Over the last few years, there’s been an increasing competition between Denver and Seattle. The two teams are well matched. Both have excellent quarterbacks, a physical nature and very tough defenses. Games tend to be close and hard-fought. Preseason or not, this was no different save in one way.
The constant principle John Elway has personified with the Denver Broncos is of development of their young talent. We saw a parade of such players throughout the game on Friday night. With their best on the bench, Denver looked NFL-ready, far more often than not.
The regulation game jumped out to a rousing start when Von Miller scorched the turf on the game’s second play, rocking back RT Justin Britt with a double-punch to the chest. Miller then flew around the edge to strip-sack Russell Wilson.
Todd Davis was right there to recover the fumble. Miller’s conditioning and training this offseason has been the subject of a lot of accurate press. He’s likely to break some records this year. He added two tackles, both solo, plus his strip-sack, before taking the rest of the game off.
The Broncos leader in tackles was Kenny Anunike. Kenny has struggled with stopping the run at times. Friday night wasn’t one of them. He put in an impressive performance, preseason or not. In addition to some nifty run stops, he added a nice sack and two QB hits.
He’s been one of the more pleasant surprises of training camp, although there were hints of this last summer. Kenny also drove backup QB R.J. Archer to the outside, where LB Gerald Rivers could force a fumble. Rivers has had a good camp.
Shane Ray showed far more good than bad. He needs to get used to the pro game, but there were flashes of the player Denver thought they were drafting throughout his time in on the field. On back-to-back plays at the end of the first quarter, Shaquil Barrett set up an incompletion by attacking the QB and then notched a sack. He had four tackles, four QB hits, a sack and a tackle for a loss. He's coming on strong right now. Kudos to him for the work I saw whenever he got on the field.
Lamin Barrow offered the first special teams tackle of the night on the opening kickoff and was in on another. He had several notable plays throughout the night. The LB corps as a whole was impressive. Corey Nelson had four tackles, all of them solo, and one for a loss. Todd Davis had only one regulation tackle and a fumble recovery in short work, but was always around the ball.
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Two players I didn’t expect to see their stats from were cornerback Taurean Nixon and nose guard Darius Kilgo. Both had four tackles. Nixon had three solo tackles and a pass defensed. Kilgo, in his first game managed four tackles, two solo, a sack, a QB hit and a TFL. Keep an eye on this kid. Sylvester Williams had a single tackle, but was effective in collapsing the pocket and redirecting running backs.
Josh Furman added two solo tackles to the team’s total, and provided a sack. Denver brought pressure and penetration from all over. They have pass rushers everywhere on the field, from nose guard to defensive back. Denver had seven sacks for the night, while giving up two. Neither team threw an interception, which speaks well for Brock Osweiler.
Osweiler had a very decent first half. He threw 15 completions on 20 passes, for 151 yards and a TD, providing a rating of 112.7. Trevor Siemian only had five completions, but they were on just six passes for 90 yards and a 118.8 QB rating. Zac Dysert had a poor showing, completing just 2-of-5 passes for 14 yards and a 47.9 QB Rating. Osweiler carried the night, but Siemian played well.
A lot of the night’s excitement at running back came courtesy of the oft-maligned Ronnie Hillman. He’s not a bell-cow runner, but he adds a dimension that this offense will bring out. Hillman had the night’s longest run, at 23 yards. He carried just eight times for 66 yards with an 8.3 YPC average. He avoided fumbling.
Montee Ball and Juwan Thompson had eight carries each, but for 26 and 12 yards, respectively. Juwan lead the running backs in receiving, though, with a well-played single catch for 18 yards. Hillman had a reception for 11 yards: Ball had one for seven yards and Jeremy Stewart had one for eight yards. More importantly, both Hillman and Ball picked up blitzes, handling them with ease.
The offensive line was uneven at providing running lanes. They often gave Hillman nice lanes. Too often, Seattle started a defensive play in the Broncos backfield. It’s impossible for a RB to get much yardage that way. Both Ben Garland and Max Garcia played left guard. Garcia turned in the better performance.
There were some good performances by several OL players. Head coach Gary Kubiak singled out Matt Paradis as having had a heck of a game, and the film supports that well. Gradkowski didn’t have a great performance in his time at center, so the night goes to Paradis.
Michael Schofield didn’t play badly, although he didn’t amaze, either. He’s a work in progress, as is Ty Sambrailo. I was disappointed in Ryan Harris’ pointless penalty. That wasn’t a veteran play. Neither was Louis Vasquez’s. Leaders need to lead.
Virgil Green had a missed assignment that led to a sack. Otherwise, he was a force in blocking and was targeted five times for five receptions. That brought a total of 45 yards and a TD. While Owen Daniels will be getting a lot of attention in other games, tonight belonged to Green. His balanced performance and his catches over the middle were indicative of how often he’s been under-used in the past years.
Cody Latimer showed just how far he’s come since last year by snaring four passes for 49 yards. His routes usually looked crisp. He’s obviously going to be a splendid No.v3 receiver after Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Bennie Fowler had to make a circus catch just to get attention. With only three receptions on three targets, he still led the team with 67 yards. That’s an average of 22.3 yards per pass.
Jordan Norwood lost a single fumble on a muffed punt, but Denver took the turnover battle by recovering two. There were no interceptions, but Denver did have seven sacks to Seattle's’ two. They led big in time of possession; 36:45 to 26:15. For most of the game, it wasn’t as close as the final score suggests. p>The Broncos Waterloo was once again on special teams. They gave up a TD and 236 total return yards on six kickoffs. Denver only managed 84 yards on five kickoffs of their own. Sloppy lane discipline was the No. 1 culprit.
I know it was just the first preseason game and the personnel has changed again but this has been a Broncos problem for years. I keep hoping it will stop, but it’s like a bad rash - always coming back, season after season. They also had seven penalties, but that’s within the realm of early preseason outcomes.
Brock Osweiler had his best game time of the last four years. He ended his performance on a TD throw. If he can clean a few things up, Denver has a quality backup QB. He’s can legitimately look toward taking over from Peyton Manning when the Sheriff inevitably retires.
Since this is Brock’s contract year, his work in preseason becomes even more important. Denver needs to know what they have in him. If Seattle’s game is any indication, they have a young QB (who didn’t have his top players to lean on) who seems to be learning very well. Anytime your QB completes 75% of his passes and leads five drives to five scores (even if only one was a TD), you’ve got to be pretty happy with your guy.
Denver and Seattle both rested some impressive talent, so the teams were on even footing. Denver showed a lot of heart and determination on the road. Seattle is one of the toughest venues in the NFL, preseason or not. Both teams brought out their developing talent. Denver’s were stronger enough to win. No matter what coaches will say about preseason, every player out there wanted a win. It’s a tribute to Denver’s team that the Broncos brought it home.
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