Which Broncos shined in the pre-season?
By: Steven Johnson
This preseason, the Denver Broncos had plenty of young standout players shine in their limited action. This article will look at three of the players that may have secured a roster spot based on their breakout performance this preseason.
1. WR-Trinity Benson
Getting the obvious out of the way early, Trinity Benson was a superstar. Playing in all three games as a receiver and a returner for the team, Benson locked himself into a roster spot. He finished the preseason with 80 yards and 2 touchdowns on eight catches. While this stat line isn’t eye-popping, in the preseason with limited reps, it shows Benson as a reliable target. Only a rookie this season, Benson showed a connection with every quarterback at some point and also handled return duties. Special teams coach Tom McMahon spoke highly of Benson as well, suggesting if nothing else he could be kept on for special team duties. In a deep wide receiver room this season, Benson was able to make his name stand out beside the likes of Jerry Jeudy and K.J Hamler. Benson will be a good rotational piece for the Broncos as Hamler, Jeudy and Courtland Sutton need breaks and the season wears on player’s bodies. With how many receivers the Broncos have kept in the past, and Benson being a standout behind the top four or so receivers in front of him, it would be hard to imagine him not having playtime throughout the regular season.
2. OLB- Jonathon Cooper
Cooper was a wrecking ball this preseason in place of starters. Cooper enjoyed snaps While Von Miller was eased into action and Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed took limited reps. Cooper finished his preseason action with five solo tackles, one forced fumble, and one sack in three games. Coach Vic Fangio has spoken out about Cooper himself after Denver’s second preseason game. Fangio told the media “You know, we’re expecting him to be a rotational guy for us behind Bradley and Von, and hopefully, he did some good in the special team because we’re going to need him there.”
While praise for Cooper and seemingly a nod to a roster spot, this was only after the team’s second preseason game. Cooper went out the next week and continued to impress, only building on the hype the coaches have seemingly put around him. With his rookie season underway, it seems as if Cooper will enjoy plenty of rotational play behind Miller and Chubb for this fearsome Broncos defense this season. With both rushers previously missing time due to injury, it would be smart for the Broncos to invest in a young, explosive pass rusher like Cooper to have to wait in the wings. With how the Denver defensive line tends to rotate as well, one can expect Cooper to have an impact at some point in most games this season.
3. TE- Eric Saubert
While the tight end room is considered relatively solid with the return of a healthy Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert may have carved himself a role with the Broncos after a solid preseason outing. Unlike the others, Saubert has been in the league and has spent time on NFL rosters before. Playing for the Falcons, Bears, and Jaguars, Saubert knows what it takes to make it as a tight end in the NFL. While not having much production with teams before, Saubert had himself an impressive preseason with the Broncos. Providing utility on special teams and blocking on the line, Saubert is emerging as a utility tight end. His stats of five catches for 74 yards throughout the preseason shows a big, safe target who isn’t afraid to get in the trenches and block as well. I believe that his usefulness in the special teams game and his emergence as a target for the Denver quarterbacks may see him sneak onto the final roster this season. One last thing that may push the balance in Saubert’s favor is the injury history of the other Bronco tight ends coming into this season. If something were to happen, Saubert could step in immediately to try and fill the hole left.
This preseason, the Bronco players showcased the talent and spirit to compete across all three of their games. While many stood out, not all will find a space on the roster come final cutdown day. While unfortunate, it is good to see so many young and experienced players alike making the most of the opportunities to try and find themselves a spot on an NFL-caliber team. The likes of rookies such as Benson and Cooper took their chance and ran with it, while those vets such as Saubert came in with a willingness to compete and find a role that fits the team they are playing for. The competition of preseason football may not be as exciting for fans as the regular season but the intensity and the opportunity to find gems is equal to if not greater than any other time in football.