The Denver Broncos were much improved in Week 3 of the preseason, finally approaching mid-season form all-around. But, there were also some glaring weaknesses — namely the offensive line — in which the team must address going forward or risk another losing season.
Case Keenum enjoyed his best performance in a Broncos uniform, going 12-18 for 148 yards, including connecting multiple times with Emmanuel Sanders on big plays. What Keenum did exceptionally well was complete passes under pressure; he went 2-3 in those situations according to Pro Football Focus, for 51 yards and a passer rating of 109.7.
It’s a good thing Keenum can keep his focus downfield and find receivers under pressure, too, because he may find himself in that situation a lot this season.
Second-year man Garett Bolles went through a rough, up-and-down 2017 season, and he needs to find consistency this year to reward the Broncos for using a first-round pick on him. Bolles, though, was particularly worrisome in some of his pass protection snaps, being beaten off the line quickly. For Bolles, his rookie season showed he was a better run-blocker than pass protector, but left tackles need to be all-around anchors for an offense to thrive.
It wasn’t just Bolles who struggled on Friday night, the offensive line as a whole allowed too many quick penetrations by the Washington Redskins defensive front, both in the run and pass game. Here, Connor McGovern is celebrated for throwing the defender to the ground after he left his feet, but notice Bolles allowing pressure around the edge:
Speaking of McGovern, he and the rest of the offensive line did a great job on Royce Freeman’s nearly untouched touchdown, so it wasn’t all bad.
Defensively, the Broncos were who we thought they were; maybe the best pass-rushing team in the NFL. Von Miller led the way, as he always does, with five quarterback pressures, including two hits. He’s a monster because he’s no one-trick pony, spin-moving off opponents, utilizing the power-rush and his super-speed-rush as well.
Shaquil Barrett was right behind him, with one QB hit and three hurries of his own, in only 15 snaps. Outside of Miller, Barrett has proven he’s the best pass-rusher on the Broncos at this point.
Rookie Josey Jewell has shown off his ability to be a run-stopper so far this preseason. On Friday, he recorded three tackles, two defensive stops and one assisted tackle and his run stop percentage of 16.7 puts him at fifth overall.
Outside of Jewell, the rest of the run defense struggled a bit; Adrian Peterson ran for 56 yards on 11 carries and former Colorado State star Kapri Bibbs ran for 41 yards on two carries. Denver’s been in the top-five in run defense the last five years; can they find their groove again?
Finally, Courtland Sutton — the training camp darling — impressed by catching all three of his targets for 45 yards and a 76.0 overall grade.
Overall, Denver played a better game, but they still look susceptible to the elite pass-rushers which plague the AFC West, and they must be a better run-stopping team as well if they want to go back over .500.