On Saturday the Broncos played their first preseason matchup. The game ended in a 33-6 stomping of the Vikings. Although Mike Zimmer chose not to play his starters, the Broncos’ coaching staff was still able to learn a lot about their potential roster. Here are some players that stood out.
Drew Lock was sensational. Lock was 5/7 and threw for 151 yards with two touchdowns, including an 80-yard touchdown bomb to K.J. Hamler. His performance made him the clear leader in the quarterback competition with Teddy Bridgewater. Lock didn’t outright win the competition because Bridgewater also had a good day. “Steady” Teddy completed seven of nine passes for 74 yards with one touchdown pass.
It has been said many times that “if you have a quarterback competition you have no starting quarterback.” Usually that saying holds up, but in the Broncos case it may not be true. If Lock continues to show the same level of play in this pre-season, the Broncos may just have a true starting quarterback, with the added bonus of having one of the best backups in the league.
As expected, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler played well. Hamler’s touchdown reception and Jeudy’s 33-yard catch and run highlighted just how talented the position is for the Broncos. However, the big surprise at wide receiver came from Trinity Benson. Benson made a statement that he belongs on the final roster. After two years on the practice squad, Benson appears to be ready for the big show. He grabbed four passes and was on the receiving end of two touchdown passes, one from Lock and the other from Bridgewater. Benson’s performance was timely for his Broncos future because the receiving corps is exceptionally strong with starters Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, and backups K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick. It appears that Benson, with his performance against the Vikings, has earned the fifth wide receiver spot.
Javonte Williams showed in limited minutes that he will push Melvin Gordon for the starting running back position. He has the strength and speed needed to excel at the position. More importantly, Williams demonstrated that he knows how to read the holes created by the offensive line and pop out to the corner if nothing is open. With William’s development, this could be the last year for Gordon in a Broncos uniform.
Broncos fans must be wondering “what if” after Justin Fields had a strong debut for the Bears. His debut was impressive. Fields went 14/20 with 142 yards and threw for a touchdown, while also running for 33 yards and scoring another touchdown with his legs. With the ninth pick in the 2021 NFL draft, new Broncos General Manager George Paton passed on Fields and selected Patrick Surtain instead. While it is too early to tell if Paton was right, Surtain is a good cornerback. He has excelled in practice, and he played exceptionally well against Minnesota. His highlight play was a 30-yard pick six against Vikings’ backup quarterback Jake Browning.
Others on the rise
On the defensive side of the ball, several newcomers made their presence known. Justin Strnad had an overall solid game and P.J. Locke and Caden Sterns pass coverage, especially in the red zone, was impressive. The offensive line also put in a solid performance. Bobby Massie, a free agent signing this offseason, played well. With Massie joining returners Garrett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry and Graham Glasgow the offensive line, although not stellar, should have a good year.
Players on the Bubble
There is much more football to be played this pre-season, but the starters and roster positions are starting to come into focus. It is not too late for players that didn’t shine against the Vikings, but for the players competing for a starting position and the ones on the bubble, next week’s game against Seattle is crucial. Players to watch are wide receiver Kendall Hinton, last year’s emergency starting quarterback, outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka, running back Royce Freeman, veteran linebacker Josey Jewell, safety Trey Marshall and offensive tackle Calvin Anderson.