Yes, we are past the halfway point of the season but it seems like the right time to do some good ole fashioned grading by the eye-test + select stats that look good to me at the time -just like certain three-letter grading websites do week in and week out. At least those sites are loving on Alexander Johnson and the guy (dinosaur) deserves it because he’s been a beast.
I’m going to give grades to each part of the team for the first half of the season and possibly add a little note of what I expect from each group for the rest of 2019-2020 and when you disagree, shout at me down in the comments. On the Broncos & Bratwurst Podcast, the Skipper Dude and I have some hot takes about the remaining seven weeks of football and the future of the Broncos in general.
Special Teams: D+
McManis has been meh and Diontae Spencer has been the best returner since.....Rod Smith? That’s about all the good you will find though as Football Outsiders has the Broncos ranked as the 31st best unit in the NFL and, though they have Cincinnatti as #1, it’s hard to argue that that is a good place to be. Also Coby Wadman should be fired yesterday. Send Jano out there to boot it.
Defensive Line: C- Mike Purcell A+
Football outsiders has this group ranked 8th, but before the big-man Purcell came into the lineup they were...bad, like, really bad. Wolfe has had his moments but to my eyes, no one else has stuck out even a little in a positive way. This is a unit that could be completely different in 2020 as they hopefully bring in a few guys who can also get some pressure on the QB up the middle.
Look, it’s bad luck to lose one of your star edge rushers to injury but it just can’t be allowed to impact my totally “fact-based” ratings. The Broncos are 24th in sacks, and according to ESPN they are the 28th ranked group in terms of “Team Pass Block Win Rate”. Von Miller has not been the superstar that we have grown accustomed to seeing - no I am not giving up on him or saying to trade the guy - and the “ well he’s always double-teamed” excused just don’t fly for a player of his caliber. If this pass rush had lived up to its expectations through the first eight weeks, this could have been an above .500 team. Hopefully next season - with some inside help - Miller and Chubb will get back to destroying people.
Inside Linebackers: C Alexander Johnson A+++
Due to injuries in the middle of the field, the undrafted second-year player was forced to see significant time as the signal caller starting week five and since he and Purcell joined the starting lineup it has been an entirely different defense - for the better. The guy has shown to have great instincts and is a solid tackler who plays with the heart of a T-rex. I’ve never been a big fan of Todd Davis, Josey Jewell is a glorified special teams player and thus I can’t give the group anything higher than a C. It was an issue for the team until they lucked into Johnson turning into a stud and hopefully he will prove to be the future at the position.
Football outsiders puts the Broncos in the 4th place for passing defenses and they’ve managed to do that with significant injuries and no-name dudes balling out. The only reason I have this below an “A” is because they have given up some huge plays at the end up games which resulted in several brutal losses. I have no clue what the group will look like next year but if they somehow re-sign Harris Jr and Callahan finds a way to heal his foot, they could be really great.
P.S I love Kareem Jackson
Offensive Line: F- Dalton Risner: A-
McGovern should get a little credit for not being total garbage but he’s also not been anything special and is likely a better guard than center anyway. I don’t need ot delve into how bad Bolles, Leary and Wilkinson have been...so, I won’t. Fortunately, Risner has been a stud and could make a living just simply throwing Lindsay over the endzone.
Tight End: B-
Noah Fant has shown (especially last week) that he can be something special and he could potentially have one of the best rookie seasons at the position in recent memory. I loved the pick from the very beginning and then I hated how he looked early on because it seemed like he was running in sand. Now we can all have real hope that the team has a game changer at the position who can be a game changer and also a solid blocker. Heuerman was also solid before he suffered an injury and has proven to be a good blocker.
Running Back: C+
Phillip Lindsay, as always, is a stud who brings energy and explosiveness every time he is on the field. With this scheme and an improved offensive line - please, please, please - in 2020, Lindsay could run for 1,500 plus. This season he is on pace for right around 1,000 and has been balanced well by Royce Freeman. They’ve been good but not great and I can’t wait to see what they can do one more year with this system.
Wide Receiver: N/A Courtland Sutton: A+
It’s way too hard to judge this group as a whole since Tim Patrick has been hurt all year, Emmanuel Sanders was traded and they all had Joe Flacco passing - or not passing - them the ball. Sutton is the one guy who we can get a good idea of and boy, he is a beauty. I loved this kid even when he was struggling last year because I could tell that he was a smart cat and a dude that really cared about the game of football. This year he has improved by leaps and bounds and is destined to be a superstar in this league. He’s humble, talented and at the moment cheap and Denver can build around him to make a bad offense something better.
Quarter Back: F---
No, that’s not inteded to be a curse word...... and Brandon Allen doesn’t count for this grade even though what he did last Sunday deserves serious props and he should hold his head high during the few games he will get the chance to play in this season. Everyone knows my feelings on Joe Flacco and I can brag that, I “didn’t like his face” WAY before it was popular. I got a lot of crap on this website for my Flacco hate early this season and I have been patting myself on the shoulder ever since the rest of Broncos Country figured it out. The good news is, it can’t get worse for this team and for this scheme than Joe Flacco. Will Drew Lock be the future? Maybe. Will he be better than Flacco? Yes.
I think the coaches were dealt a tough hand and without a few bad calls by the refs, some terrible QB decisions and yes, a few whiffs by the coaching staff, this team could be in the playoff hunt while seriously lacking talent. The defense has figured it out and has proven to be a force and will be a bugger for opponents for a long time to come. The offense has had its problems but after seeing how much smoother things ran with Allen, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that they have a bright future ahead of them. Also, with some of the loud veterans out of the locker room in 2020, Fangio and the youth of the team can really set a new and desperately needed tone.
Front Office: D+
Look, there are some good things on this team and the last two drafts have been solid. That said, the Broncos will undoubtedly suffer their third straight losing season and it’s due in large part to the failures of the GM and his staff. Joe Flacco is in his prime? Really? Bolles deserves chance after chance after chance? The two biggest Free Agent additions in 2019 were guys with injury history and gasp they’ve been injured all season? Am I giving up on John Elway? No. Should he get lambasted for putting a bad product on the field since 2016? Yes.
What would be your highest graded part of this team?
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