This is the point of the season where you start getting to the meat of what a team’s identity is. The next couple of games are going to really paint a good picture of who many teams in the NFL are. Yes, anything can happen. Late season runs are a thing. But we’re starting to see who the 2017 Denver Broncos are and the picture is coming in clearer week after week.
For those of you who read my stuff regularly, please forgive my diversion. Usually I really like to hone in on personnel and I still will to some extent, but this week I’m going to take you fine ladies and gentlemen out there in Broncos Country dig a little deeper than normal into what I’m seeing and what I’m seeing on the horizon for this season.
Strap in and hang on tight...it is about to get a bit bumpy.
Let’s start with some good stuff
It is a loss and it was ugly so this review isn’t going anywhere bright. So let's kick it off with the bright sides I saw in the game.
Demaryius Thomas left it all out there on the field on Sunday night. On a night where practically everything the team was doing looked bad, he was balling his ass off trying to will the team to a win. It was almost as impressive of the effort he put forth in Super Bowl 48. I’ve questioned DT in some fairly serious ways, but the dude is going to get some slack from me for the rest of this season. He earned it after a tremendous effort that should have inspired everyone on the team.
Justin Simmons was everywhere. The kid is going to be a great safety in the NFL. He has superb instincts and ability to diagnose plays and if we ever get a pass rush going, Simmons is going to feast on turnovers.
Domata Peko was a force in the middle of the field and very disruptive. He continues to look like an absolute steal in free agency and a true leader up front.
I love defense. I love good smash-mouth bruisers laying the wood on any poor fool that crosses the middle (AMARITE, Steve Awater!). I love a defense with an attitude.
It is too bad that our coaches are seeing fit to soften our defense up and make it a product that is far less than the sum of its parts.
Hear me out...Our players are friggin PLAYERS. Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Shaquil Barrett, Chris Harris, Jr., Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart...these guys are giants among men as far as NFL defensive players go. I’d argue that the Denver Broncos defense is the most talented group of defensive players in the NFL.
Sadly, it looks to me like a team that has gotten its identity changed into fitting something the coaches want to do instead of fitting the scheme to the excellent players we have and dancing with the one who brought you.
Want to know why the middle of our defense looks soft against the pass? Because it is. The team is employing a lot more zone concepts (and they have been all year) that appears to my eyes to have some of the guys out of their comfort zones and our opponents are scheming against those weaknesses week after week.
Also, is it just me, or does the defense look reactive instead of proactive this season?
Easy game plan
We played a game this week against a team that had ONE weapon to use in the passing game and everyone knew it. In conversations last week on two occasions I told people asking me about the upcoming game that NY would run the ball and pass to Evan Engram. I said, this should be the easiest game plan that a defensive coordinator would ever have to drum up in the history of the NFL.
And yet we spent the whole game leaving Engram single covered where doubling him would have forced passes outside to guys who should be hocking cell phones at the friggin mall.
This is feather #1 in the “doubt Joe Woods” cap. I won’t even spend time on how awful we were at stopping the run.
There is a problem with the pass rush
Have you guys noticed that the pass rush has no teeth? I mean, we all hope for Von to get some hits in. We cheer had for Shaquil Barrett as he flies around the edge and they have here and there been impactful.
But it isn’t enough. QBs are getting 3 seconds easy in obvious passing downs by chipping Von and keeping Barrett wide.
We went into this season knowing that the defense had to be better against the run. They have outside of this game in a big way. But the problem is the No Fly Zone is falling to pieces because there is no push in the middle.
Wolfe, Peko, and Gotsis are stout against the run. But we don’t have guys that come in on 3rd and long and push the pocket in with any consistency. Believe it or not, I miss Jared Crick. Let that sink in for a minute.
Also if you have time, go look at the sacks we got in this game. They weren’t because our pass rush was amazing. They were coverage sacks. Our secondary forced Manning to hold onto the ball and our guys eventually got there.
Mike McCoy seemed like such a good coordinating choice for this team, but all I’m seeing is a bunch of the same stuff over and over that asks a lot from the QB and very little in the design department of the OC.
We got slant routes. We can do outs as well and even throw a go. But the middle of the field? Let’s not try that too much...it is too risky and all.
How about when you are inside the 10 and you have DT manned up in single coverage on the outside with no help. Do you think maybe you could ask him to go up and catch a fade against a guy that is at least 6 inches shorter?
Nah...let’s play action to a shallow dig route to a #3 WR who can’t get separation from the linebacker he’s got covering him.
The cupboard is empty
Let me start by apologizing to the small vocal minority of Trevor Siemian fans here at MHR. If you love you some T Sizzle and don’t want to hear some truth getting dropped about him, do us all a favor and skip to the next section...also do me a favor and skip the excuse machine in the comment section. I’m not hearing it any longer.
Still with me?
Okay...let’s do this.
Trevor Siemian is a shitty option as a starting NFL quarterback and you know what? He isn’t going to get better. It isn’t about his offensive line. It isn’t about the run game. It is about he sucks at NFL quarterbacking. Stay focused with me now...don’t jump on that excuse train. It doesn’t fit. When I wrote my article earlier this year eating my crow on him winning the QB competition (which in my opinion was still the right choice….Lynch sucks worse than Siemian by far), I told you guys that he needed to be judged by a starting NFL QB standard now. No more free passes.
So here we are in game 5 of the season and this dude looks like the same frigging dude I saw last year who just. Couldn’t. Get. It. Done.
He still stares down his receivers. The opponents are even chirping about how easy it is to play defense against him.
He gets worse the closer he gets to the end zone. We had 3 trips inside the 20 in this game and the guy completely shat himself in spectacular fashion.
Teams are doing the Exact. Same. Thing. that they did last year...they are stacking the box, playing cover-2 and waiting until Siemian either passes them the ball or gets into the red zone and shuts it down.
Vance Joseph is talking about it the past couple of games too. He keeps talking about how teams are loading the box and how you have to take advantage of those situations with big plays to make them back off. Siemian has shown us now over the span of 19 NFL starts that he isn’t that guy.
In his time as a starter, if he throws the ball 40+ times in a game, his team is 1-6. You know why? Because he isn’t a good passer.
I’ve heard it said he’s an accurate passer...bull hockey. He looked friggin Tebowesque on a simple swing route 10 yards sideways in the flat that he chucked into the dirt. He threw at least 3 balls behind his targets. One of those bad passes was a gift-wrapped 6 points to the New York football Giants. One saw Devontae Booker make a spectacular grab by turning his body sideways to catch it from an absolutely insane angle.
Here’s the game plan for every defense playing Denver the rest of the season: play cover-2 with an extra guy in the box. Tell your secondary to focus on the horizontal outside route concepts. Then just have them sit back and watch Siemian’s eyes. The dude couldn’t look off a play to save his mother from drowning.
Also, can you stop trying to get Bennie Fowler more involved? The dude got 8 friggin targets in this game and only caught 3 passes. He’s not where you want to go on 3rd down...or most downs for that matter. Ugh.
But let’s be real, shall we? The Broncos have nothing in the cupboard worth getting out, right? Paxton Lynch looks more like a bust than anything resembling a NFL QB and Brock Osweiler hasn’t shown anything better than what Siemian has done (and if you put much credit in his work in Houston, probably worse in all likelihood).
Denver is still a QB away from relevance. Hope and dream all you want, but with QB play like this, I wouldn’t expect much more than 8 - 8 from this team in 2017.
I done toad you!
My daughter loves it when I use this phrase. You will likely share her enthusiasm after I make my point. Also, it helps if you read it as if Samuel L. Jackson is yelling at his kid.
During my review last week I talked about the fool’s gold that is C.J. Anderson. Sure, it is just one game, but the dude got the lion’s share of the carries again as our workhorse starting RB. How’d you like him this week, Broncos Country? He still looking like the #Truth to you?
He looked like the guy I was talking about...9 carries, 1.9 ypc. That is friggin pathetic. And did you notice yet what I’ve been pointing out to you? He sure does love to run right into people, doesn’t he? The lack of vision that he runs with is absolutely impressive.
That same run defense was what Jamaal Charles ran against and he averaged 3.8 ypc. What’s the big difference? Vision. Charles doesn’t run into people, he runs around them. He makes cut backs when they are there.
Let’s give John Elway his just desserts
I absolutely love John Elway. I don’t want any other GM in the NFL. But let’s be real about our offensive line: he has done an awful job of getting talent up front and the glaring problems are still not resolved.
I honestly don’t think this is a problem that the best offensive line coaches in the NFL could fix. The quality of personnel we have at right tackle and left guard is about the equivalent of a flaming bag of dog poo. I’m not sure if it should be stomped out or if you just let that stuff burn itself out. All I know is we’re another year away from having anything resembling a real offensive line.
I guess if I have to be fair to Elway, it looks like he hit the lottery with Garret Bolles and made a very good move in signing Ron Leary. Still with Matt Paradis who we already knew was good that only makes 3 out of 5 linemen needed for a set.
I think I’ve exorcised enough demons for this week. I’d say that we should just kick the dust of this game off our feet and look forward to next week. But sadly, I feel like we will be just as likely to lose that game as we will to win it based off of what we are seeing from our team lately.
Still, the season is very young. It is definitely possible that the coaches can make adjustments and get the team heading in a better direction...I just don’t think it is very likely. They are a young crew of coaches that haven’t shown signs of being that savvy.
As always, hit up the comments and share with me your takes on the game. I’m especially interested to hear if any of you are seeing what I am with the lack of interior pass rush.