The Denver Broncos, like most other teams in the league, showed improvement during week two of the preseason. It’s been an up and down three weeks for the Broncos, having narrowly beaten the Atlanta Falcons in the Hall of Fame game, then losing to the Seattle Seahawks the following week.
Their most recent game, the first at Mile High Stadium this month, was another close loss to the 49ers. Some new faces emerged and there’s plenty to build off of, along with plenty to fix going forward.
Joe Flacco made his first appearance in a Broncos uniform in his new home stadium. After playing his entire career for the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco was shipped west in exchange for a fourth-round pick. The deal has already paid dividends for the Broncos with Flacco eager for a fresh start and expected to be their next franchise QB. The last time Denver brought on an experienced QB (Peyton Manning) the boys in blue and orange won the Super Bowl and had several quality seasons.
Flacco looked crisp on the field, finishing his night 7/11 for 59 yards. Emmanuel Sanders made his return to Denver after tearing his ACL last season, proving to be a primary weapon once more. Sanders had one catch for five yards, just missed on a deep ball and accounted for 19 yards rushing via jet sweep.
Another positive for the Broncos was how aggressive and effective their defense was all night. The first string defense left with a small lead, managing to keep San Francisco out of the endzone. All in all, Vic Fangio’s strength led to a pair of turnovers and just barely missed out on a couple more.
Bradley Chubb was an absolute beast, shedding some light on what the league will have to deal with this season. Chubb finished with three tackles, one sack, two QB hits, and one forced fumble.
Denver’s defense hounded Jimmy Garoppolo early and often. Jimmy G made his return to the NFL after tearing his ACL nearly one year ago, throwing a quick pick right off the bat. He ended his night after three series, throwing one complete pass in six attempts for a net of zero yards.
What needs to improve
The fact the Broncos didn’t get into the endzone until late in the fourth quarter is a little concerning. Sure, it’s only the preseason and the 49ers have a solid defense, but the first-string Broncos couldn’t crack the code. Even then, they got a little help with Wilton Speight whiffing on a throw, resulting in a fumble recovered by Denver just outside the red zone.
Drew Lock had himself an up and down night by leading a couple of scoring drives with consistent play downfield. He bobbled a couple of snaps, which wasn’t terribly surprising considering he always lined up in the shotgun at Missouri. Lock was expected to play more than he did against the 49ers, but an awkward fall in the third quarter, injuring his right thumb.
Lock left in the third quarter after injuring his right hand and didn’t return. The severity of his injury hasn’t been determined yet but Lock claimed it’s just a sprain. Newly drafted TE Noah Fant also had a quicker evening than anticipated, hobbling off the field after hauling in a catch. Fant had a couple of defenders take him down, rolling his ankle in the process. While both Fant and Lock aren’t expected to need much time to recover, the Broncos did lose one of their LB in the depth chart.
Undrafted rookie Joe Dineen left after taking a shot to his hand. It was later disclosed he’d broken his hand and is expected to miss some time as a result.
Denver won’t have to go far next week when they play in L.A. against the Rams on August 24. Depending on how healthy Lock is could determine how much time Flacco gets on the field before Kevin Hogan takes over. Hogan did have an impact late in their loss to the 49ers, capped off with a 24-yard scramble for their lone TD.