The good, the bad and the ugly – Friday night's game in the Motor City showcased it all for the Denver Broncos, and despite coming out on the short end of the scoreboard, there were signs of encouragement.
The most notable sign, rookie quarterback Jay Cutler, who made the most of his professional debut connecting on 16 of 22 passes for 192-yards including a 26-yard touchdown toss to former Lion wide receiver David Kircus.
"I was a little nervous at first," Cutler told reporters, "but then things started slowing down for me, and I started to see windows a little better. I know I did some things wrong, but I just have to get back to Denver and look the film. It's a start."
For Cutler it was an impressive start, for rookie running back Mike Bell, it was average at best. Bell became the talk of the town earlier in the week when moved past both Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne to the first team, but a twenty-yard seven carry performance will undoubtedly be evaluated over the next few days.
"We didn't like the fumble, but that's typical of young guys in the NFL," Shanahan said. "It's similar to what Clinton Portis went through as a rookie. That's why you play those guys in these situations."
With the first preseason game under their belts, Denver's coaching staff begins the arduous process of evaluation, and one area of concern will certainly be at quarterback.
The Broncos don't generally carry three quarterbacks throughout the season and with Cutler's performance tonight, Bradlee Van Pelt may be the odd man out.
Van Pelt struggled behind the third and fourth offensive line, throwing Denver's only interception in a four of seven, twenty-nine yard performance. To be fair, the second year veteran was riddled the moment he took the snap, yet the backup was reluctant to spread the blame to fellow teammates.
"You can't really blame the offensive line, they we're trying their darndest," Van Pelt said. "Maybe I didn't have all the time I wanted, but then again, it's my job to see it and get rid of it and I want to take all the blame because I think I deserve it in this scenario."
Deserving or not, this week will play out huge for those on the bubble, and as things tighten up at each position, little room is left for error.
Mike Shanahan Post Game Quotes
"We got a chance to look at a lot of people today. I thought we had some great effort out there. You always go back and take a look at the things you did well and the things you did poorly. Anytime you're 0-for-4 in the redzone and you have three turnovers to one (forced), it's hard to win the game. But on the bright side, I thought some of our younger guys stood out, especially in their first game. Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do."
On QB Jay Cutler's performance:
"He played well. He executed the offense. I think both teams were very vanilla in their approach to it - offensively and defensively. So you don't get too excited. But a guy's got to go out there and perform. I thought he showed a lot of poise and did an excellent job."
On who will start at running back for his team:
"Well, we got a chance to play a lot of them and evaluate them. I can't tell you for sure right now, but I know there's some good effort. Obviously, with Mike (Bell) having that fumble, that didn't help his debut. But that's typical for a lot of young guys. This is the National Football League, and these guys trip; these guys are very aggressive to the ball very similar to what Clinton Portis went through, especially early in those preseason games. So a lot of reasons why you want to play these young guys early is to get them ready for what's going to happen in the season."
On the turnovers tonight:
"It doesn't matter what the effort is if you fumble the ball. You can't fumble the ball and play. We had 16 turnovers last year and today we had three. That's not very good."
On if WR Brandon Marshall's injury was serious:
"I don't think so. You never know for sure until they get an MRI on it. Just a little bit sore; it didn't feel like there was any looseness in the knee, which is a positive."
On WR David Kircus' play on offense and special teams:
"I think he ran a good route on the touchdown catch. I thought he did a good job on a little 'hook and go' and had a little patience there. Jay (Cutler) had some patience too in letting the play develop. That was a nice play. I think he did make a couple of plays out there that everybody saw."
On if he had a second chance, would he still go for it on fourth down at the end:
"Oh yeah. We weren't going to tie that game, I can guarantee that."
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past ten years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.
Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net
Coaches Corner - Game Notes
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