NFL News & Analysis

NFL Preseason Week 1 Game Recap: Denver Broncos 17, Dallas Cowboys 7

Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Josh Johnson (11) passes the ball in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In a battle between backups, the Denver Broncos came out victorious in their first preseason game of 2022, securing a 17-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night at Empower Field at Mile High.

Editor’s note: All grades in this article are subject to review. All PFF player grades will be finalized by 12 pm ET tomorrow.


DENVER BRONCOS

QUARTERBACK

  • Russell Wilson didn't suit up, so Josh Johnson was the Broncos' starting quarterback Saturday, and he did not disappoint. Finishing with an outstanding 90.0-plus initial passing grade, Johnson went 16-of-23 for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He also added two big-time throws.
  • Johnson's evening could have been even better, but Denver's pass-catchers dropped five of his passes, which is why he finished with an outstanding 95.5% adjusted completion rate.
  • Johnson's touchdown throw to Kendall Hinton was a beautifully placed deep ball down the sideline that just went over Cowboys cornerback Nahshon Wright‘s outstretched arms.

RUNNING BACK

  • With Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III on the sideline, Denver's rushing attack didn't have the same success as its passing game. Ultimately, Stevie Scott III was the only Broncos back to rush for more than 15 yards Saturday evening.
  • Even though the Broncos only averaged 1.8 yards per carry against Dallas, they accumulated 1.5 rushing yards after contact per attempt, which demonstrates the tough sledding Denver's backs had to deal with against Dallas' front.

RECEIVER/TIGHT END

  • While he only ran 11 routes, wide receiver Seth Williams made the most of his opportunities, securing four of his five targets for 29 yards and a touchdown en route to a 70.0-plus initial grade.
  • Williams' touchdown grab was an excellent job of the receiver attacking the ball at its highest point through contact for a contested-catch touchdown.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Denver's offensive line did a good job keeping its signal-callers upright Saturday, allowing only five pressures across 41 pass-blocking snaps.
  • Tackle Calvin Anderson put together a noteworthy performance Saturday, posting 70.0-plus initial grades in pass protection and as a run blocker. Anderson allowed zero pressures across 13 pass-blocking snaps

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Interior defender McTelvin Agim didn't record a pressure, but he did beat his blocker twice on plays where the pass was out to quickly. Ultimately, Agim led Denver's defensive line with a 70.0-plus initial pass-rushing grade.
  • Unfortunately, Denver didn't have a single interior defender register a 60.0-plus run defense grade.

LINEBACKER

  • Baron Browning looked at home at outside linebacker, as he made his presence felt across his 29 snaps Saturday. As a pass-rusher, the Ohio State product totaled a team-high four pressures, a 25.0% pass-rush win rate and a dominant 90.0-plus initial pass-rushing grade.
  • Even though he allowed completions on all five of his targets, Justin Strnad finished with two coverage stops and five tackles en route to a 75.0-plus initial coverage grade.

SECONDARY

  • Safety P.J. Locke was Denver's highest-graded defender Saturday night, finishing with a 93.0-plus initial grade after securing the team's lone interception.
  • Safety Caden Sterns led the way for Denver's run defense, as he secured a team-high two run stops en route to a 70.0-plus initial run defense grade.

DALLAS COWBOYS

QUARTERBACK

  • With Dak Prescott taking the night off, Cooper Rush was the Cowboys' starting quarterback Saturday night. Unfortunately, Rush struggled for the entire first half, finishing with a sub-60.0 initial passing grade.
  • Ultimately, Rush finished 12-of-20 for 84 yards and an interception. Making matters worse, Rush finished with a disheartening 3.2-yard average depth of target in addition to accumulating two turnover-worthy plays.

RUNNING BACK

  • Rico Dowdle led the way for Dallas' rushing attack, carrying the rock nine times for 36 yards. He also forced a missed tackle.
  • Aaron Shampklin and Malik Davis did well with their opportunities, as both forced two missed tackles and finished with 75.0-plus rushing grades on initial review.

RECEIVER/TIGHT END

  • Due to Dallas' struggles at quarterback, it was difficult to get a true gauge of the team's pass-catchers Saturday night. Rookie tight end Jake Ferguson was one of the few Cowboys who received some opportunities to produce, and he finished with three catches from three targets for 29 yards en route to a 63.0-plus initial receiving grade.
  • Rookie Jalen Tolbert was targeted most often among Dallas receivers, but he only hauled in two of his six targets for 10 yards. He also dropped a pass, so it wasn't an ideal start for the rookie.
  • While it took until late in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Simi Fehoko, who has reportedly impressed during training camp, hauled in Dallas' only touchdown of the game. Fehoko used his physicality to create late separation coming out of his break, which gave Ben Dinucci the window to make the touchdown pass.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Rookie left guard Tyler Smith was penalized a couple of times, but all things he considered, he performed admirably, especially in pass protection, where he finished with an 80.0-plus initial grade from 21 pass-blocking snaps.
  • Embroiled in competition with Smith for the starting left guard position, Connor McGovern had a similarly impressive performance in pass protection, as he also finished with an 80.0-plus initial grade across 21 pass-blocking snaps.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Nose tackle Quinton Bohanna led the way for the Cowboys in terms of run stops, finishing with three stops across nine run-defense snaps. Edge defender Tarell Basham posted one of Dallas' best run-defense grades, finishing with a 75.0-plus initial mark in that facet.
  • Dallas' pass rush struggled mightily all evening, as the defensive line only accounted for two total pressures.

LINEBACKER

  • Without Micah Parsons on the sideline, Malik Jefferson appeared to have the best performance among Dallas' linebackers, as he finished with a 70.0-plus initial run defense in addition to securing a tackle for loss/no gain.

SECONDARY

  • With Dallas' top three cornerbacks secure in their spot on the depth chart and sitting out Saturday night, second-year players Nahshon Wright and Kelvin Joseph failed to take advantage of their opportunities to establish themselves as the team's definitive No. 4 cornerback.
  • Both Wright and Joseph allowed a touchdown and finished with sub-60.0 coverage grades, but the Broncos picked on the former throughout the first half, completing on all eight of their targets toward Wright's coverage for 125 passing yards.
  • Rookie DaRon Bland made one of the unit's notable plays, as he helped blow up a first-quarter screen to end the Broncos' first drive.
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