Week 5 brought more disappointment on offense for the Denver Broncos, as they fell to a disappointing 2-3 record after losing a 60-minute slopfest 9-12 against the Indianapolis Colts.
It was the story of the season so far, as we saw baffling late game decisions by Hackett combined with the worst game we’ve seen from Russ in a Denver uniform.
It was a heartbreaking display for fans hoping to see the Broncos’ offense return to a semblance of respectability, but as with any other week, there were still positives to take away from the film. So, for the second week in a row, I will only be highlighting standout players on the defensive side of the ball.
With no further lamenting on the slop, let’s dive into the impressive performances of Baron Browning, Caden Sterns, Bradley Chubb, and Alex Singleton from week 5.
Baron Browning clips vs. Indianapolis Colts— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) October 9, 2022
-Browning won in nearly every way imaginable against some weaker OT's
-Browning/Chubb loop was run repeatedly on 3rd downs to great success
-Spins, ghosts, speed to power, the hand swipes, and some of the best snap jumps of the year pic.twitter.com/QZwVxAHqZX
Baron Browning is simply a revelation.
Browning delivered pressure after pressure in Denver’s first game without standout free agent signing Randy Gregory, totalling an absurd 10 pressures and 2 sacks on only 22 pass rushing snaps. He posted the highest single game pressure rate that PFF has ever recorded, and was beating the Colts offensive line with a plethora of moves that left me speechless.
It was a “Von Miller-esque” performance (which is thrown around all too frequently), all it was missing was one final sack to seal the game, which, if Browning doesn’t get injured… who knows.
Browning flashed the entire toolkit; bull-rushing a tackle into Matt Ryan, utilizing the spin-move we saw in the preseason, utilizing the ghost technique, and flexing some of the most absurd getoff I’ve seen in recent memory. Browning has the ability to beat tackles in every way imaginable but what’s equally impressive to me as Browning’s freak athleticism, is the way defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero utilizes these traits.
One of Denver’s best defensive looks on 3rd down sees Bradley Chubb lined up outside the OT’s shoulder with Browning extended even further outside lined up in a wide-nine technique.
Bradley then fights inside to absorb the guard, and Browning’s elite speed sees him able to loop inside around Chubb for a free lane to the QB. The Colts’ o-line struggled with this repeatedly, and it led to multiple sacks and losses of down for their offense.
Evero also utilizes a ton of simulated pressure looks (basically fake blitzes) to scare offensive lines into thinking Browning is rushing the passer, then on the snap he uses his speed and agility to drop into coverage picking up crossers. This allows more 1-on-1s upfront with o-linemen dedicated to Browning, and takes away quick reads for QBs over the middle with Baron’s impressive coverage ability.
Caden Sterns clips vs. Indianapolis Colts pic.twitter.com/bv5f5MyIqY— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) October 14, 2022
Since the injury to Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns has filled the role of ‘ballhawk’ in the Broncos secondary.
Sterns’ range and ball skills are no-joke, but over the past couple weeks we’ve seen an incredible knack for baiting throws and timing up PBUs and INTs.
Twice, Matt Ryan made ill-advised throws that ended in the hands of Sterns, both times with him rotating down as the robber, leaving Kareem as the single-high. Both throws were ugly from Ryan, but on one we saw an impressive job from Sterns reading the eyes of Ryan and lurking just out of his vision before reacting and leaping for the INT.
We also saw him break up a deep dig route being run by Michael Pittman with excellent timing on the hit, leading to a Pittman drop that would’ve seen Indianapolis enter Denver territory. Instead, they punted.
Caden isn’t quite the battering ram that Kareem Jackson is, but he’s more than serviceable in the run game and rarely misses open field stops. He makes the correct reads, triggers really fast on runs, and plays the last line of defense role well in a defense designed to bend not break.
With Justin set to return Monday, I hope Denver looks at Caden and Simmons as the primary safety duo. Kareem has played fine, and is an important voice in the locker room, but the playmaking we’re seeing out of Sterns is too valuable to pass up in favor of the leadership Kareem brings. Especially in the AFC West against Mahomes and Herbert, where the team will be playing 2-high all game, there’s no reason to not have the two best coverage safeties out there.
In no way do I think Kareem is washed, as I hope he still plays an integral part of the defense as the 3rd safety, dime-backer, and possible nickel depth. But the time has come for a changing of the guard, and a sneak peak at what could be the Denver starting safety tandem for the coming years.
Bradley Chubb clips vs. Indianapolis Colts pic.twitter.com/GeG0GLm24l— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) October 14, 2022
Give Bradley Chubb his money.
This may be unpopular among fellow Broncos fans, but keeping Bradley Chubb around is massive if Denver hopes to win or even get close to a Super Bowl during the Russell Wilson era.
Right now he has the 5th most sacks in the league, he’s top-3 in pressure rate against around the league, and he’s one of the better run defenders at the edge position. Bradley Chubb deserves to be paid.
People will be quick to point to injuries as a reason Chubb shouldn’t be paid, as he’s missed basically two of a possible five seasons due to them. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but NFL players, especially edge rushers, get injured. You can’t look at the list of highest paid edge rushers without realizing that nearly all of them have endured some kind of season ending injury at some point .
Some people will point to sack numbers as though those are the only serviceable defensive measures we have at our fingertips. Bradley Chubb has two separate 50+ pressure seasons, and if he continues on his current pace is well on his way to a third. He’s the only Broncos pass rusher with 50 pressures in a season besides Von Miller since 2015.
On top of that, he’s a difference-maker in the run game, and consistently creates turnovers while also being one of the best leaders in the locker room.
Denver isn’t short on cap space– they have the 12th most in the league. Denver isn’t starved for picks– they have five still this year with two in the top-100, with an already young roster. They just were purchased by the richest owner in pro sports and as we’ve seen with the Rams and Buccaneers, that plays a massive role in being able to pay players.
I know it doesn’t feel like it, but Denver is in the midst of a “Super Bowl” window since the acquisition of Russell Wilson. Even though these first five weeks haven’t been promising, to abandon ship, sell off talent, and let stars walk is not the quickest path for this team to return to the postseason. Bradley Chubb is one of the few proven, consistent players on this roster, and to see him walk out the door would be a complete tragedy, authored by George Paton and company. They will at best get back a day-2 pick through compensation or trade, and that player will need ample time to become a late season contributor near that of Bradley.
This team doesn’t have ample time with Russell Wilson at the helm.
Alex Singleton clips vs. Indianapolis Colts pic.twitter.com/wMahmJG2ud— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) October 14, 2022
Josey Jewell’s absence is never fun as the outlaw is one of the headdier, harder-hitting members of the defensive unit.
But in Jewell’s place came a different ass-kicker, and he picked up right where Jewell left off.
Singleton hits everything, and he hits everything hard. He only played the second half for Denver, but he played a massive role in limiting the Indianapolis run game.
He constantly beat linemen on blocks, clogged running lanes, and stacked up runners for short gains forcing long 3rd downs.
In coverage he isn’t quite the athlete that Griffith or Jewell are, but he held his own reading out multiple screen passes for stops and hunting down swing passes for short gains.
He’s been a standout player on special teams, and deserves more recognition for the stability he’s provided along with the communication he brings wearing the green dot for Evero’s defense with Jewell out.