~ by Bob Volpe ~
Last Saturday night the Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers in
their first home game of the pre-season 17-20.
Typically, the third pre-season game showcases each team’s first
string players for the better part of the first half of play. The
Packers are no slave to fashion. Veteran QB Aaron Rodgers only played
two series for the Pack, chalking up a paltry 12 yards passing on 5
attempts. He also suffered a sack at the hands of Von Miller. Miller
also only played three series. No reason to risk either franchise
player in a meaningless game, particularly in a pre-season that has
seen a high rate of injuries.
Trevor Siemian got off to a slow start for the Broncos. He only
managed to go 3-9 passing in the first quarter and threw an
interception. Siemian was unshaken by the rocky start and engineered a
couple long drives in the second quarter resulting in two scores. He
finished his stint with 127 yards passing on 22 attempts.
The long awaited debut of Jamal Charles was impressive. Charles showed
explosive speed, good hands in the passing game, and stellar pass
blocking ability. Charles tested the nerves of Bronco fans when, on a
broken play, seemed to have his knee buckle and he took a big hit to
the head. After that hit he went through concussion protocol and was
cleared to return. On the next play after returning, Charles threw a
superior block on a blitzing Packer to prevent an impending sack of
Siemian. Charles earned himself a job and may supplant CJ Anderson as
the starting running back.
No need to talk much about the Denver D. They are ready and may be the
best they’ve ever been. Despite injuries and an ever shrinking depth
chart, the next man up mentality is paying dividends. Worth mentioning
is the play of third year defensive tackle, Shelby Harris. Harris, who
the Broncos picked up in free agency from the Raiders, stepped in for
Zack Kerr, after Kerr went down with a knee injury in the first
quarter. Harris stuffed the run well, sacked Packer QB Brett Hundley 3
times, had one tackle for a loss, and six tackles overall. Harris’
third sack ended a last ditch drive by Hundley, that could have tied
the game with a field goal. He’s going to make the 53 man roster.
The Broncos improved a bit on some of their weaknesses, but still have
some sore spots.
The most glaring weakness is still special teams. Special teams
continue to be a choppy affair, at times, as the Broncos work through
decisions all over the roster. The Broncos had three special teams
penalties before the third quarter was 20 seconds old. The expectation
would be that things would even out once the roster is set, but the
consistency isn’t there just yet.
Penalties are still a concern. The Broncs had 11 penalties that
resulted in 86 yards of unearned yardage for the Pack.
The first string O line improved in pass protection and run blocking.
Second string O line fared less well and allowed three sacks. We’re
still weak on O line depth.
The run game is much improved. CJ Anderson rushed for 31 yards and a
16 yard TD run. Charles ran for 27 yards on 4 carries, and rookie
De’Angelo Henderson carried the rock 9 times for 34 yards. This should
take some of the pressure off Siemian in the regular season.
In the second half Paxton Lynch left the game with a shoulder injury.
That opened the door for Kyle Sloter to show one more time that
keeping a third QB on the roster is a good idea. Sloter finished his
show 4 of 7 passes, including one TD to another bubble boy, rookie
Hunter Sharp. Sharp looked sharp, snagging 2 catches for 41.
Looking ahead to the final pre-season match up with the Arizona Cardinals.
The red birds fly into Denver next week for the fourth and final
pre-season game of 2017. The Cards come in with a 2-2 record. They
lost to the Cowboys and the Bears, but beat the Raiders and punished
the Atlanta Falcons last week.
Being the last pre-season game usually means you won’t see much from
either teams starters. This is the last chance for rookies and free
agency pickups to fight for a spot on the final 53 man roster for both
The Cardinals will be splitting playing time between their two free
agency pickup QBs. Blain Gabbert, a 7 year vet passed for 84 yards on
9 attempts against the Falcons, and 11 year vet Drew Stanton racked up
53 yards on 6 attempts and one TD against the Falcons.
Barring a miracle healing by Paxton Lynch, Kyle Sloter will be
chucking the rock for the Broncos most, if no all of this game. Lynch
may get a shot at handing off the ball for a few series, but don’t
look for any deep throws from him, if he plays at all.
The official TMJ/Russ’ Place pick: Broncos win 17-14