Denver Broncos: Week 9 Position Grades
The Denver Broncos put together a less than stellar performance against the Oakland Raiders, in a key week nine matchup this Sunday.
After a stellar defensive performance against the San Diego Chargers, the Denver Broncos were manhandled in every phase of the game Sunday night in Oakland. At least since 2014, there never was a performance where the defensive line got whipped upfront by an offensive line. It did not help matters key players missed the game or left injured.
Bradley Roby’s first game as a replacement to Aqib Talib proved to be stellar, turning in a Defensive Player of the Week award. Sunday, Roby played soft coverage the entire game except for a few plays. That type of play is inexcusable in a critical game such as the one with Oakland.
To make matters worse, the Broncos’ offense appears to have no identity. Gary Kubiak states they must run the ball better to get in the flow of a game. The Broncos appear to play at a much different style than Kubiak’s intent. On Sunday, the team ran the ball only 12 times to 37 passing attempts. It may be said the offensive line woes may be due to not having any semblance of a running attack to start a game.
Even in the passing attempts, Trevor Siemian is struggling to stretch the field to his receivers. When he does the offense opens up, but overall the past four games the game plan seems vanilla. It is important for a quarterback to hit nice easy throws to gain confidence throughout a game. However, once that certainty is obtained chances need to follow suit. Siemian is 6-2 as a starter, but both losses came in division and that is a cause for concern.
Let’s get these positional grades started.
Quarterback Grade: D
As stated above Trevor Siemian is a game manager at it’s finest doing anything the coaching staff tells him to do, but he desperately needs to find a rhythm. If he cannot bounce back from this performance the coaches and front office will be hard pressed to turn to the first-round pick, Paxton Lynch because the cries will become louder and louder.
Siemian shows the capability to stretch the field in games, but the amount he does it can be head scratching. He did not get off to the best start, which in turn led to no identity in the running game because Siemian threw three straight passes to begin the night. Later found some timing but the current offense Denver is operating puts incredible pressure on a defense to make plays that sometimes do not happen. Sunday, the defense just was worn out.
The Denver Broncos quarterback, Siemian did use Virgil Green more in the offense, but never challenged a secondary with no Sean Smith on the Oakland Raiders. Once Siemian took a chance in the second quarter to Jordan Norwood, it paid dividends for a score drawing them closer to a one score lead. Yet, despite the stats, Siemian never seemed relaxed for a full game earning a D grade. His play was a concern, but it was not the biggest worry from Sunday.
Running Backs Grade: C-
It is hard to evaluate a running game that saw no chemistry at all except for one play from Kapri Bibbs. There were few carries handed all night long. 10 carries to Devontae Booker and two to Bibbs. Booker struggled to gain any such yardage all night long as the offensive line struggle in the rushing area. Still no CJ Anderson in the backfield as he nursing a knee injury, but may be back before or around the postseason.
Ironically, Bibbs 69-yard reception reminded Broncos fans of the play Anderson made against the Oakland Raiders a couple years ago. The only difference in that game: Anderson’s catch took the lead swinging momentum to the good side. While Bibbs’ reception is similar, it failed to gain any sort of thrust in the offense. What makes both of these plays similar is it may result in more touches for Bibbs who has waited his entire Denver Broncos career for a bigger shot.
Gary Kubiak made it clear in Monday’s press conference he wants to run the football better in games. Bibbs earned more carries after his spectacular reception, but still will not overtake Booker for the starting roll. However, do not be shocked if the ex-CSU Ram becomes the new workhorse. Right now it seems unlikely. Bibbs 69-yard reception helped the grade a little bit receiving a C- grade.
Wide Receivers Grade: C
Tight Ends Grade: C+
Trevor Siemian made sure to hit his Denver Broncos wide receivers in good short yardage situation throws, but never gave them a chance to make a play except once. Emmanuel Sanders nearly made a game changing catch to end the half that would have swung momentum in the Broncos favor. Sanders failed to get two hands around the ball.
It did seem Demaryius Thomas and Sanders were getting good enough separation for Siemian to see them, but never materialized. Overall, the corps did well, but the lack of Bennie Fowler in the offense too is surprising. The offense should never revolve around the slot receiver unless you are the New England Patriots. Jordan Norwood is not the number one target for the offense. Thomas and Sanders is 1A and 1B, which is where it needs to stay.
The Broncos made a trade for AJ Derby from the New England Patriots. Yes, the Broncos completed a deal with the enemy. Derby expected to be active for the game against the Raiders and had one target the entire game. Whether it is a bad angle of the camera or the dropped it, but replay officials seemed to make the decision quickly Derby did not catch the ball. An unfortunate read of what transpired.
Virgil Green saw his production raise more on Sunday as Siemian used him on pass to the middle of the field. The tight end made an impression as a run after the catch ability. This is a great scenario where the Broncos need to utilize Green more as a passing threat to stretch the field. In Gary Kubiak’s offense (at least historically), the tight end is one of the most valued positions on the team. They help seal the edge in the running game and expand a playbook by their routes/pass catching ability.
Both the wide receivers and tight ends earned decent grades but nothing higher. Each position receives a C grade, they are just different: C position grade for the receivers and C+ position grade for the tight ends.
Offensive Line Grade: C
The best thing offensive line love to do is hunt, but nothing the unit can do if they are the hunted in the beginning. There are now numerous games in a row where Trevor Siemian threw three straight times to begin a drive. Again, it is important to get the quarterback comfortable on short throws. However, it is more vital for an offensive line to be more comfortable protecting the running back and quarterback. It is them that make it go.
Conversely, it is still an offensive line with more holes than Swiss cheese. Russell Okung and Matt Paradis are two good staples upfront, but that is entirely it. The line did a decent job last night protecting Siemian; still, Denver got in a huge hole that unleashed the Raiders’ pass rush. You ask any executives around the league, the best scenario is to have a two-score or three-score advantage that causes their pass rushers to wreck havoc in the backfield. The Raiders did not do that in bunches, but they come up big in key situations.
Khalil Mack did not sack the Denver Broncos quarterback, which is a good thing. Yet, the presence still stayed after one and a half sack performance. In order for the Broncos to perform better upfront as a cohesive unit, they need to hunt like mad dogs with a running attack first. Start the game with a run or two to have them set the tone of the game early.
Defensive Line Grade: F
Quite possibly the worst performance of the night is the defensive line at Oakland. Since 2014, the defensive line never been manhandled like Sunday. Every player on the offensive line of the Raiders punched the Denver Broncos players in the mouth giving them a taste of their own medicine. After their performance Sunday, the defensive line needs shot in the arm.
To make matters worse from last night the unit lost Derek Wolfe (the heart and soul of the defensive line) for at least three games due to a fractured elbow. Depth is now tested with Jared Crick, Adam Gotsis and Sylvester Williams, as all three players must step up. Darius Kilgo is the intriguing name to watch replacing Wolfe. Kilgo is a bigger body like Williams if Bill Kollar thinks this is the best move to play Kilgo in Wolfe’s replacement.
It was an underwhelming and soft performance from Sunday. Clearly the loss of Vance Walker is looming large as the season progresses in run defense. In my opinion there will be better fight from the unit come Sunday, but it will not come easy. The Denver Broncos now face the New Orleans Saints in an early game. Running back Mark Ingram must be licking his chops after the game from Latavius Murray.
Brandon Marshall gave everything he could to Sunday’s game at Oakland playing with a hamstring. The hope in my opinion is he does not tear it in future games. Marshall can take all the treatment necessary, but playing on astro turf can do damage to the hamstring or cause other injuries. Because of the play from the defense against the Raiders as a whole and who they play for the next game, Marshall may need to play.
Von Miller is Von Miller. Miller took the NFL lead in sacks after sacking Derek Carr passing Lorenzo Alexander. The pass rush linebackers are not an issue for the whole unit. It remains to be the inside backers who struggle mightily in gap integrity, containment to keep away from the sideline. This is the biggest gaffe from the corps and most particularly Todd Davis. Davis really falters in these categories. He will show flashes, but consistency is a big factor to his ineffectiveness.
It is getting to the point where changes must commence in the inside. Todd Davis must be replaced. Zaire Anderson is the substitute in case the linebackers’ coach and defensive coordinator see fit. Right now, there must be major changes in that department since the Atlanta Falcons exposed the Denver Broncos greatest weakness in coverage linebackers.
Secondary Grade: D-
Key penalties drove fans crazy on Sunday and there was none more crucial than two to Chris Harris in the red zone that helped seal the victory for the Raiders. The Denver Broncos were without Aqib Talib and it was up to Bradley Roby to perform like the Defensive Player of the Week. Roby’s coverage was not even close to San Diego game. He played off every wide receiver for the Raiders none more crucial like the route run by Amari Cooper with 3:00 minutes remaining.
There were questionable calls by the referees, but it still takes execution to get the job done on Sunday. The Broncos failed miserably in every category. TJ Ward made an interception to swing momentum back in the Broncos favor, but the call was overturned. Secondary did not maintain their gap integrity at times paving the way for Jalen Richard and Latavius Murray to reach the next level.
Our secondary is too talented, even without Aqib Talib to play that off on receivers. Roby could be the heir to throne after Talib, but his performance last night just might open the door to not extend Roby in the offseason. It is still possible for the Broncos to extend their young cornerback, but for now it is still status quo.
Special Teams Grade: B
Clearly the MVP of Sunday’s was one of last year’s unsung MVPs: Brandon McManus. McManus made a clutch field goal after Raiders’ head coach tried to ice him attempting a 50+ yarder. This type of confidence can go a long way to the emergence of a weapon in special teams. McManus is capable of nailing every kick in key moments as evidenced by the streak in the postseason last year.
As stated before in previous articles, special team is truly a weapon when adapted perfectly. Punter Riley Dixon has a big-time leg to change field position and is getting more and comfortable after every game. Both McManus and Dixon are tremendous weapons on paper that are starting to perform like such in games. Underlying issue is when the Broncos make the postseason, which heightens every gameplan. It is up to McManus and Dixon to stay calm.
Jordan Norwood spelled in kick return duties for Kapri Bibbs. Bibbs played so well in sparing time on offense, he might eliminate himself as an option on kickoffs. This is a smart move for the Denver Broncos after Bibbs took three kickoffs five-yards deep in an end zone failing to get to the 20. Bibbs admitted he is amped for the kickoffs.
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