The Denver Broncos are 7-1 after eight games and that is certainly a big enough sample size to begin grading the players and coaches for their performance through half a season. Let's start with some review of the first half of the 2015 regular season.
|1||BAL 13 @ DEN 19||RECAP|
|2||DEN 31 @ KC 24||RECAP|
|3||DEN 24 @ DET 12||RECAP|
|4||MIN 20 @ DEN 23||RECAP|
|5||DEN 16 @ OAK 10||RECAP|
|6||DEN 26 @ CLE 23||RECAP|
|8||GB 10 @ DEN 29||RECAP|
|9||DEN 24 @ IND 27||RECAP|
Not a bad way to start a season. For a team on track to go 14-2, we should be seeing plenty of high grades for the organizations overall standing through eight games. Let's get on to the grades!
Kyle Montgomery: B
The Broncos are excellent on defense, great on special teams, and below average on offense. That alone, combined with the 7-1 record, should give the something like a B+ or an A-. But you have to carefully consider the state of your quarterback in the NFL, and this season Peyton Manning has been too prone to interceptions to be ignored. Turnovers in the playoffs won't cut it. The Broncos are good, but not good enough to take this team to the Super Bowl without improvement from Manning.
Tim Lynch: A+
The Denver Broncos are getting a perfect grade from me, because they are playing the worst offensive football since the beginning of 2012 yet are nearly a perfect 7-1 for their troubles. The defense is obviously playing their best football, but the coaching and offense has been severely lacking. To be going through this trying time period and having the fourth best record in the NFL after half a season is truly incredible.
Scouting the enemy: Kansas City (Part II)
The Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-24 in their first meeting on the road at Arrowhead. This weekend the Broncos will have the luxury of home field advantage when they square off against the Chiefs.
Believe it or not, but this team is getting better each week. Peyton Manning still has an interception problem, but he's actually looking better and better each week everywhere else. This offense, I feel, is on the verge of exploding. I'm really hoping it happens just in time for the playoffs. As for the defense, they had their worst game of the year last week, but sometimes a little bit of humility gives players just the right amount of determination and fortitude to play consistently at a high level.
Anything short of an A doesn't reflect the position our team is in right now. If 9 weeks ago you would have told me we'd be 7-1 half way into the season, I'd be thrilled. Has it looked artistic? Nope. But this isn't an art class. Wins get us to the post-season. Losses hurt our chances. You have to love where we are as a team 1/2 of a season into Kubiak's first year with the team.
Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann: B+
As an educator, I can’t help but fall back on the definitions of letter grades when asked to "give a grade." I consider C to be average; B is above average; and A is reserved for excellent. I’m also a big believer in pluses and minuses.
With those distinctions, Offense gets a solid B. Given the myriad of changes and challenges this season, it has definitely been above average, and in some games very good. Defense gets an A-, and the minus is just for the stupid penalties, which I expect to be a non-factor soon. But coming in with a strong A+ is Special Teams. Between Brandon McManus kicking practically everything through the uprights or beyond the end zone, plus solid coverage on kickoffs and punts, and a game-changing punt return from Omar Bolden last week, this group is really pulling its weight.
Kelly Fleming: 3.6
At the University of Washington, they don’t give letter grades, they give individual GPAs out of 4.0. So in a traditional grading system, and A is a 4.0, a B is a 3.0, a C is a 2.0, and so on. The Broncos are a 3.6 to me, which is somewhere between a B+ and an A-.
The Broncos defense have proven to be the best in the league, and possibly one of the best in history (let’s just forget last weekend happened). Seriously though, every team shows flaws, and I am a believer that teams need a reality check. The defense got theirs against the Colts. They need to play aggressive, which is what they lacked last season, but not give themselves the reputation for playing dirty or maliciously, like Talib with the eye poking.
The offense hasn’t been the best in the league, but they are improving. I am confident they will be above average by the end of the season. They are starting to show some chemistry, and finally get a grasp of the Kubiak/Manning hybrid system. With the addition of Vernon Davis, I think they will be in good form just in time for the Patriots game.
And let’s not forget the special teams, which most of us thought was the team’s weakest point post-preseason. Omar Bolden and David Bruton have proven to be two of our best, and they are only getting better.
Pete Baron: B
Offense: The offense has been one of the worst units in the NFL. That is new territory for Peyton Manning and the gang. With Manning at the helm, the Broncos have consistently been one of the elite scoring groups in NFL history. But this is the midseason grade book for the 2015 Denver Broncos, not the 1999-2014 Manning led teams. In 2015, the Broncos haven't consistently been able to run the football, which is paramount to a successful Gary Kubiak offense. If that wasn't bad enough, the passing attack has been putrid at best. Some will point to the line not blocking well enough (true), some will point to the quarterback not passing good enough (true), and some will point to injuries or lackadaisical player performances as the culprit (true), but regardless of where your ire is directed, one truth is that the only consistency this offense has is in turnovers. We are guaranteed to have a minimum of two interceptions thrown by our quarterback each game. Whether it's a win or a loss, whether it's a close victory or a blowout, Manning will gift the opponent the ball. When the only consistency the offense has is in turning the ball over, I can't give them a grade higher than an F+. I just cant. On a 1-100 scale, they are squarely in the 50% range, which is an F in any country and language spanning the globe. Yes, as painful as it is to say, this offense is functioning at a failing level.
Defense: Unlike the offense, this defense is operating at other worldly levels. The Broncos defense is set to wreck the NFL and is single handedly responsible for all 7 victories. Our defense is the elite of the elite. Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Aquib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Marshall, Shaq Barrett, Danny Trevathan, TJ Ward, and the list goes on and on. These guys are dominant any way you slice it. They are an aggressive group led by one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. They play in attack mode and don't ever let up. I'm ok with boneheaded calls (not the Talib eye poke). I'm totally fine with a few personal foul calls stemming from aggression. I don't like the dirty plays like the eye poking though. Even though the Devil's Advocate in me wants to point out as Jake Plummer did, that worse things go on in the bottom of a pile, yet nobody says a word or gets suspended for that. But the hypocrisy of the NFL is a discussion for another day. My grade for this defense is an A++ Yes, they are above 100% because they get the extra credit points for winning games when the offense has done everything to keep that from happening, often times in dramatic fashion. If the best defense in the NFL can't have an A++ grade, then nobody can.
Overall Grade: Solid B. While the defense is spectacular, and the special teams are fantastic, the last time I checked, you have to score more points than your opponent to win a game. If our defense holds an opponent to single digit points, fantastic! But if Peyton throws a pick six and our offense can't score by itself, then it really doesn't matter how great our defense is, we will lose, especially in the playoffs. Until we get more offensive consistency (other than consistently turning the ball over), I can't give a grade any higher than a B.