Denver Broncos: Week 10 Position Grades
In what may be the best regular season game for the Denver Broncos, the team demonstrated the resolve from last year’s Super Bowl team.
The Denver Broncos defeated the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome, which is always a tall order for any team on the road. Perspectives of the game would be different if there were changes during the game. This proved sports and particularly the NFL in general is a game of inches.
Aside from two interceptions, Trevor Siemian played his best road game since the Cincinnati Bengals in week three. He took chances down the field and in the middle to open up some of the rushing game. Tight ends became much more involved, but there are still production concerns with Virgil Green and AJ Derby.
Devontae Booker continues to run hard seeing holes that are not there or creating his own. Booker is earning every yard he gets because of the lack of offensive line help, but what assistance is provided is running behind Matt Paradis. The results are always remaining positive behind one of the best centers in football and it needs to remain that way.
Through his time in a Broncos uniforms, fans were clamoring for a more physical Demaryius Thomas to perform in games in any situation. Thomas caught three passes one-handed and is playing with incredible confidence right now. He is a gifted athlete that plays strong of recent. Thomas must continue his momentum into Kansas City, but the team caught the bye week at the right time.
Let’s get these positional grades started.
Quarterbacks Grade: C+
Trevor Siemian took more chances and deserves a lot of credit for converting third and longs while withstanding plenty of punishment from a New Orleans defensive line. It appeared Siemian became comfortable as the game progressed, a sign he is growing as a passer and in the Gary Kubiak offense. He must take this confidence after the bye week not just to heal, but to take what he learned and apply it against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Furthermore, this performance in New Orleans parallels Siemian’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals in week three of this year. In that game, he took deep shots down the field and pass to the middle of the field. One of the more criticized points for Siemian is not throwing past the sticks on third down, whether short or long distance. The problem in his performance is the Saints scored 10 points off his turnovers. Decision-making is better, but still a concern.
The progressions from Siemian must be clean in the Chiefs game when the Denver Broncos face them in week 13. His first read against the New Orleans secondary always got open, a better secondary punish him for the telegraph throws for an interception. Kubiak needs to install double moves from Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas to help Siemian.
Also, Siemian must add a pump fake to his repertoire against Marcus Peters. Peters will jump routes and take chances because that is who he is as a defensive back. Siemian graded out at a C+.
Running Backs Grade: B-
There is a glimpse of hope in the running game. Devontae Booker is starting to see some open grass behind Matt Paradis (a top five center right now) and on toss plays. Those outside runs happen quickly and fast before any defense can react. Due to success with that play, head coach Gary Kubiak needs to run it more.
The Denver Broncos catch the bye week at the right time, as Andy Janovich appears to be closer to his cast removed. Janovich helps the rushing attack as a lead blocker to create extra holes for Booker. The fullback known as “The Punisher” and “Manovich” helped Siemian on a terrific one-handed catch that would make Howard Griffith proud.
Kubiak made it known Kapri Bibbs deserved more reps in the offense. Bibbs earned it after the 69-yard reception breaking a handful of tackles for a score. The Broncos used the toss play for Bibbs as well, but the toughness became known on every run. The ex-CSU Ram finished every run with intent like his teammate Booker. It does not matter if a team is top-10 in defense that punishment over time wears down on anyone. The running game may not have looked pretty, but it looked better in weeks past. This is a good sign of momentum heading into the bye week. They received a B- grade.
Wide Receiver Grade: A-
Tight End Grade: B-
Unlike last week, Trevor Siemian put his weapons in opportunities to succeed. Emmanuel Sanders did not get the yardage, but became a trusted target on third and longs. Demaryius Thomas took an enormous step forward in reclaiming the elite status Denver Broncos fans know him for. Numerous one-handed catches salvaged drives and scores against a New Orleans secondary ranked near the bottom in every defensive category.
Thomas’ spectacular effort on the touchdown snag may be the best in his time in a Broncos uniform. Before the season started, fans were curious what Thomas will we see. This year appears to be a more physical receiver who is not afraid to blow up a defensive back by any means necessary.
Yes, arguments may be thrown receivers made Siemian look better than he did. However, part of a quarterback’s duty is to take chances on 50/50 throws for them to make a play. Siemian, Thomas and Sanders passed with flying colors. The best throw of the game to Jordan Taylor gives a glimpse of a quarterback’s future and wide receivers rapport.
Wide receiver earned a grade of A- due to ability to make plays.
The tight end position is a Gary Kubiak cornerstone in an offense. It appears that group is used more past few weeks. Virgil Green is running after the catch better also. This is a sign of more usage in the offense and game plan. Green will earn more reps, but there is a lull in production stat wise. However, it continues to be more than in week’s past.
Much like Green, AJ Derby is more involved in the offense. After the trade with the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos coaches made it known how they felt about Derby. This is an indication of the role he would play in their attack. Derby is the same size as Jeff Heuerman, but coaches appear to ensure better confidence in newly acquired tight end than the ex-Buckeye.
Derby finished every play and route he had with force. However, one drop brought the grade of the tight end B-. Again, a better performance every week earns more improved score.
Offensive Line Grade: D+
A big glaring need and concern in the offense of the Denver Broncos is the offensive line. Matt Paradis and Russell Okung are staples on the line, but every player is a liability to a quarterback with a shoulder problem. Donald Stephenson signed with the Broncos to be a versatile lineman if called upon. He must now switch from his right tackle spot to right guard or move Ty Sambrailo to right guard.
The running game saw a couple areas of green grass behind Paradis and Okung. Okung is able to stretch and pull outside to open lanes on the left side. Every now and then there would be a stretch to the Stephenson, but it left a lot to be desired. Changes need to be in store for a struggling offensive line. The understanding seems to be there for Gary Kubiak to make that necessary change.
New Orleans Saints defensive line is not a well-known group in the NFL, but they do enough to put pressure on a quarterback. Despite some of the success of Paradis and Okung, about everyone on the Saints’ line creamed Trevor Siemian when there became a chance. This explains why Kubiak is hinting at a possible change on an offensive line desperately needing “change” Broncos’ fan can believe in.
Defensive Line Grade: B+
As a unit, the Denver Broncos played better after its insult of a performance on Sunday Night Football. The loss of Derek Wolfe hurt the defensive line depth, but Jared Crick said otherwise Sunday. Crick’s play is underwhelming this season; however, Sunday proved Elway’s glimpse of brilliance in free agency. The defensive line played aggravated and annoyed about their past week’s performance in Oakland. This may be a sign of things to come heading into the bye.
The loss of Vance Walker still looms larger for the team, but there are still players on the line to make up for it. Derek Wolfe is expected back after the bye week confirming he is a beast and the face of the defensive line. Crick’s confidence and best performance of the season may give the team better depth than ever.
Also, Billy Winn is the intriguing player next to Sylvester Williams and Darius Kilgo that provide insurance to a nose tackle spot. Winn played exceptionally well in the preseason and it continued this season. The Broncos will need all hands on deck for the Kansas City Chiefs and getting healthy is a start. A forced turnover from Crick and better-run defense gives a grade of B+.
Linebackers Grade: C+
DeMarcus Ware’ presence to a unit desperate for a sign punched the Saints in the mouth from the first play. There is no debate the production the pass rushing linebackers give the defense. Todd Davis’ lack of containment and instincts to fill holes in the running is a constant problem. This explains why Corey Nelson is seeing the field more over Davis.
Nelson is a better run stopping threat than Davis and it seems Nelson is growing comfortable in the defense to be utilized more. Zaire Anderson is the back up to Davis, but my guess is the lack of knowledge of playbook seems why Anderson is not on the field. Do not look for change to happen in this position group; however there are concerns in coverage with Davis that requires alteration.
Marshall appeared playing with his hamstring injury is not a problem, but that injury can linger. As is the constant thread in these position grades, the team needs the bye week to be healthy. Marshall gets the bye week to heal his injured hamstring, while the whole defense receives biggest boost of them all in the return of Aqib Talib. Linebackers played better against New Orleans, yet will earn a C+ grade because of a few big plays from the running backs in the receiving game.
Secondary Grade: A-
In an upset, this is not the third time a Denver Broncos secondary player will win Defensive Player of the Week. Darian Stewart singlehandedly beat the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees turning the offense over three times. Bradley Roby played better; however, it seemed hit and miss. Roby still deserves credit for displaying the incredible ball hawking skills Broncos is all too familiar.
Brees is a future Hall of Fame quarterback who will not be denied. The Broncos’ secondary did everything possible to shut down the aerial assault of the Saints, but they nearly lost the game. Brandin Cooks caught the game-tying pass on terrific coverage by Stewart and Roby. It is simply a Hall of Fame quarterback making a play to win the game, much like Tom Brady in AFC Championship.
Furthermore, the Broncos secondary put a performance together to give momentum heading into the bye week and the team will get good news on Aqib Talib. Talib and Derek Wolfe back in the fold of a Broncos defense is bad news for anyone on offense. Talib and Wolfe are the epitome of MVPs for the defense. I would imagine their return will send a shot of positivity to the rest of the team. The secondary played well to earn the second A grade by position.
Special Teams Grade: A
The Denver Broncos special teams unit of Brandon McManus and Riley Dixon played well, except for one missed kick by McManus. Dixon is proving to be a nice surprise to the 2016 Draft Class of John Elway. There is not a concern from McManus, but due to youth a missed field goal can spiral a confidence downward. Dixon, on the other hand, punting average is nearing 50. This is good assurance to Elway who released Britton Colquitt in the offseason.
Likewise, Cody Latimer returned to kickoff duties a long with Kapri Bibbs. Bibbs keep his emotions in check downing when he needed too. Jordan Norwood swung momentum back his way on the season after a couple good returns. Norwood is to be relied on during the year. He is an intriguing player due to his talent at times to expose a weakness of coverage unit on special teams.
Also, it became apparent after Sunday’s game Joe Decamilis deserves a raise. Justin Simmons, the rookie safety blocked a game-winning extra point to win the game by two points. The other first-year safety Will Parks returned it for the score. This blocked field goal will forever be remembered in Broncos’ lore for a long, long time.
Next up is the Kansas City Chiefs in a division matchup at home on Sunday Night Football. The Broncos are on the track to get healthy with the return of Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib. Talib is the extra pull to grab full momentum before the Chiefs game. Justin Houston can swing it back to the to Kansas City, but it is hard to see a unit falter like the Broncos right now. The meat of the schedule is now upon us. Saddle up, it will be a fun ride.
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