The Denver Broncos’ success in 2017 is expected to be tied to their defense, with the offense asked to provide only enough to win games. The offense showed they still have things to figure out, but they also offered signs that maybe the defense won’t have to work quite as hard as expected.
Trevor Siemian started slowly in his first game as the Broncos’ starting quarterback, but he eventually found his rhythm and looked confident. After a couple of forgettable drives, Siemian got Denver on the scoreboard. A 16-yard scramble and a 20-yard pass to Jordan Taylor led to a beautifully-blocked 16-yard touchdown run by C. J. Anderson.
Siemian started the next drive by going 6/6 passing for 48 yards and scrambled for two more before his last pass bounced off the chest of Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone. Denver settled for a field goal before the half.
Anderson looked good at times running the ball, but it was another running back who got the biggest cheer. Jamaal Charles got his first carries of the preseason, kicking it off with a seven-yard scamper. He looked strong and fluid, but he gave the crowd a scare when he entered the medical tent after his first series.
His last run of that series included a sharp cut after which his legs appeared wobbly. There was concern his knee gave out, but his problem was actually a blow to the head. He returned after being checked for a concussion, throwing a strong block that allowed Siemian to escape a rush, and showing no ill effects. He admitted his legs felt heavy during his first game in more than a year, but no more than expected.
What did we learn?
Siemian won the quarterback competition, but he is still a young quarterback. His early game jitters were to be expected, but he settled in nicely after taking a sack and throwing an early interception. He gives the Broncos a good game manager. Emmanuel Sanders got the lion’s share of targets. Siemian will do well to distribute the ball around a bit more.
Sanders only caught two of his eight targets and let that one pass bounce off him in the end zone. He is still Emmanuel Sanders and he is a worthy WR2 with an inexperienced QB and has the potential to progress along with Demaryius Thomas to number one status as the year goes on.
Jamaal Charles was the big story. If he stays healthy, he should take on a bigger role over time. That is especially true if C. J. Anderson remains unable to convert third-and-short opportunities. On one drive, Anderson carried twice on second and third down and failed to gain the yard needed for a first. The third down run was especially disconcerting as he inexplicably hopped to his right and ran into the line when a straight run and possibly a cut to the outside looked like a safer bet.
Anderson is a solid runner and pass receiver and should be the starter all year. But Charles showed power and agility and is as good at picking up blitzes as Anderson. He could take over third down duties instead of alternating series with C. J.
The defense held up against the Green Bay offense. They provided the other big news of the evening with the return of Von Miller. Miller played three series and looked as unblockable as ever. His sack of Aaron Rodgers stopped a drive and resulted in a long field goal for the Packers.
Siemian looked adequate but not good enough to draft. Time will tell if his supporting cast makes him a worthy flyer later in the season.
Thomas and Sanders will get enough targets to be relevant even in a run-heavy offense. Targets should be closer than the 8-2 we saw last evening, but that is an interesting thing to watch. Right now, I think Thomas’ third-round WR15 status might be slightly optimistic and Sanders’ 7th round WR35 might be a little too low. I have them both in the 20s on my board based on a heavy dose of running in Denver.
Coach Vance Joseph has to be happier about his running game with Charles’ looking healthy and Devontae Booker expected back from wrist surgery in week two or three. Unfortunately, that creates a little confusion for fantasy owners.
If Charles stays healthy, the workload could be shared enough to make Anderson’s 4th round WR20 ADP a bit high. Charles’ 11th round WR47 will surely improve after last night’s showing. Rookie De’Angelo Henderson was getting some last-round sleeper recognition, which may disappear with the news about Charles and Booker. Two fumbles against Green Bay (one lost) did not help his case.
For what it’s worth, I am leaving Anderson at RB20 on my board and moved Charles to the upper 30s. I do not think the Broncos will expose Charles to injury any more than needed to keep Anderson fresh. The rookie Henderson could remain ahead of Booker on the depth chart for a while. I would not consider either of them as any more than a handcuff to the starters.
Those other fantasy guys
Broncos tight ends have been quiet this preseason and I expect that to carry into the regular games. There is no one on my draft board.
Kicker Brandon McManus has a huge leg aided by the mile-high air in Denver. He routinely makes 50-yard field goals and is worth a roster spot for that alone. He is currently drafting at PK9.
Denver’s defense is upset that they finished 2016 as the third-ranked fantasy DST. They seem determined to regain their top-status and should be the first defense off the board in all drafts. But don’t go crazy. They are not worth an early round pick as there are a good seven or eight teams that will challenge them and look just as good on your roster.
So… that’s that
Denver fans are excited about their team’s chances to capture the AFC West title, but what do we care as long as they provide lots and lots of fantasy points?
Denver offers interesting options at the receiver and running back position with very high ceilings and safe floors. Their defense is top-notch and the kicker should be drafted in every league.
Of course, everything can change in a minute, so check back with RealSport regularly for fantasy updates and advice.
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