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Five takeaways from the Broncos’ fourth preseason game

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 31, 2018

The six words everybody has been waiting for are finally here: That’s a wrap on the preseason.

The next time the Denver Broncos step on the field, they’ll be playing meaningful football against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Sept. 9.

But before looking ahead, Thursday night’s 21-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals will have a significant impact in how that Broncos team looks in 10 short days.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the team’s second preseason win and how it affects the team moving forward.


Two years ago, Paxton Lynch was the future.

Two weeks ago, the former first-round pick was booed by his own home crowd before he even took a snap.

On Thursday night, he was the best quarterback on the field.

“I thought Paxton played good football,” head coach Vance Joseph said after the game. “He hit his first nine passes. He led us on a field goal drive and two touchdown drives. Paxton played well. I thought Paxton played well last week and against Chicago, I’m not surprised he played good football tonight.”

In five drives, Lynch directed the team into potential scoring position in four of them. The only one that came up short was the final drive in which the team ran three-straight times.

The first-round pick’s stat line was nearly perfect, putting up more touchdowns than incompletions—14-for-15 for 128 passing yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 141.8 passer rating.

Entering the game, Lynch was likely on the outside looking in. Following his nearly-flawless performance, he’s likely done enough to convince John Elway to keep his former first-round pick for another year.

As odd as it seems, outside of himself, the person who could benefit the most from Lynch’s performance is Chad Kelly.

If the Broncos do, in fact, keep Paxton, they aren’t going to bring in a veteran backup, meaning Kelly—who had an underwhelming night—will be the team’s backup signal-caller behind Case Keenum.

“Right now, he’s our two,” Joseph said after the game, maintaining his usual line regarding Kelly. “Things could change, but right now, he’s our two.”


The team’s newest flashy addition showed his value and versatility on Thursday night.

Adam “Pacman” Jones went above and beyond his expected duties—cornerback depth and punt returner. Right as the game began as he returned the team’s first two kickoffs for a slightly-above average 26 yards per return.

With Phillip Lindsay—the team’s starting kick returner—not playing a single snap, Jones didn’t necessarily take anyone’s job at that position, but the other return job was a different story.

As a punt returner, Jones did his job as he cleanly caught his only punt on the night.

The three-yard return wasn’t anything to talk about, but the fact that return was the first of the game was meaningful, showing he already jumped Isaiah McKenzie on the depth chart.

Since McKenzie hasn’t earned a roster spot with his receiving duties, Jones very well could have taken away his roster spot by jumping him in the return game.

The 34-year-old cornerback also saw time as the team’s right corner.

“I thought Adam played well,” Joseph said, praising the cornerback he coached during his time in Cincinnati. “He wanted to get hit and he got hit tonight. He feels good about it. He had a great week of practice. I’m pleased with him and he’s on the right track.”

Due to roster constraints, Jones’ place on the team likely booted Brendan Langley from the cornerback room as the vet showed he can at least provide adequate backup play.

Thursday, Jones solidified his spot on the roster, while likely putting two players on the outs.

The next time Jones is on the field, he’s expected to be donning Champ Bailey’s No. 24.


Josey Jewell played like the linebacker the Broncos hoped he could turn into, leading the team with seven tackles.

But it was more about the players that didn’t play that showed how important the rookies are going to be to this team in 2018.

The Broncos has a first, a second, a third and a fourth-round pick sit on the bench as they were all voluntarily held out by the organization, meaning they were too valuable to play in the final preseason game.

That hasn’t happened in a while, to say the least.

But it wasn’t just Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman and DaeSean Hamilton that the team deemed too valuable to play on Thursday night. Undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay was also held out.

“The grit that he has, the way that he plays, I wish we had 53 guys like that,” Elway said during the team’s final preseason game, singing the praises of Lindsay before adding, “He can make some big plays for us.”

Although Chubb will likely be the only rookie to start out of the gate, the organization made a loud statement Thursday night about how much of an impact this rookie class will have.


For a second-straight season, De’Angelo Henderson stole the hearts of Broncos Country for at least part of the preseason.

Just as it seemed he could be on the outs in Denver, Henderson hopped his way back to the safe side of the roster bubble.

As the starting running back, Henderson ran for an impressive 4.8 yards per carry, racking up 53 rushing yards to go along with three catches for 17 yards.

While the stats were impressive, the eye test was even better as the second-year back consistently made something out of nothing.

If for some reason his play wasn’t enough, look no further than the head coach’s words moments after the game ended.

Asked on the post-game interview who stood out to him during the game, Joseph mentioned one player and one player only, noting that Henderson played “inspired football.”

With Devontae Booker, Freeman and Lindsay ahead of him on the depth chart, Henderson appears to have earned the team’s final running back spot on the roster Thursday night.


The next two days are the hardest days in the NFL.

Over the next 48 hours, Elway will break the dreams of 37 players, as the general manager himself put it, while the team cuts their roster from 90 to 53 players.

The players below will likely be included in those 37 cut, but they went down swinging and certainly deserve recognition for their final effort.

Jordan Leslie — The second-year receiver did his best Emmanuel Sanders impression on Thursday night and did it darn well—five catches in five targets for 70 yards and a touchdown, making himself the obvious target all night.

Dave Williams — The Broncos’ seventh-round pick likely earned himself a spot on Denver’s practice squad as he racked up the most yards from scrimmage on the team, rushing for 43 and adding 35 through the air.

Trey Marshall — As his last name would indicate, Trey was a Marshall on the field, laying the wood on both defense and special teams.

DeShawn Williams & Caushaud Lyons — Both big fellas had a sack on the night and had significant push against the Cardinals’ offensive line in the second half.


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