The Denver Broncos turned in a dismal performance in the second week of the preseason, against the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills and their starting lineup.

However, despite the miserable display, there were still players that stood out for both positive and negative reasons.

Who might’ve earned a roster spot, and who dialed up the heat on their seat a few dozen degrees? Let’s take a look, in this latest edition of the Denver Broncos Stock Report.

Who’s Rising?

Caden Sterns

P.J. Locke also deserves some mention here, but considering his stock saw the bump last week, it’s Caden Sterns who receives the majority of the bump this week.

Locke and Sterns continue to look like an NFL starting tandem at safety for the Denver Broncos, giving the team what is probably the league’s very best safety room.

Sterns was everywhere for the Broncos against the Bills, tallying eight total tackles on the first three defensive possessions. The team’s second-leading tackler tallied just three tackles over that same span. That trend

Sterns was comfortably the team’s best run-defender, and that’s a statement you rarely make about a safety. If he can continue to show these flashes, he’ll leave Kareem Jackson with a very short leash as the season starts.

Montrell Washington & Jalen Virgil

The Denver Broncos offense was inept for much of Saturday’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills, but one piece of the Denver attack that wasn’t entirely dormant was rookie receiver Montrell Washington.

Washington made a pair of big catches on the Broncos’ first drive, tallying 25 yards, which was a lot for this Denver offense in the first half, as they only gained 70 yards through the air. The biggest of those two catches gained 19 yards to complete a third-and-long for the Denver Broncos, was hauled in through contact from two Bills defenders, and ultimately led to the team’s first points.

Washington also had a nice day as a returner. His first return was a little lackluster, as it only saw him return the kick out to the 20, but his second return was terrific.

As for Jalen Virgil, he once again had to wait until late in the game to finally get his shot. The moment he entered the lineup though, his presence became clear, and the offense instantly sparked to life.

Along with Washington, Virgil also showed some impressive flashes as the team’s return man. Virgil tallied 30-yard returns on both of his two attempts, which is truly remarkable.

This columnist is definitely hoping that the Denver Broncos can find enough room in their WR room to carry both Virgil and Washington.

Brett Rypien

The Denver Broncos had the best showing they’ve seen from either quarterback this preseason on Saturday when Brett Rypien entered the lineup.

After what was a pretty nice first drive, Josh Johnson shriveled up against the Buffalo Bills’ defense and continued to throw passes with noticeably poor placement, which was also a frequent hiccup he suffered through a weak ago. The offense was visibly struggling to drive the ball down the field, but that changed in a hurry with Rypien taking over at quarterback.

Rypien was more comfortable in the pocket, more confident in his decisions, and dramatically more precise in his throws, as evidenced by his final stat line.

Rypien completed 84 percent of his passes (to Johnson’s 50%), averaged 7.3 yards per attempt (to Johnson’s 4.4 YPA), and nearly doubled Johnson’s passer rating (110.1 to 62.0), and, unlike last week, the eye test cemented the perception the stat line portrays.

Brandon McManus

The Denver Broncos, as a whole, were miserable on Saturday, but Brandon McManus was a nice bright spot.

The 33- and 43-yard conversions weren’t overly impressive, but it was nice to see McManus connect from 55 yards out, helping to rectify his long miss from a week ago.

Also, McManus did a great job of keeping his kickoffs in play, allowing special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes to fully analyze Denver’s talent.

Who’s Falling?

Run Game

On both sides of the ball, the way the Denver Broncos played the run was thoroughly unacceptable.

On defense, the ability to stop the run was so poor that the Buffalo Bills were still able to drive up and down the field, scoring with ease, even with Matt Barkley in the game.

The Bills opened the game by averaging 7.7 yards per carry over their first six rushing attempts, while also adding a rushing touchdown to the stat sheet, and that set them behind pace. It only took the Bills three quarters to record more than 200 yards rushing, and they did so at a hyper-efficient clip, averaging 8.4 yards per carry.

The defensive line was bullied throughout the first three quarters, getting launched off the line of scrimmage by Buffalo, as if they had been loaded into a trebuchet, with McTelvin Agim targeted by the Bills as one of their favorite victims.

The inside linebackers weren’t much better, as Alex Singleton almost looked lost, and might’ve opened the door for Joe Schobert to actually earn a roster spot.

That’s downright embarrassing for the Broncos, though fortunately, they turned things around in the fourth quarter, allowing just four yards across three rushing attempts.

Offensive Line

Fortunately, the Denver Broncos haven’t played many starters in these preseason games, but that still doesn’t fully excuse just how poor they’ve looked.

Calvin Anderson is the lone projected starter to have played in both games for the Broncos, and he’s struggled mightily. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine him holding on to the starting job once Billy Turner is healthy in the lineup.

Anderson’s partner at tackle, Zach Johnson, hasn’t handled the transition to tackle too well and has also been regularly abused by opposing pass-rushers through two games.

On that point, we’ve also seen Quinn Bailey move inside to guard, where he’s been downright dreadful, and maybe even the worst player for the Broncos on either side of the ball, in each of these two games. It seems maybe they should flip Bailey and Johnson back to their more natural positions.

Michael Ojemudia

Saturday was a nightmarish day for the third-year corner out of Iowa.

Broncos Country was understandably hyped about what Michael Ojemudia’s 2022 campaign could bring, after a promising rookie year, and a sophomore season that saw him play lights-out when healthy, but it doesn’t look like Ojemudia is going to deliver on all that potential.

In Week 1 of the preseason, against the Dallas Cowboys, Ojemudia was frequently circled by the opposing offense, up until he left the game to be evaluated for a concussion. After that evaluation, it was deemed Ojemudia was all clear, but the Broncos kept him out of the game as a result of the stage of the game the team was in.

Then, in Week 2, Ojemudia’s performance featured so many head-scratching mistakes that it led one of the game’s commentators, Chad Brown, to theorize that Ojemudia might be struggling because he was still dealing with symptoms from that Week 1 concussion, except, as previously stated, Ojemudia never suffered that concussion. He was making those mental mistakes all on his own.

Watching offenses in consecutive weeks make a point of targeting Ojemudia on nearly every single passing play is deeply concerning, especially when one considers the remarkable training camp Damarri Mathis just experienced.