The Denver Broncos put together their best performance of the preseason in a 29-17 road victory against the Washington Redskins.
Broncos starter Case Keenum looked sharp, completing 12-of-18 for 148 yards. What’s more important, he looked settled. Backup Chad Kelly was also impressive despite a near-interception on an ill-conceived lob throw. He finished 7-of-11 for 73 yards. Paxton Lynch rebounded nicely, his work with the third team shows he’s better than third-string. Lynch remains a mystery.
What isn’t mysterious is the play of the group at running back. Coming into the game, we had an assumed hierarchy that looked like this:
"Devontae BookerRoyce Freeman*D’Angelo RussellPhillip LindsayDave Willams*"
The asterisked players were Denver draft choices from this past season, Lindsay was an unsigned free agent and Russell and Booker are Broncos pickups from last season. Booker remains the veteran of the group.
We looked for clear-cut separation from the backs but what we got was solid performance from each, clouding the RB ranks further. Lindsay is always in-the-mix on kick coverage, he’s a demon receiving out of the backfield, gaining 13 on a third-down on Denver’s first possession. He’s also in the conversation for kick return duties. Lindsay has diverse enough impact that it’s hard to see him slipping off the roster.
With the performance of the entire group, it’s also hard to see any of these guys clearing waivers in order to be put on the practice squad.
Royce Freeman showed what camp observers have seen for a month. He should be the starting back. Phillip Lindsay works as a change-of-speed option but so does Henderson, who performed well in his time.
Arkansas rookie David Williams ground out 19 yards on six carries but more importantly, netted 46 yards on 3 catches out of the backfield. Henderson accounted for 32 yards rushing and 31 receiving.
Three of Denver’s top-six receivers for the game were running backs. Bill Musgrave’s offense is taking shape and it’s nice to see some innovative third-down playcalling.
It’s going to be hard to pare this group to five players, Booker may be the odd-man-out.
Emmanuel Sanders looked rejuvenated, particularly on the end-around play that went for a touchdown. Special mention to Andy Janovich for the spectacular block and to Garrett Bolles for sealing the left side. The pursuing linebacker ends up flat on his back, courtesy of Bolles. Janovich has made so many plays in the preseason, it’s hard to imagine the Broncos ever ran without a legitimate fullback on the squad.
As impressive as the offense was, Friday night’s most satisfying development was the defense. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were disruptive. As usual, we never heard Chris Harris’ name called but we also never saw ‘Skins QB Alex Smith challenge Bradley Roby effectively. The middle of the line was stout, Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray both had fearsome rush opportunities.
More from Mile High Maniac
- Denver Nuggets Steal Ducks Darling Bol Bol in Second Round
- Denver Nuggets: Season Grades for the 2018-19 Players
- The 2019-2020 Broncos Depth At Tight End Could Be A Huge Strength To This Offense
- Broncos Position Battles to Watch as Preseason Approaches
- Denver Nuggets: Reflections on an Incredible Season
With Denver’s defensive backfield depth taking several hits, it was impressive to see Dymonte Thomas step up at safety. His five tackles and one pass defended led the Bronco defense.
Kicker Brandon McManus was perfect on the night with five FG (long of 56) and two XP. Marquette King averaged 45 yards on two punts. We haven’t seen King’s practice prowess in-game so far but there’s no doubt he will be an asset this year for Denver.
There’s a feel to this team that has been sorely missing over the last two seasons. Maybe it’s Keenum, maybe it’s Joseph but it’s a welcome sight for weary Denver fans. This team hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-72. Yeah, you read that correctly. For comparison, the next highest NFL streak belongs to the Green Bay Packers who’s last b2b losing season was 1991.
That’s 20 seasons more for Denver and if Saturday night’s game is predictive of anything, that streak looks to be safe.