shines in extended reps in finale
Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell are the Broncos’ starting inside linebackers for 2023, but third-round pick Drew Sanders should have plenty of opportunities to make plays this coming season. He is just too talented not to get meaningful reps in the games on the horizon.
He made an impact on defense tonight, showcasing his sideline-to-sideline speed, blitzing ability, and ability to make plays in coverage. This is exactly why fans across Broncos Country are so excited about the future of our defense with him in the fold. His versatility is going to be a tremendous asset and weapon on the field for Vance Joseph’s defense.
Sanders isn’t the sum of all his parts quite yet, but I can’t wait to see how he is utilized during the regular season. I think he will be a key factor in the defense’s continued success in 2023.
The Albert Okwuegbunam Decision
Does he make the team, is he traded, or is he cut?
Listed as the fifth tight end on the depth chart behind Adam Trautman, Greg Dulcich, Chris Manhertz, and Nate Adkins—Okwuegbunam needed a big game in order to make the squad.
He delivered. The former Missouri standout played the games entirety and caught 6 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. After being missing in action and relegated to nothingness on last year’s squad, fans got to witness the kind of talent he always possessed.
With his size and athleticism, I’d like to think Payton could continue to find success utilizing him in certain packages. A chain-mover and red zone target seem like ideal fits. Considering the Broncos’ banged up wide receiver corps, his presence and ability would be nice to have in the fold.
I might be in the minority, but I’d rather have him make the final roster than Adkins. Adkins should clear waivers and could be signed back to the practice squad. I think keeping Okwuegbunam is the right decision, but maybe a scenario that exists where someone trades a late-round pick for him. It’s going to be a situation to monitor for sure as the final cuts are due in the coming days.
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam with an amazing one handed catchpic.twitter.com/l18jL2UEvY— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 27, 2023
So what do you think Broncos Country? What are some of your instant reactions from tonight’s game? Sound off in the comments section and let us know how you feel about the team heading into the regular season.