Before we start leaping for joy and talking about how many wins this team is going to get, let me remind everyone this was a preseason game where both teams’ starters were by and large sitting on the bench. Preseason wins and predictions about a team like this that is undergoing a huge coaching staff change are largely worthless.
What I can say with a good amount of confidence is that this coaching staff is a HUGE upgrade over what we witnessed last season. We have a head coach who is preparing this team to play actual football. We have an offense that is actually scheming to put players in a position to take advantage of mismatches. All of this is happening while we have a defense that is still playing consistently great football.
Does that mean we’ll be a winning team? Not necessarily. There’s a lot of work to do to get this team back into a culture of consistent winning. I think we have the right man for the job in Sean Payton. He’s got a thin roster ready to play and hopefully, we reap dividends when the regular season starts.
Coach Vance Joseph should be commended for the way his defense played in this game. I thought our backup defensive groups looked fairly weak in preseason games 1 and 2 (especially the third unit). The defense played solid football for four quarters and should be proud of pitching a shutout against a well-coached Rams team.
Drew Sanders is playing football at a high level. My favorite play early had him covering the flat and taking the perfect angle to keep the receiver from gaining a first down. I love seeing a linebacker who can play side-to-side as well as downhill. He needs to thank Bennett from the Rams for letting him show off his ability to catch a ball in the air that is thrown straight to him as well. I think he’s a future starter for this team. He’ll be a solid backup player for us this year and every snap he gets is going to be good for his development.
I liked what we saw from Aaron Patrick. He looked like a skilled edge rusher in this game. He’s not quite got the burst that will win against starters in this league, but it is close. He’s definitely a guy I think could be a solid #5 OLB for the team based on what we saw from him in this game.
The other young gun that looked good up front for us was Thomas Incoom. He had a sack, TFL, and QH on the night. He showed that the team should definitely keep developing him. I do think the practice squad is the likely spot for him in 2023.
Essang Bassey had his first really solid interception. I loved seeing him read the QB and know that he could abandon his flat responsibility and go after the ball. Chris Harris, Jr. would be proud. He also had two superb pass defenses in the game as well. Bassey isn’t a player I remember fondly from 2022. I think two of his three INTs this preseason were luck-based and he’s dominating depth players in this game. Whatever Payton and Joseph decide to do with him is fine by me. If he’s been playing consistently well in camp, then he should find a roster spot.
Everything worked for Sean Payton’s offense on Friday. Top to bottom, this offense was dialed in and ready to play the Rams from the starting whistle. Our run game and pass game complemented each other. We were able to hit explosive plays all game long and never took our foot off the gas.
Jarrett Stidham looked superb all game long. He had pass rushers in his face on a couple of designed screens and had to make some adjustments just to get the ball completed. Another wrinkle from him that is good to see was his escapability in the 1st quarter. He was dead to rights and wiggled out of a sack, then scrambled for a 1st down.
I liked his play and feel like he showed Broncos Country some good reasons to have faith in him if he needs to come in as a backup this season.
Ben DiNucci also had a great game. He looked like the No. 3 QB to me at the end of the day, but definitely showed out well in this game. He’ll either make it to the Broncos practice squad or get picked up by another team as he represents a decent backup option with room to grow still.
The offensive line just flat-out won all game long. That would to me be the No. 1 reason this game looked so much better than the first two preseason games. They did a super job keeping the QBs clean and opening up holes in the run game.
Jaleel McLaughlin was one of the two best players on the field on Friday night. I can’t say enough good things about his play. He shows power, speed, quickness, and vision in his running. I see Jaleel as a really dangerous weapon for this offense. He also got plenty of targets in the passing game, showing off his ability to catch out of the backfield. Payton is going to have fun developing this young player into a game-changer.
I’m not sure who’s better - Tony Jones, Jr. or Tyler Badie? Both looked solid at times and got swallowed up at other times. Both got a TD. The coaching staff are going to have fun sorting out the final spot for the running back room.
Albert Okuebunam showed some serious pass-catching talent and showcased why we drafted him as a tight end. He looked good in space, running really smooth routes. Payton got him lined up against a linebacker for one of the easiest touchdowns in the preseason for the Broncos. They kept playing him late and he wowed us with a one-handed snag to convert on 4th down. He’s a consistent pass catcher as a defensive mismatch in the open field. All I know is that the Broncos better not cut this guy.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey got plenty of looks in this game, and I liked what I saw. He got lots of work early and showed some real talent at finding the right angles to take to earn extra yards.
Marvin Mims, Jr. should have gotten a TD in the first drive. It is a shame that Tomlinson from the Rams decided to try to take his head off as a way to stop the play. He showed up later with a bomb catch for 50 yards that showed off his skill set that I saw in his college tape. He’s got serious jets and deep catch ability.
Brandon Johnson is here for a roster spot and I’m absolutely here for it. I liked his play last year and loved seeing him make a big play splitting defenders for the huge gain of 49 yards.
Kendall Hinton made a case to get let go in this game (sadly). He had a couple of drops in a game where so many other receivers were putting on a show. I will always be thankful for him being a Bronco and remember him shouldering the QB position when the NFL jobbed us out of our whole QB room for a game.
Mims flashed for a hot second with a 19-yard punt return early in the game that was worth noting. He looked like a guy who can bring a spark there is a punter who goofs up.
Outside of that, you like to see our punter having a 60-yard average (albeit on one punt) and our place kicker going 2 for 2 in field goals and 5 for 5 on extra points. I’m down for boring special teams games…it usually means they are doing well.
I’m excited for week 1. We’ll get our first look at what this team is going to be capable of against an opponent with 4 quarters of smash-mouth football against a division rival.
I like our chances in Week 1. I think this team is being prepared to be a serious pain in the ass for opponents just due to sound coaching alone. I can’t wait to see what Payton schemes up for our guys. He’s one of the best at finding mismatches for his players.
I’m also low-key excited to see what Russell Wison looks like in a real game. We’ve heard that he’s looking lean and mean. I’m ready to see him regain his winning ways with this team. I don’t think he’s washed at all…I think he just needs a good coach to put him in position to cook.
Get ready, Broncos Country, and as always hit me up in the comments and let me know what you are looking forward to this season!