Despite the rustiness that accompanies the first preseason game of the year, the team looked good in all three phases—offense, defense and special teams. Here are five takeaways from the team’s performance yesterday.
Call It A Draw At Quarterback
Broncos fans finally got see what Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian are capable of in a live NFL game. If you were hoping that one of the two would make an absolute claim on the starting job, you still don't have the answers. Each player received a full quarter to make his respective bid to be the 2016 starter. Both had solid outings.
Sanchez went 10-of 13-for 99 yards, tossing the game’s lone offensive touchdown—a rainbow toss-and-catch—under pressure—to a wide open Demaryius Thomas. On his next possession, Sanchez lead the team down the field again, only to force a throw into coverage and have the ball tipped and intercepted.
With the first quarter in the books, Sanchez exited on a sour note.
Siemian had a solid start as well, and would have had a touchdown if Bennie Fowler had been able to maintain possession on a beautifully thrown ball to the back shoulder. During his quarter of work, Siemian was solid.
The biggest obstacle holding the second-year quarterback from taking the starting job is his inexperience.
If you were scoring this first game as a boxing match between the two signal-callers, you would probably have scored it a draw. Both Sanchez and Siemian had their moments where they would start to make headway, only to give it back on the next play. It will be interesting to see who head coach Gary Kubiak names as the starter for the preseason home opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
Every NFL team, regardless of standing, has good players—but not a roster replete with them. The Broncos proved to be a league exception on Thursday night, showing that they have elite depth at several positions on the roster, Most notably, at wide receiver and edge rusher.
With several starters sitting out the first game for precautionary reasons, several players that will be backups for the team made an impact. Both Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett filled in with the first team and the defense as a whole didn’t miss a beat.
Other notables that stood out were young players like rookie safety duo Will Parks and Justin Simmons, along with Cody Latimer, UDFA Vontarrius Dora and veteran newcomers Jared Crick and Dekoda Watson. Injuries are part of the game, but you have to feel good that Denver has a full cupboard of talent just waiting for an opportunity to shine.
Bennie Fowler On the Rise
The man wearing No. 16 on the field last night was everywhere and made an impact both on offense and on special teams. The former Michigan State Spartan had a nice catch-and-run early in the game and also saw some snaps with the first team when they went to multiple wideout sets.
Fowler looks to be the early leader in the clubhouse for the third wideout job, in part due to his ability to fearlessly catch passes over the middle and his underrated blocking ability.
Fowler’s biggest contribution of the night was on special teams late in the second quarter. With the Bears pinned deep, Fowler made a nifty move to beat his man inside and then used his lanky frame to block Pat O’Donnell’s punt, which was recovered in the endzone by LB Zaire Anderson for the score.
Much like last season, it doesn’t matter where you put Bennie Fowler, or how often he is on the field, he finds a way to make an impact.
Equal Punting Production Means Bad Things For Colquitt
With so much attention being paid to the quarterback competition this preseason, the battle for the punter job has largely been forgotten. With coaches telling the media that the job is still up for grabs and that neither has taken the lead going into last night’s game, both players took the field trying to make an impression.
Both punters had their moments, with Riley Dixon showing great ball placement to pin the Bears inside their own 20 yard-line and Britton Colquitt showing the bigger leg of the two, flipping field position to push Chicago back on their side of the 50.
The equal play for both specialists does not bode well for Colquitt, who is poised to make a considerable amount of money this coming season. If Dixon can do a capable job as the starting punter at a fraction of the cost, look for the team to make a move on Colquitt.
Progress In Paxton's Development
Paxton Lynch is blessed with a cannon for a right arm and tremendous athleticism for a man as big as he is. While the starting quarterback job is contested this year, Lynch enters in to a “redshirt” situation where he can learn the offense, while also ironing out some unrefined aspects of his game; learning things he wasn’t asked to do while at Memphis.
In his first NFL action, Lynch showed why the Broncos traded up for him in the first round of NFL Draft. He had a solid 6-for-7 stat line for 74 yards, but he showed veteran composure in stepping up in the pocket, as well as commanding the huddle, something he has admitted to struggling with early in camp.
The future is indeed bright for the youngster. Look for him to continue to develop behind the curtains this season with an eye towards being the starter next year.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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