Broncos Game Grades: The good, the bad and the ugly from Denver's preseason opener

Andre Simone Avatar
August 12, 2018

Throughout the entire 2018-19 season BSN Denver will once again 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.

Welcome back!

This was an odd one, with the starters barely getting featured at all, but there was still more to gain from the game than might’ve initially met the eye against a stout opponent.

Without further ado, after watching the tape, here are our grades for the Broncos 42-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Standouts from the game:

Case Keenum: D

Keenum settled for short completions, taking a fairly conservative approach as the Broncos had consecutive three-and-outs in their first two drives.

His most noteworthy attempt was an overthrown pass on 3rd-and-8 towards the sideline to Courtland Sutton, on Denver’s opening drive— mind you, overthrowing the Broncos newest big target is no easy task.

Chad Kelly: B

Kelly’s performance was positive, even if it was far from perfect. At least he was able to get out there and show off his gifts, playing free and loose.

We got the full Chad Kelly experience in this one, as he showed off his arm with great zip over the middle while running around and making plays with his legs, as well. There were times where he was threading the needle in tight coverage and simply looked awesome.

Of course, he was also a bit too aggressive and eventually threw a costly interception. Kelly had issues staring down receivers and telegraphing passes. You could also tell the play calls where very basic as Denver ran the same play three different times in his two-minute drive.

His footwork got too lackadaisical once the game was out of hand as he struggled in the two-minute drill.

Will Parks: B+

Parks started things off with a nice tackle underneath on second down to force 3rd-and-8. Bursting through the line on an A-gap blitz, he had a big sack on the subsequent play to force a punt.

He had another tackle on tight end Blake Bell flying in and forcing the ball out in the process and then added a textbook tackle out in the flats, forcing a play for no gain on second down.

His one negative highlight was that he couldn’t free himself of blockers on the big Roc Thomas TD on the screen taking the Vikings up 24-7.

Overall, Parks was a real bright spot who, if he continues to play like this, should see a significant number of snaps when the defense is in nickel or dime.

Isaac Yiadom: D+

Yiadom got picked on early and never seemed to get himself back in the game.

He was targeted on the first play, allowing a six-yard gain on pretty tight coverage where he just didn’t turn to find the ball. He then was beaten by Stefon Diggs for the opening touchdown on a quick slant down in the goal line—he was in tight coverage again but just couldn’t make a play on the ball.

He then conceded a back shoulder throw—on a nice pass by Trevor Siemian—to Diggs at the end of the first quarter. Yet, again, he allowed another 11-yard reception on a nice pass down the sideline for a first down.

On the bright side, he made perfect tackles each time, not allowing yards after the catch and was, for the most part, right there but just couldn’t break up the pass on all these plays. Still, if he’s going to be the starting third cornerback in Denver, he can’t allow second units to pick on him, or the defense will become too easy to game plan against.

Defense

Derek Wolfe: D+

The Vikings ran right at Wolfe on their first big run, and he couldn’t do anything to prevent it against a weak and depleted O-line. He did make a good tackle for a loss on a second down screen running down the play.

Overall, Wolfe was absent as a pass rusher and didn’t do anything to stop the run. He won’t be happy rewatching this film.

Domata Peko: B+

Peko was the most stout of the starting three on the line. His highlight play was when he snuffed out and shut down Minnesota’s early screen pass, getting held in the process.

Adam Gotsis: C-

Gotsis got sealed up against the run in another big gainer by Minnesota during the defenses second drive. He did get a nice tackle for a loss playing strong run defense later on, though it was easy to forget he was on the field before then.  

Backup defensive line: A

Zach Kerr might’ve been the MVP of the game, at least defensively, as he made a ton of plays. He was tough against the run getting a tackle for a loss and stuffing several run plays at their inception, with at least three stops right around the line. He was close to a sack as well. As the Broncos line depth has been lauded this offseason, Kerr looked best among the backups.

Shelby Harris had a clutch swat at the line of scrimmage, his biggest contribution. He also combined with Josey Jewell to force a tackle for a loss on a nice run stop.

Kyle Peko was strong against the run as well, stuffing a run on 3rd-and-short to start the second half and then creating a tackle for a loss with good elusiveness, slipping his block to get in the backfield.

Bradley Chubb: C+

Chubb’s best play of the game was when he got penetration on 2nd-and-goal, showing great leverage to get through as the Vikings tried to run to his side. He had a few pressures as well, though he wasn’t able to close the plays down.

His worst play was in the opening drive, as he got blocked on the first big run by Vikings to his side. 

It was nice to see Chubb used with his hand in the ground in more four-man looks without a nose tackle, though overall this wasn’t a spectacular pro debut as he didn’t have much of an impact.

Brandon Marshall: D-

Marshall couldn’t tackle Latavius Murray in the open field, leading to the first first-down of the game on a big run. He couldn’t step up on the second run either to make the play as he was the biggest reason the Broncos couldn’t stop the run in the early going.

A lighter Marshall is a good idea against the pass, but against the run, he did not look good. 

Zaire Anderson: A

No. 50 got a tipped interception that was a bit lucky as he wasn’t playing the stickiest coverage, but credit to him for making the play. Anderson added a hit on Kyle Sloter on a blitz later on while also getting a pass deflection. While he only had one tackle, the plays he made were pretty impactful. 

Shane Ray: D

Ray created a bit of push but couldn’t free himself on the big pass from Kirk Cousins to Diggs which had the Vikings knocking on the door on the first drive. He had a hard time creating pressure against a beat-up group most of the game. 

Backup linebackers: A-

This was one of the best backup group of all, and the main reason is Jeff Holland who was a real thorn in the Vikings line’s side. He first created pressure in the end zone and almost forced Siemian into a safety, and then had a terrific sack turning the edge to bring down Sloter. 

He also read a screen perfectly forcing an incompletion on third down to start the fourth quarter, a really solid performance.

Josey Jewell’s biggest play wasn’t a good one as he was unable to shed his blocks on the big screen TD for Minnesota. He just didn’t read the play and was unable to step up to stop the run. He did combine with Harris to burst through the line for a big TFL and had a solid tackle up the middle moving his blocker to get the stop. A decent showing though he can’t allow big plays if he’s mostly used in base looks.

Keishawn Biearria was around the ball a lot though he didn’t make a ton of tackles. He did have two nice plays against the run getting a stop close to the line. However, he also had a missed tackle. A bit of a mixed bag.

Darian Stewart: A

Stewart had a nice tackle in the open field on the fifth play of the game and then made a huge tackle on 2nd-and-goal bursting through the line to get a stop. He looked ready to go playing closer to the line as a strong safety.

Justin Simmons: A

Thank god for Simmons, who was a reliable last line of defense as the ‘D’ was getting gashed up front against the run. First, he had a good tackle in the open field on Vikings first big run; he then broke through the line on an inside blitz down in the red zone as Cousins hit Diggs for the TD.

He added another strong tackle in the flats to get a stop on 3rd-and-10, even if the play was extended due to a penalty.

Chris Harris Jr.: N/A

Harris was just fine as he didn’t get targeted at all in limited snaps. 

Bradley Roby: C+

Roby got beat by Diggs, who got him with a solid over the shoulder grab while Roby was in good position early on. That was about all we saw of Roby on the day.

Backup defensive backs: C+

Dymonte Thomas was picked down in the red zone for a TD by Roc Thomas putting the Vikings up 14-0. He did have a textbook tackle in space while covering a pass over the middle to force a three and out. Thomas had another nice stop against the run to start off the second half as well. His biggest blemish was a missed tackle on Sloter’s red zone run that ended the Broncos chances.

Brendan Langley made a sure tackle towards the sideline while playing tight coverage and forcing a third-down stop as the Vikings had to settle for a field goal. He didn’t show up on many more plays which was disappointing as this could’ve been a good chance for him to make up ground on Yiadom.

CJ Smith had a great pass breakup that could’ve been an interception if Bierria didn’t get in the way. That aside, he allowed three different receptions; two which led to third down conversions and another touchdown where he just slipped and looked bad as Minnesota went up 34-28.

Micheal Hunter was flagged for being too handsy and then was burned on the very next play allowing an easy first down. He was also beaten on the two-point conversion in the fourth quarter and couldn’t get a tackle on a crucial 3rd-and-10, allowing the first down on an outside run. 

Offense

Garett Bolles: B-

Bolles gave Keenum good protection on the opening 3rd-and-8, blocking Everson Griffen, one of the league’s best pass rushers in the process. He was solid in pass-pro except for one rep in which he could’ve been called for a hold.

He seemed to do well run blocking with Max Garcia by his side, though the Broncos didn’t run behind him.

Max Garcia: B

Garcia gave up a little ground on a couple of pass protection snaps but was sturdy anchoring against the pass and not allowing anyone to get through to Keenum. As a run blocker, he did a nice job against the Vikings phenomenal starters, creating quite a bit of push—it’s actually a shame the Broncos didn’t run behind him because he was mauling. 

Matt Paradis: B+

Paradis was Paradis, he didn’t have any major hiccups in limited time and created a decent push on Booker’s first run.

Connor McGovern: A-

McGovern didn’t blow his defender off his feet on Denver’s opening run but stayed in front of his man and recovered to create push as Booker followed behind him for three yards. 

He did a great job picking up the blitz and communicating with Veldheer on the second third-down of the game, having to get outside and blocking for Keenum in time. 

Jared Veldheer: C

Like Bolles, he gave Keenum good protection on the first third down of the game and was solid as a run blocker. He did get called for a false start on the first drive, setting the Broncos back in the process.

Backup offensive line: C

Elijah Wilkinson and Billy Turner took over the right side of the line—Turner at guard and Wilkinson as the right tackle—and had mixed results.

On the positive side, they created some strong push for the run game, particularly on Royce Freeman’s touchdown run. They did allow a sack on third down as Paxton Lynch went down with Turner letting his man get a free path to the QB. Turner almost allowed a sack during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, as well. Wilkinson was burned on a screen on 3rd-and-5, slipping and leading to a pass deflection on Lynch to force a three-and-out in the two-minute drill.

Jeremiah Poutasi was flagged on a false start to stall Chad Kelly’s first drive.

Devontae Booker: C

Booker had two inside runs for seven yards and didn’t show much of a spark in the process. Considering he’s one of the starters who’s job is far from a given, he lost ground to the other young backs on the roster. 

Backup running backs: B+

Royce Freeman made one of the plays of the game with a great run for a TD, he was able to cut the run back, showing great vision and made a defender miss to get into the end zone, flashing nice quickness.

He looked good right from the first run where he showed power driving down the middle and had another carry up the middle getting downhill for a seven-yard gain. His one negative play was a dropped pass in the flats on a crucial third down of the second drive, but he had a strong outing otherwise.

Once Phillip Lindsay finally got a few passes that he could catch, he showed off his skills as a receiving back. He showed off great skills getting open on a quick in route extending to make a tough catch for the touchdown. Lindsay also made a defender miss in space off of a screen pass for a nice gain down the sideline.

Demaryius Thomas: N/A

With one reception on a bubble screen, DT had a nice little five-yard gain. Hopefully, that’s a bigger part of the offense as that play was a nice reminder of how hard he can be to stop with the ball in his hands. 

Emmanuel Sanders: N/A

Sanders didn’t receive a single target in limited snaps, he did, however, run the wrong route as there seemed to be confusion with him and Keenum on the play call on 2nd-and-6 when Case was looking to target him but had to throw the ball away instead.

Backup wide receivers: A

Isaiah McKenzie had a massive punt return touchdown to finish the first half. He did a great job hesitating and bursting to the outside for the score, making the last defender miss. A huge play for McKenzie in increasing his chances to make the 53-man roster.

Tim Patrick had two big grabs extending nicely both times to snatch passes away from his body.

Jake Butt: N/A 

Butt didn’t get targeted and was used exclusively with the first teamers. It was nice seeing him used in a few different ways; flexed outside on the first play of the game and then used in the backfield where he chipped a lineman and then ran a shallow route to the flats. He seemed to get open a couple times too on check-off type routes. Interestingly, in the one play of the opening drive in which the Broncos ran the ball, he was substituted by Austin Traylor. 

Backup tight ends: B-

Austin Traylor was targeted twice; once with a drop which led to the Lynch interception. His other target was a tough one as Lynch just couldn’t throw to him with good placement. 

Matt LaCosse caught a wide open TD as he streaked down the sideline, he had another short reception for four yards as he ended up leading the team in receiving yards. On the negative side, he was called for a hold.

Backup quarterbacks: F

Paxton Lynch just lacked ideal ball placement while he also struggled to read the field and make quick-trigger decisions. He just struggled to complete anything more than short passes and had issues with pressure.

The progression just isn’t there, and he’s still not playing freely where he can just go out there and let it rip to try and show off his talents. A really disappointing outing. 

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