The good news is the quality of Broncos football can only get better. The bad news is the quarterback situation just got more complicated. If competition breeds greatness, then expect the Broncos to have two great options at quarterback.
The Broncos opened the 2011 season with a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys beat the Broncos 24-23.
As expected Kyle Orton and his first-team offense took the field first, and to be honest, the first drive looked a lot like drives from last season, only the ground game was more productive.
Orton orchestrated a 13 play drive over six minutes that ended with a Matt Prater field-goal. Orton went 2-for-6 for 37 yards with his biggest play being a 29-yard pass to Eric Decker. John Fox’s run-first squad got three of their four first downs by rushing during this drive.
Knowshon Moreno who looks lean and mean averaged 5.8 yards on his four carries. The question will be whether or not his leaner body can handle the pounding that Fox’s offense demands from its backs. Willis McGahee had 2 carries for 17 yards.
This first drive took the Broncos down into the redzone to about the three yard line, but after a penalty, they were forced back into field-goal territory and had to settle for three after having their drive halted. Sounds familiar. While many people wanted it to be Tebow time, I’m glad he wasn’t inserted into this situation. It gave the coaching staff a chance to see Orton’s ways. He’s great at working the big field, but as soon as the field shortens, the offense clams up. It showed on the very first drive of the season. Adjustments need to be made whether or not Tebow is inserted into this situation.
Moving on to the Broncos first series on defense, it’s obvious that the defense had trouble making tackles. This is true for both teams, and as a matter of fact, it’s true for all teams in the league. The lockout affected the teams because there were restrictions on hitting in practices. Just like screen passes take practice, so does tackling. The Broncos forced the Cowboys to settle for a 42-yard field goal after the Broncos brought pressure and forced Tony Romo into an incomplete pass on 3rd and 10.
At this point, it would have been nice to see the Broncos first team offense take the field again just for pure comparison.
The heat surrounding Tim Tebow lately has been as hot and heavy as the Dallas air. From “poor practices” according to the media to the inability to get comfortable with the five-step drop, criticism has surrounded the most watched 2nd year QB in the league.
“Practice? We’re talking about practice?” Allen Iverson may be right if we believe reporters about Tebow’s poor practices – practice is just practice.
Tebow took over on the Broncos second possession of the game, and put a lot of work in. He ended up taking 26 snaps, and went 6-for-7 passing for 91 yards. He handed the ball off 12 times, and ran the ball himself twice for 15 yards. One run at the end of the first half would have gone for a touchdown, but there was a holding penalty on the offensive line. The highlight of Tebow’s night was a beautiful play-action pass to Matthew Willis for a 46-yard gain.
Tebow looked a bit jittery at first, but Mike McCoy called the plays right to get the nerves out of his throat. His first four plays were either a handoff or a pass/run out of the shotgun, a place where Tebow’s most comfortable. Tebow was intercepted on his 5th play of the game, as he was hit while throwing. However, there was a Cowboys’ penalty that gave the ball back to the Broncos.
Tebow’s night ended with plenty of No. 15 clad fans hooting and hollering at Texas Stadium. The gap between Orton and Tebow has closed a bit, but don’t look for Fox and Co. to take Orton out of the starting lineup anytime soon.
Brady Quinn saw plenty of playing time in the 2nd half going 8-for-14 passing for 120 yards and 1 touchdown. The one-time starter was going against the second and third team defense, but his confidence in the pocket is always reassuring.
When evaluating the quarterbacks in preseason, it’s essential that we look at who they were playing with and who they were playing against. Orton had the chance to play against the Cowboys’ first-team defense. Had Tebow or Quinn played against them, would they have been as successful? If Orton was playing against the ‘Boys second or third team defense, would he have incredible numbers? Probably. It’s all relative and that’s one thing that the Broncos consider when looking at the statistics from the game.
Leading the Broncos in rushing was Jeremiah Johnson who had four carries for 28 yards and 1 touchdown. Matt Willis lead the team in receiving with 2 catches for 50 yards, but it was Eron Riley who had the team’s only receiving touchdown to go along with his 3 catches for 43 yards.
Defensively, the Broncos are still getting accustomed to their new 4-3 alignment. The great thing to see was how much pressure was coming from the defensive line and the linebackers. The return of Elvis Dumervil was noticeable on the Cowboys first drive as was the addition of Von Miller. Nate Jones led the team in tackles with 6, and Perrish Cox had an interception late in the first half. The longest run play given up was a Felix Jones 18 yard dash in the Cowboys’ first series. One guy to keep an eye on is Kyle McCarthy. He had two tackles, and the team’s only sack. The thing to notice is his energy. You can tell that he’s playing for a sport on the roster.
Matt Prater went 3-for-3 on field goals with a long of 42 yards.
There were no significant injuries tonight which is always a blessing.
One great thing about this first preseason game is it gives the coaching staff things to work on. You can only practice against your teammates so much. Rather than working from the memories and frustration from last year, the team now has a new starting line to work from in their race to the playoffs.
The Broncos next practice is on Saturday from 8:50-11:30 a.m. and it is open to the public.