DENVER, Colo. — The preseason is (finally) over.

The Broncos knocked off the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field 23-13 on Saturday in the preseason finale. Neither team played its starters. Denver finished the preaseaon with a 2-1 record.

Here’s how the defense and special teams graded out:

(And here’s where you can find the offensive grades.)


DL McTelvin Agim – A

The third-year defensive lineman has a solid case for player of the game.

Agim ripped the ball out of the running back’s hands on the first defensive play of the game. The Broncos couldn’t recover.

He blasted the quarterback in the back on a stunt with Baron Browning and knocked the ball out, which Browning picked up and carried into the end zone.

He timed his jump at the line of scrimmage and was able to knock a pass away and force a third down.

He ended the game with a fourth-down pass breakup when he chased the quarterback out of the pocket and got a hand up.

He also ripped past two blockers up the middle for another pressure.

Agim finished the day with two tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

While Agim stuffed the stat sheet, he was pushed around a little in the running game. Obviously we’re knit-picking here but he wasn’t as stout as you’d like on the interior and that’s why he won’t get the first A+ of 2022. To be fair, we knew Agim was more of a pass rusher and disruptor than he was a sturdy presence at the point of attack.

It was a great game for somebody who needed one.

DL Jonathan Harris – B+

Harris helped set up the Jonathan Cooper sack while working with him on a stunt. The stats gave him half of the sack.

He was able to dodge a blocker in space and make a tackle. The play showed off his agility.

He was fairly stout compared to the other defensive linemen but still got pushed around more than you’d like in the running game. His five tackles tied for the second-most on the team.

The 26-year-old has a blend of solid traits but doesn’t have a clear strength, which makes it hard to pin down and ideal role. In a defensive line room that lacks run-stuffing depth, he may be the best option though.

DL Matt Henningsen – B+

The rookie defensive lineman didn’t put up numbers but he was still an important piece of the win.

When the Vikings needed four plays to pound the ball into the end zone in the second quarter, Henningsen was responsible for one of the stuffs. He beat his blocker cleanly and forced the runner to cut back the other direction where other defenders were able to bring him down. Little plays like those are what stand out about the seventh-rounder who should make the 53-man roster.

On another play, Henningsen leaned upfield then pulled back the other way to make a tackle for a short gain. He toyed with the tackle, who didn’t know where the runner was because he doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head, and gave himself the opportunity to make the play. It was a little move but it went a long way. It was a vet play.

DL Eyioma Uwazurike – B

The big problem for the rookie is that he’s still being moved around at the point of attack. He isn’t getting into the backfield as much as you’d like either.

But Uwazurike still made a few nice plays. He stuffed a goal-line run. He should’ve gotten a half-sack before the half but a defensive holding call nullified the play. (The stats would’ve given him the full sack, but I wouldn’t.) He also ran down a screen pass from behind a few plays later.

OLB Nik Bonitto – A

The Vikings got the ball back at their own 25 with about three minutes on the clock needing a touchdown to regain the lead. But Nik Bonitto ended the game.

On second down, the rookie used his remarkable burst around the edge and knocked the ball out of the quarterback’s hand for a strip sack. The Vikings recovered. On the next play, Bonitto used an inside move and blew through a pair of linemen for a second-consecutive sack, setting up a 4th & 27. It was a great counter, since he knew the tackle would be sitting outside fearing getting burned around the edge again. Then, Bonitto sped outside the tackle again but the quarterback was able to step up in the pocket to avoid a third consecutive sack. Bonitto nearly notched another half sack at the end of the first half but defensive holding negated the play.

The rookie’s pass-rush tools were on full display but there’s till room to grow. He needs to improve his ability to adapt his moves during the play. For example, on one play the tackle dropped extremely deep and a little bit too wide. He wanted to stop Bonitto from using his speed around the edge. The next step for Bonitto is to see this happening and to cut inside for a pressure. Instead he got stuck on the blocker and wasn’t a factor. The game needs to slow down just a little bit more for him.

In the running game, Bonitto was much improved. He set the edge better than he has in previous games. He was able to work his way inside to help with a tackle near the goal line in the second quarter, which garnered a tackle for loss. He finished with six tackles, including four solo tackles. Both were solo team highs.

The rookie still isn’t polished. All of this came against reserves. But there’s plenty to like.

OLB Baron Browning – A-

The big play from Browning was a near strip sack late in the first half on a stunt with McTelvin Agim. Browning just missed swiping the ball out, but Agim’s hit from behind knocked it free. Browning picked it up and ran it 17 yards into the end zone.

The second-year linebacker made plays from the edge all night. He’d seal the outside running lane off then burst inside to end the run. He’d attack the blocker on the edge and collapse any chance of a running lane developing on that side of the field. Browning wasn’t perfect in the running game—on one eight-yard run, the back was able to run past him because the blocker cut Browning down on the edge—but it’s clear that Browning belongs on the edge.

OLB Jonathan Cooper – B+

The Broncos are loaded at outside linebacker, which leaves the 2021 seventh-rounder’s future with the team in doubt. He made a strong case for himself on Saturday.

Cooper’s closing speed was on display when he sacked the quarterback on a stunt up the middle. His burst helped him make a play on the running back on a short run inside, too. He flew around the edge and probably would’ve gotten the sack on Bonitto’s late-game strip sack, if Bonitto hadn’t gotten there first.

His speed was most obvious when he forced an incompletion on a bootleg throw when he ate up the dozen or so yards between him and the quarterback in an instant.

Cooper is still raw as a pass-rusher and lacking some strength in the running game—although he bullied a tight end backward, corralling the running back and setting up a Bonitto stuff—but his speed is invaluable. That’s especially true against bootlegs to his side.

OLB Aaron Patrick – B

Patrick’s sheer size, speed and strength were on display against the Vikings. He knocked a blocker back and made a tackle at the line of scrimmage. He chased a running back to the sideline for a short gain later. He drew a hold in the fourth quarter that helped set up a turnover on downs.

Patrick’s physical tools are obvious and he should be a practice squad player if his special teams acumen doesn’t land him a roster spot.

LB Alex Singleton – B+

The veteran linebacker almost had the play of the day when he read the quarterback’s eyes, jumped a route in zone coverage and could have ran uncontested to the end zone. But he dropped the interception. It was still a great read but he didn’t maximize the play.

Singleton didn’t play much and only had one tackle.

LB Kana’i Mauga – B

The rookie linebacker was all over the field but he missed as many opportunities as he capitalized on. There was a loud tackle for loss and a pass breakup. There was also a near PBU that flew just over his fingertips. His three solo tackles tied for the second-most on the team.

When Mauga was able to make a tackle, he hit hard. But he was a step late on a few occasions. His three solo tackles were one off the team lead. Mauga may be a practice squad candidate.

CB Faion Hicks – C-

While Hicks didn’t give up anything down the field, he gave up a pair of conversions on 3rd & 7s. It was a lackluster performance, but it was still a step forward from last week.

CB Damarri Mathis – C

The rookie gave up two deep curls in the first half of the game. The second helped to set up the Vikings last-minute field goal. It wasn’t an awful showing but Mathis left plenty to be desired.

CB Essang Bassey – C+

The 24-year-old nickel played his best game of the preseason but it wasn’t perfect. He was beaten across the middle for a 20-yard gain on a third down before the half. The Vikings wound up with a field goal a minute later. Bassey also forced an incompletion on a pressure off of a slot blitz.

S Delarrin Turner-Yell – B+

The Broncos’ fifth-round rookie safety finally showed how he fits in the NFL on Saturday.

Through training camp and most of the preseason, Turner-Yell didn’t stand out. He didn’t make any real plays. He blended in with the rest of the secondary depth. On Saturday, though, Turner-Yell was an important physical presence.

The loudest play was a hit at the goal line that stuffed a fourth-down run from the one-yard line. Turner-Yell flew forward and cracked the back. Unfortunately, the run was called a touchdown after a review but the play still popped out. He had another play where he screamed in from the secondary for a hit at the line of scrimmage, too.

On another fourth down, Turner-Yell realized there were no receivers coming toward his zone and charged up the sideline to put a lick on the quarterback for a sack that forced a turnover on downs.

Turner-Yell still has some work to do before he’s ready for Sundays—he was bailed out by a drop after he left a receiver wide open 20 yards downfield—but he made a few plays on Saturday. Caden Sterns is the heir apparent for Kareem Jackson but Turner-Yell’s physical presence and sure tackling fits him into that same role. (Maybe Sterns sitting the game out and bumping the rookie up the depth chart is why he took the step.) His three solo tackles tied for the second-most on the team.

Special Teams

K Jacob Bobenmoyer – D-

The long snapper caught a punt off of one hop at the six-yard line but instead of downing it, he ran into the end zone for a touchback. It was a bonehead play. It cost the Broncos 14 yards of field position. Yikes. But we won’t give him an F since the snaps were all on target.

K Brandon McManus – A

Once again, the Broncos’ kicker was perfect. He hit all three of his field goals and both of his extra points. Two of the field goal came late in the game. One gave the Broncos a six-point lead with a few minutes to go, which left the Vikings needing a touchdown. The last field goal extended the lead to nine points and essentially ended the game. His long was 50 yards.

P Corliss Waitman – C

The 27-year-old had a dud of a punt, which went 40 yards to the Minnesota 27-yard line. It was ugly. His other punt went 41 yards and pinned the Vikings at their own 9-yard line.

Waitman and Sam Martin rotated all night, including the holding duties. Waitman held and punted first.

P Sam Martin – B

The best punt of the night was a 50-yarder that should have been downed at the 6, but Bobenmoyer ran it into the end zone for a touchback. Martin also had a 45-yard punt, which didn’t get to the Vikings’ 20. The lack of distance on that one holds Martin’s grade down.


Henry was born in Columbia Falls, Montana and graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 2015. He earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Montana in 2019. After graduation, he joined DNVR. He spent three years covering the University of Colorado before moving to the Broncos beat ahead of the 2022 season. Henry joined DNVR as a remote staff writer in 2017, providing support to BSN's Broncos beat reporters. He interned at DNVR headquarters in the summer of 2018 and accepted a full-time position after graduating from UM. Follow Henry on Twitter - @HenryChisholm