Broncos Game Grades: Rookies impress in preseason opener

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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.

So, here we go with our first grades of the season from the Broncos 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears.


Domata Peko: B

Peko had only one series and did his thing plugging gaps against the run. His absence was felt once he and other starters on the line where out and Chicago got rolling a bit on the ground.

Jared Crick: A

Crick really stood out as you saw his No. 93 flash early and often. He closed down plays against the run and created pressure up the middle to force Mike Glennon's bad interception throw.

He also tipped the ball on third-down in the second series of the game and made a closing play on the early first run. Crick may have been the MVP of the defensive starters.

Derek Wolfe: B

Wolfe was disruptive in the first series, re-directing the first run of the game and then helping create pressure up the middle on the first two passes. He looked bigger and poised for a big season from the little we saw.

Backup defensive line: C

Once the starters came out, Chicago found several more holes in the run game and by the second half, the pass rush wasn’t nearly as consistent.

Zach Kerr got beat in the second quarter on a run where he couldn’t disengage and Tarik Cohen had a big gain as a result. He also had a few good plays against the run and was on the field a good amount. A decent debut though you’d like to see more against the run.

Adam Gotsis made a nice impact as he stuffed running lanes and was able to create pressure up the middle. He also was part of Denver’s issues in stopping the run when facing double blocks.

It’s a shame Billy Winn was injured because he was very impressive early on, looking especially stout versus the running game. Shakir Soto was also impactful later in the game forcing a few pressures.

Kasim Edebali: A

Edebali stood out. He created a crucial pressure on third-down leading to the interception and showed nice bend and explosiveness in the process.

He created more pressure throughout the early part of the game and set a strong edge against the run. A very promising showing for a versatile player who did well with his hand on the ground or standing up. Along with Crick, he was the co-defensive MVP.

Vontarrius Dora: C

Dora created some pressure early on but also never got too close to the opposing quarterback. He was flagged for a false start toward the end of the first quarter, and his impact died off a bit as the game progressed.

Corey Nelson: B+

Nelson was efficient in coverage while reading and reacting well against the run. Nothing spectacular but he had a sound performance that allowed the defense to dominate the Bears starters.

Brandon Marshall: B

Marshall did his thing in limited time. Filling gaps and being omnipresent in coverage. He and Nelson feel like a more reliable and established interior linebacking duo in year two of their partnership.

Backup linebackers: C-

Once the starters came out, the Bears unleashed their small, shifty backs and the Broncos' ‘D’ started to struggle. Especially on the second level, the tackling against the run wasn’t great and the lack of outside rush on Mitchell Trubisky underlined the lack of depth at OLB now that the injuries have piled up.

DeMarcus Walker played a lot and had a mostly efficient game, though he wasn’t very splashy nor did he look all that explosive, he also lost containment on the Bears' biggest run of the game.

That play aside, his youth and inexperience didn’t show. He also didn’t look too out of place playing primarily as an outside linebacker.

New addition Danny Mason created some rush off the edge but also looked a bit undersized and not as impactful as he could have been.

Darian Stewart: B+

Stewart broke up the second throw of the game laying down the hammer and forcing the eventual third-and-long that set up the interception. Like the rest of the "No Fly Zone," he looked ready to go.

Justin Simmons: A

Simmons did his job in coverage and was right there with Harris on the pick, he also had a nice play in the opposing backfield. He’s kept on developing and looked very much like a true starter in Denver's secondary even if he’s a backup once T.J. Ward returns.

Chris Harris Jr.: A

Harris had the early play of the game with his pick-six to dampen the mood in Chicago. That's all he needed, making an early statement for the defense.

Aqib Talib: N/A

Talib never had the pleasure of being tested in this one, but you can believe he’s primed to go as the starting defense looked ready to roll.

Backup defensive backs: B+

Without consistent pressure, the secondary held their end of the bargain as the game wore on with some nice performances from the second and third stringers.

Jamal Carter was one of the stars of the defensive reserves, making a huge first impression as an undrafted rookie. He played a lot even early on and flashed quite a bit. His usage up close to the line was interesting and he made lots of plays in coverage, against the run, and even as a blitzer.

Chris Lewis-Harris had the honor of being the first DB to get beat on one of the few completions for Chicago early, leading to the Bears opening first down. He also broke up a pass early in the second quarter and played nicely overall aside from the initial mishap.

Lorenzo Doss made a wonderful play down the sideline knocking the ball down and denying a big gain. His ball skills flashed nicely as they have throughout his young career. He did have a missed tackle against the run.

Orion Stewart made a nice play on third down and was around the ball a lot, looking better in coverage than advertised.


Garett Bolles: A

Bolles had a fine NFL debut. He showed nastiness early on, drawing a personal foul and did a good job run-blocking while having no slipups in pass protection. He flashed some explosiveness and played well, not looking like a rookie who’s still relatively new to playing on the offensive line.

Max Garcia: C-

Garcia was blown up on third-and-long, leading to the Broncos having to settle for a field goal while on the doorstep of the red zone. That’s the play that stood out most in a generally negative performance for the left guard that’s looking like the shakiest starter on the line.

Connor McGovern: B

McGovern quietly did his job and looked very much the part on the starting offensive line. He might merit consideration for a starting guard spot once Matt Paradis is back. His power against the run showed and he was on-point in pass pro.

Ronald Leary: B 

Leary didn’t play a ton, but he looked good. He got to the second level on a few run blocks and got the job done blocking one-on-one in his new position as a right guard. Played as advertised.

Menelik Watson: D

Watson was beaten terribly on the very first snap by Leonard Floyd. He was just manhandled. He allowed some more pressure early on and generally wasn’t impressive in pass protection. His run block was a bit better.

Backup offensive line: B-

The offensive line did okay, penalties aside, with few truly notable performances. Though the run block got better towards the end and pass protection was decent.

Third-string left tackle Justin Murray’s block helped the game winning touchdown run from DeAngelo Henderson unfold.

Third-stringer center Dillon Day stood out with a few negative plays including a taunting penalty and a missed block on 3rd-and-1. As a third stringer playing with the second team, he didn’t shine.

Billy Turner was a mixed bag at guard as well and was also guilty of missing a block on the aforementioned third-and-short. Few others stood out, which is probably a good thing on the line, as negative plays are much more noticeable than positive ones.

C.J. Anderson: B-

Anderson looked fine, an efficient effort. For C.J. to get back to his old 2014 form, he needs to show more explosiveness, power, and elusiveness breaking more tackles. For his first taste of live game action in a while, it was solid.

Backup running backs: A

There were only three backs that got enough touches to warrant a mention here. While the two veterans looked solid and promising for the season, there was one true star that shined.

Stevan Ridley did fine all things considered though he didn’t have any big runs. He looks the part, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can show more in the remaining preseason games.

The high grade here is, of course, all a tribute to the hero of the game, DeAngelo Henderson. Henderson looked fast and elusive, as he’s a uniquely undersized back who actually packs a punch with deceptive power. Henderson saved his best for last but there were glimpses throughout. If Jamal Carter was the defensive MVP for the backups Henderson is the clear cut choice on offense.

Demaryius Thomas: C-

Thomas' costly false start got the team out of third-and-two and into third-and-long. He was fairly absent from the proceedings, aside from that play.

Emmanuel Sanders: B

Sanders barely missed what would have been a spectacular catch on an early play down the sideline but drew a flag on defensive pass interference. He then had another short grab for a five-yard gain. A nice start.

Bennie Fowler: C

Only targeted once, Fowler didn’t do anything of note, getting outplayed by many of his counterparts in a tight race for the starting slot-receiver position.

Backup wide receiver: B

The receiving unit had a solid day. With a few nice performances though no one who really broke out or took over the game.

Jordan Taylor had lots of opportunities but disappointed a bit as he had a miscommunication with Paxton Lynch on a deep route and got too fancy running with the ball and in turn didn’t reach the first down sticks on at least one opportunity.

Cody Latimer stood out with some nice grabs. He looked big and reliable with impressive hands. A good sign for a player that’s always had undeniable skills.

Rookie Isaiah McKenzie had the big touchdown on a busted coverage late but little else.

Carlos Henderson was one of the only rookies to disappoint in their first official outing as he didn’t seem to make the best of his opportunities on this night.

Virgil Green: N/A

Listed as a starter, Green didn’t do anything noteworthy and was off the field quickly. The entire tight end position saw limited action.

Backup tight ends: N/A

The tight ends really didn’t see much action in this game with only two targets to the entire group and zero completions.

With lots of spread sets, the wide receivers got the bulk of the targets.

One play of note came from the little-known backup Steven Scheu, who's block helped unleash Henderson for his big game winning touchdown.

Trevor Siemian: C+

Similar to C.J. Anderson, Siemian was just solid.. He looked in control and was fairly accurate. The incumbent starter kept the offense on schedule and was able to keep the chains moving on the opening drive. It’s not what you like to see in a heated quarterback battle but a decent performance for Siemian in his first game back. If anything, he looked more in control than last season.

Backup quarterbacks: C+

Paxton Lynch was inconsistent and disappointing. You’d be hard pressed to have seen much growth from his rookie season to now.

Kyle Sloter was much more impressive, playing pressure-free and going out to simply play some ball. He got the job done, led the comeback and showed off a nice arm and some decent improvisational skill.


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