The Denver Broncos played their preseason finale tonight and they absolutely whooped the Los Angeles Rams by the score of 41 to 0. The two teams held two joint practices earlier this week that were mostly dominated by the Rams, but that never carried over into the game. The Broncos dominated all three phases of the game and ultimately kept the Rams off the scoreboard. Multiple Broncos stood out tonight including a few players who entered this game fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster.
So with that said, let us take a look at the winners and the very few losers from the Broncos' 41-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
QB Jarrett Stidham
The first preseason game for Stidham was a rough one, but he had a bit of a bounce-back performance in week two vs. the 49ers. However, tonight, the Broncos backup quarterback impressed and showed some toughness in this one. He finished the night by completing 17 of 28 passes for 236 yards and 1 touchdown pass. He also rushed the ball once for 20 yards.
It's not even halftime and @Jarrett_Stidham has 200 passing yards and a TD... oh, and the @Broncos are up 27-0— NFL (@NFL) August 27, 2023
: #LARvsDEN on NFL Network
: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/624TrfDUF6 pic.twitter.com/1rTpJCPY43
Stidham proved that he can be effective in Sean Payton’s offense if needed and was damn good tonight. He was under pressure throughout the game but showed poise in the pocket and made multiple throws down the field. He showcased his toughness in this one after taking multiple big shots to the ribs in this one, but he stayed in the game and continued to make plays.
After a rough start in the preseason, this performance should help ease some concerns of Broncos fans who were concerned about him early on.
RB Jaleel McLaughlin
The star of the preseason has been undrafted rookie running back Jaleel McLaughlin and that continued in this one. The explosive and shifty runner scored his fourth touchdown of the preseason and ran the ball 10 times for 48 yards. He also added 4 receptions for 13 yards in this one and showcased his ability to contribute in the passing game.
Jaleel McLaughlin with the touchdown! He's ready for week one. pic.twitter.com/sDjGbJFRE3— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 27, 2023
McLaughlin started this game and is the clear number three running back for the Broncos. He is locked into a roster spot and will likely have a role in the offense in this one. Javonte Williams will be eased into action and Samaje Perine is a powerful back while McLaughlin has speed and open-field ability that the other two do not have. So, I think we will see him out there come week one and making plays for the Broncos.
WR Marvin Mims Jr.
The rookie wide receiver made his first big play in the NFL in this one when he hauled in a deep pass from quarterback Jarrett Stidham. He went down and it appeared he wasn’t touched and he ran it into the end zone. Unfortunately, the refs ruled him down at the spot of the catch, but it was still a big night for the Broncos rookie wide receiver.
We are going to see this a lot this season from rookie WR Marvin Mimspic.twitter.com/JocS8KLUyD— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 27, 2023
He probably should have had two touchdowns in this one. He was taking a jet sweep into the end zone before a Rams defender grabbed his face mask and made a dangerous play on Mims. The Rams player was ejected for this, but it kept Mims out of the end zone. He was barely touched on this deep play which prevented him from finding the end zone for a second time in this game.
With Jerry Jeudy likely out for a few games to start the season, we will likely see Mims be a big factor for the Broncos on offense this year. He is an explosive wide receiver who can make plays down the field. When quarterback Russell Wilson is at his best, he is throwing moonballs deep and now they have a receiver in Mims
WR Lil Jordan Humphrey
Entering this game, the Broncos' wide receiving position appeared to be in shambles and had spots up for grabs if someone went out and earned it tonight. Well, Lil’Jordan Humphrey may have gone out there and earned himself a spot on the Broncos' 53-man roster. He started the game and looked impressive early on and caught four balls for 57 yards.
With Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., and likely Brandon Johnson locked into roster spots, that left a handful of players fighting for that final spot or two. Well, Humphrey went out there and greatly outperformed his competition and may have helped himself earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
TE Albert Okwuegbunam
All the buzz this week was about how the Rams could not stop tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. Well, that carried over into this game where the big tight end led the Broncos in targets, catches, and yards. He finished the night with 7 catches for 109 yards, and 1 touchdown which included a nice one-handed catch as well.
Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam with an amazing one handed catchpic.twitter.com/l18jL2UEvY— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 27, 2023
After the game, head coach Sean Payton was asked about Albert O’s performance and he responded by saying “He had a big night. I mean, holy cow.”. With Okwuegbunam on the roster bubble, did he do enough to earn himself a roster spot? I think so. However, we have to wonder if the Broncos were showcasing him to the rest of the league as a potential trade chip. It has to be either of the two scenarios because Albert O. does not deserve to be cut.
Unless they’re absolutely blown away with an offer, I would keep him and use him as a mismatch pass-catching weapon. He has the size and speed to make life difficult for defenders and he has improved as a blocker. Add in the injuries and losses at receiver and the Broncos cannot afford to lose him right now without getting something significant in return.
CB Essang Bassey
I have to admit, I was wrong about Bassey. I dismissed him as an obvious cut at the beginning of training camp, but the former undrafted rookie has been a solid player for the Broncos and likely earned a roster spot. Also, he hauled in yet another interception in this one which gives him one interception per game this preseason.
He is a slot corner only and could be a starter come week one. Veteran K’Waun Williams is sidelined with an ankle injury and potentially could be out for week one, or even an injured reserve candidate (out four weeks). So, that would mean Bassey would be your starting slot corner in week one. Now, even if Williams is healthy, Bassey has shown enough to be on the roster.
Again, I dismissed him as an actual candidate for a roster spot early on, but he has really impressed and shown some ball-hawking skills this summer.
LB Drew Sanders
The rookie linebacker continues to impress and showcased that once again tonight. He has a nose for the ball and was continuously making plays on the ball carrier and showing his range by chasing down players as well. He was flagged for a tackle that may have been a little too aggressive, but it still was exciting to watch. However, his big play was an interception where he was on his way for a pick six when he was stripped by the quarterback (who he was stiff arming) caused a fumble. Thankfully, defensive lineman Elijah Garcia landed on the ball and saved Sanders from an embarrassing play. but it still was another strong night from the Broncos rookie linebacker.
He is obviously making the 53-man roster but he has shown that he belongs on the field in certain packages on defense this season. He has the athleticism, range, tackling ability, and pass-rushing ability to be a difference-maker for the Broncos. I am excited about the future of Drew Sanders and honestly, still am shocked that he fell into the third round of the draft.
K Brett Maher
Brett Maher did everything he needed to once again tonight. He went 2 for 2 on field goal attempts and made all five of his extra-point kicks. He did have a kickoff blunder but I am not going to hold that against him.
Maher has been perfect for two straight weeks and now has to wait and see if he made the Broncos 53-man roster. Sean Payton will be watching to see if any kickers come available that he likes, but Maher did everything he needed to do these past few weeks to make the team.
KR/WR Montrell Washington
I just do not see how second-year returner/receiver Montrell Washington makes this team. He is barely used at receiver and is behind multiple players when it comes to returning kicks or punts.
I don't see a scenario where Montrell Washington makes the #Broncos 53-man roster.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) August 27, 2023
Rookie Marvin Mims is listed as your starting kick and punt returner in the initial depth chart and we have seen rookie running back Jaleel McLaughlin return kicks as well. Both of those players are making the team and can contribute at other positions as well. Washington was barely used at receiver during the preseason and now looks to be on the outside looking in one year after the Broncos used a fifth-round selection on him.
CB/KR Tremon Smith
I don’t know if Tremon Smith is actually a loser or not. He was touted as a return ace when he signed this offseason as a free agent but we have not seen him factor into the return game at all. He also appears to behind multiple corners on the depth chart and may not be worth a roster spot if he’s viewed strictly as a corner.
The tricky part is that the Broncos guaranteed $2.5 million dollars to him this offseason when they signed him. So, will they eat that money or will they keep him on the roster? He has not shown anything to be worthy of a roster spot so we shall see how it plays out.
Offensive line depth
The Broncos won 41-0 so finding losers in a game like this is difficult so I may be reaching here. However, quarterback Jarrett Stidham was routinely under pressure tonight. He handled it well but he was consistently taking big shots and big shots. The Broncos' back up offensive lineman, who mostly are all on the roster bubble, struggled to protect him at times tonight. So for that, I am listing them as losers because we could see the Broncos add a few interior linemen during and after the cut-down period.