Broncos LB Drew Sanders profiles a lot like an NFL defensive star

Aug 28, 2023, 6:00 AM | Updated: 9:32 am

Drew Sanders...

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos finished their preseason with a bang. In their final game of the 2023 exhibition season, the Broncos shut out the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 41-0. Now, they must trim their roster to 53 players (plus a 16-player practice squad) and get ready to face the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 of the regular season.

I like when the final roster decisions are made. It’s an emotional time of year as all the work done in the offseason has led to this point, and the Broncos had better choose wisely.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep Wrangler TJ! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.


Early Package Please

The Broncos found a potential star in undrafted running back Jaleel McLaughlin. It seems like every week since May I’ve been writing about him. People give me credit for talking about McLaughlin first, but I will continually point to NFL Draft analyst Matt Waldman as a person who was talking about him back in January. Waldman and I both saw the same thing from McLaughlin – the incredible will to be great.

Against the Rams, McLaughlin scored another touchdown – making it three scores in three preseason games. Even though he was at the bottom of the first depth chart (anyone who watched practice knew that was wrong), McLaughlin has cemented his spot on the 53-man roster. He will be the No. 3 back behind Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine, but that doesn’t mean McLaughlin won’t see the field. In fact, quite the opposite could happen.

I think the Broncos will at least have a healthy package of plays for McLaughlin. He’s the fastest back on the roster, and he can turn any carry into a house call. McLaughlin is also a great receiver out of the backfield, so he can gash defenses in multiple ways. Williams and Perine are power backs who can close out games with a bruising style. McLaughlin could be used early as a dynamic weapon on a team that needs as much of that as possible. I’m not saying he should start, but McLaughlin should play early to establish a lead before Williams and Perine are used to bludgeon opponents as the game goes on.

McLaughlin changes what the Broncos can look like on offense.


We’ve Seen This Before

I don’t agree with some picks that Broncos GM George Paton has made over the last few years. However, when the team moved into the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft to select Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr., I was elated. I loved his game in college, and I was excited to see him bring his skill to the football field in the NFL.

Mims has always reminded me of former Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders. Like the former Broncos star, Mims has incredible speed within his movement. He’s more than just fast, Mims moves fast, reacts fast, changes direction fast, adjusts fast, and thinks fast. That’s why when passes are a bit off, Mims can find a way to go make the play – just like Sanders used to do when he was catching passes from QB Peyton Manning.

He needs to stay healthy as two separate hamstring issues slowed Mims down in the offseason. That’s why he started training camp slowly, but over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen him make big plays in practice. He translated that into big plays against the Rams. Mims is a good route runner who knows how to get open, and he can be a threat after the catch. This helps him turn short passes into long gains. Add in how he tracks the ball with “late hands” on deep throws, and you can see how dangerous Mims can be.

Before the start of camp, I said that Mims could be their best receiver, but it would take time for him to get to that level. I still think he needs more time, but Mims showed you a bit of what he could be in that Rams game. If he does play like Sanders, then the Broncos got someone special in Mims.


Like Micah?

I’m glad position-less football has been embraced by progressive teams in today’s NFL. There are some players who can do more than one thing. There are other players who may not fit the prototypical measurements of their assumed position. A creative coach will figure out a way to get these types of players on the field to make plays.

I think that’s what the Broncos have in rookie ILB Drew Sanders. I had him rated as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the 2023 NFL Draft, and I was thrilled when the Broncos picked him up in the third round. Sanders can hunt running backs, and he gets to the play in the blink of an eye. However, early in his college career he was thought of as a developmental pass rusher. So why “ILB” is next to his name, I think Sanders is more of an OLB/ILB/LB hybrid like the Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons.

Sanders just needs to prove himself in coverage. He did have an interception on Saturday night against the Rams, and he showed his athleticism after the pick. We’ve seen Sanders pick off passes in practice dating back to rookie minicamp, so this wasn’t a surprise. However, I still haven’t seen him turn his hips and stay with a tight end down the seam. If the pass is in front of him, Sanders uses his speed and length to get there quickly. I want to see how he transitions his hips when a tight end runs a route by him. The rookie likely has some work to do in that department before I start raving about his coverage ability.

I’m not saying Sanders is a 1-for-1 comparison to Parsons – nobody is. However, the Broncos have a player they can move all over the field. He showed on Saturday night how he can make impact plays against the run and in coverage. Just wait until Joseph unleashes him as a pass rusher in the regular season!


Almost Perfect

One of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe, Ahsoka Tano, has a new show on Disney+ that I was incredibly excited for. This week, the show “Ahsoka” debuted with two episodes to pour over. Rosario Dawson, one of my favorite actresses, plays as Tano who is one of the remaining Jedi who was once the padawan of Anakin Skywalker.

I think the first two episodes were nearly flawless. Dawson did a great job as Tano, and I loved her dual lightsaber fights. In fact, there was quite a bit of lightsaber action over the first hour and a half of the show. This show is setting up the “Thanos” of the Star Wars universe; Grand Admiral Thrawn. Tano is on the hunt for Thrawn, and when she finds him then sparks will fly. I think the stuff is gonna hit the fan in this show, and rumors abound that this show is essentially the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Star Wars shows.

I did not like the way they potrayed Sabine Wren. She was rejected as a padawan of Ahsoka, and there’s tension between the two. That part is interesting, but they make Sabine an unlikable character to begin with because they hit you over the head with what a rebel she is. I would rather see the heart of Sabine that we all saw in the animated series “Rebels” years ago. Other than pouty Sabine, I thought this was a great start for a story I’ve been looking forward to for years.

Did you see the first two episodes of Ahsoka and if so, what did you think? Hit me up on social media and let me know!


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