Broncos should trade for Russell Wilson

Broncos should trade for Russell Wilson

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The Denver Broncos should trade for Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, according to Broncos Europe TV’s Michael McQuaid.

It’s not a particularly fresh take, but it would be a bold move by John Elway to snap up a genuinely elite NFL quarterback just weeks after the Broncos traded a 2019 fourth-round pick for Joe Flacco.

“If he’s available, go get Russell Wilson right now,” McQuaid said. “There’s a guy that guarantees the next five years for this team in regards to the quarterback position. A guy that’s going to help this offense while we still have that core on defense.

“What have we got to lose? Why not offer them Flacco? Maybe a first round this year, first round next year, or one of our more senior players? 

“Why not offer someone who’s been talking — or hinting — about leaving Denver: maybe Chris Harris Jr?

“I think we need to make the move now. Will Elway make that move? It’s anybody’s guess, but I’d love to be able to see something there.

While both are Super Bowl winners, 34-year-old Flacco has plenty of detractors from his time in Baltimore and lost his job in 2018 to a guy whose most significant weakness is throwing the ball.

Flacco has never been selected to the Pro Bowl but is a Super Bowl MVP. That was in 2012. Times have changed and his production has remained average at best.

Wilson, on the other hand, continually excites and mostly gets the job done given time and space to operate. There’s a reason why the 2012 third-round pick is a six-time Pro Bowler and went to back-to-back Super Bowls. His efficiency is impressive.

He can make up for offensive line deficiencies to some extent with his mobility and accuracy downfield. Certainly more than the quarterbacks the Broncos have rolled through in recent seasons, and certainly more than Flacco, who is a big-bodied quarterback.

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Wilson is waiting on the Seahawks to offer him a new deal, one that could make him the league’s highest-paid player, but it appears unlikely to meet the player’s deadline of April 15.

If the Seahawks don’t cough up the big bucks, Wilson would be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

We could see a Kirk Cousins situation play out. The franchise tag is inevitable for such a valuable player, but with an underwhelming quarterback class in the 2019 NFL Draft next week, it’s understandable that quarterback-needy teams should be interested.

That includes the Broncos, despite Flacco having three years on his current deal which carried over from Baltimore, but Wilson’s suitors also include the New York Giants, who boast two first-round picks in this year’s draft and are actively looking for Eli Manning’s successor.

Factor in that Wilson’s wife reportedly wants to be in New York City more and that Wilson’s baseball career is now in New York with the Yankees, and the football Giants make a lot of sense.

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So the Broncos front office would have to move fast to bring Wilson to Denver to play football nine years after the Colorado Rockies selected him in the 2010 MLB Draft.

It would likely mean losing at least one player. As Benjamin Allbright noted, the Broncos could deal Flacco and Harris, as well as two first-round picks.

“Does John Elway have that managerial instinct to get Russell Wilson?” McQuaid later mused in his video.

“Because it would immediately give us that step up that we need to compete in the AFC West next season.

“This is arguably the Seahawks’ best player. A guy that has done so much for Seattle — won a Super Bowl and destroyed us, been to another Super Bowl. A player with tonnes of experience and is still in his prime compared to Joe Flacco.”

For now, the Broncos are content to roll with their fifth different starting quarterback in three seasons with Flacco at the helm. Drafting a quarterback of the future remains on the radar, something Elway has been woeful at during his career as general manager.

He passed up on drafting Wilson three times in 2012. After taking defensive end Derek Wolfe with the 36th overall pick, Elway took Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler with the 57th overall pick, then running back Ronnie Hillman with the 67th overall pick. Seattle took Wilson eight picks later.

Not drafting Wilson haunted the Broncos after Super Bowl XLVIII, not taking the chance to get him again could lead to future nightmares for Elway and the Broncos front office.

Broncos Europe TV’s Michael McQuaid makes the argument to bring Wilson to Denver
CBS mock draft has Broncos taking QB Daniel Jones

CBS mocks have Broncos taking QB Daniel Jones

Some Denver Broncos fans might have an eye or two on the NFL playoffs this month, but here we’re keeping one eye on who will deny Tom Brady another ring and one eye on who the Broncos should draft in April.

The perennial draft question for the Broncos is will John Elway finally find their new franchise quarterback?

He’s tried a few times and failed.

Meanwhile AFC West rivals Kansas City traded up in the first round in 2017 and landed their guy Patrick Mahomes, Houston traded up to grab former Clemson star DeSean Watson, and the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round in 2018 to land their guy in Lamar Jackson.

All three were players the Broncos could have drafted, but didn’t.

Of course, the last time Elway traded up in the first round to get his quarterback was in 2016. We all know how Paxton Lynch worked out.

So will Elway pull the trigger in 2019 after admitting that current starter Case Keenum is “a short-term fix”?

CBS sports writer Ryan Wilson has the Broncos drafting Duke quarterback Daniel Jones 10th overall with Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins already off the board.

CBS writer Chris Trapasso also has the Broncos taking Jones 10th overall.

The old joke is that Elway likes big, athletic quarterbacks. It didn’t work out with Lynch, or 2012 second-round pick Brock Osweiler, but Jones could be the next athletic quarterback gamble the Broncos could take.

The big difference, however, could be that Jones has been coached by David Cutcliffe, who also coached Peyton Manning and brother Eli.

Jones isn’t a finished article but could learn a lot from Keenum and new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who worked with quarterbacks in San Francisco.

Here’s what Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told ESPNU radio host Mark Packer after watching the Jones for the first time ahead of Clemson’s game with Duke in Death Valley last November.

“We have not played Duke since 2012 and we have not had a lot of crossover tape with Duke, so I put the tape in and I usually start from their last game and I go from there,” Swinney said.

“But I am watching this Duke-North Carolina game, and I could not believe what I was seeing.

“This kid was unbelievable. This kid is huge. First of all, he is a 6-5, 220-pound quarterback, but he rushed for 186 yards.

“I’m talking a 72-yard run, 50-yard run, and he is pulling away from guys. He is not explosive latterly, but when he gets going, this guy can leave you. He has legit track speed straight ahead.”

Daniel Jones is a big-bodied, dual-threat quarterback that could tempt John Elway

While Jones set the Duke single-game rushing record in the 42-35 win over rivals North Carolina, his passing has also impressed throughout the season.

“He is incredibly accurate. He is very strong-armed,” Swinney added. “I just kept watching him and kept watching him, and I am like, ‘Oh my Lord!’

“He is very knowledgeable and is obviously very well coached with [head coach David Cutcliffe]. He is a pro. He is going to be a high pick in the draft for sure.

“I did not know a whole lot about him prior to our preparation for him, but I tell you what, he got my attention really quick, and he got our team’s attention.

“This is a very talented quarterback with good veteran receivers and good tight ends, and they have an excellent scheme that features him. Everything goes through the quarterback.”

Our friends at Pro Football Focus aren’t as impressed as Clemson’s head coach.

“The 2019 draft class is a decidedly weak quarterback class and when that’s the case, an off-the-wall name always seems to get first-round hype at some point in the process,” said PFF’s Michael Renner.

“It looks as if Jones will be that guy this year. The Duke quarterback’s 79.7 passing grade this season represents a monstrous jump over his 2017 campaign where he earned a 57.8 passing grade, but he simply hasn’t had enough special throws down the field to warrant the hype.

“Jones’ 13 big-time throws this season rank 71st in the country, and he has almost as many turnover-worthy plays (11) as he does big-time throws.”

Pro Football Focus labeled Jones as overrated despite his rise up their draft board in 2018.

Jones had a solid, if unspectacular, 2018 season for the Blue Devils and, after declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft, accepted an invitation to be one of eight quarterbacks at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile on January 26.

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden will coach Jones and fellow first-round prospect Drew Lock as part of the North team against Kyle Shanahan’s South team.

If he shines in Mobile and at the NFL Combine, Jones could certainly find several suitors when the 2019 NFL Draft rolls into Nashville in April.

Broncos waive Paxton Lynch

The Paxton Lynch experiment in Denver is over after the Broncos waived their 2016 first-round pick Sunday.

The embattled quarterback made the 53-man roster Saturday and received another vote of confidence from head coach Vance Joseph despite falling to third on the depth chart behind 2017 Mr Irrelevant Chad Kelly.

But it was a temporary reprieve after the Broncos claimed former Cleveland and Washington quarterback Kevin Hogan off waivers.

“Vance and I met with Paxton this morning and informed him that it’s best for everyone to make this move,” Elway said in a statement tweeted by the Broncos.

“We appreciate all of Paxton’s hard work as a Bronco, and we wish him well in the future.”

After missing his rookie season through injury, Kelly surpassed Lynch to become the number two behind Case Keenum during training camp and preseason putting further pressure on the Broncos to move on from a guy that had lost quarterback battles in each of his three preseasons in the Mile High City.

Left with seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian and the acquisition of veteran Mark Sanchez following Peyton Manning’s retirement in 2016, the Broncos traded up in the first round to draft Lynch out of Memphis, intrigued by his size, arm, and athletic ability.

But despite those attributes, Lynch’s football IQ left a lot to be desired and he failed to beat out Siemian in a quarterback competition during training camp in his first two seasons before the Broncos signed Keenum from Minnesota then traded away Siemian.

Lynch suffered the indignity of being booed as he entered the field for the second preseason game against Chicago at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

His only bright spot this preseason came in the final game when he went 14 of 15 for 128 yards and two touchdowns running a simple scheme against Arizona’s third- and fourth-string defense.

In his two full seasons with the Broncos, Lynch made five appearances, with four starts for a 1-3 record. He completed 79 of 128 passes for 792 yards and four touchdowns, four interceptions, and four fumbles.

 

Broncos practice squad and waiver tracker

Barely had the dust settled on the 53-man rosters and the teams are making moves again.

The Denver Broncos could sign 10 players to their 2018 practice squad and brought back several players who were waived on Saturday, including 2017 draft picks Carlos Henderson and Brendan Langley.

Nose tackle Kyle Peko — a practice squad regular in 2016 and 2017 — was brought back, as was wide receiver River Cracraft, who spent part of last season on the squad.

Rookie Outside linebacker Jeff Holland also returned along with rookie running back Dave Williams.

It is unclear whether the Broncos tried to bring back running back De’Angelo Henderson, who joined the New York Jets practice squad.

Punt returner Isaiah McKenzie was originally brought back on the practice squad, but was promoted to the 53-man roster after safety Su’a Cravens was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

As of 15:00 MDT on September 2, the following players have been added to the Broncos practice squad for the 2018 season:

Trey Marshall, S
Brian Parker, TE
Austin Schlottmann, OL
Kyle Peko, NT
River Cracraft, WR
Brendan Langley, CB
Carlos Henderson, WR (Reserve/Suspended week 1)
Dave Williams, RB
Jeff Holland, OLB
Avery Gennesy, OL

The Broncos made a big statement early Sunday with the announcement they claimed former Cleveland quarterback Kevin Hogan, who spent this summer with Washington.

In a corresponding move, the team waived 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch, who was described as the “third-string quarterback” when the 53-man roster was confirmed on Saturday night.

Broncos sign QB Kevin Hogan

Paxton Lynch’s time in Denver could be coming to a close after the Broncos claimed quarterback Kevin Hogan off waivers.

The Broncos had tested the waters earlier in the week with a view to signing a veteran, but general manager John Elway said players were waiting it out.

Elway didn’t wait very long to pull the trigger on Sunday afternoon as he claimed the former Cleveland and Washington quarterback.

With Case Keenum confirmed as the starter and Chad Kelly as the number two, first-round pick Lynch — described as the third-string quarterback by the Broncos on Saturday night — could finally be moved on.

The Broncos were reportedly high on Hogan, who was drafted in the fiftth-round out of Stanford by Kansas City in 2016 before being waived in September 2016

He was the backup to Cleveland starting quarterbacks Cody Kessler (2016, now in Jacksonville) and DeShone Kizer (2017, now in Green Bay) before being traded to Washington in April 2018, where he was the third-string QB behind Alex Smith and Colt McCoy.

Hogan struggled in his first two seasons in the NFL as the Browns recorded their infamous 1-31 record, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in both seasons.

Pro Football Focus ranked Hogan 54th of 54 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts when it came to turnover worthy play frequency through 2016 and 2017. By comparison, Lynch was 52nd.

 

More to follow

Five takeaways from the Broncos’ preseason finale

Thursday night was not necessarily about the quality of the product on the field, but more about how individual players stepped up to make a case for themselves remaining with the Denver Broncos for the 2018 season.

A win is always great but coaches are looking at how guys face adversity knowing their jobs are on the line. Here are some quick takeaways from the Broncos’ 21-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

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Chad Kelly had a case of the butterflies

Named the starter for this game with the first team sitting out, this was Chad Kelly’s chance to show he could handle the responsibilities of a quarterback in the NFL. Would he still bring the fire, passion, and confidence that he showed at Ole Miss, and through preseason as the backup?

A good first drive halted when Kelly became flustered by a collapsing pocket and tried to take over with his legs. He was a little erratic, not trusting himself or the offensive line, and losing vision downfield. On a third and 11, Kelly felt some pressure coming off the ends and threw a pass towards River Cracraft that the receiver didn’t see and was intercepted by Arizona defensive end Jacquies Smith.

After that, it took Kelly a couple of drives to calm down and manage the offense. He had some really good throws and eventually drove his team down the field for a field goal, but by the time he was able to find a groove, the first half was basically over and his night came to an end.

He did enough to stay ahead of Paxton Lynch, but his performance may motivate the Broncos to find a more experienced veteran after rosters are finalized on Saturday afternoon.

Paxton Lynch stepped up

It almost seemed that Kelly and Lynch switched roles Thursday night as Lynch came out and threw with confidence, was accurate, and led the offense to two touchdown drives along with a field goal.

Most of his throws were short screens or in the flat but he was comfortable in a basic, single-read scheme designed to bring out his best. He did take a big sack but it was hardly his fault as the offensive line seemed to miss a blitz pickup right up the middle.

His first touchdown was rolling out to his left and throwing on the move and dropped it perfectly into the hands of Leslie. The other touchdown he stood in the pocket and put the ball where only tight end Matt LaCosse could get it even though he was covered very tightly.

Now one good performance does not an NFL quarterback make, especially against players lucky to still be on a roster next week, but he finished his night going 14-15 for 128 yards, two TDs, and a 141.8 QB rating.

He probably didn’t retake the backup spot in Denver, but showed that he can still run simple, college style systems. That might be enough to save his job with the Broncos or could be enough to draw some interest from other teams around the league.

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Running backs finalized?

At first, Devontae Booker was sitting this game, then rookie Royce Freeman was stood down, then Phillip Lindsay — the undrafted rookie — was kept off the field, all but assuring his spot on the roster.

That turned the focus to 2017 fifth-round pick De’Angelo Henderson (11 carries for 53 yards) and 2018 seventh-round pick Dave Williams (13 carries for 43 yards) to carry the load as they battle to make the roster.

Henderson looked like the better back, his powerful legs kept churning after contact and he hardly ever goes down on the first contact. He was nicknamed “Hop” for a reason, and it showed, but he also impressed in 2017 and was underused by the Broncos coaches last season.

Henderson was more decisive when looking for an opening. He didn’t break off any big runs this preseason but he appears to be better than Williams at this time.

With the rumors of teams already showing interest in Henderson, the Broncos could potentially trade him if they have a good enough offer.

Then they could either decide to keep Williams on the final roster, or just keep three running backs and hope to sneak Williams onto the practice squad to open up space to add a player at another position.

Whether it’s here or somewhere else though, Henderson has earned the right to be on someone’s roster.

Last receiver spot still open

As everyone in Broncos Country knows, the first four spots at wide receiver are locked up with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, and DaeSean Hamilton. Against Arizona, Tim Patrick locked up that fifth spot with a good performance of two catches for 18 yards.

Assuming the Broncos keep six wide receivers, that leaves just one spot left on the 53-man roster and almost certainly will go to someone who can contribute on special teams.

Journeyman wide receiver Jordan Leslie had a big game with five receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown, but was otherwise very quiet this preseason and could possibly have earned a spot on someone else’s 53-man roster, but it won’t be in Denver.

River Cracraft also had a good game with three receptions for 23 yards and finally was able to translate some of that good practice into gameday performance. He also had two punt returns, but only averaged six yards per return.

The former Washington State standout is in a similar position to Isaiah McKenzie in that he wouldn’t see the field very often on offense so McKenzie might remain slightly ahead in the battle for the sixth receiver slot.

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Some good news in the secondary

With how thin the Broncos are in their secondary, they needed to see something from their backups last night. Newly signed Pro Bowler Adam Jones wasn’t expected to play but suited up and was on the field for defense and special teams.

He didn’t make a huge impact but with only three days with the team you couldn’t really expect much. He fielded one punt with a return of only three yards, but also had two kick returns averaging 26 yards a return giving the Broncos brass something to think about when it comes to roster cuts on Friday and Saturday.

It’s difficult to believe the Broncos would part ways with him after only a few days, especially since the other backups at cornerback have been less than spectacular.

Safety Su’a Cravens was finally able to get on the field after dealing with a nagging injury through training camp and preseason, and he made his presence felt. He had some hard hits and a great open field tackle.

His small sample size was exactly what the Broncos wanted to see from him and he should be a bright spot on this defense once he’s able to get fully up to speed.

Last chance to make Broncos roster in Arizona

The last preseason game doesn’t usually draw a lot of buzz because starters almost never play.

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph declared this week that 22 players will not be suiting up this Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals.

But for the rest of the team, this is a chance to prove their worth. Some players will be battling for a better position on the depth chart, while others will literally be fighting to keep their jobs. 

It’s never easy to go from 90 players down to 53 when these guys have dedicated their blood, sweat, and tears to this game for the last couple of months.

With 22 players on offense and defense already having secured a spot on the roster, plus the three specialists, that only leaves 28 spots open for around 65 guys to fight for.

So for fans, this next game might be meaningless, but for the players that are going to play Thursday night in Glendale, AZ it means everything, which can create some intriguing storylines. 

Can Chad Kelly keep the hype-train rolling?

Chad Kelly has been a standout player this preseason and has all but secured that number two spot behind Case Keenum.

He will get the starting nod against Arizona this week and will most likely play the entire first half. This could be his opportunity to show the Broncos once and for all that he can be a reliable backup and that they don’t need to spend a roster spot on a veteran to backup Keenum.

He doesn’t need to be perfect but he needs to show he can take care of the ball, make smart decisions, move the offense, and read the defense — all things former first-rounder Paxton Lynch has failed at this preseason, and throughout his time in the NFL.

If Kelly can convince the Broncos he can be counted on, it would allow them to use the extra roster spot in other areas of need.

River Cracraft could make the roster with a big performance in Arizona. Credit: Ryan Koenigsberg/BSN Denver

Battle at wide receiver

The first four spots at wide receiver are pretty much set with veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.

After that, it has been a close battle and someone will need to step up and stand out if they want to make this roster.

Tim Patrick has performed well this preseason and is the most likely candidate to take the fifth receiver spot.

The Broncos won’t keep more than six receivers so that only leaves one more spot for a half-dozen receivers to battle for.

Many analysts believe Isaiah McKenzie will be awarded a spot on the roster solely for his punt return skills, but that spot should go to someone who could contribute in more ways than one because McKenzie will most likely never see the field as a receiver on offense.

River Cracraft has been a practice standout but hasn’t necessarily translated that to game performance yet. If he can have a good game and make an impact on Thursday he could go from practice squad candidate to making the final roster. 

The Broncos aren’t short of talent at running back. Credit: Ryan Koenigsberg/BSN Denver

Fight for final running back spot

The debate is an ongoing one as to who should be the starting running back for the Broncos when the season officially begins. The Broncos brass says it should be Devontae Booker, while the fans say it should be Royce Freeman.

A few local analysts and reporters have made the argument that it doesn’t really matter who is named the starter because it will be a running-back-by-committee approach anyway. See 2015 as an example: Ronnie Hillman was the “starting” back, but CJ Anderson got the majority of the carries.

The third-down back position has been all but locked up by undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay, and Andy Janovich solidified his inclusion with a great performance against Washington last week, with two key blocks on touchdown scores.

So that leaves just one spot for last year’s preseason darling De’Angelo Henderson and rookie Dave Williams to fight over.

Neither has been lights out over the three preseason games but they should expect to get a heavy workload in Arizona.

There is already talk of teams showing interest in Henderson so if he can increase his stock and Williams performs well, the Broncos could find a trade partner to get some return for Henderson and still be able to keep Williams.

But they both may need to have above-average showings for the Broncos to feel comfortable with that. Otherwise, Williams could be a practice squad candidate because Henderson most likely wouldn’t make it through waivers.

Will the Broncos finally say goodbye to 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch?. Credit: Ryan Greene

Is there any hope for Paxton?

Paxton Lynch was drafted in the first round in 2016 with the hope that in 2-3 years he would be ready to take on the role of franchise quarterback.

Three years in and he’s on the verge of being unemployed. He has been beaten out by seventh-round picks three years in a row, and this year it wasn’t even for the starting job because he and Kelly were competing for the backup role with Case Keenum being named the starter from day one.

It has been sorely obvious to even the most casual fan that Paxton does not belong on an NFL team. He has not improved his ability to read defenses, have patience in the pocket, and make accurate throws. Some would even say he has regressed in his development this year.

If he performs well on Thursday night after he relieves Kelly, he could potentially save his job for one more year.

Kelly has surpassed him for the number two spot and that won’t change unless Kelly lays a goose egg and Lynch lights it up — unlikely as that may seem.

The Broncos have invested a lot into Lynch and may not be ready to give up on him just yet. If he can provide them with hope and glimpses of his potential, the Broncos may elect to keep him on the roster and give him one more year to develop. 

Secondary depth

After cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby, and safeties Justin Simmons and Darian Stewart, the Broncos need help in the secondary.

Rookie corner Isaac Yiadom has potential but still lacks enough skill to be trusted right now. Brendan Langley is very much on the bubble with his lack of contribution on defense and the signing of two-time Pro Bowler Adam Jones.

Langley had a slim chance to stick on the roster as a special teamer, but with Jones’ ability to return punts and his experience playing corner, that could push Langley out. But Jones is 35 next month and won’t be playing on Thursday so Langley needs to take advantage of this opportunity.

It looks like Su’a Cravens will finally suit up and allow the Broncos to see what they actually have in him and he could see extensive playing time after missing the entire preseason up to this point.

Other players like Tramaine Brock and Dymonte Thomas will need to show consistency in their play to convince the Broncos they deserve a shot.

This could be an area the Broncos look for help in once roster cuts are made and veterans become available if they don’t like what they see in who they have now.

What will you be looking for Thursday night, Broncos Country? Who’s on the bubble that you’ll be rooting for? Join the conversation on our Facebook group or Twitter!

53-man roster predictions: offense

The Broncos have one more preseason game left in their preparations for the regular season.

Almost all of the starters will sit out the game Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals, with the possibility of rookies Courtland Sutton and Bradley Chubb among those who could see some action, and the rest of the players will be battling for positions on the depth chart, fighting for a job, or trying to grab the attention of other potential suitors.

By now the coaching staff has a pretty good idea as to who will be making this team, who they will try to sign to the practice squad, and who will need to seek employment elsewhere.

We already know the Broncos will roll with specialists Brandon McManus, Marquette King and Casey Kreiter, leaving 50 spots available.

So let’s take a stab at what we think the final roster will look like when the 53-man roster is finalised on September 1, starting with the 25 players to make it on offense.

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Quarterback

Starter – Case Keenum

Backup – Chad Kelly

Case Keenum is the obvious starter for this group and Chad Kelly has shown he could be a viable backup if he needed to step in at any point in the season.

The Broncos will part ways will Paxton Lynch at some point before the season begins, whether they find a trade partner or just cut ties with him and take on the dead money.

Lynch has done absolutely nothing to show he deserves a spot on this roster, and Elway will make the right choice and say adios to one of the biggest busts in Broncos history.

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Running Back/Fullback

Starters – 1A Royce Freeman, 1B Devontae Booker

Backups – Phillip Lindsay, De’Angelo Henderson, Andy Janovich

The Broncos kept five backs on the roster last year and they’ll do it again this year. Rookie Royce Freeman has earned the starting role but he hasn’t necessarily blown Booker out of the water, so they should share carries through most of the season.

Freeman can still develop and pass Booker as the clear starter later on though because Booker has hit his ceiling.

Phillip Lindsay, the undrafted free agent and Colorado native, has been an excellent find and has definitely earned a spot on this roster. He has so much versatility in run, pass, and special teams that it will allow the Broncos to keep players in other areas of need.

Last year, De’Angelo Henderson burst onto the scene in the preseason but was MIA during almost the entire regular season — that’s mostly on the coaches not giving him the opportunity to continue his success; they didn’t give Jamaal Charles any chance to succeed either.

Henderson hasn’t shown the same ability this year but he’s done enough to hold off rookie Dave Williams for the final spot at running back.

Williams could make it to the practice squad as he showed a lot of promise during training camp.

Fullback Andy Janovich was probably on the bubble for making the team this year, but his performance against Washington — making two key blocks that resulted in touchdowns — most likely saved his job.

Hopefully, the Broncos will utilize him this year to help runners reach the second level and break off big runs. He’s even proven he can be a reliable runner when his number is called.

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Wide Receiver

Starters – Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton

Backups – Tim Patrick, Mark Chapman

The Broncos won’t keep more than six receivers this year. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are the obvious starters and rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton have performed well enough in the preseason to be on the field as the third and fourth receivers.

After those four, it is a tough battle. Tim Patrick showed the most consistency through the preseason and earned his spot, leaving half a dozen players for one spot.

River Cracraft’s work ethic in training camp had him in place to claim the final position, but he was almost non-existent in the preseason and the Broncos will try to resign him to practice squad this year.

The popular choice for this spot will most likely be Isaiah McKenzie because of his skills as a punt returner, but Mark Chapman should be the sixth man, allowing the Broncos saying goodbye to fumble-prone McKenzie.

Chapman performed well when he was on the field and running back Lindsay’s versatility makes McKenzie expendable.

McKenzie did have a punt return for a touchdown against Minnesota, but he also fumbled after receiving a pass from Lynch against Chicago.

Other than his touchdown, he hasn’t really done anything on offense to show he is worth the risk. Lindsay has been nothing but reliable and fielded punts and kicks during the preseason.

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Tight End

Starters – Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt

Backup – Matt LaCosse

This was an area of concern for the Broncos when training camp opened because Jeff Heuerman had yet to show he could be a reliable tight end and Jake Butt was coming off a torn ACL he suffered in the 2016 Orange Bowl.

The Broncos just didn’t know what they had in Butt and had been disappointed in Heuerman up to this point. Heuerman stepped up and proved he can handle being the top tight end by making some big plays with the first team offense.

He should be a reliable tight end moving into the regular season. Butt didn’t have a catch this preseason until game three against Washington, but he hadn’t played meaningful football since his injury so it is expected he’ll take some time to get up to speed.

After those two, Matt LaCosse seemed to stand out the most. He caught a big touchdown from Kelly against Minnesota and seemed to be on the field more than the other backups. It could be between him and Austin Traylor but I give the edge to LaCosse. Seems like rookie Troy Fumagalli could start the season on the PUP or even be moved to IR to allow him more time to recover.

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Offensive Line

Starters – LT Garrett Bolles, LG Ronald Leary, C Matt Paradis, RG Connor McGovern, RT Jared Veldheer

Backups – Cyrus Kouandjio, Max Garcia, Sam Jones, Billy Turner

There has been little secret about the Broncos’ starting offensive line for 2018. They’ve been going about their business quietly, giving Case Keenum a great pocket to work from, and while Ronald Leary has been dealing with an injury during preseason, he remains the first-choice left guard,

After the starters, it gets a little thin — figuratively speaking.

Former starter Max Garcia can step in for Leary at left guard but should no longer be seen as a viable starter for an extended period of time, despite an impressive showing during training camp and preseason.

Billy Turner was said to be one of the best linemen by some of his teammates but has yet to show much during the preseason. His ability to play across the line makes him an invaluable backup. Swing tackle Cyrus Kouandjio has stood out in a positive way and will be able to handle backup duties behind Garett Bolles or Jared Veldheer.

Rookie Sam Jones could make this team if they feel they need an extra body to cover center and right guard, but if the Broncos feel they have bigger needs in other areas they could try to move Jones to the practice squad and use Connor McGovern as the backup center.

Let’s just hope the starters stay healthy and continue to keep Keenum’s jersey clean.

Check out part two of our 53-man roster predictions on Tuesday afternoon to see who makes it on defense.

Do you agree with Kade? Let us know your thoughts on social media.

Kelly will start against Arizona

Denver Broncos rising star Chad Kelly will get his first taste of being a number one quarterback in the NFL when he leads the offense in the final preseason game of 2018.

Kelly, who famously rapped about being the number one QB before he arrived at Clemson, has steadily grown in confidence during training camp and preseason, surpassing the Broncos’ 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch.

With Case Keenum and most of the starting offense sitting out Thursday night’s game against the Cardinals in Glendale, AZ, Kelly will take the first half with Lynch finishing the game in what could be his last time in a Broncos uniform.

“Chad will start the game on Thursday, and hopefully they’ll play half and half,” Joseph said in Monday’s press conference. “That’s the game plan going into the game.”

The Ole Miss alum is 28-of-41 for 340 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception during the first three preseason games as the second quarterback.

Kelly’s supporting cast is expected to be a mix of backups and players fighting to remain on the Broncos’ roster when the deadline for the final 53 falls at 14:00 MDT on September 1.

 

Erster Sieg der Preseason

Moin!

Der erste Auswärtstrip führte uns bereits am vergangenen Freitag in die Hauptstadt Washington DC, wo wir auf die dort ansässigen Redskins trafen. Die Spannung ist mit der Überschrift ja schon raus, deshalb verkünde ich auch hier gleich das Endergebnis — 29:17 für die Broncos!

Ein erster Sieg und das auch noch sehr verdient, insbesondere wenn man nur die erste Halbzeit betrachtet, als beide Mannschaften mehr oder weniger ihre Starting Line-Up auf dem Feld hatten. So bekamen die beiden Offenses eine komplette Halbzeit unter ihren neuen Quarterbacks. Alex Smith (ehemals Kansas City) bei den Redskins und natürlich Case Keenum (ehemals Minnesota) bei den Broncos.

Als Erster durfte Alex Smith ran. Dieser ist uns aus seiner lange Zeit in Kansas City wohl bekannt, durfte man doch die letzten Jahre mindestens zweimal pro Spielzeit gegen ihn antreten. Etwas ungewohnt war es schon ihn jetzt in bordeauxrot anstelle von Kirk Cousins zu sehen. Dieser hatte ja indirekt den Weg für unseren neuen Quarterback, mit seinem Wechsel nach Minnesota, frei gemacht. Irgendwie hängt alles zusammen.

Adam Gotsis sacks Washington quarterback Alex Smith at FedEx Field. Credit: Keith Allison

Alex Smith‘ erster Drive endet ohne Punkte und noch dazu etwas schmerzhaft mit einem Sack durch Adam Gotsis. Keenum’s erster Drive war dann gleich von Erfolg gekrönt. Brandon McManus erzielte ein 50-Yard-Field Goal. Der erste von insgesamt fünf Dreiern an diesem Tag. Zuvor konnte Case Keenum den Ball mit zwei Kurzpässen auf die Rookies Phillip Lindsay (18 Yards) und Courtland Sutton (10 Yards) nach vorne bringen. Zwei weitere Passversuche auf Emmanuel Sanders waren incomplete.

Adrian Peterson had a fruitful night against the Broncos defense. Credit: Keith Allison

Auf Seiten der Redskins konnte ein weiteres neues Gesicht auf sich aufmerksam machen. Der ehemaligen MVP, Running Back Adrian Peterson, hatte erst zu Beginn der vergangenen Woche in der Hauptstadt angeheuert. Sein Debüt gelang und so war er mit 11 Versuchen für 56 Yards der beste Rusher des Spiels. Sein Quarterback hingegen fand auch im zweiten Drive nicht zu seiner früheren Form. Allerdings war das Spiel der Redskins auch sehr lauflastig, sprich sehr auf Peterson fokussiert. Dennoch klappte bei den wenigen Passversuchen so gut wie gar nichts. Der erste erwähnenswerte Pass über 21 Yards auf WR Paul Richardson kam erst im zweiten Quarter.

Case Keenum’s zweiter Drive endete mit einem gewohnten Bild in dieser Preseason, nämlich einem Rushing Touchdown von Rookie RB Royce Freeman. Sein Lauf über 24 Yards war definitiv der eindrucksvollste Rush vom Drittrundenpick aus Oregon bisher. Ganz großes Kino! Bis zu besagter 24-Yard-Linie war es aber auch ein beachtlicher Drive. Fast schon spektakulär war der Catch von Zweitrundenpick WR Courtland Sutton, der den Ball nah an der rechten Außenlinie für 27 Yards Raumgewinn aus der Luft pflücken konnte. Sein Gegenspieler, kein geringer als CB Josh Norman wirkte dabei völlig neben der Spur. Auch danach hatte Norman das Nachsehen, als sich Demaryius Thomas ebenfalls auf der rechten Seite den Ball für 13 Yards sichern konnte. Der bereits erwähnte Touchdown von Freeman folgte zur 10:0 Führung.

Beim nächsten Redskins-Drive, der im 3-and-out endete, war bis auf den Pass Block von Dymonte Thomas nichts von Interesse. Die Broncos machte es genauso schlecht und beendeten ihren dritten Drive ebenfalls im 3-and-out. Danach kamen die Redskins durch ein Field Goal zum ersten Mal zu Punkten, bevor dann die Emmanuel Sanders Festspiele beginnen sollten. Es begann mit einem Kurzpass in die Mitte für 15 Yards, gefolgt von einem tiefen Pass an die linke Seitenlinie. Diesen Pass fing Sanders spektakulär mit ausgestreckten Händen fliegend in der Luft für 33 Yards, um danach bei einem End-Around-Spielzug den Ball über 27 Yards in die Endzone zu laufen. 17:3 Führung und was für ein Drive!

Broncos guard Connor McGovern celebrates with Royce Freeman. Credit: Keith Allison

Beim letzten Offensive Drive unter Case Keenum an diesem Tag zu Ende des zweiten Quarters war dann wohl die Luft raus. Fast hätte es eine Interception gegeben und daraufhin folgte ein Sack, der den Arbeitstag des Texaners so langsam ausklingen ließ. Seine Bilanz, von 18 Passversuchen kamen 12 an, bei 148 Yards Raumgewinn. Ganz ordentlich für eine Halbzeit zu deren Ende man 17:3 führte.

Noch zu erwähnen ist die Leistung von Fullback Andy Janovich. Dieser konnte mit diversen Blocks Räume für das Laufspiel und auch Zeit für das Passspiel gewinnen. Ein wichtiger Aspekt, der oft vergessen wird, aber für eine funktionierende O-Line, die heute übrigens ziemlich gut zusammenspielte, unerläßlich ist.

Die zweite Halbzeit brachte dann die üblichen Wechsel und damit verlor das Geschehen natürlich deutlich an Spielfluß. Sämtliche Running Backs durften wieder ran. Devontae Booker zeigte sein wohl bestes Spiel. Royce Freeman war bis auf seinen Touchdown kaum groß in Erscheinung getreten. DeAngelo Henderson tat sich mit 35 Yards als erfolgreichster der Backup-RBs hervor. Wobei auch Phillip Lindsay sowie der Siebenrundenpick aus Arkansas, David Williams einige Snaps bekamen.

Chad Kelly konnte in Washington keinen Touchdown für sich verbuchen. Einmal kam er ganz dicht heran, als er einen tiefen Pass in die Endzone zu TE Brian Parker warf, der den Ball dann durch die Finger gleiten ließ.

Paxton Lynch bekam dann nochmal die Chance sich zum Ende des Spiels zu zeigen und das gelang ihm zum ersten Mal in dieser Preseason richtig gut. Zweimal wagte er, für ihn ungewöhnlich, tiefe Pässe auf WR DeAndrew White, der diese jedoch nicht fangen konnte. Ein Pass wäre auf alle Fälle fangbar gewesen, beim zweiten in der Endzone war der Ball für den Receiver dann doch etwas überworfen. Zweimal war Paxton dann auch noch gut zu Fuß unterwegs und so konnte eine weiteren Bronco ziemlich gut glänzen, nämlich Kicker Brandon McManus, der alle fünf Field-Goal-Versuche in diesem Spiel verwandeln konnte, einen dabei für 56 Yards.

In der Defensive gab es wie schon im letzten Spiel gegen die Chicago Bears keinerlei Auffälligkeiten. Besonders gefreut hat mich der Sack von Shane Ray an QB Colt McCoy im dritten Quarter. Bleibt zu hoffen, daß sich der ehemalige Erstrundenpick dieses Jahr (hoffentlich verletzungsfrei!!!) nochmal für die erste Mannschaft empfehlen kann. Ansonsten ist er wohl weg.

Auf ESPN konnte ich noch lesen, daß wie schon in den vorangegangenen Spielen Brandon Marshall und Demaryius Thomas der Nationalhymne fernblieben. Direkt danach liefen sie aus dem Tunnel ins Stadion ein. Sie waren die einzigen Spieler. In der TV-Berichterstattung wurde die Hymne ja bisher nicht einmal übertragen.

Nach dem ersten Sieg und einem wirklich gelungenen Spiel nähern wir uns nun der regulären Saison und ich muß sagen, daß ich mich schon riesig auf das erste Spiel am übernächsten Wochenende gegen die Seattle Seahawks freue. Am Donnerstag bzw. Freitag dieser Woche sind unsere Jungs dann nochmal in Glendale bei den Arizona Cardinals zu sehen. Für gewöhnlich werden die Starter in diesem Spiel komplett geschont und so werden wir wohl reichlich Chad Kelly und Paxton Lynch zu sehen bekommen. Also dann, genießt die Tage bis zum nächsten Spiel.

Mile High Salute

Gordon

Twitter: @nenntmichGordon

Chad Kelly: Do the Broncos trust him?

As of two weeks ago, Denver Broncos quarterback Chad Kelly was a third-stringer getting little-to-no reps with the second team offense.

“Mr. Irrelevant” hadn’t played a meaningful snap of football in over 600 days. He sat behind newly-signed starter Case Keenum and 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch without a guarantee of even making the final roster.

Kelly’s personal and professional history were stained with immaturity and injury. The only thing he had going for him was the fact that he’s the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

Most media people figured if the Broncos were going to keep three quarterbacks this season, it would be Keenum, Lynch, and a veteran they would bring in via free agency or trade.

Maybe the Broncos would try to sneak him onto the practice squad after the final roster cutdown, as they did a year ago with preseason darling Kyle Sloter, the quarterback the Broncos signed as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Colorado after Kelly fell to the final pick of the 2017 draft.

Sloter cleared waivers to make it to the practice squad after the Broncos brought back veteran Brock Osweiler as the third quarterback, but they subsequently lost him to Minnesota after his impressive preseason performances.

But with Keenum being named the starter and the team investing so much time — and money — in developing Lynch, there was just no way Kelly was going to make it on this team.

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Then Kelly stepped onto the field against the Minnesota Vikings during the Broncos first preseason game this year. He not-so-quietly went 14-21 for 177 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings’ third-string defense.

The Ole Miss alum did have one interception, but again this was his first meaningful action in almost two years, and against an NFL defense.

At one point in the game, the entire stadium was chanting Kelly’s name over and over again. He provided a spark at the quarterback position that hadn’t been felt since Peyton Manning took his first snap as a Bronco in 2012.

That’s not to compare Kelly to Manning, because Kelly still has a ways to go before he can even be considered a starting quarterback in this league, but after Kelly’s play against Minnesota, the Broncos promoted him to second-string quarterback ahead of Lynch.

He played against the Chicago Bears’ second-team defense and didn’t miss a beat from the previous week despite failing to light up practice.

His first drive started in Chicago territory after an interception by safety Justin Simmons. Kelly took full advantage of the field position later in the drive by throwing a bullet to Courtland Sutton in the endzone, hitting the rookie receiver perfectly in stride.

Kelly continued to throw strikes to his receivers and finished the night 7-9 (77.8 per cent completion) for 90 yards and a quarterback rating of 145.4.

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With his energy and fearless approach to playing quarterback, he very likely convinced the Broncos decision makers that he deserves a spot on the roster, which could mean Lynch is on his way out the door after the third preseason of being outperformed by seventh-round picks.

But did he do enough to show he can handle the pressure of being a starting quarterback if Keenum were to go down for any length of time?

It comes down to how the Broncos see Kelly fitting into their future plans. If they see him as someone they could potentially develop but still needs a year or two to learn, then they will most likely bring in a veteran to backup Keenum and give Kelly time to learn and grow as an NFL quarterback.

If they see him as someone who is catching on quickly and has the talent to carry the team for a few games if needed this season, then they could just stick with the two quarterbacks.

It’s important to remember that although Kelly hasn’t played meaningful football in two years, he was still a member of the Broncos last year as he recovered from injury on injured reserve.

He didn’t get any game experience during that time but he was able to study the playbook, learn from his teammates and coaches, and get a feel for the NFL life and what it takes to be a successful quarterback in this league.

From what we’ve seen so far, Kelly has been adept at picking up Bill Musgrave’s offense and, as BSN Denver’s Ryan Koenigsberg reported, he has won over the Broncos locker room.

He has taken full advantage of the opportunities given to him so far and is more motivated than ever to continue to do well, both on the field and off.

If he performs well again this Friday against the Washington Redskins, it could convince the Broncos to move forward with Kelly as the number two quarterback to start the season.

What do you think, Broncos Country? Would you feel comfortable with Chad Kelly being the only backup to Case Keemun when the regular season rolls around? Let us know!

Five takeaways from Broncos defeat to Bears

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).

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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.

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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!

Preseason: Runde 2

Moin!

Herzlich willkommen zur wöchentlichen Kolumne. Es ist doch wirklich kein Problem, sich wieder an den Rhythmus zu gewöhnen. Ich muß sagen, er hat echt gefehlt.

Im zweiten Spiel der diesjährigen Vorbereitungswochen ging es mal wieder gegen die Chicago Bears. Ich kann mich noch ziemlich gut an letztes Jahr erinnern. Da war es nämlich gleich das erste Preseason-Spiel und wir waren auf dem Höhepunkt des Kampfes um die Quarterbackposition angelangt. Damals konnte Trevor Siemian deutlich mehr überzeugen als sein Kontrahent, Paxton Lynch, den viele ja auf Augenhöhe zu Siemian sahen. Der Verfasser nimmt sich da nicht raus…

Ein ganz anderes Bild in dieser Saison. Case Keenum, unsere unumstrittene Nummer 1 auf der Position überhaupt, bekam im zweiten Spiel einen Drive mehr und damit bekamen auch wir ein etwas besseres Bild von ihm. Wenngleich das wahrlich nicht allzuviel zu einem abschließenden Urteil beitragen konnte.

Der erste Drive des Ex-Vikings QB bot außer einem Flea Flicker, der mißlang, keine Highlights und endete nach einem fast schon kläglichen „3 and out“ mit einem Hammer-Punt von Marquette King über 49 Yards an die gegnerische 5-Yard-Linie.

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Dieser Punt sollte dann noch richtig Gold wert sein, denn die Bears, unter Mitch Trubisky, schafften es nicht sich aus dieser ungünstigen Feldposition zu befreien. Nachdem dann noch RB Jordan Howard von Brandon Marshall an der 1-Yard-Linie gestoppt wurde, konnte unser First Pick des 2018er Drafts, Bradley Chubb, gleich mal richtig glänzen und den Signal Caller der Bears in der Endzone zu Fall bringen. Safety 2:0 für die Broncos. Trubisky sah in dieser Szene äußerst unglücklich aus, denn er konnte den Ball nach dem Snap nicht festhalten, obwohl er den Ball augenscheinlich die ganze Zeit fixiert hatte.

Bradley Chubb erinnerte mich in dieser Szene fast eins-zu-eins an seinen Vorturner Von Miller. Blitzschnelle Reaktion nach dem Snap und voller Fokus auf dem gegnerischen QB. Sowas zahlt sich aus. Daumen hoch!

Mit Case Keenum’s zweitem Drive konnte man dann (zum Glück) schon mehr anfangen. Fünf sichere, meist kurze, Pässe auf Rookie DeSean Hamilton, Jeff Heuerman, Emmanuel Sanders, Andy Janovich und Phillip Lindsay brachten die Broncos in Reichweite für einen Sechser. Die drei Versuche in der Redzone waren dann aber incomplete und so konnte zumindest Brandon McManus per Field Goal die Führung ausbauen.

In der Defensive fiel in der ersten Halbzeit besonders die bekannte Schwäche im Spiel gegen starke Tight Ends auf. So war es nicht verwunderlich, daß Trey Burton von Trubisky mehrfach gesucht wurde, und das auch fast immer wichtige Yards brachte. Rookie-CB Isaac Yiadom fiel insgesamt am häufigsten negativ auf, insbesondere durch zwei Strafen die er kassierte. Ein Penalty wegen Pass Interference brachte die Jungs aus Windy City gleich 37 Yards nach vorn und somit in Reichweite für den ersten Touchdown des Tages. So fand Trubisky eben jenen vogelfreien Trey Burton mit einem kurzen Pass auf die rechte Seite zur zwischenzeitlichen 7:5 Führung der Bears.

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Danach dann der letzte Drive für Case Keenum an diesem Tag. Gleichzeitig auch der längste und am Ende mit maximaler Ausbeute. In dieser Session hinterließ er meiner Meinung nach den besten Eindruck. Entscheidend waren die drei 3rd down conversions. Zweimal übrigens durch Pässe auf Emmanuel Sanders. Es gab in dem Drive einen Sack, bei dem die O-Line deutlich unkoordiniert zu Werke ging und völlig überfordert wirkte. Im Vergleich zum ersten Preseasonspiel machten die O-Liner aber insgesamt einen besseren Eindruck, was sicherlich mit der schwächeren Bears-Defense (im Vergleich zur Vikings-Defense) zusammenhing. Entscheidend für den Ausgang des Drives war der weite Passversuch auf Rookie Courtland Sutton, der den Ball nicht fangen konnte jedoch vom Bears-Defensive Back Grant behindert wurde und der Referee auf Pass Interference entschied. Das brachte Denver 45 Yards nach vorn an die 4-Yard-Linie, von wo aus Rookie-RB Royce Freeman direkt danach zu seinem zweite Touchdownlauf der Preseason startete. Die 2-Point-Conversion glückte mit einem Pass auf Jeff Heuerman und so endete der zweite Arbeitstag für Keenum mit seinem ersten Touchdown-Drive zur 13:7 Führung seines Teams.

Der nächste Offensive Drive der Bears nahm ein jehes Ende als Justin Simmons einen für Tarik Cohen gedachten Trubisky‘ Pass fing und die Heimmannschaft erneut in Ballbesitz brachte. Nun begann der erste Arbeitstag von Chad Kelly als neue Nummer 2 auf Mile High und er knüpfte an die Leistung der Vorwoche an. Hauptsächlich waren jetzt die Running Backs gefordert. Royce Freeman bekam dabei die meisten Gelegenheiten und nutzte diese auch um zu zeigen, daß er wohl aktuell fitter ist als Devontae Booker. So behaupten nicht wenige, daß sich möglicherweise eine weitere entscheidene Änderung im Depth Chart anbahnen könnte, welche den ambitionierte Rookie vom College in Oregon direkt in die Startaufstellung eines NFL-Teams katapultieren könnte.

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Nachdem es also hauptsächlich am Boden nach vorn ging, schaffte es Chad Kelly dann doch noch selbst, natürlich mit der Hilfe von Rookie-WR Courtland Sutton, zum zweiten Broncos-Touchdown des Tages. Ein tiefer Pass über 16 Yards brachte das Team aus Colorado nun noch deutlicher in Führung 20:7.

Jetzt nahm das Spielniveau merklich ab, was natürlich mit dem Durchtauschen der Spieler auf sämtlichen Positionen auf beiden Seiten zu tun hatte. Offensiv gelang nun nur noch wenig bei den Broncos. Zu erwähnen wären lediglich noch die starken Auftritte von Rookie-RB Phillip Lindsay, der außerdem noch einen guten Punt Return und im anderen Special Team einen sehr eindrucksvollen Stop eines gegnerischen Punt Returns verbuchen konnte. Ein sehr vielseitiger Spieler, der Stand heute, den Roster-Cut meistern sollte.

Chad Kelly zeigte sich wieder gut zu Fuß, sei es beim Lauf aus der Pocket oder auch beim scramblen. Zwei tiefe Pässe auf Jordan Leslie und Tim Patrick sind noch zu erwähnen. Ersterer wurde leider nachträglich „out of bounds“ gewertet.

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Mit unserer neuen Nummer drei, Paxton Lynch, war das Offensivspiel dann leider endgültig erledigt. Er lief einmal selbst zum First Down, was ihm ansonsten verwährt blieb, denn meist endeten sein Drives im „3 and out“. Zwei Sacks mußte er einstecken und leider auch einige Buh-Rufe als er das Feld betrat. Dies kann ich zum einen nicht verstehen und zum anderen schon gar nicht gutheißen. Er hat der Mannschaft nicht böswillig oder eigennützig geschadet sondern einfach nicht die Leistung gebracht, die man von ihm erwarten konnte. Das ist zwar äußerst unglücklich für alle in Broncos Country, aber es gibt niemandem das Recht einen eigenen Spieler auszubuhen. Solch Verhalten ist unentschuldbar und beschämend. Paxton ist trotz seiner unterdurchschnittlichen Leistung sehr ehrgeizig, trainiert hart und hat sich sicher nicht aufgegeben. Er schadet der mannschaft ja nicht absichtlich. Das Letzte was ihm jetzt hilft ist, wenn er auf Grund seiner Leistung, von den „Fans“ angefeindet oder verspottet wird. Kritik ist angebracht und die streitet er ja auch nicht ab, doch Hohn und vor allem Respektlosigkeit sind ihm gegenüber definitiv nicht angebracht und einfach nur schäbig.

Letztlich wurde die Führung dann noch verspielt. Entscheidend war dabei ein Fumble von Isaiah McKenzie, der einen sicheren Kurzpass von Paxton Lynch fallen ließ. Dies war sehr unglücklich, denn man befand sich zu dem Zeitpunkt bereits innerhalb der Field Goal Range. McManus hätte das Spiel mit drei Punkten für Denver entscheiden können, doch so kamen die Bears beim Stand von 24:23 in Führung liegend nochmal in Ballbesitz und konnten die Uhr herunterlaufen lassen. Das Spiel war damit gelaufen.

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Ob Isaiah McKenzie bei dem Fumble topfit war, ist fraglich, denn er mußte zuvor beim Punt Return einen ziemlich harten Tackle einstecken, obwohl er deutlich einen Fair Catch angezeigt hatte. Egal, das Ergebnis ist weiterhin unwichtig, entscheidend waren die Spielzüge die wir sehen durften. Alles in allem ein gelungenes Spiel das durchaus Hoffnung auf mehr macht. Die längere Spielzeit, die Case Keenum gewehrt wurde, hat er zu nutzen gewußt. Die O-Line wirkte besser und auch die erste Defensivreihe machte einen relativ stabilen Eindruck. Vom Special Team bin ich weiterhin überzeugt. Dort sieht man den wohl größten Fortschritt.

Damit soll es für diesen Spieltag auch schon reichen. Am kommenden Samstag geht es in die Hauptstadt zu den Redskins, die sich gerade die Dienste von Ex-MVP Adrian Peterson gesichert haben. Es verspricht wieder ein spannendes Spiel zu werden. Allen eine schöne Woche.

Mile High Salute

Gordon

Twitter: @nenntmichGordon

Broncos Country, da sind wir wieder

Moin!

Nach einer ziemlich langen Pause, freue ich mich riesig, daß die Saison gestartet ist und es nun auch wieder regelmäßige Kolumnen gibt. Ich habe den Akku über die letzten Monate aufgeladen, nicht spekulieren wer weiß wie stark wir sind und was für Hall of Famer wir im Team haben, um mich voll auf das Spielgeschehen zu konzentrieren. Die Erfahrung der vergangenen Jahre hat gezeigt, daß sämtliches Vorgeplänkel meist überflüßig ist. Fakten soll es geben und genau die bekommen wir jetzt. Zuerst, in der Pre-Season, noch in abgeschwächter Form, aber die ersten vier Partien sind meist schon ein kleiner Fingerzeig wo es in der Saison hingehen könnte. Allerdings wie insbesondere die letzte Spielzeit gezeigt hat, sind die Ergebnisse der Pre-Season Spiele kein Indikator. Letztes Jahr waren wir 4:0 nach den Vorbereitungsspielen und dann in der Saison nur einen Tick besser…

Ich konnte das Spiel leider nicht live sehen, was mir allerdings einen nächtlichen Wutanfall erspart hat. Der Grund: NFL GamePass! Sonntagabend will ich mir in Ruhe alle Spielzüge ansehen, doch was passiert? Das Spiel auf GamePass funktioniert nicht. Mir fehlen irgendwelche Rechte von denen ich noch nie gehört habe. Ein Blick in die Kommentare im App-Store reichen schon, um das Problem zu finden. Ziemlich viele hatten wohl das gleiche Problem. Einmal die App deinstallieren und komplett neu installieren, anmelden und schon kann es losgehen.

Wir sehen den Kickoff im halbwegs gut gefüllten Broncos Stadium at Mile High (nicht mehr Sports Authority Field) und gleich danach den ersten Drive mit unserem neuen Hoffnungsträger under center, Case Keenum. Der erste Screen Pass auf Demaryius Thomas sitzt, doch bekommt der 30-jährige Texaner gleich ordentlich Druck von der Vikings Defense. Dies ist auch bei den folgenden Spielzügen nicht anders. Nach nur zwei Drives ist dann auch schon Schluß für ihn. Ganz ohne ein Big Play, aber auch ohne einen Fehler (1-4 – 5 Yards). Auf Grund der, nicht ungewöhnlichen für ein erstes Pre-Season Spiel, nur sehr kurzen Spielzeit, möchte ich den Neuankömmling nicht weiter bewerten. Was allerdings auffiel, war die schwache Offensive Line, die im weiteren Spielverlauf noch so einige Male „glänzte“.

Bei den ersten Defensive Drives mit der vermeintlichen Top-Aufstellung, fiel insbesondere die schwache Run Defense auf. RB Latavius Murray hatte da doch allzu leichtes Spiel. Etwas später dann noch der 78 Yard Touchdown-Lauf von Rookie-RB Roc Thomas. Das war schon etwas überraschend. Da scheint die Zuordnung noch nicht wirklich zu stimmen und auch das Playcalling von außerhalb bedarf noch einiger Justierung. Die Secondary, nun ja ohne Veteran Aqib Talib, fiel erstmal nicht besonders negativ auf. Hatte aber ab und an doch so ihre Probleme mit den Pässen des gegnerischen QBs – kein geringer als Trevor Siemian. Der machte nämlich ein richtig gutes Spiel (vielleicht sogar die beste QB-Leistung auf dem Platz) und läßt ihn uns damit schon ein bißchen vermissen. Gerade im Hinblick auf unsere derzeitige Nummer 2 – Paxton Lynch.

Der Junge machte genau das was wir von ihm kennen. Eine äußerst unglückliche bzw. richtig schlechte Figur. Mit einer Interception ging es gleich los. Er wirkte zögerlich, unsicher, in keinster Weise souverän. Bei jeder Aktion war man froh, wenn sie nicht in einem Sack oder gar einem weiteren Ballverlust endete. Zu ungenaue, zu hohe oder zu scharfe Kurzpässe und keinerlei Mut auf einen mittleren bis tiefen Pass. Kurzum, ich sehe in ihm weder einen soliden Backup, noch die Qualität sich NFL-Quarterback schimpfen zu lassen. Das ist vielleicht zu hart, aber selbst in Jahr Nummer 3 nach dem Draft (in der ersten Runde!), sieht man keinerlei Fortschritte. Da hätte man wirklich besser Siemian oder Sloter behalten können, dabei noch richtig Geld gespart, und kein Phlegma auf der Bank. Ein Albtraum wenn Keenum sich verletzen sollte…

In diesem hoffentlich nicht eintretenen Fall, stünde derzeit nur ein brauchbarer Ersatz bereit und das ist Chad Kelly. Sein erster Auftritt in Orange macht doch deutlich mehr Mut als der seines Vorgängers. Man muß ihn ja eigentlich als Rookie einstufen und das was er zu bieten hatte, war gar nicht so schlecht. Selbstverständlich hat er nur gegen die zweite, dritte bzw. vierte Garde der Vikings Defense gespielt. Trotzdem konnte man bei ihm Souveränität sehen. Bis auf die eine Interception, bei der er wohl alles vergessen hatte, was er vorher richtig gemacht hatte. So war er stark in der Spielübersicht und gegen gegnerischen Druck. Gut und vor allem auch schnell im scramble, womit er es auch schaffte das Spiel dank zweier Touchdown-Pässe zu drehen. Der Zwischenstand war 28:27, bevor die Vikings dann noch 2 TDs draufsetzten. Für mich, wie wohl auch für die meisten anderen, ist Chad Kelly aktuell die klare Nummer 2.

Verlieren wir gleich noch ein paar Worte zum zweiten Ex-Bronco-QB Kyle Sloter. Er konnte da anknüpfen wo er vor einem Jahr noch in Orange und Blau aufgehört hat. Eine starke Leistung von ihm und auch er ist vor Paxton Lynch zu platzieren.

In dem Sinn schauen wir auch noch auf die weiteren Lichtblicke im Broncos-Kader. Da haben wir einen weiteren Neuling in Punter Marquette King. Die neue Nummer 1 im Broncos-Jersey zeigte genau das wofür man ihn geholt hat. Weite und platzierte Punts. Sie kamen immer an die 20 Yards-Markierung bzw. gingen in deren Nähe ins Seitenaus. Er bekam gleich viele Versuche und enttäuschte nicht. Klasse Typ!

Dann war da natürlich noch Rookie-RB Royce Freeman. Mit viel Vorschußlorbeeren gestartet, zeigte er ebenfalls das was man von ihm erwartet. Explosive Läufe, die gleich in einen starken Touchdown-Lauf mündeten. Er wirkt fast wie ein Geschenk für uns nach dem Abgang von CJ Anderson, aber warten wir es ab und hoffen wir darauf, daß er künftig erstmal Spielzeit bekommt.

Einen weitere Hoffnungsträger konnte man in Josey Jewell finden. Der Rookie-LB viel insbesondere durch einen starken Run Block auf. In die Riege fällt auch Shelby Harris, der sich während der letzten Pre-Season ins Team gespielt hat und weiterhin stark auftrumpft. Nicht zu vergessen, Colorado-Rookie Phillip Lindsay. Wie schon im Camp drehte er auch gleich auf. Er fing 3 Pässe für 40 Yards und einen TD. Ein sehr vielseitig einsetzbarer Offense-Spieler. Rushing, Receiving, Returning. Und genau da gab es noch ein Licht am Ende des Tunnels – das Special Team. Den neuen Punter haben wir ja schon gelobt und mit unserem Kicker können wir eh zufrieden sein. Dazu scheint Isaiah McKenzie jetzt vielleicht doch die Kurve zu kriegen. Zu Beginn der letzten Saison hoch gelobt, viel er nach zahlreichen Drops in eine tiefes Loch. Hoffen wir mal, daß sein Punt Return-TD die Wende bringt. Mit Sicherheit eines der Big Plays der diesjährigen Pre-Season.

Da sind wir auch schon beim Fazit. Das Positive überwiegt, doch mache ich mir ziemliche Sorgen um die O-Line. Wenn die wieder auf den Stand von 2016 zurückfällt, sind die Playoffs nicht machbar. Um mehr sagen zu können, brauchen wir natürlich mehr Drives der Top-Besetzung inklusive Case Keenum. Ich weigere mich noch ihn als den Heilsbringer hinzustellen, denn bis dato hat er noch nichts Zählbares geleistet. Mehr sehen möchte ich auch vom gegen die Vikings unsichtbaren Rookie-WR Courtland Sutton.

Dennoch finde ich es völlig unbegründet und überzogen, wenn nach dem ersten Spiel schon die Saison abgeschrieben wird. Nicht nervös werden! Das Ergebnis in den Spielen ist erstmal unwichtig und man sollte keine Leistung überbewerten. Wir haben gute Ansetze gesehen, das zählt gar nichts, aber die Spiele zählen ja auch erstmal nichts. Ab Mitte des dritten Quarters war es eh nur noch ein lockeres Trainingsspiel und man muß auch sagen, daß die Vikings zu Beginn richtig Druck gemacht haben. Offensiv wie defensiv. Immerhin sind sie auch ein Top-Team.

Ich freue mich auf das nächste Spiel gegen die Chicago Bears am kommenden Sonntag. Ein wohl eher schwächerer Gegner paßt jetzt ganz gut. Also auf zu neuen Taten.

Mile High Salute!

Twitter: @nenntmichGordon

Chad Kelly promoted to Broncos’ No. 2 QB

Chad Kelly will be the Denver Broncos’ second quarterback in the second week of preseason ahead of former first-round pick Paxton Lynch.

Kelly took second reps in a closed practice at UCHealth Training Center on Monday after his impressive outing as the third quarterback against Minnesota on Saturday.

The 2017 Mr Irrelevant, playing his first game in 646 days after knee and wrist injuries, brought a much-needed spark to the Broncos as they rallied back from Lynch’s latest woeful outing of 6 of 11 passes for just 24 yards and an interception, before falling 42-28.

Pro Football Focus graded Kelly as the “most-impressive signal-caller” on the night as he went 11 of 16 attempts for 148 yards and a touchdown in a clean pocket, which resulted in a passer rating of 118.2, enough for the 10th best grade among qualifying quarterbacks in the first week of preseason.

Kelly finished the night 14 of 21 for 177 yards, two TDs, and an interception, and was the Broncos’ second-leading rusher behind Royce Freeman with 38 yards from three carries.

His largely impressive debut immediately won over Broncos Country, with many of the 66,172 in attendance at Broncos Stadium at Mile High chanting his name during the game as he drove the offense downfield, completed touchdown passes to tight end Matt LaCossse and rookie running back Phillip Lindsay on his first two series.

He did throw an interception and was guilty of staring down receivers at times, but the impetus and confidence he brought to the team in his first football in almost two years — so often missing when Lynch is running the offense — is a sign that Kelly is a serious threat to Lynch’s future in Denver.

After practice, head coach Vance Joseph confirmed that Kelly will run with the second team for the rest of this week, including the Broncos’ scrimmages against the Chicago Bears on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of a preseason game at Broncos Stadium on Saturday.

Kelly praised his teammates for his rise and told the media after practice on Monday that he is “working extremely hard” at his craft, which was visible as he was one of the final three players on the field at the end of practice with receiver River Cracraft and tight end Jake Butt.

Five takeaways as Broncos lose to Vikings

Broncos football is back and it might only be the first preseason game but there’s a lot Broncos Country can take away from tonight. Here are a few thoughts of Denver’s loss to Minnesota.

Run defense struggled

Whether it was the first-string or third-string team, the Broncos run defense struggled mightily for most of the game. Shelby Harris provided some good stops against the Vikings’ second-string offense, but other than that, the Broncos couldn’t do much. They allowed multiple rushes of 20+ yards in the first quarter alone with the majority of their first-string players still on the field, and they allowed big runs on third downs throughout the game.

Offensive line struggled too

The offense was in hurry-up a lot and it was a pleasant sight. Denver needs to use the altitude to their advantage and going hurry-up right off the bat can really make a difference as the game wears on.

The offensive line still needs some work. They had a penalty on their first drive of the game that killed any potential momentum and seemed to allow pressure on most of Keenum’s dropbacks. Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly seemed to have a little more time but those offensive linemen probably won’t be seeing the field very often once the season begins.

Muffkenzie wows, King stutters

As much as it pains me, Isaiah McKenzie probably saved his job tonight, at least for another week. He didn’t drop any of the punts he received and had an electric 78-yard punt return for a touchdown that showed his value when he can hold onto the ball. Remember, he started off hot in the season opener last year but fizzled after that fumbling six times on 21 return attempts in just 11 games. He’s going to have to prove he can be reliable on a consistent basis to make the 53-man roster.

When it comes to special teams, the only show in town is Marquette King. “The King is here” he proudly declares when entering the room. It was a slow introduction. King settled in fairly well after a few punts that had a lot of height but little distance. You could see his frustration after a few punts that barely went 40 yards. After that, he had a couple of bombs of 60+ yards that reflected the punts everyone was seeing in training camp.

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Kelly becomes fans’ new favorite

The backup quarterbacks are what we thought they were. Lynch seems lost most of the time and struggled to move the ball at all against a second-string defense. The only success he had was handing the ball off to Royce Freeman for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Amid much anticipation to see what he could do for the first time, Kelly provided a spark by pushing the ball down the field and leading a couple of touchdown drives. The crowd got behind Kelly by chanting his name multiple times throughout the game. It wasn’t perfect as he tried to force a couple plays too many towards the end, but the signs were promising after another Lynch horror show.

We’ll see if his performance earns him some time with the second-team offense this week in the joint practices with Chicago ahead of next Saturday’s preseason game.

Broncos have a Jewell at linebacker

Rookie inside linebacker Josey Jewell was always near the ball. He didn’t get credit for many tackles but when he was on the field you could always find his number in the pile of players bringing down the ball carrier. That’s the kind of play that will keep him on the field when the games start to count. The former Iowa star isn’t the quickest but earned rave reviews for his ability to read plays and get to the ball. Even at this early stage, he’s showcasing those talents in orange and blue.

Overall, it wasn’t the strongest preseason performance in any phase of the game but let’s wait and see how the next few games play out when the starters will get to see the field for more than two series.

What are some of your takeaways, Broncos Country? Was there anyone or anything that stood out to you? Comment below

Broncos impress ahead of 2018 preseason

We’re nearing the first preseason game of the 2018 season and the pieces are starting to fall into place. The Denver Broncos released their first depth chart on Tuesday that came with a few surprises.

There have been some standouts and some disappointments throughout camp. So, while the games will really allow players to show what they can do against live opposition, what has training camp shown us so far?

Depth is an issue

For some positions like wide receiver, running back, defensive line, and linebacker, it almost feels like we could dress two teams because of the depth of each of those positions.

Rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton have provided an immediate impact that last year’s rookie receivers couldn’t.

Even though the running back group is young, they have talent in all shapes and sizes.

De’Angelo Henderson, one of the darlings of training camp last year, looks like a bowling ball that can stop and go on a dime, rookie Royce Freeman is already being talked about as a future starter, and undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay might be the Swiss army knife player the Broncos thought Isaiah McKenzie could be: He can run, catch out of the backfield, and is slated as the starting kick returner right now.

The Broncos have a surplus of edge rushers and a solid group of linebackers to man the middle of the field. Josey Jewell will most likely earn some quality playing time this season, while Bradley Chubb has already been penciled in as the starter opposite Von Miller.

The defensive line seems to be healthy and hungry. They had a field day on day nine of training camp, getting after the offensive line and completely destroying the offense’s groove.

Derek Wolfe is always a concern with health issues but, with Shelby Harris, Zach Kerr, and DeMarcus Walker improving their play, it doesn’t seem like the Broncos would miss a beat if Wolfe had to miss some time.

While the Broncos are rich in talent at some positions, those lacking depth are some of the most critical: quarterback, cornerback, and the offensive line.

ON THE CASE: Keenum has impressed in his first Broncos training camp. Credit: Ryan Koenigsberg/BSN Denver

Starting quarterback Case Keenum has been everything the Broncos have needed him to be and probably a little bit more. His receivers have been more than impressed and you can feel the excitement from the offense knowing they have a reliable quarterback running things.

After that, it is obvious the Broncos cannot go into the regular season without a better security net at backup. Paxton Lynch is in year three and continues to struggle reading defenses, making consistent throws, and providing confidence to his teammates (and he still looks like a pirate rather than an NFL quarterback).

Yes, he was supposed to be a two-to-three-year project when he was drafted, but he should have shown improvement by now. He has the occasional good day that offers hope, only for it to be extinguished with a bad day the next. If Keenum goes down, it’s clear the Broncos offensive production will take a major blow with Lynch under center.

There has been hope for Chad Kelly to surpass Lynch and be ready to take on the backup role, but he is basically a rookie who hasn’t played meaningful football in almost two years.

He also doesn’t seem to be getting any chances to prove he can succeed with the second string offense even though he outperformed Lynch during their scrimmage on Sunday, so preseason could be crucial for Kelly to showcase his ability to play in the NFL, as was the case last season for Kyle Sloter, who remains on the Minnesota roster this season after they snapped him up when the Broncos only kept him on the practice squad.

Head coach Vance Joseph seems non-committal on whether Kelly will get a real shot with the second team. The Broncos still have hopes for Lynch but it seems like those hopes might be getting in the way of someone else’s ability to succeed.

Cornerback seems very thin right now even with the always-trustworthy Chris Harris Jr. still performing at a high level. Bradley Roby is a good player but he has been repeatedly burned by camp darling Courtland Sutton, although, even Harris Jr has tasted what the rookie receiver is dishing out.

He has had some interceptions during camp, which is good considering Keenum has only thrown less than a handful, but after Roby is where things get a little thin.

The Broncos brought in Tramaine Brock to take that third cornerback position but he has been hurt most of camp.

Last year’s third-round draft pick Brendan Langley is still finding his comfort at a position he hasn’t played in very much, which means this year’s third-round pick Isaac Yiadom now slotted behind Harris Jr on the depth chart, and will most likely start Saturday’s game against Minnesota as the third corner.

Then there’s the offensive line, which appears to have been improved this year with veteran Ronald Leary back to his familiar position at left guard and Jared Veldheer in to anchor the right tackle position after Menelik Watson disappointed in the role last season.

Left tackle Garett Bolles can only improve with Leary inside him side, Connor McGovern has shown he can do well at right guard, and Matt Paradis is the always dependable stalwart of this line.

But when you look past the starters, you see two players in left guard Max Garcia and Watson that have performed very poorly over the last few years and a rookie guard/center in Sam Jones that many didn’t even expect to make the final roster.

Versatile lineman Billy Turner has received a lot of praise from his teammates and coaches, so there’s hope that it won’t all fall apart if Veldheer can’t stay healthy, but Keenum — despite his ability to get rid of the ball quickly — might not be able to survive if anyone else on the line needs to miss extensive time.

WELCOME TO CATCHLAND: Rookie receiver Sutton makes another catch at Broncos training camp. Credit: Ryan Koenigsberg/BSN Denver

Pleasant Surprises

After the disappointment of last year’s draft class, many predicted this year’s to fare better, but some have exceeded expectations throughout training camp.

Sutton has been a standout at wide receiver position, which says a lot when you consider that the Broncos still boast one of the league’s top duos in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders playing alongside him.

The former SMU Mustang has the strength and size to go up and get any jump ball you throw in his vicinity and has been the talk of the town with a series of spectacular catches.

One of his knocks from the scouting reports was his route running, which still needs work, but he has time to develop that while holding down the number three receiver spot in 2018.

Local kid Lindsay is another player to impress everyone who has seen him in camp. He is currently listed at the bottom of the depth chart but has earned the starting kick returner role to begin preseason, and is a serious contender make the 53-man roster at the end of August.

The former Buffs speedster might not be great at one thing, but he seems to be at least good in a few things. He can take the handoff out the backfield, he can line up as a receiver, is great in pass protection, and he should make a significant contribution on special teams.

Second-round pick Royce Freeman has been impressive enough to have some believing he could be the number one running back this season.

He has size and speed to be a feature back but needs to improve in pass protection, which is probably why Booker — as a veteran presence in the room — is listed ahead of him.

Linebacker Jewell has also garnered some attention from his teammates with his hard work and skilled play after overcoming an injury. He was “The Outlaw” at Iowa, but Von Miller has given him a new nickname: “Red Beard”,  and admitting that the fourth-round pick is “going to be great for us”.

Jewell is behind veteran Brandon Marshall on the depth chart, but will be a solid rotational player and can contribute on special teams. If he comes good in his rookie season, he could make Marshall’s big contract expendable next year.

MUFFKENZIE DROPS AGAIN: Isaiah McKenzie has dropped down the depth chart at receiver. Credit: Kyle Berry

Disappointments

With a new season comes perennially-high expectations, especially with players that didn’t perform as well as expected last year.

There are a few players that still haven’t shown they have what it takes to make it. The depth chart shows Isaiah McKenzie as the punt returner, but his stock as a wide receiver has fallen outside of the coveted top six places, and his future with the Broncos is under threat unless he has a great preseason.

The only mentions of him that I see from the media are about how he dropped another pass from Lynch or Kelly, or how he is still bobbling the ball on punt returns.

McKenzie showed glimpses of being an electric player last year but those were more of the exception and not the rule with him with his frequent muffs and poor decision-making on special teams still fresh in the memories of most fans.

He has made some nice catches in training camp, but is still bobbling the ball on punt returns and has dropped some passes.

The Broncos aren’t short of players who could play punt return, including Jordan Taylor — currently on PUP, but finished as the punt returner in 2017 because he could catch the ball — while newcomers Lindsay and wide receiver River Cracraft are also in the mix.

FALL FROM GRACE: 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch is struggling to become the Broncos’ backup QB in year 3. Credit: Ryan Greene

The other obvious disappointment is Lynch. The guy just isn’t getting it, yet the Broncos brass seems to want to give him chance after chance only because he was a first-round pick and they’re not ready to call pull the plug and declare him a bust.

The Broncos won’t cut ties with him this year even if he falls on his face again during the preseason because they’ve invested too much in him.

Unfortunately, that most likely means 2017 Mr Irrelevant Chad Kelly will be on the outside looking in when the roster cuts are made, and the Broncos might even bring in a veteran quarterback as insurance even if they keep Lynch around for another year.

Are you looking forward to the Broncos first preseason game this weekend? Sound off in the comments below.

Broncos 53-man roster predictions

With training camp almost upon us, dreams and careers hang in the balance as 90 players vie to make the Denver Broncos’ 53-man roster.

Much can happen between now that deadline on September 1. Some players could see their season derailed by injuries, some will become casualties of poor play or depth at their — or another — position.

We’re going to attempt the almost-impossible task of predicting the Broncos’ 53-man roster before any reps in training camp, and there are a few familiar names missing.

Let’s get the special teams out of the way first. Barring injury, or a dramatic downturn in accuracy through camp and preseason, we know the trio of weirdos will be long snapper Casey Kreiter, punter Marquette King, and kicker Brandon McManus.

The question at quarterback this year is who will be the only backup to new starter Case Keenum. It shouldn’t be Paxton Lynch, it could be Chad Kelly, it could be someone else entirely.

As much as Lynch hasn’t shown much aptitude to play the position in the NFL, he’s likely to be the second quarterback — backup is too strong a term — ahead of Kelly, who the team will at least hope to get to the practice squad — a la Kyle Sloter a year ago — as he takes his first reps in the NFL after missing his rookie season, because of the infuriating love affair with the project they traded up to take in 2016.

That is, however, unless Kelly so overwhelmingly outperforms Lynch in the preseason. It’s well beyond the time that the Broncos’ front office accepts what everyone else has seen for two seasons: Lynch is not an NFL-calibre quarterback and does not deserve to wear orange and blue again.

John Elway should finally concede Lynch is a bust and trade him away or release him to bring in a veteran backup, such as free-agent former Miami QB Matt Moore, or keep Kelly around to develop under Keenum.

Assuming Lynch starts the season as the number two, the Broncos will have to pray Keenum can stay healthy otherwise they can kiss goodbye to playoff football with Lynch under center.

SLOPPY SECONDS: Disappointing Lynch could be the number two QB for a third year. Credit: Ryan Greene

Running backs should see the first major casualty. Devontae Booker might be the veteran in the room, but he’s also the player with the fewest years remaining on his contract and, let’s be honest, he’s not really impressed through his first two seasons in the league. Head coach Vance Joseph is a fan, but Booker has not lived up to the expectations of a second-round pick, and they have depth at the position making him expendable.

Rookie Royce Freeman (Oregon) will establish himself as the Broncos’ primary back in training camp, with second-year back De’Angelo Henderson also showing his worth after he saw little action in his rookie year, despite going well in camp and preseason.

As a bigger back, seventh-round pick Dave Williams (Arkansas) will earn a place, while Colorado rookie Phillip Lindsay’s pass blocking, blazing speed, and safe hands will also show up, and he’ll edge out wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie to be the team’s primary returner.

Keeping a fullback on the roster seems like a luxury when the Broncos have a great pass-blocking tight end in Austin Traylor, who could also jump into the run game, or they could use Williams as a lead back, but Andy Janovich’s role as a core special teamer means he makes the roster.

Wide receiver will cause the biggest headache for the Broncos with such depth on the 90-man roster. Joining veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and rookies Courtland Sutton (Southern Methodist) and DaeSean Hamilton (Penn State), are sizeable receiver Tim Patrick and shifty slot guy River Cracraft, who both spent time on the practice squad as undrafted rookies in 2017.

Broncos Europe has been high on Cracraft from his time making things happen at Washington State and, now fully healthy after a torn ACL cut short his senior year in 2016, we think he’ll prove his worth to the Broncos coaches and Broncos Country. He’s not the biggest or fastest receiver on the Broncos roster, but his route running and safe hands will show out big time.

Yes, that means McKenzie loses out, as does injury-plagued Carlos Henderson, despite the duo going into their second seasons in the pros. Even if McKenzie fixes his muff tendencies from last season, Lindsay can be used in a number of ways on offense, whereas McKenzie would — at best — be the sixth or seventh receiver on the roster.

Given Jordan Taylor, who took over return duties last season, is expected to start this year on PUP and the likes of Cracraft, De’Angelo Henderson and Hamilton can return, or play other roles on special teams, the Broncos aren’t short of backups on return, so McKenzie is dispensable.

If the Broncos do keep Janovich, then tight end Jeff Heuerman — like Booker — is ripe to be cut as the longest-tenured player at his position and someone who hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Everyone remains high on Jake Butt, who will see his first action after missing his rookie season, while Austin Traylor has a huge role to play as the primary blocking tight end. Despite being a fifth-round rookie, the Broncos are high on Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin).

The offensive line is another group that will cause problems. Pencil in Garett Bolles, Ron Leary, Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern and Jared Veldheer as the starting line if all are healthy.

Tackle/guard Billy Turner is one to watch. His ability to play across the line automatically gets him on the 53 and he could push for a starting job on the right side if McGovern or Veldheer don’t work out.

In the fight for the backups, another local kid has the chance of making the roster. Guard/center Sam Jones (Arizona State) is a prospect, but if he shows he can be a competent backup to Paradis he could earn a place on the 53 rather than the practice squad because versatility will be key

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The Broncos are high on JJ Dielman and he’ll make it on to the 53 along with tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, meaning no place on the roster for underperforming, injury-plagued tackle Menelik Watson, whose first season in Denver didn’t work out as planned. His salary is guaranteed, so he still gets paid, but the Broncos free up a roster spot for a prospect with a future.

Left guard Max Garcia is another to find himself heading out the door. He has underwhelmed at left guard and couldn’t function on the right side either. He was lucky to see game time last season when the Broncos coaches made the regrettable decision to move Leary to right guard.

There are unlikely to be any big names lost from the defense, unless the Broncos move on from a veteran starter, such as Darian Stewart, Todd Davis, or Brandon Marshall. That seems unlikely, but they did cut TJ Ward last season.

Ultimately, it could come down to how many players the Broncos carry at each position and if any of the rookies impress enough that vets become dispensable. The fact that the Broncos have several versatile players will determine the makeup of the defense.

The seven interior linemen locked in for 2018 are led by Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko and Adam Gotsis, ably supported by Shelby Harris, who exceeded expectations last year.

Zach Kerr returns, as does DeMarcus Walker, who has bulked up and returned to his natural position after the failed experiment of making him a hybrid in his rookie season.

Rounding out the interior is the experienced Clinton McDonald, an offseason addition, who will provide plenty of pressure in a rotational role.

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Kyle Peko is the notable casualty. Domata’s cousin has had a difficult time trying to break into the team, but the Broncos coaches like him enough to keep bringing him back to the practice squad and calling on him when injuries strike.

The Broncos’ embarrassment of riches at pass rush selects itself. We already know the fearsome quartet of Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett will be on the roster barring major injuries or surprise trade moves in the case of Ray and Barrett, who are both in contract years.

Rookie edge rusher Jeff Holland is the big question. Ray’s early return from a wrist injury by not having a further surgery makes Holland’s task more difficult, but the Broncos had a draft-grade on him and paid him a decent signing bonus to join.

To make the team, he likely has to compete with Brendan Langley and Jamal Carter, which doesn’t bode well for the destructive former Auburn star. Langley and Carter should be core special teamers, so the Broncos will look to sneak Holland to the practice squad to allow him to develop.

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At inside linebacker, veterans Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis will be joined by 2018 rookies Josey Jewell and Keishawn Bierria, meaning no place for special teams regular Zaire Anderson, while Jerrol Garcia-Williams could have to make do with a place on the practice squad.

The loss of Anderson can be negated by the fact the Broncos will return versatile safety Will Parks, while the addition of Su’a Cravens, who can also play linebacker, gives the Broncos flexibility in sub packages and experience on special teams, while Carter will also see action.

At cornerback, we already know that Bradley Roby steps up to number two behind Chris Harris Jr. Tramaine Brock should make the team after the Broncos brought him in this offseason, while third-round pick Isaac Yiadom makes the team, along with last year’s third-round pick Langley, who needs to step up in year two.

Projected 53-man roster

Offense

Quarterbacks (2)

Case Keenum
Paxton Lynch/Chad Kelly

Running backs (4)

Royce Freeman
De’Angelo Henderson
Phillip Lindsay
Dave Williams

Fullback (1)

Andy Janovich

Wide receivers (6)

Demaryius Thomas
Emmanuel Sanders
Courtland Sutton
DaeSean Hamilton
Tim Patrick
River Cracraft

Tight ends (3)

Jake Butt
Austin Traylor
Troy Fumagalli

Offensive line (9)

Garett Bolles
Ron Leary
Matt Paradis
Connor McGovern
Jared Veldheer
Billy Turner
Sam Jones
JJ Dielman
Cyrus Kouandjio

Defense

Interior (7)

Derek Wolfe
Domata Peko
Adam Gotsis
Shelby Harris
Demarcus Walker
Clinton McDonald
Zach Kerr

Edge (4)

Von Miller
Bradley Chubb
Shaq Barrett
Shane Ray

Linebacker (4)

Brandon Marshall
Todd Davis
Josey Jewell
Keishawn Bierria

Safety (5)

Darian Stewart
Justin Simmons
Su’a Cravens
Will Parks
Jamal Carter

Cornerback (5)

Chris Harris Jr
Bradley Roby
Tramaine Brock
Isaac Yiadom
Brendan Langley

Specialists (3)

Brandon McManus
Marquette King
Casey Kreiter

Chad Kelly speaks to media at Broncos’ rookie minicamp

Denver Broncos quarterback Chad Kelly spoke to the media at UCHealth Training Center after leading the 2018 rookies at their minicamp.

Kelly missed his rookie season as he rehabbed injuries sustained at Ole Miss, but has reshaped his body ahead of the new season to get back to his playing weight in his early college years to be more athletic.

Last year’s Mr Irrelevant said he is looking forward to taking all the reps as the rookies go through orientation and walkthroughs before they get together with the Broncos veterans.

Kelly will compete with Paxton Lynch to back up starting quarterback Case Keenum.

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