Broncos Takeaways: Sharp debuts for Von Miller, Melvin Gordon and starting defense using only sub packages

Twelve takeaways from the Broncos’ 17-12 preseason win over the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night: 1. Broncos coach Vic Fangio and Rams coach Sean McVay took opposite approaches to the exhibition season. McVay didn’t play any of his starters this month and only 46 of 80 players saw action Saturday. Fangio played 73 of […]

Broncos Takeaways: Sharp debuts for Von Miller, Melvin Gordon and starting defense using only sub packages

Twelve takeaways from the Broncos’ 17-12 preseason win over the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night:

1. Broncos coach Vic Fangio and Rams coach Sean McVay took opposite approaches to the exhibition season. McVay didn’t play any of his starters this month and only 46 of 80 players saw action Saturday. Fangio played 73 of his 80 players; the only healthy player to sit out was running back Javonte Williams. Fangio said the Broncos had seen enough of Williams (12 rushes-49 yards) and wanted to feature Melvin Gordon and the younger backs.

2. Playing time notes (offense): Quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock each played 19 snaps. The starting offensive line played 10 snaps together and left guard Dalton Risner, right tackle Bobby Massie and center Lloyd Cushenberry stayed on the field for Bridgewater’s final drive (nine plays). Receiver Jerry Jeudy was managed (eight snaps), but Courtland Sutton got a good test (18 snaps). Among the back-ups, right/left tackle Calvin Anderson led with 47 snaps.

3. Playing time notes (defense): Down to four healthy safeties meant three quarters for P.J. Locke and Jamar Johnson, both of whom played 49 snaps. The starters played three series and safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson and cornerbacks Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan played all 24 snaps. Twenty-four players on defense saw at least 20 snaps of work. Cornerback Pat Surtain II played only 11 snaps.

4. A more-than-serviceable debut for outside linebacker Von Miller (21 snaps), who was credited with three tackles (all in the run game). “Whenever you’re at rehab, all you think about is, ‘Man, I can’t wait to play football,’” Miller said. “And when you get out there, you don’t think about it. It’s always the next play.”

5. In the 38 snaps for Bridgewater and Lock, the Broncos used five personnel groupings. They had 17 snaps of “11” (3WR-1RB-1TE), 10 snaps of “12” (2WR-1RB-2TE), six snaps of “21” (2WR-2RB-1TE), four snaps of “22” (1WR-2RB-2TE) and one snap of “13” (1WR-1RB-3TE).

6. Bridgewater’s first drive had incompletions on passes that traveled six, three, six and eight yards downfield. His second drive were passes of two (four-yard completion) and one yard downfield. His final drive was by far his best. The passes traveled four, six, one, 17 and eight “air” yards. Sutton’s 19-yard catch (two post-catch yards) showed he feels good about his repaired left ACL — he planted his foot into the ground to change his route and create separation. On the touchdown (eight yards to Sutton), Anderson allowed the quarterback pressure, but Bridgewater moved left and threw in 4.35 seconds.

7. Gordon played in his first preseason game since 2018 and rushed five times for 35 yards in nine snaps. He gained 15 yards to the right when Glasgow blocked defensive tackle Armon Watts and Massie sealed out linebacker Cameron Smith. On the next drive, he gained four yards after breaking a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

8. The first-team defense had 14 pass-rush opportunities against Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins. The breakdown — rush three (once), rush four (seven times), rush five (five) and rush six (once). Perkins scrambled four times. On the defense’s last snap, the Broncos rushed six against a six-man protection and inside linebacker Josey Jewell beat running back Xavier Jones for the sack in 2.33 seconds.

9. Fangio didn’t use his base defense during the starters’ three series and mixed up his sub packages. He started the game with a base-look up front (three DL), but with three linebackers and five defensive backs. On the initial third down, the Broncos used their dime package, which brought Surtain onto the field as a sixth defensive back. On the second drive, Fangio used his traditional nickel (2DL-2ILB-2OLB-3CB-2S).