Well that was a fun way to end the season. You can argue that draft position is more valuable than the fleeting happiness I get when the Denver Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders, but I’ll take the win over the five spots of draft position every day and twice on Sunday. This particular win was not pretty (defense allowed 477 yards), but I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day.
Let’s dig into why this win was so ugly. The offensive line was a wreck. Jake Rodgers fared ok when he was an unknown, but all it took was a smidgen of game film on him and Maxx Crosby was able to beat him like a rented mule. The entire right side of the offensive line on Sunday was getting absolutely owned by the mostly feckless pass rush of the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders finished the season 27th in pressure percentage (percentage of opponent dropbacks where they got pressure on the QB), but on Sunday they were getting to Drew Lock almost as soon as he got the shotgun snap. Even with that, they were only able to sack the elusive Mr. Lock twice.
If that had been Joe Flacco or Brandon Allen at QB, that sack number probably would have been five or six. In fact Drew Lock was the third most difficult QB to sack this season behind Matt Schaub (2.90 percent) and Drew Brees (3.10 percent). Lock was only sacked on 3.13 percent of his dropbacks. Data from pro-football-reference.com.
Lock was hard to sack. Surprisingly he was not blitzed all that much (28th out of 53 qualifying QBs) and he was pressured on 24.2 percent of his dropbacks which was 26th. His pocket time (average time QB had between snap and either throw or pressure) was 2.6 seconds. That was tied with a eleven other QBs for 3rd longest.
Most of the other QBs were either young/inexperienced (Jeff Driskel, Dwayne Haskins, Mason Rudolph and David Blough) or known for extending plays with their legs (Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Jacoby Brissett, Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott). The only two QBs who had longer on average pocket time were Ryan Finley and Kirk Cousins, both of whom had 2.7 seconds.
Defensive coordinators blitzed the snot out of Matt Barkley and Cam Newton. They were the only two qualifying QBs to finish the season being blitzed (5 or more rushers) on 45 percent or more of their dropbacks. Conversely (and interestingly), the three other AFC West starting QBs were some of the least blitzed in the league in 2019: Philip Rivers 18.2 percent (3rd least), Derek Carr 19.9 percent (4th least) and Patrick Mahomes 21.6 percent (6th least). Panthers fans have to be worried when the see that Will Grier was blitzed only on 15.5 percent of his dropbacks in his one start yet he was still sacked five times in that game (and threw three picks).
Some quarterbacks show that they don’t have “it” in only a game or two. Will Grier does not have “it”. Drew Lock does. Both the numbers and the eye test tell me this.
As much as I enjoy writing about Drew Lock (and there will be a huge team-written analysis of Drew Lock coming soon to MHR), you probably clicked on this link to read something about the Bronco defense. To fully appreciate what this defense (and defensive coaching staff) was able to accomplish this season, you have to look at both the absolute numbers and then at the players that were able to generate them.
The Broncos finished the season 10th in points allowed. 12th in yards allowed. 16th in passer rating allowed. 24th in completion percentage allowed. 25th in takeaways. 14th in YPC allowed. 13th in third down conversion percentage allowed. 1st in red zone TD percentage. Opponents had 48 trips into the red zone against the defense and only scored TDs on 18 of those. 17th in sacks. 14th in sack percentage.
Suffice it to say that in most stats this defense was average or slightly above average - with the exception of red zone TD percentage (which was really good). The 39.1 percent that the defense allowed was the best since the 2017 Chargers allowed TDs on only 36.1 percent. The 2019 Broncos defense joined ten other defenses from this decade to finish the regular season with a value below 40 percent
|Rank||Team||RZ TD %|
The Broncos defense was able to do this with unknowns and undrafted players taking an alarming number of snaps for the defense. I’ll go more in depth on that in my final season snap count review tomorrow.
Here are the starters on defense from games one and sixteen - both against the
Oakland LossVegas Faiders. Only five of the players who started on defense in game one, started on defense in game sixteen. Of the six who did not, one was no longer on the team (Corey Nelson), one was suspended (Kareem Jackson) and three were on IR (Adam Gotsis, Derek Wolfe and Bradley Chubb). Of the sixth only Josey Jewell was still active and playing last Sunday and he only played eight defensive snaps when Todd Davis hobbled off the field.
|game 1 starters||position||game 16 starters||position|
|Adam Gotsis||DE||Mike Purcell||NT|
|Derek Wolfe||DE||Dre'Mont Jones||DE|
|Shelby Harris||NT||Shelby Harris||DE|
|Von Miller||OLB||Von Miller||OLB|
|Bradley Chubb||OLB||Jeremiah Attaochu||OLB|
|Josey Jewell||ILB||Alexander Johnson||ILB|
|Corey Nelson||ILB||Todd Davis||ILB|
|Isaac Yiadom||CB||Isaac Yiadom||CB|
|Chris Harris||CB||Chris Harris||CB|
|Justin Simmons||S||Justin Simmons||S|
|Kareem Jackson||DB||Trey Marshall||S|
Twenty-three different defensive players started a game for the Broncos this season and seven of those twenty-three were undrafted out of college. Also included in the 23 are two 7th round picks (Shelby Harris and Corey Nelson), a 6th round pick (Will Parks), a 5th round pick (Davontae Harris) and a 4th round pick (Josey Jewell). If you pardon the phrase, our defensive coaches this season were able to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.