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Broncos Game Grades: Bubble players make their case

Andre Simone Avatar
August 31, 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 the final preseason game, the Broncos beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-10. It was a nice showing in which many of the players on the roster bubble played well.

Standouts from the game:

Chad Kelly: D

Kelly’s performance didn’t definitively answer the big question surrounding him this preseason; if he can be trusted as the backup QB, as Kelly had his worst performance.

Denver’s second-stringer struggled on third down, settling for short throws. He also had issues feeling out pressure, missing some open receivers and too often opting to run the ball.

His worst play of the game was his intercepted pass, where he settled for a throw underneath on 3rd-and-12 and didn’t diagnose the end dropping in coverage.

More concerning, he looked a bit raddled after the interception and took a while to pick his play back up. Kelly also looked lackadaisical in the two-minute drill, overthrowing a bomb to Tim Patrick which could’ve salvaged his evening. 

He completed a few nice throws on the run but also threw dangerous passes that put his receivers in danger over the middle or in double coverage.

His play lacked nuance in a disappointing outing, as he struggled to strike a balance between knowing when to be conservative and when to take his shots.

DeShawn Williams: A

The Broncos unknown defensive tackle was devastating, eating up blocks against the run and garnering two tackles for a loss. If he wasn’t making the tackle himself, he was opening up holes for his linebackers to run through. He played with great leverage, stood up lineman and was quick to shoot gaps, penetrating the line while flashing nice hands to toss blockers to the side. 

He also had a sack, busting through the guards inside shoulder to take down the quarterback. Williams also came off the outside on a stunt to force an incompletion, getting a quarterback hit. He had a big-time game and put up some impressive tape.

Paxton Lynch: A-

Lynch was conservative at times, often settling for short passes but did a nice job of being accurate and leading his receivers with on-point ball placement when he needed to.

His best pass was a beauty, running to his left on a bootleg and delivering a perfect throw to Jordan Leslie for the touchdown, with perfect touch and ball placement.

He also made a case for a role on the 53 by running an RPO on a two-point conversion showcasing his athleticism and running untouched to the end zone. Possibly testing out a special red zone package.

More importantly, he led the Broncos on three scoring drives and was efficient on third down.

It’s important to not read too much into the fourth preseason performance, though, as he still didn’t attempt many vertical passes or throws in tight windows. However, Lynch looked loose, playing essentially error free and not forcing anything.

Josey Jewell: A-

Jewell was very impressive defending the run early on, playing active and always seeming to get into the action. Unsurprisingly the rookie led the team in tackles and had at least one stop at the line of scrimmage, busting through the hole, showing a nice nose for the ball.

His best play was a tackle for a loss as he ran through the gap, breaking into the backfield to wrap up effectively on the running back and make the play.

Jewell’s ability to read and diagnose plays was on point in a really nice showing. If he can keep playing that way, he’ll give Todd Davis a real run for his money.

His only mishap was a block in the back penalty on punt coverage, but it was a nice game otherwise.

De’Angelo Henderson: A

Henderson ran the ball really well, running tough up the middle and showing electric feet, almost always avoiding the first would-be tackler. 

He showed off good patience and was a weapon on short down and distance runs, always keeping his feet moving.

Additionally, he did a nice job in pass protection and was a solid weapon in the receiving game. He’s a battering ram with ballerina’s feet; he looked like he belonged. 

David Williams: B+

Williams wasn’t always electric, settling for short gains up the middle and showing off his power. He did have a few flashes to make guys miss and run downhill.

He was especially impressive in the passing game where he showed smooth hands and the ability to make plays out on the perimeter. 

His play in protection was a mixed bag. He allowed a sack, but he did do a nice job on the Matt LaCosse’s touchdown. He’s been intriguing in the preseason as he’s a toolsy back with nice size.


Zach Kerr: B-

Kerr, like the rest of the starting D-line, didn’t play a ton but he had a stout run stop early on. He has been solid in the preseason, with his performance against Arizona likely his least noteworthy game.

Shelby Harris: C

Harris didn’t make much of an impact in the game, a slightly disappointing performance.

DeMarcus Walker: C

Aside from a tackle against the run where the RB ran into him, Walker didn’t do much in somewhat limited snaps. It would have been nice to see him create more pressure, though it’s important not to read too much into his performance.

Backup defensive line: C

Caushaud Lyons had a sack, busting through the line in a hurry to close on the quarterback. 

Shaq Barrett: N/A

Shaq didn’t play much and had zero impact in the game.

Zaire Anderson: C

Anderson had a couple solid tackles against the run but was overshadowed by Jewell. His impact was lacking. 

Shane Ray: C+

Ray created a little pressure off the edge but nothing too noteworthy, just minor flashes.

Backup linebackers: A

Jeff Holland had his motor working when fighting through a block to get a coverage sack; he also recovered a fumble.

Keishawn Biearria in a bit of an absent outing, was quick to close on a screen pass getting a tackle for a loss.

A.J. Johnson looked the part, playing with physicality and bursting through the line for a big tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

Marcus Rush missed a tackle on a running back draw on 3rd-and-long but showed great hustle coming off the edge to get a strip sack that essentially sealed the Broncos win.

Will Parks: B

It was nice seeing Parks back. He had an awesome tackle, laying the wood on the goal line and knocking the runner back on 1st-and-goal. He did his thing when he was on the field.  

Su’a Cravens: B+

Cravens was flying around to make tackles, and though he wasn’t tested in coverage, he made his presence felt up close to the line.

He closed down on plays quickly to the flats and looked sharp reading and reacting, making some sound stops. He was particularly impressive making a big tackle in space on a draw. He needed to give everyone confidence in his role and did so with a solid showing.

Adam Jones: B-

Jones didn’t get targeted in coverage but had a few nice kickoff returns, showcasing his speed and the ability to find holes as a returner, getting back to the 30-yard line even when taking kicks deep into the end zone. 

Isaac Yiadom: C

Yiadom finally managed to not allow several receptions as the one he did allow—a touchdown on a pick play down in the goal line—wasn’t even his fault.

That’s not to say he was perfect in coverage, as he allowed too much space on a couple pass plays but was bailed out by some bad throws. 

He just hasn’t been consistently sticky in coverage. 

Tramaine Brock: B-

Brock had a great tackle towards the sideline to force a third down, giving his receiver little room to operate. He seemed to be holding on 3rd-and-6, forcing the incompletion on a short pass but got bailed out with a no call. 

Backup defensive backs: B-

Brendan Langley played good coverage deep in the third quarter but wasn’t tested much otherwise. 

C.J. Smith had a pass sail over his head on a corner route for a big gain, setting the Cards up at the five-yard line on their opening drive. In coverage down the sideline, he got burned deep and was lucky the pass was overthrown. A rough outing.

Trey Marshall was a heat-seeking missile, playing physical and flying downhill. He had a great hit to break up a pass over the middle of the field and played the ball well for the entire game.


Cyrus Kouandjio: B

Kouandjio was solid with no major hiccups. The starters on the O-line played well, doing a solid job in pass protection and an even better job opening holes for the run. 

J.J. Dielman: B

Dielman was part of a good performance from the line, looking sturdy with very few mistakes.

Sam Jones: C+

Jones wasn’t always great and had a few issues allowing penetration up front. He had a fairly good game but wasn’t at the level of the other second-stringers. 

Jeremiah Poutasi: C+

Poutasi let a second level block slip by him on the opening play of the game, getting De’Angelo Henderson stopped for a loss of yards. He was fairly good after that. 

Billy Turner: A-

Turner stood out as he did a good job sealing the edge as the starting right tackle on outside runs and created consistent push otherwise, bullying defenders at times.

He played sound football with good balance and on-point technique.

He wasn’t perfect, allowing penetration on a run and getting flagged for a hold that was Kelly’s fault, as the QB held onto the ball too long.

Other than that, he had a really nice game.

Backup offensive line: C+

Elijah Wilkinson did a nice job as a run blocker playing right guard, though he also allowed a pressure forcing an incompletion in pass protection.

Austin Schlottmann was called for a hold and got moved out the way playing center, allowing an unblocked A-gap blitz up the middle that resulted in a sack. He was a bit shaky. 

Tim Patrick: B+

Patrick had a towering grab on a pass behind him, as he got laid out but still came down with the ball. He beat a DB deep at the end of the half but was overthrown by Kelly, and had another red zone target where he didn’t have a chance to make the play in traffic. 

The kid has obvious talent.

Isaiah McKenzie: B

McKenzie had a big punt return, running across the field to turn the corner and get a 43-yard gain. It didn’t stand due to a flag on the play, but he still did a good job getting into space and showcasing his speed.

He also flashed how electric he could be on a swing pass reception for an easy 10-yard gain, doing a nice job of playing his role.

River Cracraft: C

Cracraft got open on a pick play for the opening first down and caught a couple other short passes. He also had two ho-hum punt returns. Honestly, he disappointed a bit. 

Backup wide receivers: B+

Jordan Leslie had a good game, with some nice runs after the catch while he also got open consistently, finding holes in coverage.

He added a tackle in kickoff coverage, too, making a strong argument to at least make the practice squad. 

John Diarse had a nice run after the catch out to the sideline, getting away from his defender for a 21-yard gain. 

Austin Traylor: D

Traylor didn’t do much in the game outside of being penalized for a false start, a disappointing outing.

Backup tight ends: B

Matt LaCosse did a nice job reaching back to get the touchdown reception. He has had a solid preseason and has some skills as a receiver.


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