Another preseason game, another loss. This time though, it was the Denver Broncos who controlled the majority of the game, but couldn’t move the ball in the fourth quarter to keep the Chicago Bears offense off the field.
There was a lot of good that came out of this game though, and luckily the final score means absolutely nothing. Here are our five takeaways from the second preseason game.
Starting offense finds a groove
The first-string offense again got off to a slow start by going three-and-out on their first series, but after that, they were able to find a groove and march down the field for multiple scoring drives.
Case Keenum and Emmanuel Sanders were in sync as they worked together to convert a few third downs to keep drives alive. Sanders finished with three receptions for 27 yards on seven targets. Jeff Heuerman made his presence felt on a couple completions from Keenum where he was able to power through some potential tacklers to pick up yards after contact. He also caught a two-point conversion on the first strings’ only touchdown drive of the night.
Keenum showed a lot of accuracy for most of his throws but overthrew his receivers a few times on a drive that should have resulted in a touchdown, and the Broncos had to settle for a field goal. (Rolls) Royce Freeman looks like a legitimate threat for the starting RB position with another touchdown run and getting the majority of the first quarter carries. He finished his night with 20 yards on six carries.
Phillip Lindsay has continued to show his versatility as a runner, receiver, returner, and special teamer. He led the Broncos with 32 rushing yards on six carries (5.3 yards per carry) with a long of 15 yards. He was a returner for one kick-off and two punts, with his longest returns of 12 yards for each. He will be another undrafted free agent to make this Broncos team. He could potentially make WR Isaiah McKenzie expendable with his ability to return kicks and punts and a crowded wide receiver room.
McKenzie showed last week the potential he has as a returner with a punt return for a touchdown, but this week he showed why Broncos fans hold their breath every time he has the ball in his hands. He fumbled after catching a ball from Paxton Lynch in the 4th quarter and killed one of the only potentially good drives from Lynch and the third stringers.
With Demaryius Thomas, Sanders, Courtland Sutton, and DaeSean Hamilton locking up the top 4 spots at WR, it leaves only two, maybe three, spots for the other receivers to fight for. River Cracraft and Tim Patrick have had strong showings throughout training camp and are listed ahead of McKenzie on the depth chart. If the Broncos only keep 6 receivers, McKenzie could be the odd man out with Lindsay showing he has the versatility to perform well in multiple positions.
Defensive front gives a glimpse of potential
The run defense seemed much more improved from last week. They still allowed Jordan Howard to have big runs of 17 and 13 yards, but kept him to an average of 3.5 yards per carry.
With Von Miller on the field for the entire first quarter, it seemed to allow the Broncos front line to put more pressure on the quarterback as well as fill the gaps on run plays.
The Broncos got plenty of pressure on Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the build-up to that safety with inside linebackers Brandon Marshall breaking through the line untouched to tackle Howard for a four-yard loss that pinned the Bears on their own goalline.
Rookie Bradley Chubb showed he’ll be a high-impact player for this defense soon enough as he sacked Trubisky in the end zone for a safety and had four tackles (three solo).
Broncos secondary is scary (and not in a good way)
An already thin secondary got thinner as safety Will Parks suffered a knee contusion at the end of the first quarter and cornerback Marcus Rios, who has had a strong training camp, was seen in a walking boot at the end of the game with an ankle injury.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr, safety Dymonte Thomas, safety Su’a Cravens, and cornerback Michael Hunter were all held out of the game for various injuries. With Harris out, rookie Isaac Yiadom started at cornerback and was picked on throughout the night, giving up some big plays to the Bears’ receivers.
Harris and Cravens should be ready to play next week against Washington so that will hopefully give us a better look at this starting secondary. We should also get a good look at newly-signed safety Shamarko Thomas next week.
Swag making case to be Keenum’s deputy
Now second-string quarterback Chad Kelly once again proved he deserved the opportunity to play with the twos and to back up Keenum. He exudes confidence when he steps on the field, throws with power and accuracy, and is showing growth in his decision making. He threw a strike to rookie receiver Courtland Sutton for a 16-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter and went 7-9 for 90 yards and a quarterback rating of 145.4.
As good as Kelly has been, everyone in Broncos Country will need to pull in the reins on any cries for him to take the starting job from Keenum. He’s basically still a rookie and has only been playing against 2nd and 3rd string players and hasn’t played meaningful football in over a year. But he could be showing enough to convince John Elway and Vance Joseph they may not need to go out and sign a veteran backup as a safety net in the case of injury to Keenum.
Lynch finished in Denver?
As Kelly seems to improve with each opportunity he gets, former first-round pick Paxton Lynch seems to digress every time he’s on the field.
Now playing with the third-string offense, and against the third-string defense, Lynch continues to look lost and uncomfortable. He is slow to make his reads which causes him to feel like he needs to tuck the ball and run if his first read isn’t there.
He is inaccurate, especially when flustered in the pocket, and doesn’t have the vision to find the open man. On one play he missed a wide-open John Diarse because he got flushed out of the pocket and tried to run.
He finished his night 5-11 for 39 yards and a quarterback rating of 54.7. He was also sacked twice for a loss of 11 yards. This could be the third straight year that Lynch loses his job to a seventh-round pick, which may spell disaster for his career.
Overall, the Broncos showed a lot of promise throughout this game with success on both sides of the ball for the first and second stringers, but there is still much to prove and improve if they want to be considered a legitimate playoff contender.
We’ll get a much more accurate look next week as the starters will get to play the majority of the game against Washington.
Broncos Country, how did you feel about last night’s game? What observations did you take away? Let us know below or on social media!