From The Gazette's Paul Klee on Monday night at Broncos Stadium at Mile High:
1. Three words: Bradley Freakin’ Chubb. After the pass rusher wrecked Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers offense, it’s worth remembering that Von Miller went from 11.5 sacks as a rookie to 18.5 sacks in his second year. Chubb had 12 as a rookie. Hmmm. Here’s what he did in the first four possessions Monday: pressured Garoppolo into an interception, pressured Garoppolo into a near interception, strip-sacked C.J. Beathard (the 49ers recovered). Sheesh! In my seven seasons on the beat, I can’t think of a more impressive 23-year-old to roll through Dove Valley. Two more words: All-Pro.
2. For the Broncos, the path to the postseason looks like this: a defense that forces a bunch of turnovers, and an offense that exchanges those turnovers for touchdowns. So the Broncos are halfway there. It should have been two interceptions in two possessions, if Broncos cornerback De’Vante Bausby had held on to a pass from Garoppolo. But we’re starting to see what a Vic Fangio defense looks like. Surprises, like a cornerback blitz (Chris Harris Jr. from the slot) and the usual, a manic pass rush from the outside (Chubb and Von Miller). Still waiting to see if Rich Scangarello and Joe Flacco can hold up the offense’s end of the bargain. The first-team offense scored just three points in one quarter of work.
3. OK, why were Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Chubb still in the game at the end of the first quarter? As much of the NFL moves toward a preseason in which starters don’t play at all, the Broncos put their big-money guys on the field and kept them there for much longer than necessary. Sit 'em. Why risk injuries? Miller needs preseason reps like Denver needs more traffic. The Los Angeles Rams are next on the preseason schedule, and they do it right. The starters don’t play in the preseason.
4. Good to see DaeSean Hamilton make an appearance. After a training camp in which Hamilton made like a ghost, the Penn State grad finally got in on the action with a 13-yard catch in the first quarter. First down, Broncos, who are expecting a great deal from Hamilton. He closed his rookie season with 38 targets in the final four games — an extraordinary number, even taking into account the absence of Demaryius Thomas (trade) and Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles injury). And you know fantasy players in PPR leagues love a slot receiver with that many targets. But hold off on drafting Hamilton until we know for sure he’s Denver’s slot guy.
5. As we noted last week from Seattle, second-round pick Drew Lock moved into the No. 2 quarterback spot. He was promptly injured — right, throwing hand — and removed from the game. (We'll have an update on Lock's status on Gazette.com after Vic Fangio addresses the media after the game.) Also injured was Noah Fant, the first-round pick from Iowa. Athletic trainers appeared to be looking at his left leg or left foot, and the Broncos announced the injury as a foot injury. Fant did not return to the game, either. Did we mention this Broncos preseason is way too long? It's 53 days between the start of training camp and the regular-season opener at Oakland on Sept. 9. But not even the warmest home game in team history could melt away Broncos fans. With a kickoff temperature of 95 degrees, the Broncos announced a crowd of 59,232. It was also the first time since 2007 Denver played a Monday night game in the preseason.