Matchup number one of the Minnesota Vikings’ preseason schedule is finally here! Tonight, the Vikings will take on the Denver Broncos at
Invesco Field Sports Authority Field Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
The Broncos are a team that has seen a whirlwind of change since winning Super Bowl 50 (the only Super Bowl not to be named using Roman numerals, BTW). The game was played less than two years ago, and in that time the team has changed quarterbacks, coaches, and coordinators - oh MY! And now the team - under the close watch of Broncos legend and current GM John Elway - has its sights set on contending for a championship once again.
The Broncos on Offense
After experimenting with Brock Osweiller and current Viking Trevor Seimian, the man Elway has chosen to lead the team is none other than former Viking Case Keenum. By all accounts, Keenum has looked great in camp so far and is being universally praised by teammates. From our friends at Mile High Report:
“I’m out here having fun and [Case] is dropping some dimes,” Sanders said Tuesday. “Musgrave is calling all the plays, and he’s trying to spread the ball around. It smells like football. It doesn’t seem like it’s so hard. It’s easy, and it’s fun.”
The “Musgrave” that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is referring to is none other than former Viking’s offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Musgrave took over playcalling duties for the Broncos late in the 2017, when Mike McCoy was fired. In Musgrave’s system, Adrian Peterson earned the AP Offensive Player of the Year award after rushing for 2,097 yards.
Musgrave probably doesn’t have a 2,000 yard rusher on his roster, but that doesn’t mean that the Broncos’ backfield doesn’t have some talent. They added Royce Freeman from the University of Oregon in the third round of the 2018 draft. He has been getting some high praise in camp so far, and seems to be pushing incumbent Devontae Booker for the starting job.
One source of frustration for Broncos fans in 2017 was their poor Offensive Line play. They had invested a first round pick in tackle Garett Bolles, who started all sixteen games but struggled with penalties. Also new to the team was Ronald Leary, a guard the team picked up in free agency after he had some success in Dallas. Even with those acquisitions, and the signing of tackle Menelik Watson, the unit struggled. The Broncos made a change, firing former Vikings Line Coach Jeff Davidson, and replacing him with Sean Kugler, who coaches Centers and Guards, and Chris Strauser, who coaches the tackles. This season, Leary has taken Bolles under his wing, and so far it seems to be paying dividends. Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe feels that the line play has improved significantly over last year.
“No offense, but last year it felt like we could get by them at will. This year it’s not like that at all. They’re getting a lot better.”
Coming in to this season, the Broncos were already talented at Wide Receiver, with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. But another player who’s been wowing in camp is rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton, whose highlight reel catches, and athleticism have the second round pick in line for a significant role on the Broncos’ offense.
Guess what?— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) August 4, 2018
Courtland Sutton just had a 95-yard touchdown.
Oh... and he drew a PI on Bradley Roby in the process.
Apparently, his ball skills and rapport with Case Keenum have been reeeeeaaaaaaaly good!
Case Keenum just threw a ball over 100 yards in the air to Courtland Sutton who caught the ball over Roby. Roby was grabbing Sutton's face mask and punching him in the stomach, and Sutton used only his mind to make the catch as both hands were tied behind his back. #BroncosCamp— ThatsGoodSports (@BrandonPerna) August 4, 2018
Why couldn’t Case Keenum get that type of production out of Laquon Treadwell last season, dammit?!
There’s a really good chance that we’ll see Sutton lined up against Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes, or Holton Hill tonight, which could be a strong indicator of where the Vikings’ DB’s are right now, in terms of their development.
The Broncos on Defense
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos were still a top-five unit in 2017. The vaunted “No-Fly Zone” defense backfield remains mostly intact, although the loss of cornerback Aqib Talib certainly puts a dent in it. Talib was traded in the offseason to the Los Angeles Rams for a fifth round pick. Bradley Roby now takes over Taib’s old spot across from Chris Harris, Jr.
In the Broncos defensive scheme, most of the quarterback pressure comes from the linebacker spot, and mostly from Von Miller. Shane Ray, who was projected to start across from Miller is trying to reclaim some of the career momentum he lost last season, when he tore ligaments in his wrist, and struggled with pain all season. The former first round pick out of Missouri avoided surgery on his wrist, and may be ready to start the regular season. The Broncos seem to be moving on from Ray - who, incidentally, is the son of former Vikings 1981 fifth-round draft pick Wendell Ray. They declined his fifth year option and selected Edge Rusher Bradley Chubb with their first round pick, number five overall.
Chubb has already been named starter opposite Von Miller, and will probably see significant playing time tonight against the Vikings’ second team offensive line. He may be matched up for significant reps against either Brian O’Niell or Aviante Collins. Again, this should be a fairly good indicator of the progress the young linemen have made. Chubb, like several Vikings players, is looking forward to tonight’s game.
“I’m tired of hitting my own teammates,” Chubb said. “It’s going to be fun and go out there and hit somebody else.”
After the shenanigans in Vikings camp earlier this week, I think we can all agree on that sentiment.
Ridiculous Quote of the Week:
The 2018 seasons first RQOTW comes courtesy of Broncos All-Pro Cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. He gave his opinion on the Broncos’ offense, saying,
”I feel like Case and them are clicking right now, and I expect them to put up points. I don’t see anybody just shutting them down like that with our receivers that we got. Our O-line is way better. I see them putting up points. At least 30 a game.”
Maybe Chris, Case, and Courtland prove me wrong this year, but that seems a little far-fetched.