Finally, after a long offseason of waiting, the Denver Broncos took the field against the Dallas Cowboys for their first preseason game of the year.

In a game that didn’t feature many starters, the headlines were pointed directly at the younger players on the team, as they were taking the field in hopes of improving their position on the depth chart or making the final roster.

While one preseason game may be a very small sample size, it’s massive from a player’s perspective. There are only three games to show their value to the Denver Broncos, meaning that every snap counts, and Saturday night spent one-third of their audition time.

How did those performances fair? Let’s look.

Nik Bonitto, Edge (Round 2)

Being the first pick of George Paton’s draft class, the optimism surrounding Nik Bonitto was sky-high and for the most part, he did not disappoint.

Simply put, Bonitto looked like the same player we saw at the University of Oklahoma.

He is a very high-twitch athlete that can win around the edge with different finesse moves, like dips and swims.

While Bonitto was able to put pressure on the quarterback multiple times, he still has a while to go before he becomes a very great power rusher or run defender. None of this being an effort issue, Bonitto’s lower half just doesn’t contain much power at this point.

In year one, expect Bonitto to be utilized as designated pass rusher, spelling starters to wreak havoc on the quarterback.

Grade: C+

Damarri Mathis, Cornerback (Round 4)

As practice has gotten more and more physical, fans of the Denver Broncos were hearing more and more good things about Mathis.

In his first preseason game, it was easy to tell why. Mathis is a scrappy, good tackling corner that most definitely has a spot on the roster as a reserve.

Playing a lot of snaps and working from mostly the outside in off-technique, Mathis didn’t give up any big or noticeably bad plays yesterday, making the day an overall success.

It was also telling that Dallas’ offense preferred targetting Michael Ojemudia to targetting Mathis.

Grade: B+

Eyioma Uwazurike, IDL (Round 4)

Eyioma Uwazurike, a mammoth of an interior defensive lineman at 6-foot-6 and 316-pounds, was a solid contributor against the Cowboys.

While not having many stand-out plays, he looked to be fulfilling his defensive responsibilities at a relatively high level, and showcasing a great deal of athleticism for a guy at his size. His ability to move is really a sight to see.

Being as tall as he is, he needs to work on his pad level as he is susceptible to letting the offensive lineman get under him, ultimately pushing him off the ball.

Grade: C

Delarrin Turner-Yell, Safety (Round 5)

Another player drafted out of the University of Oklahoma, Delarrin Turner-Yell had a quiet night.

While playing as the “last line of defense” often leads to being out of the action and failing to pad the stats sheet, at the end of the day, Turner-Yell is battling for a roster spot.

Going forward, Turner-Yell is going to have to flash to put himself in the conversation with the likes of PJ Locke, JR Reed, and Jamar Johnson, who all played outplayed the rookie in their first preseason game, if he wants to make the final roster.

Grade: C-

Montrell Washington, Wide Receiver (Round 5)

Coming out of a small school like Samford, where tape is hard to come by, this was truly the first time a majority of the fan base and media was able to see Montrell Washington play.

Projected to be the Denver Broncos’ starting punt and kick returner, Washington had two pretty explosive punt returns (measuring 16- and 27-yards, for an. average of 21.5), showing that he is going to be an upgrade from what we saw last season at the position.

As a receiver, Washington got touches and a lot of targets, but not much production. This is something Broncos Country shouldn’t read too much into though, as the fact he got so many designed touches demonstrates that the staff values his skill set.

Grade: B

Luke Wattenberg, IOL, Round 5

Playing a ton of snaps in the game, Wattenberg was impressive in comparison to where most projected him to be in his first NFL game.

Playing both center and guard, Wattenberg displayed effort to climb up field to reach linebackers and a little nastiness in finishing his blocks in the run.

The biggest concern with Wattenberg continues to be his strength as he can be pushed into his quarterback’s face on occasion, which flared up on some reps against the Cowboys.

Grade: C

Matt Henningsen, IDL, Round 6

For a sixth-round pick, Henningsen was terrific against the Cowboys.

Specifically, he was extremely physical in the run where he rarely got pushed off his spot and was also able to display his extremely hot motor, chasing running backs down the line of scrimmage.

Henningsen also recorded 0.5 sacks as a pass-rusher, and had a missed opportunity to get another sack. He also had a quarterback hit on P.J. Locke’s interception.

Going forward, Henningsen is a player to watch as teams can never have enough defensive players up front.

Grade: B+

Faion Hicks, Cornerback, Round 7

Being a seventh-round pick, Hicks has a lot to prove in order to make the Denver Broncos’ final roster.

Against the Cowboys, Hicks gave up a long reception down the sideline and a red zone touchdown. Both plays were given up for different reasons, making Hicks’ first day a rough one.

While it’s only one preseason game, every snap counts for players drafted as late as Hicks.

Grade: D

Brandon Johnson, Wide Receiver, UDFA

As an undrafted player, the odds have been stacked against Johnson but he was absolutely terrific against the Cowboys.

Hauling in four receptions for 64 yards, Johnson has the makings of a prototypical Z receiver, with his smooth route-running and after-the-catch ability, which the Broncos desperately need in the wake of Tim Patrick’s injury.

While Johnson may not get a ton of playing time this year, he is making a very strong case to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster.

Grade: A

Jalen Virgil, Wide Receiver, UDFA

Yet another undrafted free agent receiver, Virgil was also phenomenal, having three catches for 83 yards — the most receiving yards of any Bronco.

Playing with mostly the third-string players, nobody could cover Virgil deep. He continued to beat Cowboys defensive backs vertically, over and over.

Johnson getting snaps well before Virgil leads us to believe that Virgil’s chances of making the roster are less than Johnson’s, but there is no doubting that he would be a tough cut if he continues to play like this throughout the preseason.

Grade: A