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6 up, 5 down: Broncos' stock report coming out of 24-15 preseason loss to Niners

Which Broncos saw their stock rise, and whose fell, on Monday Night Football?

The Denver Broncos lost their preseason home opener on Monday night, falling to the San Francisco 49ers 24-15. 

As always, I'm here to provide you with a post-game stock report. Let's dive in. 

Bradley Chubb, OLB: Up

Von Miller has proclaimed all offseason that Chubb is in position to have a breakout season, and so far he looks the part. Bradley Chubb was all over Jimmy Garoppolo in the few series he played, finishing with three tackles and a strip-sack.

Chubb’s pass rushing play this preseason reminds me a lot of DeMarcus Ware’s time in Denver. One thing that’s for certain, Chubb does not look like a 23-year-old player entering his second year. 

Opposing offensive lines are going to have a hard time holding off both him and Von Miller on a consistent basis. I do not think it’s crazy to think these two could combine for 30-plus sacks this year. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s possible based on what we have seen so far this preseason.

Shelby Harris, DL: Up

Another Broncos defender that looks to have a breakout season on the horizon, Harris made his presence felt in the middle of the Broncos line against the Niners. He looked solid playing the nose in a 3-4 base alignment, as well as an inside DT on nickel downs.

It may just be me, but Harris also looks a little bigger than the 290 poundss he’s currently listed at (same as last season). Whatever the case, he doesn’t seem to have lost any quickness. He’s going to be a critical component to this defense’s front seven as his inside pressure is going to open up chances for Von & Chubb outside.

Brandon McManus, K: Up

It’s looking like McMoney is back this season!

McManus went 3-for-3 on field goals, hitting from 34, 41, and 52 yards out, respectively, in the first half. His positional placement on kickoff attempts also looked great. Let’s hope McManus can keep this type of momentum going into the regular season.

First-team defense: Up

Again, the first-team defense looked fantastic in this preseason game. The Broncos ones limited Jimmy Garoppolo to just one completion on six attempts for zero passing yards. Denver's first-teamers also snagged an interception and forced a fumble.

Not a lot to take away here as I think most fans knew coming into the season that this defense would be more than above average. The defensive line depth, in particular, has impressed this preseason. I think many expected Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris to play well but so have Adam Gotsis, Zach Kerr, rookie Dre’Mont Jones, and at times even 2018 castoff DeMarcus Walker.

The Broncos' secondary has also looked fantastic, with young corners Isaac Yiadom and De’Vante Bausby displaying so far that they are capable NFL cornerbacks.

The only area of this defense that makes you pause for a second (not to be a broken record) is the inside linebacker position. The play at this position was encouraging in this game, and should improve when Josey Jewell and Todd Davis are back to 100%. 

But if we are being honest with ourselves here, the hope is the 'Fangio effect' works a little magic on a group that lacks elite talent. Overall, the defense looks the part we thought they would.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR: Up

Let’s just acknowledge for a second how incredible it is to even see Emmanuel Sanders on the field after tearing his Achilles tendon in December of last year. Now look at how well he played in his very limited drives of this game. Unbelievable.

Sanders finished the game with one catch for five yards and one rush for 19 yards. He was targeted just twice in the game (officially). 

It’s easy to see that box score and think 'no big deal', but there are two plays you don’t see.

  1. Sanders caught a 45-yard bomb from Flacco that was negated by a holding penalty by Garett Bolles
  2. Sanders also made what looked to be a nice toe-tapping catch on the sideline that was ruled incomplete. If not for being on 1st-&-10 in a preseason game, I think Fangio would have considered challenging the play, as it looked like Sanders had both feet in.

Either way, Sanders is going to be used a weapon in all sorts of ways in this offense. You can tell from practices and the small action in this game that he and Joe Flacco will have some great chemistry this year.

Drew Lock, QB: Up

We finally got to see what Drew Lock could do in a game with a legitimate offensive line. The O-line starters remained on the field for Lock’s first drive in the second quarter, an eight-minute drive that went 57 yards on a whopping 13 plays, culminating in a field goal. It’s easy to see the talent Lock has, and the potential as he has steadily improved in each game this preseason.

Lock was 7-of-12 for 40 yards before injuring his hand in the third quarter. He left the game following his only 3-and-out. Hopefully the hand injury is not serious and Lock can get back to action quickly.

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Special teams (outside of placekicking): Down

I’ll preface this by saying the special teams in this game wasn’t nearly as bad as it was in the game against Seattle — but that’s not saying much. At this point, it doesn’t really seem to matter who the Broncos trot out there to return kicks — none of them have looked great. 

I find myself holding my breath every time the Broncos are fielding a punt — hoping and praying for a touchback most of the time.

Not only is the return game iffy, but the coverage team also has a lot of room to improve. On one kickoff, McManus placed the ball perfectly inside the five-yard line right near the corner. 

This type of kick makes the coverage team’s job easier as the returner has limited options fielding so close to the sideline. That didn’t matter as Niners' WR Richie James blew past a number of orange jerseys for a return of 45 yards.

Something’s gotta give here.

Garett Bolles, LT: Down

This may sound like an overreaction, but don’t be surprised if Denver is looking offensive tackle early in next year’s draft. This is the year Bolles is supposed to put it all together. He’s now in his third year in the league, has played in over 40 total games (regular season and preseason), and is in his should-be prime at 27 years old. 

Toss in elite offensive line coach Mike Munchak as the cherry on top and you would expect this to be Garett’s coming out season. So far, that has not been the case.

It’s almost become an expectation that Bolles will commit one or two drive-killing penalties per game. And someone in his position and with his experience level in this league should be better than this. He committed an awful, awful holding penalty in this game that negated that previously mentioned 45-yard strike from Flacco to Sanders. 

You could see it on Emmanuel’s face when he looked back upfield after his catch to notice a flag was thrown — this offense is clearly frustrated with his play. We have seen it in games the last two seasons and several practices this offseason.

Bolles needs to get it together — and fast.

Red zone offense: Down

The first- and second-team offenses have had a difficult time converting within the red zone this preseason — and this game was no exception. The Broncos failed to find the end zone until late in the fourth quarter of this game, scoring just 15 points on three field goal conversions and a TD scramble by Kevin Hogan.

The positive to takeaway here is that the Broncos have been able to move the ball and convert on field goal attempts. However, that will only get you so far in a league (and division), where you’ve got QBs who can throw for 50 TDs a season.

At the end of the day, though, it’s too early to hit the panic button, as OC Rich Scangarello hasn’t even begun to open up the full offensive playbook and weapons like Sanders and Phillip Lindsay have been very limited so far.

Fortunately, this (shouldn’t) be lacking in red zone targets with the addition of college TD-machine Noah Fant. Add in fellow big-bodied targets Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick and you’ve got options. It’s hopefully just a matter of time before this offense starts finding ways to convert touchdowns from inside the 20.

Royce Freeman, RB: Down

This could be a knee-jerk reaction, but Royce Freeman (outside of one long run), has not looked great in the preseason.

In two games now (didn’t play in the first), Royce has eight carries for 49 yards. One of those carries went for 50 yards. Take that out and he has 7 carries for -1 yard. 

I get it, I get it — the offensive line has not always helped him out. But that’s not entirely the case. I went back and watched all of Freeman's runs and it just feels like his timing and cadence with the line is just off. He is getting contacted consistently in the backfield and I believe it’s largely due to his indecisiveness when hitting the gap.

Royce is at his best when he hits his first cut and runs hard downfield. It’s early, so a smart bettor would put their money on Freeman turning it around.

Everyone not on first- & second-teams: Down

Depth continues to be an issue for this team. This is what happens when you fail to get a consistent return from your draft picks (see 2017).

The Broncos appear to have hopefully turned that around with their 2018 class and what appears to be a solid rookie crop this season…but I digress.

Again, it’s preseason, and close to half of the players we are seeing in the second half of this game won’t even make the final 53-man roster — but the results we have seen thus far are still far from encouraging. 

 Depth is so critical in today’s NFL. Look at the team the Broncos won the Lombardi Trophy with in 2015. That is a team that played seven games without its starting QB. It’s also a team that had to replace both starting tackles early in the season.

Next week’s game, often referred to as the 'dress rehearsal' game, should give us an idea of what to expect in the regular season.

Follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorJudge