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Broncos Game Grades: Another step forward

Andre Simone Avatar
August 25, 2018

Throughout the entire 2018-19 season BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. In the preseason, with so many different players on the field we’re focused on the starters but also gave out grades to every unit’s backup group, allowing us to highlight some of the more notable performances of the night.

In a 29-17 win against the Washington Redksins, in the all-important thrid-game rehearsal, the Broncos looked good, particularly the offensive starters in their best half of the preseason.

With encouraging signs on both sides of the ball, we graded the best and worst performers in the nation’s capital.

Standouts from the game:

Emmanuel Sanders: A+

Sanders got open at will towards the sideline early on but then took over the game, dominating a series and getting a huge reverse touchdown run. 

On that drive, he first had back-to-back big grabs, one on 3rd-and-15, running a nice route in between zone defenders and then stretched out for a big 33-yard gain down the sideline, topping it off with the TD run after that. Sanders looks like his old self and could be setting up for a special season if he can play the way he did against Washington.

Dymonte Thomas: A

Thomas was fantastic, making several crucial plays in coverage while also coming up with some masterful tackles in space. He had a big stop on 4th-and-3, covering Vernon Davis in space to bring him down before the sticks, flying downhill to get the crucial tackle. He then batted the ball down on 3rd-and-10, covering Davis again, from a dime linebacker position. Thomas then brought down Alex Smith on a zone-read run, processing information perfectly to make the stop.

This was his time to shine, and he made a huge impact.

Jared Veldheer: A

What can you say about Veldheer aside from the fact he’s been the only starter in the first three games to not concede a pressure or penalty. Every time I watch him, he’s just sound as can be. He’s been a rock for the offensive line, a great sign.

Adam Gotsis: A-

Lined up as a three-technique in a four-man front, Gotsis had a nice sack on the opening drive and stuffed a run for a loss of yards on the second drive, giving Washington’s talented guards a run for their money.

He had a few more excellent plays against the Skins ground game, playing stout and slipping through blocks to make tackles. 

He had a few missed opportunities as well and was flagged for neutral zone infraction but made a big impact nonetheless.


Derek Wolfe: C

Wolfe didn’t flash much in the game outside of a run stop on Rob Kelly down in the red zone. With the Broncos not doing a great job of stopping the run up front, he didn’t help a ton.

Domata Peko: C

Peko wasn’t all over the field in pursuit as he usually is, which, didn’t help in stopping Adrian Peterson, who got going and was steamrolling the defense at times. 

In fact, Peko was blocked effectively on the first big run by Peterson, gashing Denver for chunk yardage.

Backup defensive line: B

Zach Kerr had a nice tackle up the middle against the run forcing a small gain and then got himself a QB hit on Colt McCoy.

DeMarcus Walker created pressure and had a nice QB hit on third down himself, as he flashed in the opposing backfield creating interior pressure fairly consistently. 

Shelby Harris ran the quarterback down to tackle McCoy as he scrambled, showing a nice motor and ability in pursuit.

Clinton McDonald got a near sack up the middle as Kevin Hogan tried to scramble. 

Bradley Chubb: B

Even though the Redskins didn’t pass the ball much with their first unit, Chubb faced maybe the best offensive tackle in the NFL in Trent Williams, and didn’t create much pressure in the early going. That said, he was strong against the run, with the exception of a 4th-and-1 play where he was blocked downfield by the tight end as Peterson took off for a big gain. 

No. 55’s play of the game was his first sack in Orange and Blue on a stunt up the middle, as he started to create more pressure as the game went on in his best performance as a pro from a pass-rushing perspective.

Todd Davis: C

Davis couldn’t break through the line to fill the gap and stop AD on a big run and wasn’t always flying around to make plays, though he did have an impact aside from a few missed opportunities.

In coverage, he allowed a first round completion on a short gain but wasn’t exploited beyond that.

Brandon Marshall: B+

This game was much better from Marshall, who wasn’t the problem with the Broncos run defense. In fact, he was maybe Denver’s best second-level run defender in this one.

He did a good job flying around, getting downhill and filling lanes to make stops. 

His impact extended beyond his run defense as he did a nice job in coverage on running backs, especially a fourth-down stop and had a huge A-gap blitz to force a tackle for a loss as he affected the play by penetrating the line of scrimmage. A much-needed performance after two games in which he didn’t look like himself.

Von Miller: B+

Von shared a sack with Chubb, and though he wasn’t dominating on a play-to-play basis just yet, he managed three quarterback hits, creating a good amount of pressure both off the edge or on a delayed stunt where he knocked McCoy on his ass.

He did a nice job against the run, too, catching Peterson in the backfield to get a run stuff. 

Backup linebackers: A-

Shane Ray did a good job creating some pressure in Nascar-type looks at the end of second quarter, getting a terrific sack coming around the edge and closing with power on McCoy.

He also had a nice run stop to his side. A solid bounce-back game for Ray.

Zaire Anderson was effective in coverage underneath and made a solid tackle against the run, stuffing a running lane.

Shaquil Barrett came off the edge unblocked to get a monster hit on McCoy who just threw the ball away. Shaq created another couple big pressures to force incompletions or move the QB off his spot in his best game of the preseason.

Josey Jewell did a nice job against the run, cleaning up the trash to get eight tackles on the game, though only a few came near the line of scrimmage. 

Darian Stewart: N/A

Stewart wasn’t tested in this one, playing a bit further from the box then in other games so far this preseason. 

Justin Simmons: B

Simmons was efficient tackling in space when a few big runs broke out to the third level. With the Redskins focusing on the run, he really wasn’t tested in coverage. 

Bradley Roby: C

Roby allowed two completions to Paul Richardson for decent gains, in one instance just giving up too big a cushion on a deep crosser. He was targeted another time playing soft-zone coverage on 2nd-and-2, allowing the first down conversion.

Not his best game.

Chris Harris Jr.: B

Not tested much in coverage, Harris did a nice job lowering his shoulder and tackling Peterson outside as he got into daylight. 

Backup defensive backs: C-

Isaac Yiadom allowed a pass to the flats for a nine-yard completion playing a bit too far off his receiver and then was straight up burned downfield for a touchdown. He’s regressing a bit.

Brendan Langley made a poor read on the ball, trying to cut the pass off underneath, only to have it sail over his head for a big gain downfield.

CJ Smith was beaten twice in coverage; first for a short fourth down gain and subsequently conceding a touchdown at the very end of the contest.


Garett Bolles: B-

Bolles played well early on as the Broncos ran to his side a bit more and he created regular push getting to the second level.

In pass pro, he was pretty good, though he did allow a free release from a rusher to his inside shoulder and then off the edge in two separate third down situations. He also risked getting called for a holding on one occasion and was flagged for unnecessary roughness, too.

He’s still a bit unpolished but has been solid. 

Max Garcia: C+

Garcia wasn’t perfect, as he allowed some penetration up the middle, and had a missed pull block conceding a tackle for loss. Let’s say he didn’t look like the most nimble-footed lineman on the field. He did, however, do a really nice job run blocking early on getting to the second level with regularity.

Matt Paradis: B-

On a few key runs, Paradis did a good job creating a good angle blocks, combining with his guards to block downfield. His game wasn’t the cleanest, though, as he was flagged for holding and then allowed a linebacker to swat a ball at the line.

Connor McGovern: C+

McGovern flashed some nastiness with a devastating pancake block on the opening drive, playing smash mouth football early on. He did allow a third-down sack, getting completely bullied with a bull rush. He’s not perfect, but he’s had an impressive preseason nonetheless. 

Backup offensive line: C-

Cyrus Kouandjio regressed a bit as he was called for two separate holding penalties. 

Jeremiah Poutasi allowed a tackle for a loss up the middle.

Austin Schlottmann was burned badly on an inside pressure, forcing Paxton Lynch out of the pocket.  

Devontae Booker: C-

Sure, Booker did a good job on the opening drive, running low and busting up the middle to convert 3rd-and-3, and had another nice run that was nullified by Paradis’ hold, but he just keeps looking like he’s lacking burst and having issues making defenders miss. 

He was also knocked down in pass protection, a rough outing.

Royce Freeman: B

Royce had a few missed reads early on and then had another series where he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage twice, forcing both runs outside. Though, at the end of the day, the thing that mattered most was that he confirmed his ability to be a scoring threat with a superb touchdown run, breaking a few tackles, running downhill with great power, and showing nimble feet to make cuts in traffic. A big play.

Backup running backs: A

Phillip Lindsay made too many plays to list them all here. He averaged 8.1 yards per touch. He also had a tackle in kickoff coverage. Maybe the worst kept secret in the NFL is that the local running back is a lock to make the team. He’s simply a playmaker.  

Andy Janovich made two key blocks on the Broncos two scores.

De’Angelo Henderson looked solid and had an impact in both the run and passing game, he looked quick and always lowered his shoulder to gain extra yardage at the end of his runs.

David Williams showed some nimble feet in this game with some nice receptions and runs after the catch. He’s an intriguing big back who’s starting to find his comfort zone and make plays.

Demaryius Thomas: C

Had a nice grab with Josh Norman covering him and then took a bubble screen outside that didn’t’ go anywhere, nothing to see here. 

Courtland Sutton: B+

Made two nice grabs in the game. First, a great reception on a crosser where he came back to the ball, breaking a tackle to get the first down. Then, he had a magnificent back-shoulder catch, going up to sky the ball over Norman. 

If he and Keenum can master those back-shoulder plays down the sideline, they’ll essentially be unstoppable. 

Backup wide receivers: B-

DaeSean Hamilton made a couple nice grabs and looked disappointed he didn’t break a tackle on a 10-yard gain from Chad Kelly.

Jordan Leslie had a reception to the flats and extended the play for a 14-yard gain. 

Jeff Heuerman: C+

Drew a holding penalty and then had a short gain, nothing like his last outing where he really flashed. He did do a nice job blocking for the run. 

Backup tight ends: C

Jake Butt got his first catch as a pro on a comeback up the middle for five yards. He then showed great hustle knocking a tipped ball to the ground to break up an interception. 

Case Keenum: B+

Keenum led the Broncos on two touchdown drives and another scoring drive in the first half. He looked in control and allowed the offense to run as smooth as it has in a long while.

The QB did a nice job taking shots downfield for big completions to both Sutton and Sanders, all while looking poised under pressure and moving the chains, for the most part playing efficiently on third down. His improvements passing the ball over the middle in tighter windows have been encouraging, as that’s maybe his biggest flaw. 

Keenum still had some missed opportunities due to less-than-perfect ball placement that would’ve allowed him to extend drives, and probably would like to have the two-minute drive back, but he’s steadily improved each game.

Backup quarterbacks: C+

Chad Kelly didn’t really have any big plays, almost playing conservative after he almost made a disastrous throw when scrambling to the sideline for a near interception.

Outside of that, he was efficient, taking what the defense gave him and getting the ball out quickly, leading the Broncos on two scoring drives.

Paxton Lynch was better and looked more comfortable, scrambling at appropriate times and moving the chains a bit. He still didn’t make any big-time throws, and again, looked clearly inferior to Kelly.


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