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Mile High Morning: After Broncos' rookies pressed into big roles in season opener, here's how they did

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The Lead

We already knew the Broncos' rookie class would see plenty of action this season. But I'm not sure we expected it to happen so quickly.

Lloyd Cushenberry III was the only rookie to start, as Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton started at receiver over first-round pick Jerry Jeudy, but both of them had large roles on offense regardless of whether they played the first snap.

Cushenberry appeared to hold up well at the pivot, as the Broncos' offensive line allowed zero sacks and helped the rushing attack average 4.1 yards per carry.

"It was an impressive debut for the Broncos' third-round selection, particularly in the run game," Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey wrote in his game recap. "He should end up as one of Denver's higher-graded offensive players upon grade review tomorrow."

As for the Broncos' first round-pick, we took a closer look at his performance after the game concluded, but Linsey agreed that Jeudy, who finished with four catches for 56 yards, still was a tantalizing talent in spite of his two drops.

"His releases, the crispness to his routes and his ability to create with the ball in his hands all jumped off the screen," Linsey wrote. "Unfortunately, so did a couple of drops, but you'll live with those given what he brings to the table offensively."

The only other rookie on offense who played was Tyrie Cleveland, who had a memorable stiff-arm on his one catch for 7 yards.

Defensively, the Broncos were forced to rely on their rookies perhaps more than they expected to after cornerback A.J. Bouye exited the game with a shoulder injury during the second quarter.

After his departure, third-round pick Michael Ojemudia and undrafted rookie Essang Bassey took on larger roles. Bassey had five tackles, including one tackle for loss, while Ojemudia had two tackles and a pass breakup, and he nearly had an interception, though it was negated by penalty. However, a late pass interference penalty on Ojemudia provided the Titans with extra yardage in the final two minutes.

Still, considering it was their first NFL games, it was a good start.

"I thought they played really well," safety Justin Simmons said after the game. "From my point of view, they tackled really well and were competing for balls in the passing game. It was a great first game for those guys, being able to go up against a team that made it to the AFC Championship Game and play against guys that play really well across the board for Tennessee. They got some real-life reps with some of the best in the league and against one of the best teams. It was just a big learning curve and I think as a secondary we just have to be able to work with each other and continue to keep growing."

And finally, to wrap things up, two rookies made notable contributions on special teams. Long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer helped ensure punter Sam Martin and kicker Brandon McManus performed well; Martin averaged 46.4 yards per punt, and McManus was accurate on each of his extra-point attempts. Seventh-round pick Derrek Tuszka also contributed in punt coverage with a tackle.

Below the Fold

ESPN's Jeff Legwold also thought the kids were all right. "The early returns, even without rookie KJ Hamler or Sutton in the lineup because of injuries, were that they can move the ball against even a skilled defense," Legwold wrote.

Yes, the outcome of the season opener is a downer. Still, there are players who should be recognized for their play on Monday night. The Denver Post's Matt Schubert highlighted Jeremiah Attaochu, Josey Jewell, Noah Fant and Martin as his four standouts.

The Unclassifieds

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