Heading into 2018, the Broncos’ first-team offense had a lot of questions. Could Quarterback Case Keenum pick up in Denver what he started in Minnesota? Would newcomers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton translate to the NFL as Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders 2.0? Could Denver bounce back from a horrific 2017 campaign? While the answers to these questions are still far from set in stone, the preseason gave a taste of what to expect in 2018. Here are the grades for the 2018 Broncos offense during the preseason, featuring grades on each of the ten first-team drives.
2018 Broncos Offense Preseason Report Card
Vikings At Broncos
Denver’s first offensive series resulted in a three-and-out, loudly reminding Broncos fans of many of the offensive drives of 2017. The first play of the drive resulted in a five-yard gain, creating a second down with five yards to go. The five quickly turned into a ten because of a false start. A two-yard run and a high throw by Keenum forced a punt. The only reason that the Broncos did not get an “F” on the drive was that there was no turnover.
Drive Grade: D
The first play of the second drive earned five yards on the ground but ended quickly because Keenum was pressured on second and third down which led to two incompletions and a punt. Just like the first drive, this one resulted in a three-and-out. That being said, Keenum did not turn the ball over and ended up saving the offense from earning an “F” for the drive.
Drive Grade: D
The Broncos ended the game with two punts and no first downs, leaving most Broncos fans cynical about the 2018 season. The main positive of this game was that the Broncos did not turn the ball over against the Vikings, the number-one ranked defense from 2017. In the end, the line effectively crumpled on most of the plays in this game.
Final Grade: D
Bears At Broncos
Denver’s pattern of three-and-outs continued at the beginning of Week 2 in spite of a trick flea-flicker called on the second play of the first drive due to a missed throw from Keenum.
Drive Grade: D
The second drive of the day earned the inaugural first down for the offense and the first trip to the red zone. The first conversion was a result of a pass from Keenum to a wide-open DaeSean Hamilton. Keenum was visibly fired up after the completion, exclaiming “let’s go!” The drive went all the way to the Bears’ eight-yard line before it got derailed. An offensive pass interference call pushed the Broncos back to the 18-yard line, creating an 18-yard first and goal. Most drives get held to a field goal in this situation and the Broncos were not able to beat the odds. After two shots at the end zone (both of which were high misses by Keenum) and a conservative screen, the Broncos settled for a field goal and their first points of the preseason.
Drive Grade: B
The Broncos’ third drive was even more productive than the previous. On the first play of the drive, tight end Jeff Heuerman caught a pass and shoved a tackling Bear in truly epic fashion before earning an eight-yard gain. However, the Broncos’ linemen gave up their first sack of the preseason just a few plays later, creating a loss of one yard and a third down with eight yards to go. In spite of the sack, the Broncos were still able to move the chains.
The Broncos once again followed a great drive with a poor one. While they were able to earn a first down, events quickly took a turn for the worst. Keenum had a ball batted into the air that was almost intercepted and later took a sack for an eight-yard loss. Compounding the failure was a personal foul after the play that created a fourth and 28 punt, hardly the way that the Broncos’ offensive starters wanted to end their preseason.
Drive Grade: D
There was technically a sixth drive but the Broncos decided to let the clock run to halftime. In the end, there were plenty of ups and downs in the game but there were plenty of reasons to be pleased with a performance that featured two touchdowns and a field goal with only two punts.
Final Grade: B
The Broncos’ starters ended up leading ten drives over the course of the preseason and came away with five punts, two field goals, three touchdowns, and a two-point conversion. If one were to combine all of their playing time across the three games, it could be said that the Broncos played about a full game’s worth of time. They ended with 28 total offensive points scored during the course of that “game,” an apparent improvement when compared to the Broncos offense from a year ago where they averaged just 18.1 points per game during the regular season. If the Broncos could score 28 points per game this season, they would win many games in the NFL.
At the center of the remodeled offense, Quarterback Case Keenum ended his preseason completing 21/31 passes and throwing no interceptions. However, he didn’t throw a single touchdown. That being said, he did complete a two-point conversion. Overall, Keenum was effective and safe with the ball.
It should be acknowledged that two of the five punts occurred in the first game against arguably the best defense in the NFL in the Minnesota Vikings and while the Broncos were technically on pace for zero points against the Vikings, it is highly unlikely that this would occur as there was simply not enough of a sample size in that game. In Week 2, 11 points were scored on last year’s 10th-ranked Bears defense in about a quarter-and-a-half, putting the Broncos on pace to score about 24 points in the game. Against the 21st-ranked Redskins defense, the Broncos were able to score 17 points in one half which would put them on pace to score 34 if they were able to finish the game. Two of the three games featured enough offensive points to possibly win the game.
In the end, Denver’s offense seems to have come a long way from the disaster that was the 2017 season. While the preseason can’t be deemed a complete turnaround, it does give plenty of hope to Broncos fans who are looking for it. If the Broncos were to match their totals in the preseason in every game, they would have been tied at fourth in scoring offense with the New Orleans Saints at 28 points per game. In the end, the slow starts against the Vikings and Bears raise some flags but overall, the Broncos’ offense looks to be better than last year’s.
That being said, looks can be deceiving. The 22nd Broncos offense from 2017 that was 31st in turnovers ended up scoring 26 points in their preseason so the question remains: how good is the Broncos offense really? Only time will tell.