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Broncos vs Chargers: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos opened up week one against their division rival Los Angeles Chargers. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis of the what went down on a nail-biting Monday Night game.

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Encouraged.

That’s what I am taking away from this game. At every area of gameplay, the Denver Broncos showed improvement over last year. The Defense stopped the run exponentially better than they did last year. The offense consistently converted 3rd downs and used weapons all over the field at every level. The Special Teams units had some very impactful returns.

It is only one week against a team I consider average, but it is encouraging to see the Broncos close out the game with a win.

Defense

Joe Woods is putting his stamp on the Denver Broncos defense and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the wrinkles he’s sprinkled in especially with his creative blitzes. He showed some very aggressive fronts and both blitzed from that look as well as bailed out into more normal coverage. He brought pressure outside and often from the inside utilizing players from every level of the defense.

There’s room to work though as the No Fly Zone had a few plays they got torched on, but more on that when we talk secondary.

Front 7

Todd Davis had some ups and downs in this game. Largely he’s the same guy we saw last year. He’s pretty strong against the run, and can be a liability in coverage. Early on, he scared a guard into a false start. Later in the game he absolutely blows up a run in the backfield to get the ball back on downs. The first TD in the game was sadly on him as Gordon blew past him with ease. On the positive side, he’s not used a ton since he’s not part of the primary sub packages the Broncos use so he only saw the field on 32% of the snaps.

Adam Gotsis really impressed me in this game. He was a force in our front against the run all game long with 5 tackles on the game (1 should have been a TFL, but it wasn’t in the game book that way). The defensive line has been a worry for the Broncos all preseason long with the injuries there, but having a guy like Gotsis stepping up is putting my mind at ease a bit especially against an impressive back like Gordon.

Shaquil Barrett with an impressive sack in the 2nd half which fires up the crowd. I love the way this guy plays and brings the heat across from Von Miller. He also got a TFL and a QH on the day.

Brandon Marshall was as usual Mr. Clean-up on the day with 5 tackles and 3 assists, 1 TFL, and a QH. I’m still jazzed this guy plays for the Broncos. He doesn’t get all the attention, but he’s a force in both phases of the defense.

Secondary

Bradley Roby had a pathetic game on Monday night. He and Simmons gave up an easy 3rd down conversion caught playing pocket pool instead of trying to stop the pass. On the very next 3rd down, he gave up his first pass interference of the night (this was the legit one...the one later in the game was a joke of a call). With some help from the pass rush in the 2nd half Roby makes a great break on a bad pass for a INT which does redeem his night a bit, but I’d say we saw more bad than good by a lot. His tackling was poor, his read / reaction time was pathetic, and he got picked on due to his lackadaisical play. For a guy in a contract year, I’d expect better and for those of you who want to point out he’s getting targeted because Denver’s #1 and #2 corners are so good: yeah...but Chirs Harris Jr. was a #3 corner his rookie year and looked FAR better than anything Roby showed in week one of his 3rd NFL season.

Darian Stewart still looks like the glue that makes the Broncos defense work to me. He was impactful in the run game keeping a big run from happening at the start of the 2nd half. On the very next drive he shoots another run play and gets a TFL. He was in on 6 tackles in the game and was seemingly constantly around the ball.

Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. started off their 2017 All Pro campaign with another game where neither were thrown much at all. Talib gave up a couple of contested catches, but as always, the receiver was tackled right away on most of them with little impact to the game overall.

Offense

What a breath of fresh air compared to the 2016 Bronco offense. Mike McCoy called what I saw as a pretty spectacular game. It was everything we’ve been missing: use of a ton of personnel and formations, throws to every level of the field, and a successful run game.

The biggest thing I took away from this first game was that the Broncos were fairly unpredictable in their play calling throughout the game. The Chargers defense mostly didn’t know where the ball was going or whether it was a run or pass which is always a huge benefit in today’s NFL game.

Quarterbacks

Trevor Siemian can do this. That’s what I see from the first week of action in Mike McCoy’s system. If he can stay healthy and keep working and learning, this guy CAN lead this team to a lot of wins. I think we can tentatively say that McCoy and BIll Musgrave are getting work done on Siemian’s game. Especially on 3rd down, I was impressed with the play Trevor left on the field all night long. He looked confident and had some really nice schemes to utilize. The Broncos went 8 out of 15 which in my books is a damned fine job and a huge leap from what we saw from the team last year. Much of the credit for the 3rd down efficiency goes to the QB.

That being said, it wasn’t all roses for Siemian as early on tried to give the ball to the other team and continues his streak as the luckiest pick throwing QB in the NFL. Late in the game he threw a very ill-advised screen play that got picked off in what was just a putrid job reading the defense on his part. With a defender that close, you can’t throw the short route like that. It is far too risky of a throw to make and he should have checked out of the play or thrown to a route further down the field. One of Siemian’s weaknesses is his penchant for figuring out presnap where he is going with the ball and not looking at other options. This is one area where I hope to see growth from him as the season wears on.

Let’s move on to the positives though, as they are many. Siemian did a superb job of taking a free play and going for the throat early in the game when the Chargers jumped offsides deep in the red zone. He extended the play with his legs and made a very nice pass to the back of the end zone for the TD and made it look very very easy.

In the red zone, I was very impressed with the play he brought to the field. He was scrambling away from pressure, being a threat to run, and doing a great job reading the defenses and finding the holes in their zone.

Siemian showed some awkward scrambling ability, but I can’t complain about the results. He got some nice yards running and then juked Joey Bosa out of his sneakers for a TD (for shame, Bosa). The one thing worth pointing out is that it isn’t smart for him to keep putting himself at risk. There were times that a slide would have been far more prudent, especially considering his size. If he’s going to do anything for this team at QB this year, he has to stay on the field and it is imperative that he protects himself.

Line

Menelik Watson was terrible pass blocking early and often. On the first TD pass of the night, he for the 3rd time in the game completely lost his guy...no hands on him, not between him and the QB, and complete lack of leverage. All game long he looked like hot garbage in pass protection. His pass protection was as bad as Ty Sambrailo looked last year. I know he’s against some elite pass rushers, but it HAS to get better or the Broncos will need to find another option at right tackle (and yes, it is worth talking about this early in the season...that’s how bad Watson looked in this game).

Garett Bolles had some ups and downs in this game, but I love the effort I saw from him all game long. On Sanders big sideways run to get big yardage, Bolles ended up 20 yards down the field sealing a block for Sanders to convert a first down. Also, his pass blocking looked a far sight better than his counterpart across the way. I am excited to see this kid blow away my low expectations and prove me wrong from my initial reaction around draft time. This guy is leaving it all out on the field and the sky's the limit for him as a legit NFL left tackle.

While we’re here, let’s give a shout-out to Connor McGovern who needed to come in for Ron Leary midway through the game. I paid pretty close attention to him after he came in and he looked very solid in both his run blocking and pass blocking overall.

Running Backs

CJ Anderson started off the game looking a lot like the same mediocre running back we've seen the majority of the time he’s on the field. It seems that the majority of the time early in the game, he ran into the backs of his blockers instead of running to gaps. Our line blocked pretty well though and he averaged 4.1 ypc which is definitely “good”.

Jamaal Charles also ran well with 10 touches and averaging 4 ypc. I think there’s room for both to do more, but the Chargers front 7 defended the run fairly decently all night long never really giving up big run plays.

Receivers

Sanders drops a nicely thrown ball for a TD early. Of all the receivers, he had the toughest night, but his 20 yard pass where he ran an extra 20 yards sideways was a thing of beauty from the whole offensive unit. Sanders bought time and used his blocking well to make a very impactful play.

I really loved the production we got out of the tight ends in this game. Virgil Green had the deep play of the game with a 44 yard reception. A.J. Derby made a couple of really nice catches. One was a 3rd down conversion on a perfect pass with some nice zip from Siemian. Jeff Heuerman got into the action as well with a 20 yard reception right up the seam. Man I have missed seeing throws to the tight end position!

Demaryius Thomas had another super derpy drop that couldn’t have been thrown more perfectly right into his hands as he was squared up to it (#TradeDT where you at?). On the next play he makes up for it in a big way converting 3rd down with a big pass on the outside. Late in the game he made a superb catch on deep route that was thrown perfectly right over his shoulder to help the Broncos get some much needed yardage and breathing room.

Also, Bennie Fowler was Mr. Touchdown tonight. He’s a superb big target in the red zone and knows how to find space. I think with the familiarity Siemian has with him, this could be a pretty successful duo as the season wears on.

Special Teams

Isaiah McKenzie made an impact in the game with a very nice return in the 1st half. He’s got the looks of a real weapon in the return game.

Likewise there was a very successful return from Cody Latimer later in the game.

Shelby Harris had the play of the game with a tip on what would have been the game tying field goal at the end of the game. I love a good underdog who just keeps showing up game after game.

Final Thoughts

This was a sloppy win that never should have been so close. I mentioned this in our group conversation post as well, but what I saw in the 2nd half was a very clear lack of focus from the Broncos. This team is young with a young head coach. They need to mature and learn from this game. In the NFL you can’t just start smiling and kicking it in the 2nd half. Celebrate when the game is over and you have secured the win. Until then, keep dialed into what your job is.

I don’t mean to rain on the parade so much, and it is worth saying that the team DID do what they needed to at the end to get the game over. The defense played better down the stretch and the offense did too. It was a good start to the season and hopefully we’ll continue to see growth next week when the Broncos face off against the Dallas Cowboys.