The game-day inactives were: Todd Davis, Bryce Callahan, Juwann Winfree, Andy Janovich, Joe Jones, Corey Levin, Dre’Mont Jones. Of those seven, Winfree, Levin and Jones were healthy. Take note since both Todd Davis and Joe Jones are ILBs. This will be important later.
Offensive Snaps and Percentages
When Ja’Wuan James went down with his injury ten plays into the season, Elijah Wilkinson stepped up played okay. There is a reason he is still the backup T/G, albeit the first reserve if someone gets hurt. He was over-matched a few times in pass protection and allowed at least one sack.
Despite being listed as TE1, Jeff Heuerman only played 21 offensive snaps. Noah Fant played 52. We played 3WR sets a bunch with Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton getting at least 77% of the offensive snaps. Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay had an almost perfect 50/50 split of the offensive snaps. Devontae Booker get one offensive snap and only played eight special teams snaps.
Only two offensive players did not get an offensive snap - Diontae Spencer and Austin Schlottman.
Defensive Snaps and Percentages
On September 2nd, the Broncos signed unrestricted veteran free agent ILB Corey Nelson who had been cut/waived/released by the Buccaneers. Nelson started 6 games at ILB for Denver in 2016 and played in about half of our defensive snaps, but he had exactly 44 defensive snaps in 2017 and 2018 combined. For his career shows he has been a below average starter who has mostly been a special teams player when he has been game-day active. He played two thirds of our special teams snaps in 2014 through 2016 and then was playing 80% of them in 2017 before he was injured and lost for the season.
With both Joe Jones and Todd Davis injured, our defensive coaching staff chose to not only start Corey Nelson, but to play him on the vast majority of the defensive snaps. Justin Hollins got 4 defensive snaps in relief of Nelson. We had two other ILBs active for this game, Keishawn Bierria and Alexander Johnson, but neither took a defensive snap. That’s a statement that the coaching staff has zero confidence in either of those two players in a real game situation. When a decidedly below average player at your position who has not taken a single snap with your team during the preseason and who has very limited playing time in the NFL during the last two years is cut by another team and ends up starting over you, it might be time to consider another career.
So much of Fangio’s defense relies on players in coverage knowing where they need to be when. The fact that Nelson, who has never played in a Fangio defense, was deemed a better option to start after being with the team for seven days is pretty damning. Being forced to played Isaac Yiadom for 98% of the defensive snaps is scary, but he did play heavily in a couple of games last season (the win @ CIN and the loss @ SFO). Almost half of his defensive snaps for last season came in those two games.
I’m not sure how I feel about Von Miller playing 97% of the defensive snaps. On one hand, he’s our best individual player and I want him on the field as much as possible. On the other hand, I want him to still have some gas in the tank at the end of the season. How do you feel about this? Do you think that it’s better to give Von some rest or do you want him taking as many defensive snaps as possible?
Josey Jewell and Justin Simmons were the only two defensive players who played 100% of the defensive snaps, but Yiadom, Chris Harris, Kareem Jackson and Von were all at 97% or more. Malik Reed played five defensive snaps in relief of Bradley Chubb. Mike Purcell and DeMarcus Walker were used to give Adam Gotsis and Shelby Harris some rest against that massive Raiders offensive line.
As well as the two previously mentioned, there were three other defensive players who were active but did not get a single defensive snap. Two of them, Davontae Harris and Duke Dawson have only been on the team for about a week. De’Vante Bausby was the other defender who did not play a single defensive snap. All three of these guys were in on about half of the special teams snaps. I’d have to go back and re-watch the 75-yard KO return that we allowed to see if either of those three were to blame for the poor coverage.