Cardinals vs. Broncos: Postgame Grades, Notes and Quotes for Denver
The Denver Broncos closed out the 2015 preseason with a 22-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night. The team will now use the next day or so to determine which 53 players best fit its final roster.
The Broncos started out with a bang, scoring on a 78-yard touchdown pass from Brock Osweiler to Andre Caldwell on their first play from scrimmage. They had a chance to win late in the game, but Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal wide right.
Head coach Gary Kubiak and his staff will have one of the toughest tasks in the league in trying to determine which 22 players to cut. The Broncos have a talented roster that is deep at several positions, and other teams around the league will be keeping an eye on the players Denver lets go of so they can jump on them.
The Broncos will next be in action when the regular season kicks off September 13 against the Baltimore Ravens. For more on the final preseason game, including positional grades and other notes, click forward.
Position Grades for Denver
Quarterback: As mentioned, Osweiler threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to Caldwell on Denver's first offensive play. The score was set up by an excellent play-action fake before Osweiler found Caldwell wide-open down the field. Rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian displayed a very fluid release, but completed less than 50 percent of his throws in this game.
Running Back: The Broncos gained just 54 yards rushing on 22 carries in the game.
Wide Receiver: It would have been nice to see a little more out of undrafted rookie Jordan Taylor in this game. He finished with two catches for 15 yards. Bennie Fowler made a nice catch on touchdown reception in the third quarter, reaching behind the back of the defender to haul it in.
Tight End: With Owen Daniels and Virgil Green sitting this one out, the Broncos managed just three receptions to the tight end position. That all went to Dominique Jones, who should wind up as the team's No. 3 tight end.
Offensive Line: The offensive line struggled in this game, particularly in running blocking. Arizona had three sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Defensive Line: The Broncos gave up 3.9 yards per rush attempt to Arizona and veteran Chris Johnson was able to find some holes. Sione Fua had one of the Broncos' five sacks on the night.
Linebacker: The Broncos may have the best linebacker corps in the league. Shane Ray had a sack that led to a fumble and turnover inside Arizona's own 20-yard line, and Shaquil Barrett added another two sacks. He has arguably been the team's best player this preseason. The hardest roster decisions that the coaching staff will face come from the linebacker spots.
Defensive Backs: Rookie Lorenzo Doss displayed some good open-field tackling in this game, but the team allowed Arizona to be too efficient through the air. They gave up two touchdowns and allowed the Cardinals to complete nearly 72 percent of their throws.
Special Teams: The kick coverage unit has recovered mightily since the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks. Britton Colquitt and McManus both kicked the ball well, but the grade gets knocked down a notch due to McManus' miss toward the end of the game that would have given the Broncos an undefeated preseason.
Coaching: Not much to say here. Kubiak and his staff got the players they still needed to look at into the game, and hopefully they have enough to go on in making decisions regarding roster cuts.
Important Note No. 1: Montee Ball's 16 Carries, 27 Yards
Running back Montee Ball was the player many Denver fans likely wanted to see in action Thursday night. He finished with just 27 yards on 16 attempts.
He didn't even average two yards per carry, and his longest run of the night was eight yards.
At times it seemed Ball wasn't getting much help up front his blockers, but Kapri Bibbs would come into the game behind the same unit and find much more success. He also seemed to be running with more purpose.
Ball appeared to be the team's running back of the future following the 2013 season, but he'll be lucky to have a future in Denver at this point. He just doesn't seem to be the same player.
Ball will catch on with another team and be given a chance to revive his career. However, there's a strong possibility his days in Denver are done.
Important Note No. 2: T.J. Ward Suspended for Season Opener
It was announced Thursday, via Ben Swanson of the team's official website, that starting safety T.J. Ward will be forced to sit out the team's season opener against Baltimore for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy.
This is in relation to an incident that occurred back in the spring of 2014.
Though it will only be for one game, this is a tough blow for the team as the safety position is already pretty thin to begin with.
One has to wonder how this will change any plans the Broncos had in regard to roster cuts, but it seems a player like Josh Bush has a better chance to hang around a little longer as a result.
Whatever the case may be, the Broncos will need to figure it out before the Ravens come to town.
Quote No. 1: Kubiak, Ball Discuss Running Game
Kubiak touched on the running game during his pregame press conference, as reported by Troy Renck of the Denver Post, and it's sure to be a hot topic this week.
"We didn't run the ball a lick," Kubiak said. "You have to be fair to Montee. I don't know how much room there was out there."
Kubiak was clearly sticking up for his guy, but there seemed to be room to run when Bibbs was inserted into the game.
Ball was also asked about his performance, and he took his poor performance in stride.
"I put it all out there today," he said. "I put it all out there on special teams, started every one, and also on offense. The runs just weren't really there."
Ball sounds like a player who may be able to see the writing on the wall. He looks and sounds like a player that is out of gas in Denver.
Quote No. 2: Kubiak on Players Who Have Stood Out
As Kubiak addressed the media after the game, he was asked which players have stood out to him this preseason, via video from Renck's report for the Denver Post.
The first name to come to the mind of the head coach is Barrett.
"[No.] 48 continues to stand out to me. I mean, he's had a great preseason."
The No. 48 is in reference to Barrett's jersey number. Kubiak is clearly impressed with the second-year linebacker, who came into training camp as a fringe player in terms of making the roster.
Barrett should be a lock following his impressive preseason, which included five quarterback sacks.
The Broncos knew they had a fierce pass rush with DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Ray. But if they can bring in Barrett for certain situations and have him chase quarterbacks around, it makes the defense that much more dynamic.
Quote No. 3: T.J. Ward Addresses His Upcoming Suspension
As noted, Ward will be forced to sit out the first game of the season due to a violation of the league's Personal Conduct Policy.
As Ben Swanson of the team's official website reports, Ward released the following statement regarding his suspension.
I take full responsibility for the incident that occurred in May 2014 and am willing to accept the consequences of my actions by serving my one game suspension. Although I was never arrested and all charges against me were ultimately dismissed, I have no one to blame but myself for being in the predicament that evening. To the Denver Broncos organization, the Bowlen family and to the Denver Bronco fans, I want to apologize for my conduct. I have learned from my mistakes and will continue to be a pillar in the community to make myself a stronger person and player for the Denver Broncos.
It's good to see Ward taking responsibility for his actions. He also seems to understand the impact this will have on his teammates.
All Denver fans can do is hope that this is an isolated incident and that Ward stays out of the commissioner's office in the future.