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Broncos Game Grades: Major improvements as the roster starts to take shape

Andre Simone Avatar
August 19, 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 23-24 loss to the Chicago Bears, the Broncos two-deep looked a lot better, as both the offense and defense were clicking in a game that seemed to mean a bit more to the team.

In a sloppy game in which both teams were penalized 14 times, the Broncos gained some clarity on the state of their roster. 

Standouts from the game:

Phillip Lindsay: A

Lindsay had a terrific game, impacting all phases—defense aside, of course. It was also nice—and quite telling—to see him get consecutive runs and not used solely on gadget plays to the outside. When he ran it up the middle, he did so with the recklessness and fearlessness that’s always distinguished him. 

He also showed off immediate burst and the ability to consistently make a defender miss, which he also demonstrated on punt returns with one specific run in which he broke three tackles. 

Even more telling, his play of the game was a tackle on punt coverage pinning the Bears at their own five-yard line.

As things currently stand, he’s too valuable to let go and is showing enough to be a true contributor.

Bradley Chubb: B

The Broncos highly-touted rookie played a well-rounded game, showing himself to be especially equipped in coverage but also stout against the run, all while flying around in pursuit. He was aware and when he had a free release No. 55 made plays happen in a hurry like his safety tackle. Used on a stunt, he was able to create pressure up the middle too on third-and-long.

Chubb did have a few struggles defending the run and getting blocked out the way, such as a 3rd-and-1 conversion to his side where he couldn’t get the tackle and another where the tight end took him out the play.

He also got flagged twice for roughing the passer and being offsides. More pressing, he was on the field a good amount and wasn’t beating the Bears second-string offensive tackles off the edge, his only real issue thus far.

Chad Kelly: A

Kelly played really well, ironing out some of the issues from his first game and looking much better with his sideline accuracy.

He was still accurate and showed great zing to the middle of the field, while also making a few nice passes on the run, confirming his athleticism. He looked smarter in taking what the defense gave him while balancing when to make a play.

Kelly did have one missed opportunity; missing Tim Patrick who could’ve gone for a long touchdown but Kelly just didn’t put enough air under his throw. There was also a play where it looked like he had a clear miscommunication with the offense, as they were seemingly run blocking downfield while the QB was looking to pass, not to mention, he had a delay of game penalty.

He’s still not perfect but looked even better with the second unit.

Jeff Heuerman: B+

The Broncos starting tight end looked great against Chicago, as he was particularly tough to tackle in the open field. He started things off with a nice grab for a first down, he later picked up a big gain with a nasty stiff arm, bullying his way toward the sticks. No. 82 also caught the two-point conversion, a nice sign when considering his potential as a red zone target. Heuerman did a nice job run blocking too.

The tight end might quietly be ready to break out.


Derek Wolfe: B+

Wolfe did a terrific job stuffing the run on the very first play and was a force up front from then on. In limited snaps, while he didn’t create any real pressure, he played very well against the run. 

Domata Peko: B+

Peko did a good job stopping the run against a Bears team with some excellent backs. He also showed great pursuit running down a screen, a very characteristic, solid outing.

Adam Gotsis: B

Overshadowed a bit by his linemates, Gotsis smothered one run at the line of scrimmage, breaking into the backfield, and then had another nice stop, limiting Chicago to a one-yard gain.

He and Shelby Harris couldn’t hold their ground when the Bears went for it on 4th-and-1, but he was good otherwise. 

Backup defensive line: B

DeMarcus Walker finally showed off some real pass rushing prowess, getting two quarterback hits and a sack. His motor was superb, and he flashed a really nice swim move on his sack, getting the QB down on his second effort. 

Clinton McDonald got outside on a stunt to close a big sack on third-down to start off the fourth quarter. A reminder that he’s the type of vet who’ll make an impact with one big play. 

DeShawn Williams played well and created a good amount of penetration against the run.

Todd Davis: A

In the few instances where the Bears ran at him, Davis made some big plays, coming up with clutch tackles near the line of scrimmage. His play of the game was a stop on third down, tackling RB Tarik Cohen short of the marker. He was also solid in coverage, staying close to Anthony Miller on a comeback and tackling him for no gain. 

Brandon Marshall: C

Marshall’s play against the run, and specifically his tackle for a loss that pinned the Bears back even further, really set up the Chubb safety. 

Outside of that sequence, Marshall still struggled to tackle, allowing Jordan Howard to gain extra yardage on a run and later whiffing on a pass to the flats, allowing his receiver to gain the first down. So far in the preseason, he hasn’t looked great.

Von Miller: A-

Playing in three series, Von didn’t get a sack but was consistently getting into the opposing backfield, looking ready for Week 1 right now. He also combined with Marshall for a run stop, a nice first outing.

Backup linebackers: B+

Shane Ray struggled to stay on his feet, missing a few opportunities where he might’ve turned the corner but just couldn’t keep his footing. It was disappointing to see him go against the Bears second teamers and not dominate. 

His second half was much better as he pressured Chase Daniels twice forcing couple incompletions.

Zaire Anderson missed a tackle underneath on Miller, allowing a first down and then conceding another completion on a slant inside. That said, he was solid wrapping up and had a nice tackle for a loss, shutting down a screen in the red zone.

Jeff Holland did a nice job coming off the edge to get a run stop right at the line and then had an explosive pressure coming off the edge, almost knocking the ball out of Daniel’s hand.

Josey Jewell had a few issues in coverage, allowing a couple receptions, one that was nullified due to a flag. He did have a good run stuff up the middle.

Keishawn Biearria got beat in coverage and gave up the crucial touchdown that gave the Bears the lead.

Alexander Johnson flattened a returner on a kickoff and got his nose in the run game with a nice stop up the middle. He looked solid covering tight ends underneath as well, a nice debut.

Jerrol Garcia-Williams was all over the place, and though he didn’t create tons of pressure as an outside linebacker, he was a factor against the run, played actively in pursuit running down plays and almost had a pick on a pass deflection.

Darian Stewart: B-

Stewart looked like he missed his assignment on Trey Burton’s touchdown, coming off some pre-snap misdirection but was solid otherwise.

Justin Simmons: A

Simmons was terrific, tackling Howard in the open field as the last line of defense on one play then jumping the route to get a pick on an underneath throw later.

Tramaine Brock: B+

Brock wasn’t tested much, which is a good sign, but he did have a good tackle, standing up his receiver for no gain.

Bradley Roby: B

Roby’s biggest impact was on a corner blitz, hurrying the QB to force an incompletion on third and long. He did allow a Miller catch down the sideline while playing perfect coverage, just missing the pass deflection on a super grab by the Bears special rookie. 

Isaac Yiadom: D

Yiadom was picked on once again, allowing completions to everyone from the first to the third-teamers on the Bears roster while playing a ton of snaps.

He looked especially vulnerable playing off coverage, allowing easy completions. In press against Bennie Fowler, he also conceded a completion as the former Bronco got off the line and gained inside leverage with ease.

He had a rough outing, getting flagged twice as well, once on his best play where he managed to deflect the ball on a throw deep down the sideline but was called for PI as he didn’t turn his head. Chalk it up to another learning experience.

Backup defensive backs: C+

CJ Smith played well, allowing a completion on a short route but also playing sticky coverage to force a third-down incompletion and getting very close to collecting an interception in the end zone. He also had a fine tackle at the sticks, pushing his man back to force a third down.

Marcus Rios allowed three pass completions while not playing great coverage and struggled to get his head turned around.

Jordan Moore had a mixed bag, biting on a bit of trickery in the red zone to allow a touchdown and again getting burned on a 3rd-and-4 pass at the end of the game that could’ve helped seal it for Denver. 

He did start off preventing a big play with good defense down the sideline but had issues later on.


Garett Bolles: A-

The offensive line did a good job in pass protection and was sturdy run blocking, though certainly not dominant on the ground. Bolles did his part, getting to the second level a few times while run blocking and doing a decent job against the Bears pass rush.

He had a series in which he almost held his defender on consecutive plays but was able to knock his man to the ground. He’s on the razor’s edge at times, between being a nasty finisher and committing a holding penalty—a huge issue for him last year. His technique still isn’t the cleanest but he’s looking better so far and working in unison with Leary is clearly helping him.

Ronald Leary: C+

Leary has been injured a bit so it’s understandable that he had the one real hiccup for the first-unit; getting bull rushed and allowing a sack. That said, he was solid with his double teams, got to the second level fairly often in the run game and handled all his other one-on-one pass pro assignments. 

Matt Paradis: B+

Paradis was reliable as always, with no issues handling the ball or pass protection mishaps. In the run game, he combined nicely with McGovern on a few run blocks up the middle.

Connor McGovern: B+

The Broncos one new starter on the line has looked awesome, as he just mauls in the ground game and takes care of business in pass protection, creating a strong middle part of the right side of the line with the vets Paradis and Veldheer on either side. 

His best moment was opening up the hole for Freeman on his TD run. While his worst moment was conceding a tackle for loss on the first play of Kelly’s game. Another promising outing.

Jared Veldheer: A

The right tackle position might finally be fixed, folks. Nobody is talking about Veldheer because he just does his job. He led the way on the opening run of the game to seal the edge on a four-yard gain and was just a rock from there on. He’s not the most mobile, but he’s just so big that creating pressure against him has been impossible this preseason, a really encouraging sign. 

Backup offensive line: B+

The line played well as a unit in the game, though, they were still far from perfect.

Playing right guard, Elijah Wilkinson struggled run blocking, allowing too much penetration, almost breaking up a couple runs. 

Billy Turner, on the other hand, playing to Wilkinson’s right at tackle, looked solid blocking for the ground game. His issue was allowing a Kasim Edebali sack where he whiffed completely, instantly allowing pressure off the edge which led to a Paxton Lynch sack. 

That play was worrisome if Turner is the Broncos best backup tackle. 

Cyrus Kouandjio might be a better pass-protecting alternative to Turner as he played a fairly clean game. To boot, he helped a couple runs to his side like David Williams’ best run.

Jeremiah Poutasi and Austin Schlottmann combined to allow a sack as Lynch was dancing around and tried to scramble where they were blocking. 

Schlotmann did not look good, allowing a sack and struggling against the run.

Devontae Booker: C

Booker needs to step it up because he hasn’t looked like the Broncos best back. He ran it up the middle a couple of times for decent gains but nothing spectacular, showing modest burst as he was unable to make anyone miss. Used once in the passing game, he did catch a screen in the red zone and couldn’t shake any defenders. 

He’ll definitely have to show more in the third preseason game. 

Backup running backs: B-

Royce Freeman’s speed didn’t jump out, and he didn’t have multiple highlight plays, but he showed nice vision and the ability to adjust on a dime, showing good lateral movement—his sidestep to get in the end zone being a prime example. Despite being big, he’s making defenders miss and gaining extra yards by ramming into anyone in his path. Not to mention, he runs with authority up the middle and is a trustworthy power back. Another really nice showing. 

De’Angelo Henderson had a couple of short runs up the middle. He also did a  good job in pass protection but seems to be losing ground to the rest of the backs on the roster.

David Williams had a promising outside run, showing a bit more explosiveness than you’d think, he did a good job fighting for extra yardage as well but was unspectacular outside of his one run outside.

Courtland Sutton: B

Sutton drew a big defensive PI just short of the end zone on an underthrown pass where he beat a corner deep and could’ve had a huge score if not for some early defensive contact. He got his touchdown soon afterward, using his body to shield off the defender down the seam and showing strong hands.

He was much more of a factor in this one with some nice flashes.

Emmanuel Sanders: A

Sanders’ chemistry with Keenum showed in this one as he hauled in a few nice grabs towards the sideline, a couple of which came on third down. There were times where it just looked like he and Keenum were just playing catch, too easy. 

Sanders was getting open with ease and could’ve had a TD had Keenum not overthrown him.

Backup wide receivers: A-

DaeSean Hamilton showed his route running ability and could’ve had a bigger game than what he ultimately did, ending up with one nice grab in traffic. He maybe could have laid out to make the catch on flea flicker play but had a promising outing none the less.

Isaiah McKenzie’s biggest play sadly came on a fumble in field goal position as the Broncos seemed ready to score a last-second winning kick. Considering ball security has been his biggest struggle as a pro that was a costly mistake.

However, take that big play away, and he had a nice return on the safety kick and did a great job picking up YAC and getting open on crossers in the two-minute drill in maybe his best WR tape as a pro.

Tim Patrick had the play of the game with a huge catch, “Moss-ing” his defender on third down for a big play down the sideline. He also had his man beat for what should’ve been a touchdown as Kelly barely overthrew him, not putting enough under the pass. The potential with the big former Ute is evident. 

Case Keenum: B

Keenum was much better, looking in control with a consistently clean pocket. He threw it well on the run and got the ball out in a hurry, taking the Broncos on two consecutive scoring drives after the initial three-and-out. He looked accurate and even threw a bullet to Hamilton in a tight window which was a beauty to watch. His chemistry with Sanders allowed him to convert four of six third downs, looking far more comfortable.

He was especially in command on the two-point conversion, looking one way and then coming back to his tight end, making it look easy. 

There were a few missed opportunities as he overthrew his targets a couple times, missing out on at least one potential passing touchdown, looking a bit conservative instead of trying to thread the needle. His timing isn’t perfect yet with all his receivers, but he showed nice progress.

Backup quarterbacks: D+

Paxton Lynch struggled early on, as he wasn’t selling play-action fakes well and was just too tentative, going 0-for-3 to start off.

He settled in a bit but still got sacked and wasn’t decisive in the pocket, even having a pass tipped at the line. Being with the third team line hurt him, though he was looking good on the two-minute drill in a shotgun-heavy hurry up look until McKenzie’s fumble. Another disappointing performance.


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