Baq-to-baq Shaq Attaq
In a stunning sequence, Shaq Barrett closed out a Seahawks drive all by himself on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. Barrett had rushed quarterback Tavaris Jackson into an incomplete pass on second down, and then on third-and-10, Barrett beat the right tackle to the edge and closed on Jackson from behind for the sack as the pocket collapsed.
"I tried to look at the play clock like Von," Barrett said on Saturday. "He says 'Just look at the play clock and see if you can jump the snap off of that,' so I do that, got a pretty good get-off and just used the speed to get around the edge both times. Well, the first time I don't know what happened. It was like they didn't know the blocking scheme. I kind of got in there a little bit."
Barrett's game impressed multiple veterans on Friday, drawing big compliments from DE Antonio Smith and OLB Von Miller.
"It looked a little bit like to me like a veteran going against a bunch of rookies or a bunch of backups," Smith said. "He was at another level than those tackles that he was going against. You could tell every play he was beating them. It wasn't just the two he made the play on, I don't think they blocked him one time."
Added Miller: "I'm not surprised with Shaq. [He's] a natural pass rusher. He might not look like it, but I guarantee you that when you see him on the film, he has a large arsenal of moves. He understands how to pressure and how to stay in the lane and get there. Shaq is going to be great."
Barrett credited his effective game with a combination of developing moves and an added comfort level in his second year.
"[I'm] just working with some of the older guys on our outside linebacker corps," Barrett said. "They had been teaching me like long-gone moves and stuff and how to get off the ball and try to jump the snap occasionally. So I think that's key right there, trying to get off the ball like as soon as it's been snapped. If you get that, you could like probably get a sack almost half the time.
I'm just a little bit more comfortable than I was last year. [...] The game could be easier than practice because in practice you get a lot of reps and you go full speed all the time and then in the game you might get three plays and out and you probably won't exert all your energy in those three plays. So I just treat it like, I treat practice every day as a game and I just go out like that and let the chips fall in place."
Hillman provides rushing spark
While Brock Osweiler and the offensive line drew most of the attention Friday night against Seattle, running back Ronnie Hillman provided the balance on the ground that the team talked about throughout the offseason.
C.J. Anderson opened by rushing three times before leaving the game with an ankle injury, and from there Hillman, Montee Ball and Juwan Thompson split the carries at eight apiece. With 66 yards for an 8.3 yards-per-carry average, Hillman excelled in the new rushing scheme.
Take a look at the second half snapshots from the Broncos first preseason game in Seattle.
"He's patient and when he sees it, he makes that one cut and goes north and south and we've been doing a lot of that up front," guard Louis Vasquez said. "So it's kind of a combination of us up front and Ronnie just being a patient back of seeing what he sees and taking it."
Hillman's quickness and decisiveness looked like a dynamic combination in the new offense, but the fourth-year back also credited not just the change in scheme but the change in balance.
"I think that we emphasize it a lot more than we did in the past and it's paying off," Hillman said, before adding how well the offensive line played. "[...] I'm proud of those guys. They came in and did a good job. They pushed the D-line off the ball and they gave me a lot of lanes to run and made it easy for me."
And in the new structure of the offense, Friday's production seems to indicate a step toward the team's goal with a balanced offense to keep defenses off-balance.
"Just to start the game off like that... I think that's good," guard Max Garcia said. "It keeps them on their toes and keeps them guessing."
Shane Ray's first game
Broncos fans also got their first glimpses of what first-round pick Shane Ray can offer as a pass-rusher off the edge. Ray started in lieu of DeMarcus Ware at weakside linebacker and though the stat sheet only registers a couple marks, Ray had an greater impact in his first NFL experience.
On the defense's second series Ray's presence helped for a sack on Russell Wilson with the Seahawks marching into the red zone. From the 8-yard-line Wilson dropped back in the shotgun, and Ray gave pursuit from the edge, pushing Seahawks LT Russell Okung almost behind Wilson. The quarterback took a step back and as he began to look for running lanes, Malik Jackson closed in from the other side for the sack.
Later, in the second quarter, Ray poked the ball out from running back Christine Michael in the backfield, starting a scramble for the loose ball that ended up being an 18-yard loss by the time offensive lineman Alvin Bailey jumped on it.
It wasn't a game completely without miscues, however. Ray had an offsides penalty on the following play that nullified an impact play. But, after all, this is only the first game of the preseason.
"It was amazing," Ray said of his preseason debut. "It was a great feeling to go out there and compete and get back to just doing what I love, trying to get after the quarterback, getting to the ball. I mean, it's just hard to describe the feeling of playing your first NFL football game. I had such a great time tonight and I just want to keep getting better.
"[It's] finding what mistakes you made on film, critiquing yourself, taking your coach's critiques and just coming out and taking another step to the best you can be."
Von Miller, one of the veterans who's been giving Ray some tutelage in the offseason, said the opener was a game of which Ray can certainly a performance he had been anticipating.
"He made a whole bunch of plays," Miller said. "Practice is totally different from the game. He's been showing his stuff in practice but the game, that's what we was anxious to see and he came out there and held his own. For a first game in the NFL, I think he did pretty good. I think he should be proud of himself."
Antonio Smith getting back up to speed
Smith, who missed much of the offseason program, played eight defensive snaps against Seattle (12 percent of the total available snaps).
About a week ago Head Coach Gary Kubiak said Smith "has a ways to go. He's behind. He knows that, but he's working at it. [...] He has a ways to go, and we'll get there the right way."
Take a look at the first half snapshots from the Broncos first preseason game in Seattle.
However, the 12-year veteran defensive end said it wasn't a concern in Friday's game in Seattle, which might have helped his conditioning with the return to sea level from Denver.
"The conditioning is pretty good," Smith said after the game. "Working out and practicing in that altitude really kind of gets you in more extreme shape that you realize, so conditioning was pretty good. You've still got to knock off some cobwebs, still got to get you [to] find your groove, find your game. Each and every year you come into these preseason games and that's what you're doing. It's knocking off all the offseason and all the summer off before you get your rhythm back."