Throughout the entire 2017-18 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. In the preseason, with so many different players on the field we’re focused on the starters but also gave out grades to every unit’s backup group, allowing us to highlight some of the more notable performances of the night.
With another blowout against an overmatched opponent, here are our grades for Denver's 33-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Domata Peko: B+
Probably the most impressive of the front-three as he looked strong against the run; eating up double blocks and closing plays with aggression.
Zach Kerr: B-
Kerr looked stout defending the run for the most part. He forced a hold that could have been a sack at the very end of the first half as well. He’s not explosive but shows enough skill to be a solid rotational d-lineman.
Adam Gotsis: B-
Gotsis flashed in this game, creating penetration at times against the run and a few pressures against the pass. But he wasn’t consistent despite showing good effort and strength against double teams. He did show active hands trying to tip passes on a consistent basis. He showed a lot of promise that's worth working off of.
Back up defensive line: B
This group did a pretty nice job limiting the home team's run game.
Shelby Harris recovered a lucky dropped fumble from Brian Hoyer and then knocked down a pass from San Francisco’s other QB. To end the game, he had another fumble recovery on a nice penetration. His impact was certainly felt.
Tyrique Jarrett closed down a play with ferocity at the end of the third quarter. He’s a big man who moves deceptively well and could be a useful run stopper.
Kasim Edebali: C
The motor was still there and Edebali was the best of the starters at creating pressure most of the time—which isn’t necessarily high-praise in this one—but it wasn’t enough. He showed his athletic limitations, struggling to quickly win off the edge as the Broncos true starters would. Still, a solid player who can be impactful playing opposite Von Miller, but he’s not good enough to be the man on this vaunted front-seven.
Vontarrius Dora: D
Had a disappointing game, all in all. Dora didn’t create much pressure and was shook by the 49ers fullback in space, giving up a first-down.
Corey Nelson: B
Nelson made a nice tackle in space on a pass to the flats and looked solid in coverage.
Zaire Anderson: C
Anderson was consistent tackling against the run. It also looked like he missed a coverage assignment on third down allowing a completion to prolong the Niners drive. He is who he is, a solid tackler and run defender with athletic limitations.
Back up linebackers: C-
The lack of depth on the unit was noticeable as injuries add up, there weren’t really any standout performances here.
Danny Mason, Kevin Snyder, and Ken Ekanem all contributed with a couple tackles but no one really impressed.
Darian Stewart: B
Stewart didn’t have to do much. Nothing to see here, just the same old ultra-solid safety that's secretly one of the NFL's best.
Justin Simmons: B
Simmons had himself a couple tackles. He didn’t flash anything superb but keeps looking more and more reliable as one of the most intriguing backup safeties in the league.
Chris Harris Jr.: N/A
Harris wasn’t tested in this one after his pick-six against Chicago.
Aqib Talib: C
Talib actually was targeted in this game and allowed a completion for a first down while playing off-coverage on Marquise Goodwin. Aside from that, he wasn’t tested though you can be sure he’d like to have that one completion back.
Back up defensive backs: A
This group was big in creating Denver’s early lead thanks to the turnovers they helped create.
Will Parks played closer to the box in a few instances and made a really nice play against the run closing the gap with physicality.
Chris Lewis-Harris made one of the tougher and most spectacular interception-strip plays you’ll ever see. He’s made flashy plays both games so far and shows a good deal of promise.
Safety Dymonte Thomas had himself a fumble recovery that he forced at the end of the second quarter. While Lorenzo Doss was called for a holding penalty towards the end of the second quarter and then was responsible for a big gain in San Francisco’s opening second quarter drive. That set up their one touchdown on the next snap.
Orion Stewart did not tackle on the Niners opening score, which was disappointing to see from a physical safety like him, and it looked like No. 2 Dante Barnett was responsible in coverage for the one TD allowed by Denver.
Garett Bolles: D
Not the perfection we saw in his preseason debut. He was called for a false start forcing a third-and-short into a long third-down that wasn’t converted. He also committed a bad holding penalty on a missed block on second down and then was again called for a hold as Paxton Lynch tried to run to the outside.
Bolles allowed a big pressure on Siemian in the two-minus drive as well. There were times when he bullied people but he also didn’t play the cleanest game. He generally didn’t look comfortable in pass protection and struggled mightily throughout.
Max Garcia: C+
Garcia played very little from what we could tell as Allen Barbre took over early on at left guard. Garcia didn’t stand out for anything negative but the limited amount of snaps is noteworthy.
Connor McGovern: D
Did not hold his ground on two of the three plays down on the goal line and he also allowed a big pressure up the middle on Paxton later on. McGovern wasn’t nearly as clean in this game as he was in the opener.
Ronald Leary: B
Wasn’t tested all that much, nor did he stand out for any big negative play. He got out in space in a hurry to block at the second level on a screen pass. Just another solid outing for a guy who’s looked incredibly comfortable starting on the right side for the first time in his career.
Menelik Watson: B-
A much better game, as he looked much more poised in pass protection. He did a nice job handling Niners first rounder Arik Armstead. As for run blocking, he didn’t do much worth noting, but Watson had a comforting performance after a shaky first outing.
Back up offensive line: C-
The line was still guilty of lots of negative plays, particularly penalties. This is especially telling as the unit's backups are not trustworthy pass protectors. This grade could have been much worse if not for one noticeable performance.
Allen Barbre started playing from the third series on and really stood out. He looked big and powerful and moved impressively in space on a couple pull blocks that he finished with authority. No. 73 stood out in a major way. He was also flagged for a dubious trip penalty, so he wasn't perfect, but he did look impressive at times.
Donald Stephenson allowed a sack while at right tackle a disheartening sight from last year's starter.
Ty Sambrailo was also unimpressive in pass protection and was flagged for a hold as well. A troubling showing from the Broncos two backup offensive tackles.
C.J. Anderson: B+
Anderson looked strong in the goal line series. He also showed elusiveness on the game’s first third down where he caught a ball on the sideline and tip-toed his way to the sticks. It was nice seeing C.J. used more in the passing game with three catches.
Generally, he looked faster and more up to game speed.
Andy Janovich: B
The Broncos fullback got more playing time in this one being used in the red zone package and catching a really tough throw in the flats. He had an impact on a few run blocks. He’ll be an interesting wrinkle for the offense.
Back up running backs: B+
A bright spot for the offense so far this preseason, the stable of backs in Denver continued to impress.
DeAngelo Henderson had another phenomenal performance in which he seemed to have grown off of his last one. He might not have had the game-winning touchdown in this one but he looked more confident, faster and more sudden in his movements. His feet are very impressive. He’s an explosive playmaker who’s really tough to bring down. Another fine showing.
Juwan Thompson made a really nice play on his touchdown run, reminding us that he’s still here to compete.
Steven Ridley didn’t find much space to run and didn’t really impress in this one until he broke off a 12-yard run at the very end.
Demaryius Thomas: B-
Thomas’ stats won’t stand out but his impact could have been much greater. Lynch missed him on a third-down pass where he was open on a crossing route and he was then held on a potential big play action touchdown that wasn’t called for a penalty.
He did have one short catch but could have had a completely different game despite only playing a couple series.
Bennie Fowler: C
Fowler’s major contribution was drawing a pass interference flag in the end zone, a penalty that eventually led to Denver’s early first-quarter touchdown. He caught a few other short passes but didn't exactly impress.
Back up wide receivers: B
Jordan Taylor had a nice move and touchdown grab to finish off the two-minute drive at the end of the first half.
Marlon Brown made a nice catch for a first down and then found space out a route from the slot on the very next play. He looks big and if fully healthy could be an interesting player.
Hunter Sharp, looked, impressive at the end of the game with a couple nice receptions as well.
Virgil Green: C
Paxton targeted Green three times early on—twice on crucial third-downs—and Green didn’t create enough separation to make a play. The other target was a five-yard completion. Green’s a solid blocking tight end on this team, something he showed against San Francisco as well, but expecting much more is unrealistic.
Back up tight ends: B-
Jeff Heuerman was used a lot in the first couple drives as the teams second tight end, almost as a de facto starter. A telling sign, though he didn’t impress much blocking but was used a little as a receiver and flashed some.
A.J. Derby stood out on two separate plays, both of which as a blocker. On Anderson’s TD he did a nice job holding his block allowing the back to break the run to the outside and gain the edge to score. He also had a great block in motion on a nice Steven Ridley run. Not known as a blocking end, this was nice to see.
Paxton Lynch: D
Paxton missed some reads when he had open targets on crucial third-downs early on. His decision making wasn’t sharp and he struggled with pressure as his game wore on. He ran it well but as a passer, he just didn’t look at ease in the pocket in what was a make-or-break type of game for him.
Back up quarterbacks: B
The QBs wouldn’t be the story in this one if we didn’t have the competition, as nothing really special happened though Trevor Siemian did come in and immediately made some fine plays.
Trevor was Trevor, making the right plays. He also looked a bit more confident and in control in this one immediately making a mark in the two-minute drive to end the quarter.
Kyle Sloter wasn’t the hero of the game as he was against the Bears but he did play well, showing himself to be a good decision maker. He keeps showing intriguing improvisational skills. He doesn't stand out as special in any one area but he's a solid player with intriguing upside as a long term backup.
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