What We Saw: Preseason Week 1

The WWS Team recaps the first week of the NFL Preseason

Cowboys @ Broncos 

Final Score: Broncos 17, Cowboys 7

Writer: Chris Sanzo (@Doombot12_FF on Twitter)


As a disclaimer, this game did nothing to answer questions about Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, CeeDee Lamb, or really anything pressing regarding first-team players. However, it did help provide a first step in clarifying which players should be on our radars and which will probably not make the cuts. It was also a reminder that Josh Johnson is the guy you want backing up your starting QB. The only time the game felt like a week 1 matchup was when Josh took over with his strong arm, oozing confidence all over the scoreboard. On the opposing sideline, Cooper Rush showed us why Dallas has an annual backup QB battle.

Ultimately, this game was decided when the Cowboys had no answer for Josh Johnson and the Broncos’ pass catchers, which ended the first half with three straight scoring possessions and a 17-0 lead. Ben DiNucci would get Dallas on the board with a touchdown throw to Simi Fehoko, but it was too little too late as the Broncos defeated the Cowboys, 17-7.


Dallas Cowboys




Cooper Rush: 12/20, 84 yards, INT | 1 carry, 9 yards

Ben Dinucci: 9/16, 112 yards, TD| 3 carries, 13 yards


Cooper Rush played into the 3rd Quarter but did very little to deserve it. The wideouts weren’t giving him a whole lot to work with, but he was consistently late with the ball and couldn’t deal with the pressure from the Broncos defensive line. He played conservatively, if not scared, and only had a few throws that showed why Dallas keeps him around. For a preseason game, you expect closer to Ben DiNucci‘s outing. He played loose and wasn’t afraid to air it out. Down 17 points, Dinucci would deliver a dime from his own end zone to start a drive that would put them in position to attempt a field goal to try and get on the board. DiNucci also led the Cowboys’ only scoring drive that gained 88 yards on 19(!) plays. It will be challenging to justify the depth chart if the preseason continues this way and Rush remains the top option.



Running Backs


Malik Davis: 8 carries, 51 yards | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 16 yards

Rico Dowdle: 9 carries, 36 yards

Aaron Shampklin: 7 carries, 32 yards | 1 target, 1 reception


If not for the defensive line, this would have been Dallas’ best group of the game. They ran hard and hit the holes with speed and power. RB Rico Dowdle had a slow start, but the blocking in front of him started very poorly. Thankfully, they were able to wake up and Rico started to hit the spin moves. He did well to deflect hits and still pickup short yardage when he was called on to do so. RB Aaron Shampklin played a larger role late and acted as a gadget type player roaming across the formation, but the best back of the game was RB Malik Davis. It’s a true shame that it would take a wild scenario to get Davis playing with the first team and seeing meaningful snaps, because he looks like he can really go. He showed impressive vision for a rookie, especially one that wasn’t heavily featured in college. His ability to see the hole, make one cut, and then hit it with a burst flew off the screen.



Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Brandon Smith: 1 target, 1 reception, 40 yards

Jake Ferguson: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 29 yards

Simi Fehoko: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 18 yards, TD

Dennis Houston: 2 targets, 2 reception, 18 yards

Jeremy Sprinkle: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards

Dontario Drummond: 2 targets, 1 reception, 13 yards

Peyton Hendershot: 4 target, 2 receptions, 13 yards

KaVontae Turpin: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 12 yards

T.J. Vasher: 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards

Jalen Tolbert: 7 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards


It may not be the stat line you would hope to see from Jalen Tolbert, but it was an important showing regardless. Touted as little more than a deep threat, he ran his best routes over the middle of the field and his In routes were far cleaner than expected. He was the only receiver that created separation with any consistency. Jake Ferguson looked like an NFL tight end. This was another day at work for a guy that seems close to pro ready. He was able to maintain separation on linebackers trying to cover him, attacked each catch point with his hands, and even played a little defense, breaking up a would-be interception. It was a very impressive outing for the rookie. Simi Fehoko and Dennis Houston have been camp darlings but neither stood out between the 20s. The lone bright spot was that Simi did have a touchdown created by his own awareness to sit in the correct pocket against zone to setup their only score.



Denver Broncos




Josh Johnson: 16/23, 172 yards, 2 TD | 1 carry, 3 yards

Brett Rypien: 8/18, 113 yards | 2 carries, -2 yards


Josh Johnson won this game. For whatever that’s worth, it happened. He showed again why he deserves to be where he is and is a top 40 QB in the league. He led the Broncos on all three of their scoring drives, including moving 56 yards in 62 seconds to end the first half with a Brandon McManus 52 yard field goal. He was poised, threw with purpose, moved around the pocket well, and even though he started slowly, showed off his ability to control all three levels when he gets it going. Brett Rypien is doing his best Fitzmagic impersonation. He has absolutely no fear and just lets it rip. He showed a great connection with Jalen Virgil and should provide good depth for Denver. Unlike Dallas, there is a clear pecking order.



Running Backs


Stevie Scott III: 6 carries, 20 yards | 1 target

Jaquan Hardy: 5 carries, 13 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 8 yards

Max Borghi: 4 carries, 10 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, -1 yard

Mike Boone: 3 carries, -1 yard | 1 target


This group may as well have just taken the night off. It was abysmal. The offensive line was eaten up in the run game and the backs did absolutely nothing to help the cause. They missed the few holes that were opened, and more often, found themselves in a dangerous position the second they received the handoff. Poor Mike Boone was absolutely swallowed up by Nevill Gallimore on their first offensive play of the game. It didn’t get much better from there. Max Borghi, already on his second team was effective between the tackles in moving the pile in the red zone, but when that’s your positive, you know it was a day to forget.



Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Jalen Virgil: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 83 yards

Brandon Johnson: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 64 yards

Kendall Hinton: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 53 yards, TD

Seth Williams: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 29 yards, TD

Eric Tomlinson: 1 target, 1 reception, 17 yards

Travis Fulgham: 3 targets, 1 reception, 11 yards

Darrius Shepherd: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards

JaQuan Hardy: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 8 yards

Montrell Washington: 4 target, 2 receptions, 8 yards

Trey Quinn: 4 targets, 1 reception, 2 yards


Although the Broncos couldn’t get anything going on the ground, they were very effective in the air. Jalen Virgil proved to have built good rapport with Brett Rypien and the two connected on arguably the most exciting play of the game, a 42 yard strike down the sideline during which Virgil gets by his man in coverage and then takes a hit as he’s catching it. Brandon Johnson, Kendall Hinton, and Seth Williams were essentially interchangeable. None were explosive or intimidating, but all three routinely got open in every level of the zone. It spoke more about the lack of depth and ability in the Cowboys’ secondary than it did about the Broncos’ receiving corps. Still to not take anything away from them, routes were clean, timing was there, and it was a massive advantage for Denver to have someone like Johnson throwing to wideouts that haven’t even turned their heads. Really encouraging performance overall for this group.


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