The Denver Broncos held some of their biggest names out of their preseason opener Friday night, including quarterback Peyton Manning as well as wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but they flashed plenty of team speed, a get-after-it defense and more power in the run game in a 22-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
QB depth chart: With Manning on the sideline, the Broncos gave backup Brock Osweiler a half of work and while he had a moment or two when he tried to make too big a play down the field when a better option was available underneath, he was sharp overall and comfortable in the offense, finishing 15-of-20 passing for 151 yards to go with a touchdown. Zac Dysert looked decidedly unsettled (2-of-5 passing for 14 yards) in a little over a quarter, and rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian came in with just over 13 minutes left in the game.
Maybe that dude could start: Ronnie Hillman has been a starter at times during his career in Denver and at times he has not always played to his potential. But Friday night, against Seahawks reserves on defense, Hillman showed decisiveness and explosiveness with 66 yards on eight carries. He won’t start in the offense, but his quickness offers a dimension the team’s other backs don’t have. And he has to make it with what he does on offense since he does not have much of a role on special teams.
Who got hurt? The initial reports were the Broncos escaped healthy. Running back C.J. Anderson left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury -- trainers checked his right ankle when he reached the bench area -- after being pulled down awkwardly on a run. Trainers looked at Anderson briefly, but then moved on. Still, Anderson did not return.
Surprise performer who looks amazing: The Broncos got an extended look at outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett on their practice squad for much of the 2014 season. But Barrett caught the coaches’ collective eye in the offseason program with his fitness level and kept his momentum of training camp in the preseason opener. Barrett blew up a pass play in the first quarter chasing down Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and then sacked Jackson on the next play.
Rookie watch: Left tackle Ty Sambrailo had some bobbles early in the game against an active Seattle defensive front, but seemed to settle down a bit as the Broncos cranked up the run game. Rookie Max Garcia started at left guard and held his own. Outside linebacker Shane Ray got the start in place of DeMarcus Ware and forced a fumble in the second quarter.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Broncos looked … : Settled in and comfortable in new schemes on offense and defense. They Broncos didn’t game plan, but they executed on both sides of the ball. On special teams? Another story, as the coverage units from top to bottom on the depth chart had issues.
One reason to freak out -- in a good way: Though Von Miller played only a smattering of snaps, it was enough to see his dominance of training camp practices will transfer to games quite nicely. If he stays healthy, Miller is simply poised for a career year in a defense that will create ways to turn him loose.
Rush hour: Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips promised early on he planned on setting the Broncos' pass-rushers loose. And though the Broncos weren’t working with much of a game plan, the pass-rushers were set loose. The Broncos had three sacks in the first quarter, including a strip sack-forced fumble by Miller on Russell Wilson. Malik Jackson consistently created pressure, and the Broncos finished with seven sacks in the game.
Not special: The Broncos surrendered a 46-yard kickoff return to Seahawks rookie Tyler Lockett early in the first quarter and then failed to corral Lockett in the second quarter when he uncorked a 103-yard return for a score. The Broncos have plenty of team speed across the depth chart, but still failed to keep Lockett away from the sideline on either return. Reserve cornerback Curtis Marsh had to make a diving tackle on another Seahawks kickoff return in the second quarter to save what would have been another touchdown return. Solomon Patton was also forced to recover his own fumble on a punt return in the first half as well and Jordan Norwood fumbled a punt in the third quarter.