If you read GIF Horse yesterday, you’ll know how critical the Broncos offensive line is to their success this week. Khalil Mack gets all of the media attention, but Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, and now Roy Robertson-Harris give the Bears the most talented defensive fronts in the entire league.
Luckily, the Broncos should have better interior play than the Packers did. Dalton Risner looked like a budding stud at left guard against Oakland. If he can keep performing at that level Sunday it will go a long way towards ensuring Denver can move the ball.
At the other guard spot, Leary had his moments in his return to action after the torn Achilles last October. He brought a veteran presence and the ability to anchor in pass protection, which gave Flacco time to scan the field. His ability to play in space looked like a work in progress, however. That will bear monitoring this Sunday.
Between the guards, Conner McGovern looked quiet, which is a very good thing considering all of the questions out of camp about his ability to snap. His athleticism and ability to get out at the second level will be absolutely critical against the Bears’ talented linebacker duo.
This is an INCREDIBLE block by Broncos center Connor McGovern to reach Hurst at the 3T. pic.twitter.com/qRy2B45h5r— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 12, 2019
The same can’t be said about the two tackles who finished in Oakland, who mixed good with bad.
It’s fair to grade Elijah Wilkinson on a bit of a curve as he came in relief of Ja’Wuan James early in the contest. James had a couple of nice snaps mixed after Noah Fant’s opening run.
Garett Bolles doesn’t have that same excuse. In all fairness to the Broncos’ 2017 first rounder, he didn’t allow a sack and only got flagged for one penalty Monday night. Look beyond the stats though, and he still had issues with Clelin Ferrell as well as blitz pickup in pass protection.
Far too often Bolles is still catching the rusher late. His hands are too low and he’s giving the rusher a chance to either get into his chest or bat them down to slip by him. It’s remarkable when you stop and realize this is his third season.
Let’s go into gory detail about how and where Bolles failed on the three passing plays above.
In the first play the Raiders look to be only rushing four with four down lineman - both defensive ends out wide. Both tackles need to get deep quickly while maintaining their body position relative to rusher.
In the first still after the snap (above), notice the difference in Ju’Waun James’ pass set and Bolles’ set. Bolles feet and shoulders are almost perpendicular to the LOS. James has his shoulders mostly parallel, which allows his to still counter an inside move by the DE AND stop the speed rush around the edge. James is also deeper into the backfield which allows him to cut off the angle of the DE. Both OT’s have their hands in the ready position to punch/hand-fight.
At this point in the first play Bolles is already beaten as the DE, #99, has a clear line to the QB. To compound his error instead of punching with his left, Bolles engages with his right hand first which is ineffective, because the defender defeats his right-punch with a chop. Given his body position, Bolles really could not even use his left to punch without losing his balance.
In the second play (above), the Raiders have seven players on the LOS all showing blitz. With no in-line TE, all five offensive lineman have to be aware of two potential rushers. This forces the offensive tackles into a bind. They cannot drop deep into their pass sets like they could in the first play because of the potential for the DTs to have a straight shot at the QB if both LBs A-gap blitz. The DB, #35, in this play is the responsibility of the QB since the RB is on the opposite side of the formation. Both Joe Flacco and Noah Fant have to know that if 35 blitzes there is an easy 8 yard completion to Fant on the hot-read.
Both LBs drop into coverage as does #35, but the Raiders also bring a DB who was off-screen in the initial shot. Again, instead of dropping deep into the backfield while maintaining his shoulder position, Bolles turns his body and “opens the gate”. Not only that, but he allows the defender, #99, to engage and get a hand into his chest. In this shot above Bolles should be moving his right arm/hand to chop down on the defenders arm. He isn’t and he doesn’t.
So while Bolles has his arms ready to punch in the shot above, he never really does so. He ends up “catching” the defender instead of punching him.
Bolles’ left arm ends up around the neck of the defender and he gets called for holding, mainly because he is way off balance at this point and his no other way to impede the progress of the DE to the QB. Notice how well the other pass blockers are doing.
In this third play, the Raiders again have seven that could blitz with four of them on the offensive left which is the weak side.
The Raiders end up only rushing four, but two of them, #50 and #24, are over Bolles which forces him to choose which defender to block. In theory McGovern could take #73 and bump Dalton Risner to the blitzing LB which would allow Bolles to take #24. This might been what Bolles was expecting because he chooses to try and block #24. Leaving the inside rusher, #50, free.
Bolles has his left arm/hand way outside his frame in this shot above. I’m not sure what he is trying to accomplish with that, but he should be able to knock #24, who he outweighs by 100 lbs, way off his line.
Not only does Bolles not do anything with his left hand, the punch he delivers with right is so feckless that it fails to reroute #24. So at this point above, both #50 and #24 have a clear line to the QB since Risner is unable to disengage with #73 in order to pick up #50.
Bolles was also a liability in the run game. More than once I found myself asking “what are you doing?” as Bolles let his man free to make the play. On a few other occasions the left tackle blocked air and watched the action unfold around him.
Things will only get more difficult this week. The run game, play action, and rollouts may be the best way for the Broncos to try and gameplan around Bolles as much as possible. On pure passing downs Pagano will most certainly attack the left side, which will put pressure on Risner to hide Bolles.
With James out for an indefinite length of time the health of the line is scary thin. Austin Schlottmann and Corey Levin are interior depth, so if an injury strikes Wilkinson or Bolles the plan looks like Dalton Risner would kick out to tackle to man the right side. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that as it would weaken two positions, rather than one.
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But after Monday’s performance against the lowly Raiders, you can bet the Bears’ Front 7 is drooling at its opportunity.
It’s one game, and it’ll take time for a first-year head coach to get his footing, but the Broncos have to be better on Sunday.
Riddle me this #Broncos Country: What's more likely, that all of OL Twitter is lying to you, or Fangio is invested in protecting Bolles from criticism because there is no alternative?— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 12, 2019
The tape doesn't lie. pic.twitter.com/sYj5mQxcyx
The Denver Broncos offense faces a ferocious Chicago Bears defense in Week 2, but here is how they could come out victorious.
I am 100% here for this. One. Hundred. Percent. https://t.co/N1JPMGDZh3— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 13, 2019
We sit down with Laurie Lattimore of Mile High Report to discuss all things Broncos ahead of the Bear trip to Denver.
Placing your OLBs in different spots force the offense to guess or adjust. This also lends itself to sending non-traditional rushers from depths or cutting the OLBs on the LOS under routes. This constant cat and mouse game is where games are won, especially in a league that focuses on pass-protection and blitz pick-up. Being able to look a certain way pre-snap, only to change it post-snap is key in the modern game. Using OLBs that are typically edge rushers in a multitude of ways lends itself later to creative blitzing.
Some reporter out there actually thought this question had enough merit to ask out loud. pic.twitter.com/QYj9bv5OxD— Doctor of Words (and tights and kicking ass) (@docllv) September 12, 2019
In the loss to the Raiders, Sutton showed he can be a WR1
The Denver Broncos needed this kind of good news, considering the depth on their offensive line is already thin and questionable.
Mike Munchak has as impressive of a track record for developing OL as anyone in the NFL. Could Elijah Wilkinson be his next success story?— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 12, 2019
He played RT for the 1st time in his career (52 snaps) in WK1 & there was a lot to like.
Big Ben is set to dominate at home and Phillip Lindsay is set to own Vic Fangio’s former squad. Check out the rest of my team!
Did Fangio break his star tandem? I don’t think so. Actually, Chubb and Miller were more effective than their sack and hit totals indicated. It was clear that Raiders coach Jon Gruden built his game plan around limiting the chances Chubb and Miller had to impact the game. Carr’s average pass came after just 2.43 seconds, which was the third-quickest release in the league during Week 1. That isn’t anything new; Carr had the league’s quickest release during the 2018 season under Gruden, too.
How the heck did Chubb and Von not get to Carr on this... *checks notes* screen? pic.twitter.com/nbNzzjTBN8— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 11, 2019
Hyped as a rookie to watch last summer, Sutton teased with a prototype skill set that too often failed to result in a Case Keenum completion. By the end of the year, I questioned if the rangy receiver was more of a jump-ball specialist than all-around threat. He put those doubts to rest Monday night as the bright spot in an otherwise-dismal Denver attack, totaling 120 yards -- much of it after the catch on slants and crossers that dissected Oakland’s defense. If the opener was any indication, Joe Flacco desperately needs Sutton to emerge as a reliable second fiddle to Emmanuel Sanders.
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12. Denver Broncos: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida With six interceptions over his first two seasons in college football, Henderson has the length, athleticism and ball skills to develop into an elite corner for the Broncos. Not only will Chris Harris be a free agent in 2020, but you can never have too many corners when Patrick Mahomes is in your division.
One of my favorite things about having new college football games to watch is all the talent that emerges.
On this episode of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast, the guys talk about week two in college football! Russell Brown is joined by Christian Page and they have an in-depth conversation on LSU and Texas. Meanwhile, Kellen Mond did the expected and how come nobody talked about Cal upsetting Washington?
No worries. Delpit is still good. pic.twitter.com/3ioIpsttzW— Christian Page (@_ChristianPage) September 5, 2019
A look around the rest of the AFC West
For McCoy, expect more backstrokes in the Fountain of Youth Week 2. Why? It’s Oakland, a team, post-Antonio Brown, which shocked the world against Denver Week 1. In its opener, the Raiders largely stood their ground against the 1-2 punch of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. The duo combined for 127 total yards on 26 touches, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
Who’s going to fill in for the Chiefs No. 1 WR while he’s out?
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry will continue to be evaluated and no time frame has been determined for his return after he suffered a tibial plateau fracture to his left knee.
One career game, one player of the week award
Is Ryan Grant in over his head after being thrust into the No. 2 receiver spot?
Random @PFF stat that didn't make the Josh Jacobs story I'm working on:— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) September 12, 2019
Jacobs ran best between C Rodney Hudson and RG Denzelle Good on Monday night, with five carries for 26 yards, two touchdowns and three first downs from that gap.
If an NFL team wants to optimize its offense, dialing back on running plays isn’t enough. They need to start dialing back on straight dropback passes as well. Play-action is the shortcut that teams aren’t using nearly enough.
However, neither Barron nor Bush looked the part on Sunday night. Along with base linebacker Vince Williams, they were vulnerable to New England’s patented bang-bang play-action. And, in straight man coverage (which Pittsburgh featured a lot), Barron could not stay with shifty receiving back James White, while Bush endured ups and downs against Rex Burkhead. Their struggles, if not corrected, will serve as a harbinger for this defense’s underachievement.
#Jets coach Adam Gase tells reporters that QB Sam Darnold will miss Monday’s game with mono. That is unexpected.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 12, 2019
The Saints and Panthers rushers are two of the most skilled players at their position. But the way their teams use them in the passing game gives them receiver-like value—and provides a blueprint for other backs.
The Falcons drafted Chris Lindstrom 14th overall, hoping he’d add some toughness to their offensive line. He did just that, even though he’s not going to be playing for at least the next eight weeks. Via to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.
The Browns’ protection issues deserve scrutiny going forward, especially with Monday’s road test looming against the Jets, whose defensive coordinator has detailed knowledge of Baker Mayfield’s habits.
Have you wondered what stat nerds would do if they could design an NFL offense? Kliff Kingsbury is unintentionally giving us an answer.
Typically you only hear about mononucleosis in sports regarding a college athlete taking a medical redshirt due to it. I recall finding a story of one who described much of the recuperation time as a regimen of “Netflix and naps.”— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 12, 2019
So get well & enjoy “Stranger Things,” Sam.