2017 Broncos Season, Pre-Season, Week 1
The 2017 NFL Season has officially begun. The Broncos have finally played an actual game (a pre-season game, but still a game).
Pre-Season Week 1: Broncos 24, Chicago Bears 17
Pre-Season Record: 1-0 (0-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, knotted at 17-17 with time running down and facing a third and 22 from the 41-yard-line, the Broncos handed the ball to rookie running back DeAngelo Henderson, who took the ball to the end zone for the lead. That proved the difference in the game.
Recap: Well, we've seen this before. A defensive score. Offensive ineptitude. Some trouble stopping the run. Penalties on the offensive line. Struggles on Special Teams. And just enough plays to squeak out a win. We've seen this formula before. Some of the faces have changed, and the coaches are new, but the Broncos looked an awful lot like the 2016 version last night. The defense is still great (Chris Harris, Jr. started the game off with a pick-six), but the offense isn't great. We continue to struggle along the line and struggle moving the ball. Both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch were uneven, and combined to provide just three points the first three quarters. If pressed, I'd say Siemian looked better. But really, the only quarterback that led the Broncos to a touchdown was rookie free agent Kyle Sloter, who threw a 47-yard bomb to Isaiah McKenzie and also led the drive that ended in Henderson's touchdown. Sloter was 5-for-6 for 94 yards and a touchdown. Siemian was 6-for-7 for 51 yards, while Lynch was 6-for-9 for 42 yards. Both were OK. Both were largely conservative. Neither did anything that excited me. The first string offensive line was OK, but the Broncos still struggled, garnering 10 penalties on the offensive line for the night. That's concerning. And the depth on the defensive front took a hit with a knee injury for reserve Billy Winn. But, the Broncos won, and probably could win 7-11 games with this formula. Still, let's hope for a little improvement going forward.
* Chris Harris, Jr. - The corner intercepted a Mike Glennon pass to begin the game, returning it for a touchdown.
* Isaiah McKenzie - The rookie already won the punt return job, though he didn't get to show much there. But his 47-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter showed why the Broncos were high on him.
* DeAngelo Henderson - The rookie played a lion's share of the snaps in the second half, carrying seven times for 54 yards and a touchdown. He had a number of big runs called back due to penalty, also.
* Cody Latimer - The now fourth-year veteran has not developed as John Elway or Broncos fans hoped, and he's now squarely on the roster bubble. He wasn't flashy last night, but Latimer looked solid as a receiver, grabbing seven passes for 54 yards. If he can produce as a wide receiver in addition to his Special Teams work, he could easily make the final 53.
* Who will take the lead in the QB race. Reportedly it's been pretty even in camp, and last night's game did little to create separation. The longer this race lingers without a clear front-runner, the tougher it is to prepare for the season.
* Offensive Line Woes. The Broncos need better line play. The first team looked better, but the unit as a whole struggled again last night.
* Defensive Depth. The Broncos are already thin up front, and the injury to Winn won't help. The defense is the strength for Denver, but a few more key injuries and that could become a liability.
* Carlos Henderson. I was excited to see what the rookie could do, but a pair of fumbled kick off returns wasn't the beginning I was hoping for. I'm starting to see why he was a little low on the depth chart.