Zach Gotlieb \ Aug 10th, 2019
The Denver Broncos just completed their second preseason game out of five facing the Seattle Seahawks. As you should expect, there were goods and bads. We finally got to see most of the presumed starting group hit the field for the first time this season for one drive then let the backups hash it out and continue to make their arguments for why they should be on this roster or another team’s roster. Now, before I get into how the game went down, please, please don’t overreact.on what you either saw or read. It’s only the preseason and still early in the preseason. Guys are gonna struggle and make mistakes, that’s the point of the preseason. Now, given that, let’s get into what happened in this game.
First things first, Joe Flacco looked good wearing the blue and orange. He, with most of the starters, only played one drive which was a scoring drive. He led the offense down to the red zone where they would have to settle for a field goal. It was a pretty conservative drive for the most part with seven-run plays and only four pass plays.
Flacco was efficient going 3-4, completing passes to both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman out of the backfield and receiver Tim Patrick. None of the throws were particularly groundbreaking, but you could definitely see that he looked comfortable.
The groundbreaking play came from the presumed running back “1b” Royce Freeman. His role has been assumed to be the short-yardage back, and he was in the game on a third and one play. A great block set up from rookie left guard Dalton Risner set up a huge run from Freeman. He showed his underrated speed breaking through the line and a huge run for 50 yards to bring the Broncos into the red zone. His big run along with a couple of impressive runs from Lindsay are the hopeful signs of big things to come in the running game this season from the two second-year backs.
As for the starting defense, they looked good. The best player on this unit was clearly defensive tackle Shelby Harris. He had one play where he hit Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny in the backfield for a loss of four yards. He was in the backfield getting up in Geno Smith’s grill the rest of the drive.
The rest of that drive included only one big play allowed on third down, but they recovered nicely after that. With the help of an offensive holding (1 of 26 accepted penalties between the two teams), the defense forced the Seahawks to kick a long field goal on three plays. Seahawks kicker Jason Myers ended up missing a 56-yard field goal attempt.
By and large, the starting unit looked good. The offensive line already looks improved over last year. Hopefully, the starters can keep that mojo going into the season. The running game was impressive. They’re likely going to get more reps over the next two preseason games which will be good to see.
Goods and bads from Drew in this game. His first drive looked sharp going 5-7 for 55 yards with eight rushing yards to go with it. His first completion was a perfect throw right into Troy Fumagalli’s arms before Fumagalli had even looked back for the ball. Last week Drew seemed only to have his fastball working, that throw was definitely more of a changeup. Perfect amount of touch on the pass.
Throughout the night, he faced consistent pressure with an offensive line that really struggled which certainly didn’t help matters, but it did show his ability to get out of the pocket and scramble which looked good for the most part. That being said, and as should be expected, there were numerous times where Lock didn’t look so good.
One of the biggest things that scouts had to say about Lock coming out of college, aside from not really running an NFL style offense (which despite a few mistakes, he looked more comfortable this game than the last) is that his footwork is kind of a mess. Especially in the fourth quarter, there were several throws that he underthrew from not transferring weight from the back leg to the front leg. At times just looks a little lazy. He showed on several occasions that he’s capable of it, but he has to nail it down and be consistent with his footwork.
By and large, Drew Lock was much better. Poor offensive line play did not help his cause, and the lack of productive depth is concerning. Anyway, yes, he made mistakes and misreads. Yes, he had a couple of bad throws and decisions. All to be expected with a rookie quarterback. Seriously though, look at the positives. He seemed more comfortable and the throws more precise. We finally saw glimpses of what he could potentially be, and that is very exciting.
The first and second strong secondary played well. Minimizing big plays and doing a good job staying with receivers. It was good to see Chris Harris Jr’s first action since his leg injury last year as well as free-agent acquisition Kareem Jackson. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see free agent signing Bryce Callahan, but he is expected to be back at some point during the preseason. With him out we got to see second-year corner Isaac Yiadom take his spot, and he played well.
De’Vante Bausby, formerly of the AAF, had a really an impressive pass breakup over D.K. Metcalf on third down. He made a couple mistakes getting caught looking in the backfield, but overall he was good as he continues to fight for the fourth cornerback spot on the roster.
A big surprise from this game and really from both games was Su’a Cravens. Reported to have some work ethic issues in his time with the Washington Redskins, but the team made a trade for him before last season. He did not play well last year coming back from injury and desperately needed to have a big camp to make the 53-man roster. So far, he has. He’s been flying all over the field making plays on the ball. He had two big tackles that kept runs short instead of possibly having them break for big runs. He’s had a great camp so far, and if he continues to play as he did in Seattle, it’ll be tough to keep him off the roster.
The third unit on the whole team did not look great. The secondary really seemed to struggle, but as for the guys that are most likely making the roster or at least compete for a spot, they looked excellent which is a positive sign going into the season.
The Not So Good
It’s the preseason. There are always going to be bads with the goods. I can’t remember a single preseason game that has been even close to flawless. The thing is, some mistakes are just frustrating. They finished with 11 accepted penalties and several more that were declined or offset. They were one of the most penalized teams last year, and it created a lot of problems for them. They have to play clean games this year if they want to win games. “Death by inches,” as head coach Vic Fangio said in his introductory press conference.
The other thing is depth. The offensive line behind the starting group was awful. Both Kevin Hogan and Drew Lock were under constant duress. The running game couldn’t get going with Seahawks linemen constantly in the backfield. Outside of swing tackle Elijah Wilkinson, there really is not a player that proved that he can be a capable backup for any real amount of time except for maybe the rest of a game.
The tight ends continue to drop like flies. Jake Butt is still recovering from his third torn ACL and missing most of camp. Former AAF tight end Bug Howard has missed the last few weeks with an ankle injury. Troy Fumagalli has missed a couple practices, but did participate and played fairly well in Seattle. The injury bug did travel to Seattle though. This time it went with an undrafted rookie, training camp standout Austin Fort. He had been making a serious push to make the roster and given he was healthy he likely could have made it. Instead, he went down in the fourth quarter with what turned out to be a torn ACL making depth at tight end a severe issue.
Finally, special teams. This has been a problem for years now. The Broncos have not had a legit return guy since Trindon Holliday in 2013. They thought the answer lied with former draft pick Isaiah McKenzie. Unfortunately, his elite speed didn’t matter given as he could not hold on to the ball and seemingly only went east and west instead of north and south. It wasn’t better in this game. On the opening kickoff, Devontae Booker fumbled the opening kickoff, and the other returners didn’t really do anything that stood out. If the Broncos want to win games they’re gonna have to succeed in all three facets of the game and special teams was not special in this game.
While it was in a losing effort, the team as a whole looked much better. Drew Lock played much better than he did in the Hall of Fame game. The starting unit on both sides looked solid. They only got one series, but they looked good in it, and I’d expect them to get a little more playing time over the next couple games. They do have to clean up some of the penalties and just hope that the rest of the tight ends make it through camp because they simply cannot afford another injury. Overall, a good building block type of game. Yes, they lost, but wins and losses don’t matter in the preseason. It’s all about getting better, and they did in this game.
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