In a normal year week one is ripe for overreaction. It’s the first time fans get a chance to see new players and schemes. This leads to any individual matchups, mistakes, or adjustments going under the microscope and taking on extra significance because of the small sample size.
The above is even more true in a season without any real exposure to NFL team’s practices and no preseason games. Broncos Country got to see tight camera angles of Jerry Jeudy catching a deep ball, but didn’t hear much if any issues he had with drops in camp. We heard the Broncos would use Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay together, but not how it would function. You get the idea.
Since the Broncos lost to the Tennessee Titans last Monday I’ve heard a ton of different reactions to the game. Fortunately after a bit of delay I was able to access the All-22 today. Here are a few things I noticed.
Melvin Gordon looks like a perfect fit in the offense.
Let’s look past the fumble to everything Gordon gave the Broncos offense Monday. He ripped off a nice 25-yarder in the third quarter that really showcased his ability to set up and maximize his blocks with vision, patience, and agility.
What I found even more encouraging than what he looked like toting the rock is how he held up in pass protection. The Titans front creates a ton of issues for backs with how they scheme up free rushers and for the most part Gordon held up to it. It’ll be critical for him to do so again because Keith Butler is another coordinator who loves to bring heat.
Pat Shurmur really loves 11 personnel.
With both Courtland Sutton and K.J. Hamler missing the game Monday I expected the Broncos to lean into their depth at tight end a lot more than they did. At the end of the day, Denver still used three receiver sets more than 60% of the time.
With that in mind I really, really hope the Broncos receiving corps is back to full strength. It was cool to see Tyrie Cleveland get his first NFL catch and I have nothing against Diontae Spencer, but I’d rather they stick to special teams in Pittsburgh.
The first catch of Tyrie Cleveland's NFL career. pic.twitter.com/JPe4LWqf6U— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 15, 2020
Jewell exceeded my wildest expectations. I still have questions.
When the Broncos cut Todd Davis before the season, it looked an awful lot like a cost cutting move. The last time Josey Jewell logged significant reps in a Fangio defense he looked pretty shaky against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers. I was concerned about how he’d hold up to a Tennessee offense that attacks the middle of the field and has a runner in Derrick Henry who can mash it down your throat.
Jewell didn’t answer every question I have for him in week one, but he looks to have made a quantum leap since last season. He looked quicker to read up, did a much better job separating from blocks and leveraging gaps. I’d like to see more is in coverage, but I suspect that was why Elway signed Mark Barron: the Broncos knew Jewell would have issues against the pass.
With Barron hurt, there’s a decent chance Jewell winds up a bit of a fish in the barrel against Pittsburgh. The Steelers do a good job attacking the middle of the field and have the personnel to try and really exploit Jewell’s lack of range.
Same goes for Garett Bolles.
I’ve gotten a bit of a rep at this point for “hating” the Broncos first round tackle. Let me just say that I hope he can continue to look how he did against the Titans’ front. Harold Landry, Jeffrey Simmons, and Jadeveon Clowney are scary pass rushers and the way Vrabel utilizes his front four puts a lot of stress on protection. For the most part, Bolles held up. He also looked pretty solid as a run blocker.
One big caveat that bears monitoring going forward is something Joe Mahoney noticed earlier this week.
Jeremiah Attaochu looked good.
When Von Miller got hurt I expected both Malik Reed and Attaochu to do their part to fill the void. So far it’s Attaochu who’s really caught my eye. He was able to take advantage of a favorable matchup against Dennis Kelly a number of times on Monday. I also thought he played the run better than he’s been given credit for.
Justin Simmons had a tough game.
The Broncos have a problem with crossing routes. If you watched the last five or so games of last year you’ll know it was a trend. If Monday is any indication teams will go to town with it until Fangio finds a way to slow them down.
One way Fangio tried to adjust during the game Monday was by bring Simmons into the action. Jeff Essary and I discussed it on Cover 2 Broncos, so be sure to give it a listen.
With the injuries to Von and A.J. Bouye, Simmons may be a guy who sees his performance dip because of the role he’s asked to fill going forward. So far I’ve seen nothing to suggest he’s anything but the best player on the defense.
Michael Ojemudia got robbed of his first pick.
Vic Fangio said it best.
On the penalty I thought it was a highly questionable call. I didn’t see it happen live until I saw it on the tape. He just chucked a guy in his chest inside of five yards. He didn’t hit him in the back or neck or head area. I was surprised by the call.