There are two different ways to look at Russell Wilson's debut within Sean Payton's offense. A glass half full person would focus on Wilson's 21-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy on his final throw of Denver's preseason opener in Arizona. A glass half empty person would point out that the play occurred on the Broncos' fourth possession against the Cardinals' backups.
Wilson started 4 of 9 but finished with 93 yards on 7 of 13 passing. Wilson's touchdown pass to Jeudy came on fourth down with the Cardinals bringing an all-out blitz. Wilson recognized the incoming pressure and quickly got the ball to Jeudy, who suffered a drop just moments earlier.
Wilson was sacked just once but was hit numerous other times by an Arizona defense that struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season.
Denver went three-and-out on its opening drive as Wilson misfired on his first two pass attempts. Wilson opened the Broncos' next drive with a 19-yard completion to Jeudy. But a sack and an incomplete pass forced Denver to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt, which was missed by Brett Maher. The Broncos failed to capitalize on good field position that was set up by cornerback Essang Bassey's interception.
Wilson was better on the Broncos' third possession. He completed passes of 13 and 14 yards to Courtland Sutton and Adam Trautman on plays that were set up by a pair of solid runs by Samaje Perine. The drive stalled, however, when Wilson failed to connect with Sutton on a deep attempt on third down. Denver came up empty again when Elliott Fry missed his 50-yard field goal try.
With the game still scoreless, Payton trotted out his starting offense yet again with 9:38 left in the first half. Denver's starting offense responded by recording a six-play 57-yard scoring drive that took less than three minutes off the clock. After Perine started the drive with an 11-yard run, Wilson connected with Sutton on a 19-yard gain as Denver got back into field goal range. Four plays later, instead of settling for another field goal try, Payton watched as Wilson hit Jeudy for the Broncos' first touchdown of the 2023 season.
It was far from perfect, but Broncos fans should be somewhat encouraged from what they saw Friday night. Wilson and the Broncos' offense fought through adversity and were able to put together a drive they hope to duplicate throughout the course of the year.