Gut Reaction: Preseason opener - Broncos @ Cowboys

Before you can walk, you'll need to crawl.

Or you can just watch Ryan Clady bury some dude in the turf.

For all of the talk about Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, and even Brady Quinn, the real story of the Broncos' offseason should have been the running game.

The Broncos--for the meat of the game tonight--controlled the line of scrimmage from both sides.  Their third-string defense ultimately gave up the game 24-23, but by that time, the verdict on the Broncos' toughness had already been rendered.

This year, the Broncos will run.  This year, the Broncos will stop the run.

While one half of a preseason game does not a season make, it appears as if the additions of John Fox and Dennis Allen are going to bring respectability back to the ground game in Denver.

That, and a lot of versatile defensive linemen.

Let's get to the Positives, the Negatives, and the Who The Heck Knows?

The Positives

1) Kyle Orton was smooth on his first drive and made a good read on a weak-side blitz on his long pass to Eric Decker.  Did you expect anything less from the guy?

2) The Broncos used more 21 and 22 personnel groupings in their first two drives tonight than they did during the first half of last year.  Perhaps that's why they averaged 7 yards a carry on their opening drive.

3) I pronounce Ryan Clady back.  Quick feet.  Mountain strong.  Mean.

4) I love Dennis Allen's overload blitz packages.  I'd like to get them around the campfire sometime.  He didn't bring them out much tonight (not showing his cards), but when he did, they made good on their promise.  What was the promise?  Pain.  His overload package on the Cowboys' first drive as they were driving for a score was classic 5-on-4 gunplay.  He continued throughout the game using the strong safety on several occasions.  I'll forgive the long play late in the game because Quinton Carter and Cassius Vaughn Darcel McBath simple blew their assignments.  It wasn't Allen's scheme.

5) Tim Tebow settled down nicely after his first possession and delivered a nice ball to Matt Willis on his second drive of the game.  It wasn't perfect--he still ducks and runs after his first read is covered--but it was good to see him come back and lead the team down for a score.  Later, he delivered a laser to David Anderson on a third down.  While his accuracy may be an issue, the arm-strength argument isn't even an argument.

6) DT problem, meet Brodrick Bunkley.  DT problem, get the hell out of dodge.  Bunkley and Marcus Thomas seemed a deadly little cocktail tonight.   I also thought Robert Ayers was stout against the run.  Honorable mentions go to Derrick Harvey, Jeremy Jarmon, and Jason Hunter.

7) Von Miller may have missed two tackles tonight, but his drops in zone coverage were solid.  Even without a sack, he's still a hipster.  What, you mean you didn't know????

8) Someone forgot to tell Kyle McCarthy and Braxton Kelly that they are supposed to get cut.  

9) Jeremiah Johnson (it rolls off the tongue) has a burst.  Give that guy more carries.  We've got to see what he can do running with the first-team offense. 

10) I thought Brady Quinn played best out of the three quarterbacks.  He progressed through his reads, he was accurate, and he executes the play action flawlessly.  Overall, however, all three quarterbacks performed well enough to move the depth chart absolutely nowhere.  Sorry, Broncos fans.  The orange and blue telenovela will continue next week.  It's also important to note that the offensive personnel when Tebow is in the game tends to favor a 3-wide set versus the two-back sets when Quinn and Orton are in the game.  I suspect this is due to Tebow's strength as a second runner.

The Negatives

1) The first drive was great.  The first penalty wasn't.  It cost the Broncos a touchdown. 

2) Orton didn't discover mobility in the offseason.  I'm not trying to stir the pot here, but do you know of any running quarterbacks who would have scrambled in for a touchdown on that final third down of the opening drive?

3) Speaking of Tebow, I'm not going to sugarcoat his first drive for you.  His first drive was rugged. He made a horrible decision on a pass down the middle (an interception nullified by a pass interference call), and on the next play almost fumbled the exchange.  It was a big pool of ugly.  In his defense, there were a lot of free defenders coming clean, however.  

4) Julius Thomas may be the second coming of Shannon Sharpe, but if he wants to stay on the field, he'll need to display some better blocking than he did tonight.  I counted three missed blocks in the first half alone.

5) Orlando Franklin struggled to seal the backside.  He also reached too much tonight on his blocks.  Such are the pains of a rookie tackle.  

6) Eight penalties in the first half?  Ten for the game?  Was it Raiders bobblehead night?

7) Cassius Vaughn started out on fire.  By the end of the game, that burn was dry ice.

8) The third-string defense seemed to wear down, despite only playing two quarters. 

9) Stats in a game like this mean nothing.  It's too bad.  The Cowboys were only 3-for-12 on third downs tonight.

10)  Some game Ryan McBean will grow on me.  This was not that game.

Who The Heck Knows?

1) Brian Griese is correct in noting that Tebow needs to stay with his read progression. Yes, I also heard the lecture about a running quarterback making it through 16 games.   I got it.  I got it, already. 

2) When is a two-minute offense not a two-minute offense?  I guess in the first preseason game.

3) It was one drive, so I won't get too orgasmic.  However, J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles passed the eye test.

4) Encroachment isn't an insect.  It's a problem with the Broncos' second-string defense.

5) Is it just me or does the bowling ball known as Joe Mays already cover tight ends better than any other Broncos linebacker?

6) The Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil Night of Macabre will have to wait for another week.  That's what happens when you only play in a single series.  No problem.  There's plenty of quarterback blood to come.  

7)  D.J. Williams should consider himself lucky that the 100 linebackers the Broncos brought into camp this year haven't distinguished themselves yet.   

8) I failed to notice Rahim Moore.  Relax.  It just means the Broncos were stopping the run at the line of scrimmage.

9) Brian Dawkins looks young again.  Of course, I said that last year, too.  

10) We learned little about the Broncos' special teams tonight.  Is David "Mr." Anderson the answer?

As always, feel free to give us your gut reactions in the comments below.

TJ Johnson can be reached through telegraph, ESP, Spanish interpretor, or via email: Follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you want to see him mock "the man."  He assumes you are following It’s All Over Fat Man on Facebook and Twitter, but if you are not, that’s nihilistic, man.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

Agree, disagree, just like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so I can quit my day job.

Gut Reactions