The Broncos dropped a clunker 42-28 to the Vikings on Saturday night.
It was the first preseason game, it mattered very little, the starters went just two series on offense and one series on defense. Denver made the pregame decision to hold a healthy, ready Von Miller out of the game rather than risk injury to the Broncos star.
We learned some positives; Chad Kelly looked fantastic albeit against third-string Minny defenders. Phillip Lindsay had three catches out of the backfield for 40 yards and a touchdown. Royce Freeman showed both wiggle and speed on a 23-yard touchdown romp. Isaiah McKenzie had to feel the weight of the world fall off his shoulders on a 78-yard punt return touchdown. The much-maligned McKenzie still holds the inside-track for the returner job even as he’s struggled at receiver. Marquette King punted 7 times with a 45-yard average and a long of 62. His hangtime was north of five seconds on several of those kicks.
Looks like 104.3 The Fan’s baby beef with King isn’t going to provide the fodder they’d hoped. Fans are intrigued and excited at the arrival of Marquette. Local Denver media has a history of antics like Darren McKee’s run at King. My thoughts drift back to the 1996 National Anthem at a Denver Mosque debacle as an example. McKee is no stranger to shock-radio nonsense, having been a part of the KBPI morning show in Denver and catching some heat for a stupid but ultimately innocuous stunt in 2000.
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What’s disheartening are the negatives we’ve learned. I’ve had an ongoing Twitter discussion regarding the status of Vance Joseph. My contention leading into Saturday’s game was that we hadn’t seen a snap yet and that judgement should be reserved until we see some actual football. Well, we’ve seen some and it was honestly no better than what we’ve seen the past two seasons. One of the misconceptions about the Broncos is that the offensive woes began under Joseph. Even the 2015 Super Bowl team, under Gary Kubiak was on life support, offensively. Joseph is the most visible and most worthy target but the front office deserves some scrutiny as well.
Case Keenum presided over two three-and-out drives for Denver before ceding to Paxton Lynch. As much as my empathetic brain wants to find the silver-lining for Lynch, the truth is, he’s not going to be an NFL quarterback. In year three, minus the rigors of a competition, he seems to have regressed. His first pass was too hard and too high for Austin Traylor, who tipped it into the waiting hands of the Vikings Anthony Harris. While Chad Kelly looked great, we should be cautious about falling into another Siemian style trap. I want Kelly to succeed, I want to believe he’s that diamond-in-the-rough that could ascend to the starting job and beyond! The reality is, it’s unlikely the last pick in the NFL draft and a player that’s seen little actual opportunity with players that will make NFL rosters is that guy. It’s not as if he doesn’t have name recognition or pedigree to elevate his shot at making it.
With Colin Kaepernick still available in the free agent world, Denver should (but won’t) explore the possibility of bringing in a legitimate backup.
I had to continually remind myself that the Vikings have a really good football team. Anchored by last season’s best defense, the Vikes are fearsome. We can hope that contributed to Denver’s misery but it felt like a lot more of the same problems.
Curious among the problems were the big plays given up by the normally stout Denver defensive starters. I spent a good portion of the time Bradley Chubb was in keying on him, as he’d leapfrogged Barrett and Ray to start at the outside linebacker spot. I wanted to see the jump that facilitated that decision and I did not. Other than a great stuff on a third down play, he had no tackes and no impact. As I observed, he was handled by the left side of the Minnesota line.
Kirk Cousins looked like he was fully in command of the Minny offense and shredded the Broncos on their first drive.
Again, grain-of-salt, it’s early in the preseason but the keen eye of Bronco fans is wary of what we are seeing. We tend to know when things have turned, we anticipated offseason moves making a positive impact on the team’s performance.
There’s not a lot of room for clunkers like Saturday night’s game. Particularly because it has now served to intensify scrutiny on Joseph, Keenum and even Elway.
We’ll leave you with the final thought that Chad Kelly will likely rise to number two on the depth chart. Should Keenum go down with injury, are we certain that Kelly can carry this team to a playoff berth?
I don’t know, like with all of our questions, we’ll have to wait out the preseason for answers.