Trevor Siemian played well enough during the first half Saturday to likely hold off Mark Sanchez and/or Paxton Lynch for at least a few weeks. Siemian ended his night completing 10 of 17 passes for 122 yards, a touchdown and a pick. While nothing about his performance was spectacular, it represented the foundational level of what we expect from a quarterback in this offense. He throws fairly well on the run and, like any quarterback with so little playing time, is still working on how to cut down on negative plays.
"I'm impressed," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said about Siemian after the game. "I think he's very calm. I can tell by the way he handles the team in the huddle. He has control of what's going on.
"What I see is a guy getting better. Every timeout, working really hard, like they all have. I think he's made some strides and I thought he did a good job tonight."
Sanchez remained on the bench, leading us to believe one of three scenarios:
» The Broncos wanted an extended look at Lynch on Saturday. If they cut Sanchez they can still reclaim the conditional pick they dealt for him, plus save a roster spot and $5 million. Lynch struggled with his accuracy but still has a massive arm and more natural athleticism than any passer taken in the first round of this year's draft. That alone might be enough to help win games for Denver if it makes a change beyond Siemian.
» The Broncos decide Sanchez is staying on the roster but they do not want to get him hurt, forcing them to break in another backup. Given that Sanchez is a veteran, they could decide they know enough about his game already.
» The Broncos are still trying to light a fire under Sanchez and bring out the best in him before the preseason finale.
Who said the preseason wasn't ripe with drama?
Here's what else we learned from Saturday's preseason games:
- The Giants mercifully ended their preseason scoreless streak after 10 quarters, but not while Eli Manning was in the game. A few of the mistakes from the Giants' first-string offense were excusable -- Odell Beckham, for example, short-armed a pass with a defender closing down on him at rapid speed, which led to a Darrelle Revis interception -- but they have not done anything particularly well in the preseason. While this can also be blamed on the milquetoast play-calling, we did see several regular season looks typically deployed by coach Ben McAdoo on offense and they were not executed well. The one bonus? It was nice to see Victor Cruz make his first in-game catch in almost two years.
- Christian Hackenberg made his preseason debut to mixed results. It was a short stint that, in a way, perfectly encapsulated every boom-or-bust scouting report that has been written about the Penn State product over the last six months. His first drive saw the Jets march down the field for a touchdown. Hackenberg hit on 4 of 6 passes and seemed to get better with each throw on the drive. His next stint? A pick deep in Jets territory on a ball heaved directly into a high traffic area. The Giants ended up scoring and, eventually, winning the coveted Snoopy Bowl trophy. Good grief. At this point, the Jets need to get creative at the quarterback position. It's become exceedingly clear that Geno Smith is their second-best option and that rolling with Bryce Petty would be far too risky. Hackenberg is a year away from inserting himself into the backup conversation.
- Matt Forte got a heavy workload early on and looked fine. The veteran running back carried the ball 10 times for 28 yards. The Jets clearly wanted to get him stretched out before the regular-season opener. His presence continues to make us believe that he'll be a massive part of the Jets' offense this year, though it also makes us appreciate Bilal Powell. Powell has seriously improved his game over the past two seasons and is a more than capable change-of-pace back.
- Joe Flacco's preseason debut went well, ending after a pair of drives with an 11 of 16 stat line. While he overshot wide receiver Mike Wallace early, the Ravens will take it. Flacco's knee is not 100 percent but there was no apparent stiffness. He maneuvered the pocket well and didn't appear to be missing any functional strength after a long rehabilitation.
- The Ravens' tight end situation is a mess. After Benjamin Watson went down with a torn Achilles, they were left with Crockett Gillmore -- a fine tight end, but after being promised a depth chart that included Watson, Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, we're wondering how Baltimore will approach the position over the coming weeks. Boyle is suspended, while Williams and Pitta are dealing with minor injuries.
- Ameer Abdullah got his first -- and probably only -- action of the season and was able to lower his injured shoulder during a run. Abdullah finished with four carries and 16 yards, though most came on an 11-yard scamper. Linebacker DeAndre Levy also returned, logging 22 snaps on defense. While the Lions were technically "blown out" by the Ravens, this had to be an encouraging first half for coach Jim Caldwell. Two of his more explosive players are working their way back without any hiccups.
-- Conor Orr
- The Alex Smith-led Chiefs are far from must-watch TV on offense, but coach Andy Reid must be pleased with Saturday's effort. Smith hit 20 of 30 passes for 181 yards as Kansas City dominated the clock with their starters on the field. Dinking-and-dunking to-and-fro, Smith scrambled for 25 yards and hit eight different targets along the way. Kansas City owned the ball for 21:54 of the first half and outgained Chicago 239 yards to 20 while building a 13-0 lead at the break. Smith led scoring drives of 13, 10 and 11 plays and out-snapped the Bears 45-18 over the first two quarters. In essence, an Andy Reid fever dream.
- Jay Cutler's first four drives resulted in four punts, a trio of three-and-outs and a sloppy strip sack. Averaging a hideous 1.1 yards per play in the first half, Chicago's offense lacked any semblance of identity. A bad drop by Alshon Jeffery squelched one potentially big gain, but that wasn't the only issue. The ground game was blown up by Kansas City's front seven while Cutler's offense generated just two first downs to 16 for the Chiefs. Cutler returned for one march in the second half, "leading" a 12-play drive capped by a missed field goal. All in all a disaster.
-- Marc Sessler
- You've heard this story before: The Colts got pushed around on both sides of the line of scrimmage. To make matters worse, left guard Jack Mewhort suffered a knee injury Saturday. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport initially reported it was believed Mewhort tore his ACL, but Jim Irsay announced Sunday Mewhort will not need surgery and should be sidelined two to four weeks following initial tests. General manager Ryan Grigson has drafted nine offensive linemen over the past four years, yet Andrew Luck has taken more hits than any other quarterback. Vick Ballard's 105-yard effort in December of 2012 remains the lone 100-yard rushing performance of the Luck era. After the game, coach Chuck Pagano acknowledged that Luck's first-half punishment had "a lot" to do with the decision not to play him in the third quarter.
- On a positive note, Luck looked sharp for the second straight week -- in between beatings from the Eagles' defensive line. The sample size is small, but Luck appears to have recaptured his 2014 form after a disappointing, injury-wrecked 2015 campaign.
- Good luck figuring out the pecking order at wide receiver in Philadelphia. Nelson Agholor, Chris Givens and Josh Huff played with the first-team offense. Agholor's first-quarter drop resulted in an interception, while Huff helped himself with a 38-yard catch-and-run and a touchdown run on a jet sweep. Meanwhile, the Eagles are using Dorial Green-Beckham as an end-zone specialist, allowing the 6-foot-5 wideout to use his humongous frame on corner fades. In his postgame comments, Sam Bradford confirmed that Green-Beckham is "the receiver that comes to mind when you think of the red zone."
- Andre Johnson was heavily involved with the Titans' first-team offense, catching three passes for 65 yards in the first quarter. It will be interesting to see if he's the odd man out of the rotation once slot receiver Kendall Wright returns from a hamstring injury. Tajae Sharpe and Rishard Matthews have been locked into the top two spots since training camp opened.
- DeMarco Murray continues to look rejuvenated in Tennessee. One open-field juke left Raiders cornerback David Amerson grasping for air. Even if Murray channels his 2014 Offensive Player of the Year form, monstrous tackle-breaking rookie Derrick Henry is simply too good to keep under wraps. The Titans could boast the league's most unstoppable backfield tandem this season.
- Latavius Murray was an afterthought in the Raiders' backfield, as the coaches wanted to get long looks at rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Washington touched the ball five times for 46 yards and a touchdown in the first half, showing an intriguing skill set as a third-down and change-of-pace option. After drawing raves from the coaching staff this week, Richard also saw action with the first-team offense, rushing seven times for 35 yards. It will be interesting to see if both backs eat into Murray's workload.
- Jared Goff simply needs time to get used to NFL speed. He's still slow to read defenses and throws his receivers into trouble. He also showed a lack of awareness sliding short of the first-down marker on third down and telegraphed a pass that would have gone for a pick-six if not for a Darian Stewart drop.
-- Chris Wesseling