As the Broncos are in Colorado preparing for a joint practise with the 49ers, I thought I’d write a quick piece on my thoughts from the first two weeks of football. The Broncos are 2-0, not that it means anything but still 2-0 breeds confidence. Every team will tell you the same thing about preseason – I hope our guys get through it without injuries. With key players like Kelvin Benjamin, Jordy Nelson and Maurkice Pouncey out for the season without playing a meaningful snap, it’s good to see the Broncos come through 2 games with only Kenny Amunike injured. Hearts were in mouths when Shane Ray went over on his ankle on Saturday night but later returned. At this stage of the preseason as teams start to prepare their starters for extended work, the entire league and fanbases across the world will be holding their breathe and praying for no more injuries especially with the season just 3 weeks away.
Below is a progress report from each ‘battleground’.
It seems some of the fears regarding Brock Osweiler have for the time being been put to bed. With two strong and steady performances under his belt, Brock has placed himself in a very good position to replace Peyton Manning when the veteran eventually retires. He still has a lot of work ahead of him but at least the fans have had the chance for an extended look at Brock with the first strings as well as the backups. It seems clear that Zac Dysert is going to be cut after attempting only 5 passes in Seattle and not getting on the field in Houston. The reason for Dysert getting cut is clear – the others are just better than him. Trevor Siemian – a Kubiak draft pick, has impressed with his poise and calmness to go with his strong numbers and productivity. Manning made his preseason debut on Saturday night. Without impressing he looked good and ready for week 1. On the 4 drives he led on Saturday night, drives 3 and 4 were brought to a premature end thanks to penalties.
GROUND AND POUND
The run game is looking good at times and horrible at other times. Its a work in progress at the moment and Ronnie Hillman has grasped his chance with both hands. Hillman has put up 120 yards on 16 carries over the 2 games compared to Montee Ball’s 30 on 12 carries. Hillman has taken over the backup role for CJ Anderson and deservedly so. The Broncos executed some beautiful plays especially with Hillman at tailback and stretching left behind Ty Sambrailo. The offensive line is looking good in both run and pass protection and I’ve been very impressed with Max Garcia at left guard and Ty Sambrailo at left tackle. The two rookies seal a very good edge on runs left and have done a very good job keeping the QB upright. The interception on Saturday night was down to Garcia and Sambrailo getting bullrushed into Osweilers face as he threw so they are by no means the final polished article.
The Wide Receiving corp roster race is heating up nicely and watch out Caldwell there is a WR playing out of his skin coming for your roster spot. Bennie Fowler in the 2 games has 99 yards on 5 receptions from 7 targets. With Jordan Norwood muffing punts and dropping passes it appears Fowler has leapfrogged him in the race for roster spots. Jordan Taylor has yet to make a catch and with Nathan Palmer with only 1 catch and 8 yards to his name, the competition can still take a step forward. At Tight End Virgil Green is looking good receiving but has committed a holding penalty on 3rd down nullifying a 1st down, as well as a false start on 2nd and short. Owen Daniels provided the security blanket that is expected of him on debut vs the Texans. It appears a clear fight between Dominique Jones and Marcel Jensen for tight end number 3 on the roster.
Well what can be said about this defence? They lead the league with 12 sacks, they have caused 2 fumbles and the 1st string have allowed no touchdowns. It appears Wade Phillips has his guys dialled up into his system from day one. I’ve been very impressed with rookie NT Darius Kilgo. His push is outstanding, he occupies two lineman and he’s still making plays. Yes its against roster bubble linemen but still, its a very good sign if Sly gets hurt or needs a rest. My player of the preseason is Shaq Barrett. I’ve championed him all training camp as he is pushing for a roster spot. Based on his two performances, I can’t see him not getting a roster spot. I know he is playing against roster bubble players and he is raw making mistakes and getting exposed but, when the guy rushes the passer you have to rub your eyes to check his shirt number as I’ve mistaken him for Von Miller twice this preseason. The future at linebacker is looking good. Todd Davis has excelled at inside linebacker and I think he will get the nod into the final 53 at the expense of Lamin Barrow. Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan have had good run outs shaking the rust, 49ers will be a big test for this linebacker group. The secondary is exactly what everybody knew coming into this preseason outstanding. Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward looked excellent as did Harris, Talib, Webster and Roby.
This unit needs to sort its act out. No returner has stepped up to the plate claiming the spot as their own which is disappointing. The unit has also muffed 2 punts and an onside kick, not to mention given up a 103 yard kickoff return. I’m hoping to see vast improvement against the 49ers as well as a clear returner coming to the forefront. I was watching the Texan game thinking about Trindon Holliday tearing it up field; yes he fumbled but he was also very exciting.
Hopefully the Broncos can keep improving all aspects of their game this coming week in joint practise with the 49ers.