After dominating the Cowboys in their joint practice on Thursday, the Denver Broncos continued that dominance by beating them 17-7 in their first pre-season game. The Broncos held them to a shutout until late in the game, so it was a nice one-sided display from the Broncos.
There were plenty of standout players in this game who helped their chances of making the 53-player roster while others will need a rebound performance next week. So let’s see which players emerged from this victory as winners or losers.
Winner – EDGE Baron Browning
The biggest winner of last night’s game is probably Baron Browning. He looked as good as advertised and looks like someone who will push for some big shots this coming season.
Baron Browning’s first half:
1 pass defended
— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) August 14, 2022
Browning showed his speed, athleticism, strength, versatility, and Von Miller-esque turn in this game. He was disruptive and looks like someone who could be a potential starter for the Broncos at some point in the upcoming season.
I think he’s also outplayed Malik Reed and could push to be the third rusher and potentially force the Broncos to create packages to get Browning, Chubb and Gregory all on the court at the same time.
It’s exciting to see Browning put it all together as a rusher considering he made the transition just this offseason. He should only get better from now on and will probably be included in those posts as the winner of the upcoming pre-season games.
Losers – Broncos Running Game
One of my favorite parts of preseason is getting hyped for this darling of preseason running back who takes on second- and third-team defenses. Well, that didn’t happen at all when opening.
Hackett was satisfied overall but: “We need to get the racing game going. Not good enough.” #9sports
—Mike Klis (@mikeklis) August 14, 2022
They had 22 rush attempts for a measly 39 yards. The Broncos’ four running backs are averaging 1.8 yards per carry, which isn’t good. One of the issues was that the second team offensive line wasn’t creating running lanes, which is a problem in itself and/or the backs couldn’t find the hole and create distances on their own.
Mike Boone had three carries for -1 yards, Max Borghi had 4 carries for 10 yards, JaQuan Hardy had 5 carries for 13 yards while Stevie Scott led the Broncos in carries and yards totaling 20 yards on 6 carries.
Obviously not the best performance and we could potentially see some changes among this group after this poor performance. Sure, Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon weren’t there with the rest of the Broncos’ starting offensive line, but you still want to see better from this unit.
Winners – Seth Williams, Brandon Johnson, Kendall Hinton and Jalen Virgil from WR
After losing Tim Patrick to a season-ending ACL injury, the big question was who would replace his role with the team? Well, the Broncos seem to be positionally loaded as several receivers turned heads during this game.
Rookie receiver Jalen Virgil led the team with 3 receptions for 83 yards while fellow rookie Brandon Johnson had 4 receptions for 64 yards. HOF receiver Kendall Hinton had a nice touchdown reception and totaled 3 receptions for 53 yards. Big-bodied wide receiver Seth Williams also had 4 receptions for 29 yards which included a nice fade from the goal line where he used his size to block the defender and point the ball.
Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Montrell Washington are locked in for a spot on the roster while the rest are battling for the final 2 spots or so. It will be a tough decision on who and who will not be on the roster with the remaining 4 or 5 receivers.
Loser – Punter Corliss Waitman
One of the roster battles I was watching was the Broncos punting competition between Sam Martin and Corliss Waitman. Well, through a preseason game, it looks like Sam Martin is still the favorite for the punt position.
Corliss Waitman’s first punt results in a good catch, but he only covers 34 yards, with the line of scrimmage at DEN 45… just caught at the 21-yard line. Hang time, 4.11 seconds.
— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) August 14, 2022
Both punters had two punts and Martin outplayed Waitman in just about every category. Martin had two punts for 101 yards, an average of 50.5, one inside 20 and a long for 52 yards. Meanwhile, Waitman had two punts for 75 yards, averaging 37.5 yards, one inside 20 and a long for 41 yards.
With Martin being a veteran and a pretty solid overall punter, Waitman really needs to outdo him or at least match him to really push for his job. That didn’t happen last night and Martin looks to be the Broncos’ punter this coming season.
Winner – QB Josh Johnson
Another battle I was watching was the Broncos quarterback competition. Veteran journeyman Josh Johnson got the start last night and after a slow start he really turned it on and had a pretty solid game overall.
Josh Johnson’s first half started slow, but ended very well.
In the first half (which was his whole game), he went:
120.2 passer rating
— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) August 14, 2022
Although he was helped by Cowboy penalties, Johnson completed 16 of 23 passes for 172 yards for two touchdowns and had a 120.2 quarterback rating. It’s damn good and about what you’re hoping to get out of your backup from the preseason opener.
He was far from perfect, but I liked the way he made runaway plays, extended some plays, and looked ready in the pocket as the rush chased him.
The Broncos could do better at the backup position, but hopefully we’ll only see the backup game in blowout wins over the Chiefs.