The Denver Broncos kicked off a new season on Sunday, and it looked a lot like an old season.
Similar to last year, it was a winnable game in which Denver squandered opportunities and made little mistakes that added up to a one-point loss.
Following a disappointing loss to a division rival, the Broncos have once again started 0-1 after an offseason of raised expectations, just like last year. Here are ten takeaways from Sunday’s defeat at home.
Penalties are still a concern
Broncos new coach Sean Payton emphasized cutting down penalties this offseason. Apparently, more emphasis is needed. Denver was penalized 10 times for 97 yards on Sunday. In a one-point game in which every yard mattered, those penalties were costly. Even after moving on from Nathaniel Hackett, the Broncos are still an undisciplined team. Payton needs to fix that.
Damarri Mathis doesn't look like the answer at CB2
The Broncos did not sign any top cornerbacks in free agency in part because Mathis played well as a rookie last season. Denver did use a third-round draft pick to select Riley Moss in April, but Moss missed Sunday’s game with an abdomen injury. Once he’s fully healthy, the Broncos will need Moss to step up sooner than later after an underwhelming showing from Mathis in Week 1. After allowing two touchdowns, Mathis is on the hot seat.
Denver limited Josh Jacobs' impact
Jacobs has been a thorn in the Broncos’ side in recent years, gaining 879 yards from scrimmage and scoring nine touchdowns in his last seven games against Denver going into Sunday. Vance Joseph’s unit did a better job this time, limiting Jacobs to 48 yards on 19 carries, a pedestrian 2.5-yards per carry average. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to secure a win as Jimmy Garoppolo went 20-of-26 passing with two touchdowns.
Adam Trautman's starting role becomes clear
When the Broncos released their first depth chart earlier this year with Trautman listed above Greg Dulcich on the depth chart, it was puzzling to some fans. The reason became clear on Sunday. One play after Dulcich hauled in a 13-yard reception in the first quarter, he whiffed on a block on a run play. Dulcich is easily the team’s best receiving tight end, but Trautman is a more complete TE at the moment, which is why he’s TE1.
Wil Lutz is off to a troubling start
After cutting Elliott Fry and Brett Maher this summer, Payton traded a seventh-round pick to the Saints to acquire Lutz. In his first game as a Bronco, Lutz missed an extra point before later missing a 55-yard field goal attempt. He did later convert a PAT and a 24-yard field goal, but Lutz’s two misses could have added four points in a contest that was ultimately decided by one point. Meanwhile, Brandon McManus (Jaguars) went 4-of-4 on PATs and 1-of-1 on FGs on Sunday. Maher (Rams) went 3-of-5 on FGs and 3-of-3 on PATs in Week 1.
Javonte Williams looks healthy
In his first (regular season) game back from last year’s knee injury, Williams did not appear to have any limitations. He rushed 13 times for 52 yards and hauled in four receptions for five yards. Sunday’s game obviously didn’t end the way Denver hoped it would, but it’s great to see Williams healthy again.
Samaje Perine is a capable RB2
This isn’t a new development — Perine was an excellent RB2 in Cincinnati — but the veteran looked good in his Bronco debut on Sunday. Perine rushed eight times for 41 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and caught four receptions for a team-high 37 receiving yards. He’s going to be an important part of the offense this fall.
Injury woes return
In addition to losing the game, the Broncos also lost safety Caden Sterns (knee) and tight end Greg Dulcich (hamstring) to injuries on Sunday. Payton did not have updates on the statuses of either player immediately after the game, but it might be a serious injury for Sterns. Kareem Jackson and Sterns had been listed as co-starters on the depth chart before Sunday. If Dulcich has to miss any games, it might mean more snaps for rookie Nate Adkins.
Russell Wilson looked better, but not perfect
Overall, Wilson’s first game under Payton was mostly positive. The veteran quarterback went 27-of-34 passing (including one spike) for 177 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. Wilson was sacked twice but otherwise did a pretty good job keeping plays alive with his feet. Wilson took a few shots downfield but mostly operated a dink-and-dunk attack and he looked at his best when on the move. Wilson targeted 11 different players and 10 different Broncos hauled in at least one catch. The operation wasn’t all positive as the team had to waste one timeout when Wilson didn’t snap the ball in time, something that carried over from last season. It wasn’t a bad showing from Wilson, but there’s room for improvement.
Sean Payton era off to an underwhelming start
After all the talk of Denver’s offense improving this offseason, the Broncos still only managed to score 16 points in Payton’s debut. The new coach also decided to begin the game with an onside kick — Denver nearly pulled it off, but Tremon Smith was penalized for touching the ball just before it went 10 yards. Payton’s decision ultimately backfired as the Raiders went on to score the game’s opening touchdown. There were positives to take away from Sunday’s game — some of them listed above — but at the end of the day, Payton is 0-1 after losing a winnable game at home. Broncos fans will hope the coach can get his first win against Washington next week.