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10 Risers, 10 Fallers in Broncos' 33-6 Preseason Win Over Vikings

With the first preseason game in the books, which Broncos helped their stock?

Denver Broncos football is back, and it returns with a comfortable 33-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings in preseason Game 1. Multiple guys made big plays, however, there were still some bad moments that the team needs to correct.

Overall, this was an excellent start to the preseason for the Broncos, but those players who played well have to keep it up. However, those who did not play well are in jeopardy with a cut-down day coming on August 17 when Denver has to let five players go. The five that ultimately do get cut had one game to prove themselves, so hopefully, they left it all out there on the field.

Most of the players who struggled on this list will get a second chance on August 21 to show more than they did this time around. But, unfortunately, that game will be followed by another five-player cut day on August 24. For this reason, it's vital for players to show what they can do on the field early and often in order to survive.

With the first game in the books, which players helped their stock the most and which hurt? Here are 10 risers and 10 fallers from the Broncos’ preseason victory over the Vikings.

Riser(s): Quarterbacks

Both of the Broncos quarterbacks that are competing for the starting job had a good game. Each did enough to keep this competition going, with neither quarterback taking hold of the job, though one of them did separate from the other.

Drew Lock: He had the big highlight play that displayed his arm strength. His second touchdown impressed even more with him scanning the field and being patient to find the throwing lane. He still showed issues with locking onto receivers and his mechanics, but it was a step forward to close in on the starting job.

Teddy Bridgewater: He moved the ball well downfield with poise and patience. There wasn’t as much pushing the ball with a lot shorter and simple throws, which is the QB Bridgewater is. With what Lock displayed, Bridgewater needed to push the ball more than he did, which is why Lock took a step to separate from Bridgewater.

Next week, the Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks with Bridgewater getting the start. Unfortunately, it will take a lot for Bridgewater to really get back into the race at quarterback after Lock's dynamic display in Game 1. 

Riser: Trinity Benson | WR

There wasn’t anyone out there that was more impressive than Benson. He had multiple touchdowns and was reliable for whatever quarterback was throwing him the ball. However, what he showed was more than that, with him excelling on special teams and making plays there.

Faller: Kendall Hinton | WR

Despite being a standout in practice, Hinton did not show up in the game except negatively. A holding penalty wiped out a significant Benson punt return. In addition, Hinton wasn’t targeted as a receiver often because he struggled to get separation from the Vikings’ defensive backs.

Riser: Javonte Williams | RB

Williams was impressive in camp, but his preseason debut put that hype to shame. When the pads came on in an actual game, Williams was a different animal out there. Melvin Gordon has to watch it.

Faller: Quinn Meinerz | IOL

It was rough watching Meinerz struggle out there, but it wasn't super surprising. He has struggled often in camp, and his showing in Minnesota made clear that Lloyd Cushenberry is the starting center, though the veteran struggled as well. The technique from Meinerz is a mess, and he has not adjusted to the NFL game speed, especially on passing plays.

Riser: Bobby Massie | OT

Calvin Anderson played well at left tackle, but Massie was consistently playing at a high level. What makes him a riser isn’t just what Massie did, but the few mistakes Anderson made helps push Massie forward for the right tackle job. Anderson was solid and nearly made this list as a riser, but Massie was clearly the best offensive lineman out there for both teams.

Faller: Cameron Fleming | OT

It was rough to watch Fleming against the Vikings where he was consistently getting pushed around. What makes his performance even worse was his seemingly uncaring attitude when made a mistake. There is no doubt his roster spot is in jeopardy, especially with the following riser making noise.

Riser: Quinn Bailey | OT

While he was far from great out there for the Broncos, Bailey was the best third unit lineman on the field. He far and away outplayed his tackle counterpart Fleming as Bailey looked strong run blocking and in pass protection. If the next game follows suit, Bailey should take over the spot from Fleming.

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Faller: Netani Muti | OG

There were some good run-blocking plays from Muti, and there is no denying that. However, he completely whiffed on a run that saw him pulling, and the technique was atrocious. That was the worst run-blocking play from him, but Muti continued to be up and down with his run-blocking and pass protection. What he put out there in pass protection was quite bad sprinkled in with some not-too-bad plays.

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Riser: Patrick Surtain II | CB

What more can be said about Surtain? He was a monster out there, and while the majority of his day was quiet, that's a good thing for corners. The two plays he did make were excellent on his part, and he should be a stud in the NFL for years.

Faller: Austin Schlottmann | IOL

All three of the main interior depth pieces on the line struggled throughout the game. Unfortunately, Schlottmann is the most experienced of the bunch and happened to perform the worst. He got bullied by the Vikings’ depth defensive linemen and found himself on the ground a little too often.

Riser: Caden Sterns | S

Defensively, the focus was on Surtain, but Sterns had just as big of an impact, just over more snaps. Sterns' play coming down and filling running lanes was great and consistent. While his play in coverage mainly was quiet, he had a huge pass breakup for what would have been a touchdown.

Faller: Peter Kalambayi | LB

If he wants to make this roster, it will have to be off the back of his special teams play. On defense, on three separate occasions, Kalambayi ended up tripping a teammate and himself. Two of those plays ended up being more significant for the Vikings and mainly due to what happened with Kalambayi and who he tripped.

Riser: Lorenzo Neal | DL

For a guy who joined the team on August 8, Neal looked outstanding out there. There were some issues with knowing assignments, but his physical strength limited the negative impact of those issues. That is quite literal, as he was throwing grown men to the ground like it was nothing to get back on track with the play. He flashed multiple times as a pass rusher on top of what he displayed as a run stuffer. 

Faller: Isaiah Mack | DL

Mack is a bigger-bodied defensive lineman, and he just got handled out there by a lighter Vikings offensive line. He was consistently pushed out of running lanes and stalled any attempt as a pass rusher. With the Broncos’ depth on the defensive line, there is no doubt he is in danger of being cut.

Riser: Andre Mintze | OLB

The undrafted rookie stood out with his quick and athletic pass-rush ability. However, what was most impressive was how stout he was as a run defender and smooth he was in coverage. It was an excellent showing as he works to make this roster as a fight edge rusher.

Faller: Derrek Tuszka | OLB

As the two new, shiny pass rush toys stand out, Tuszka struggled on the day in all phases. He got a few pressures, but they came on play-action roll-out plays, and he didn’t do much when he was blocked. It was a rough day for a pass rusher that is nearing that cut point.

Riser: Shamar Stephen | DL

Stephen made huge plays for the Broncos for someone who's been so quiet in camp, including netting the team's first points. He was stout against the run and controlled his blockers but also showed a lot as a pass rusher that just wasn’t there previously. It may have been a form of revenge for him, but he is one to keep an eye on going forward.

Faller: Andrew Beck | TE

When watching Beck, it was hard not to walk away disappointed with what he displayed. He gave up on blocks multiple times, and on one occasion, started walking off the field before the play was over. It was a disappointing display for someone who is supposed to be fighting for a roster spot, especially with Adam Prentice having a good game.

Riser: Jonathon Cooper | OLB

This was a significant opportunity for Cooper, and he really took it on his shoulders and played well. He was consistent with his pass rush and got multiple pressures on the quarterback. However, it was not just as a pass rusher where he impressed, but as a run defender and even a few times when dropping into coverage.

Faller: Josh Watson | LB

This is the third year for Watson, and it should be about time to see him emerge on defense. But, instead, we are witnessing similar mistakes he made as a rookie that are unacceptable at this point. The good news is he has a leg up to make the roster because of special teams play because what he did on defense would not be enough.

Most of these players will get a second chance against the Seahawks, but time is running out. If they have struggled in practice and don't start to turn it around on gameday, they will find themselves outside looking in. 

Roster cuts are coming, and the Broncos are a team that isn't afraid to churn over the bottom of the depth chart. 


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