After dominating the Cowboys during their joint practice on Thursday, the Denver Broncos continued that dominance by defeating them 17-7 in their preseason opener. The Broncos held them to a shutout until late in the game so, it was a pretty one-sided showing by the Broncos.
There were plenty of standout players in this game who helped their chances of making the 53-man roster while others will need a bounce-back performance next week. So let us take a look at which players came out of this victory as a winner or as a loser.
Winner – EDGE Baron Browning
Probably the biggest winner from last night’s game is edge rusher Baron Browning. He looked as good as advertised and looks like someone who will be pushing for some significant snaps this upcoming season.
Baron Browning’s first half:
1 pass defended
– Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) August 14, 2022
Browning flashed his speed, athleticism, strength, versatility, and Von Miller-like bend in this game. He was disruptive and looks like someone who could be a potential starter for the Broncos at some point this upcoming season
I think he outperformed Malik Reed as well and could be pushing to be the third edge rusher and potentially forcing the Broncos to create packages to get Browning, Chubb, and Gregory all on the field at the same time.
It’s exciting to see Browning putting it all together as an edge rusher considering he made the transition just this offseason. He should only get better from here on out and likely he will be included in these posts as a winner in the upcoming preseason games.
Losers – Broncos running game
One of my favorite parts of the preseason is getting hyped for that preseason running back darling that goes off against second and third-team defenses. Well, that did not happen during the opener, at all.
Hackett pleased overall but: “We’ve got to get the run game going. Not good enough. ” # 9sports
– Mike Klis (@mikeklis) August 14, 2022
They had 22 rushing attempts for a measly 39 yards. The Broncos’ four running backs averaged 1.8 yards per carry as well which is not good. One of the issues was that the second-team offensive line was not creating rushing lanes which is a problem in itself and / or the backs couldn’t find the hole and create yardage on their own.
Mike Boone had three rushes for -1 yards, Max Borghi had 4 carries for 10 yards, JaQuan Hardy had 5 carries for 13 yards while Stevie Scott led the Broncos in carries and yards by totaling 20 yards on 6 carries.
Obviously, not the best showing and we could potentially see a few changes among this group after this poor showing. Sure, Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon were not out there with the rest of the Broncos starting offensive line, but you still want to see better from this unit.
Winners – WR’s Seth Williams, Brandon Johnson, Kendall Hinton, and Jalen Virgil
After losing Tim Patrick to a season-ending ACL injury, the big question was who would replace his role with the team? Well, the Broncos appear to be loaded at the position as multiple receivers turned heads during this game.
Rookie receiver Jalen Virgil led the team with 3 receptions for 83 yards while fellow rookie Brandon Johnson totaled 4 receptions for 64 yards. HOF receiver Kendall Hinton had a beautiful touchdown reception and totaled 3 receptions for 53 yards. Big-bodied wide receiver Seth Williams also had 4 receptions for 29 yards which included a nice goal line fade where he used his size di lui to block out the defender and high point the ball.
Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and Montrell Washington are locked in for a roster spot while the rest are fighting for the final 2 or so spots. It’s going to be a tough decision on who and who doesn’t make the roster with the remaining 4 or 5 receivers.
Loser – Punter Corliss Waitman
One of the roster battles I was keeping an eye on was the Broncos punting competition between Sam Martin and Corliss Waitman. Well, through one preseason game, it appears that Sam Martin still is the favorite for the punting job.
Corliss Waitman’s first punt results in a fair catch, but it covers just 34 yards, with the line of scrimmage at the DEN 45 … fair-caught at the 21-yard line. Hang time, 4.11 seconds.
– Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) August 14, 2022
Both punters had two punts and Martin outperformed Waitman in pretty much all categories. Martin had two punts for 101 yards, a 50.5 average, one down inside the 20, and a long of 52 yards. Meanwhile, Waitman had two punts for 75 yards, an average of 37.5 yards, one down inside the 20, and a long of 41 yards.
With Martin being a veteran and a pretty solid overall punter, Waitman needs to really outperform him or at least equal him to really push for his job. That didn’t happen last night and Martin appears to be the Broncos punter this upcoming season.
Winner – QB Josh Johnson
Another battle I was keeping an eye on was the Broncos’ backup quarterback competition. Veteran journeyman Josh Johnson got the start last night and after a slow start, he really turned it on and had himself a pretty solid game overall.
Josh Johnson’s first half started slow, but finished really well.
In the first half (which was his entire game), he went:
120.2 passer rating
– Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) August 14, 2022
Though he was aided by the Cowboys’ penalties, Johnson completed 16 of 23 passes for 172 yards for two touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 120.2. That’s pretty damn good and about what you hope to get from your backup starting the preseason opener.
He was far from perfect, but I did like how he made plays while on the run, extended some plays, and looked poised in the pocket while the rush was coming after him.
The Broncos could do better at the backup position, but hopefully, we’ll only see the backup play in blowout victories against the Chiefs.