Before I get into my analysis of the Broncos scrimmage, I do have a rant of sorts to get off my chest. I personally do not see the value of matching the starting offense with the second string defense. It would make sense as a confidence builder, but shouldn’t the starters face off against each other for at least part of the scrimmage? Wouldn’t that be the best simulation of a game situation?
The Broncos offense won’t be facing any second string defenses during the season, aside from maybe the Oakland Raiders. The format used is great for the second stringers as they face competition they would see if they were filling in with the starters or with sub packages, but I just don’t see the value when it comes to the starters. End Rant.
After suffering through a wet open practice on Wednesday, fans were rewarded with a beautiful Colorado day, one day after the city of Denver’s birthday. Close to 40,000 fans dealt with the blistering heat to witness the unveiling of the 2014 Denver Broncos. The day belonged exclusively to the offense, although the “Orange Crush” had its moments. Last year, the Broncos were without 8 starters for parts of the season, yet were able to overcome their bad luck to make it to the Super Bowl. If the scrimmage was any indication, then the already potent offense the team is sporting may have depth that would be the envy of the league.
First up, the first string offense took on the second string defense with little trouble. Julius Thomas was held out of the scrimmage with a thigh bruise and was replaced by Jacob Tamme. Manning looked composed throughout 2 drives of 65 and 48 yards while completing 70% of his passes. Manning misfired early on a pass to Hillman, but was able to connect later that drive for a nifty 9 yard gain.
Emmanuel Sanders beat Tony Carter down the sideline in the redzone, but the Manning pass was too long, ending with an incomplete pass and a 4th down. The next play, Manning redeemed himself, connecting with Jacob Tamme on a gorgeous pass in the corner of the endzone.
What’s even more impressive was the catch by Tamme, a one handed beaut. When asked about the play, Tamme said “Every once in a while a blind squirrel finds a nut. Just kind of got the arm out there and got it.” It should also be noted that Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman ran exclusively with the 1s.
The second stringers then took over, faced with the first string defense. For context sake, keep in mind the first string defense and what is vastly considered the deepest defensive line the Broncos have had in years, faced the second string offensive line. Brock Osweiler was faced with pressure on each of his dropbacks, save for one which resulted in a 22 yard strike to Gerell Robinson.
The defense managed two Osweiler sacks, one from Nate Irving on a blitz up the middle, and one from Danny Trevathan. Osweiler’s mobility and athleticism allowed him to avoid two possible sacks, as he scrambled for 10 yards. He capped the drive with a shuffle pass for a TD to Gerell Robinson. Brock finished his series going 3-3 for 33 yards and a TD.
Also featured on this drive was CJ Anderson, who picked up 25 yards on just 3 carries, while running with power and authority. It is only training camp, but if this is any indication, then the Broncos will have depth at RB and TE that they haven’t enjoyed in years.
The scrimmage wrapped up with the 3rd string offense finishing two drives on the third string defense, one for a touchdown, the other finishing with a field goal. Zac Dysert looked good during the drive finishing 7-8 for 101 yards. Brennan Clay received all the red zone work, finishing with a 1 yard TD plunge, and may have the leg up on the 4th RB spot.
Don’t expect me to neglect the defense, I just wanted to get all the good out of the way first. I do find it a touch concerning that the second string offense was able to move the ball so well against the teams first string defense, but upon further thought I’m less concerned.
First off, Jack Del Rio was experimenting with a few different line ups, with TJ Ward dropping to MLB and Quinton Carter stepping in at SS in nickel situations. Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster have been splitting time opposite Aqib Talib, but Webster’s knowledge of the system and improvement from last season seem to have given him the edge for the moment.
What most concerned me was CJ Anderson’s ability to gain yards after contact. Anderson was able to get to the second level and shrug off would be tacklers to gain valuable yardage in the redzone. This kind of showing is not out of the ordinary for the Broncos (considering past Training Camps) but is a situation to monitor through the 4 preseason games.
There is plenty of time for the team to work out the kinks, and it starts with a Super Bowl rematch right here in Denver on Thursday. What are your thoughts on how the team is coming together so far?