This was a real measuring stick for the Denver Broncos. There were a lot of hyped-up feelings about this team as they found a way to win two in a row and were licking their chops while looking forward to an 0-3 Las Vegas Raiders team.
While we saw the offense and special teams get a little more explosive, the defense took a big step back. But for the 4th week straight, we’re seeing a theme of problems with this team that is consistent every week: penalties, dropped passes, inaccurate throws short-intermediate, head-scratching play calls, and mounting injuries.
There isn’t much to say positive about a defense that gives up 30 points and 200 yards on the ground. They looked good in spurts but mostly looked incapable of stopping the Raider’s running game.
As a whole, this defense made way too many weak tackles that the Raiders were able to just run through or around. Linemen, linebackers, and safeties, all consistently took bad angles that made them have to try to tackle with their arms by grabbing instead of getting to wrap up properly.
D.J. Jones is a monster up front. He’s showing consistent ability to win inside against linemen and impact plays. Early on he came with a stunt up front to get a sack. He had both edge players shoving in as well on Carr leaving the QB nowhere to go. He also had two TFLs on the day with several pressures. With that kind of interior pressure, the Bronco’s defense can get drives stopped if they can stop the run consistently.
Josey Jewell and Jonas Griffith were tackling machines in the game, but the vast majority of the time their tackles were happening after chunks of yardage were already gained. Neither of them looked to be attacking obvious gaps. I can only assume this is by design as most of the time this defense seems to be asking the LBs to read/react instead of attack gaps like we see in the Phillips 3-4. The problem is neither of them showed quickness, reaction time, or play reading ability to slow down the running attack. The Broncos have ignored this position for years (a trend in the NFL), and this week it cost them.
This was also a disappointing game for both Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory. Both players looked good a handful of times getting pressure on the QB but mostly looked like players that the Raiders had a plan for that worked over and over again. I’ve given a ton of credit to the Raider’s O-line over the years and they deserve a hat tip this week as well. Our team’s edge players looked ineffective overall this week.
The bright spot of the week was watching Patrick Surtain II getting targets as he matched up on Davante Adams most of the game. He got beat at times (early with a perfect back-shoulder pass) but easily looked like the player that won his matchup the majority of the time. He was a nightmare for Adams and was constantly putting on a clinic on how to cover the NFL’s best.
K’Waun Williams had one heck of a day as well. He came on a nickel blitz to get the timely sack to kill a drive. He also had a TFL and another hit on the QB in the game. I liked seeing the young player showing his versatility and Evero’s willingness to call his number.
Losing Javonte Williams is a big deal. Having your #2 RB cough up a fumble recovery for a touchdown was a game-changing big deal as well.
So why after those two things happen are we choosing to run the ball for less than 3 yards per carry with Gordon (which let me point out is generous…take away his one big 13-yard run and his other 9 carries were 1.66 ypc)?
The whole middle of the game this offense stagnated with Nathaniel Hackett deciding to trust his offensive line and fumbly RB who had shown nothing but constant inability to open up holes and get the offense yards.
It killed this team and its chances to win the game and hopefully is something that Hackett learns from (though given how many years he’s coached in the NFL, he should already know). Sometimes your line is just outmatched that week and the other team has their number. When that happens you need to shift gears. We have a $245 million dollar quarterback…put it on his shoulders and let him go to work.
Russel Wilson isn’t free of criticism this week, either. One of the most worrisome issues we’re seeing from him is that he’s consistently off-target with his receivers. They are running good routes and cut in or out but Wilson throws the ball behind them making them have to adjust just to try to make a catch. And when they do catch the ball, they are tackled immediately instead of being able to do what the play call was designed and get big yards after the catch. We hear a lot of talk from Wilson about “the process” and “the work.” But what I’m seeing from week to week is that Wilson needs to spend more time processing how to throw to his receivers so that the offense can work.
The good thing about Wilson is that he’s starting to hit his deeper throws and is consistently hitting those middle-of-the-field passes that everyone says he doesn’t throw. He hit a really nice pass over the middle of the field early to his TE for 20 yards. His deep throw to Hamler was absolute poetry. Sadly, the offense limited him to 25 passes in the game, so this handful of deep throws we were wowed by was not enough to make any difference.
This offensive line looked really poor in this game. There was no room for the running backs to do anything positive. They gave up multiple sacks again. They didn’t understand how to block basic stunts. The Raiders front seven wrecked everything they were trying to do consistently.
Garett Bolles is back to bear hugging players constantly as a blocking technique and it has to stop. He drew two really stupid holding penalties because of it. When your man gets up into your chest, you have to find a technique to block that doesn’t include wrecking your team’s drive.
The Broncos are missing Quinn Meinerz in a big way. Graham Glasgow looks like a shadow of his former self. He’s getting moved too easily and doesn’t seem to have the power to get movement up front that we want to see from our guards.
Cam Fleming had easily his worst day this season on the right side of the line. He got whipped in every way possible losing to speed, power, and stunts.
Let’s be real: Melvin Gordon III isn’t good. He’s consistently showing how little he cares about protecting the football and that should not be tolerated by this team. The Broncos should at the very least move Gordon to the #3 spot on the RB roster and have Boone be the #2 guy for a week. Gordon looked inept all game long and while his fumble/TD wasn’t the difference in the game, it was the difference in momentum that led to the loss for sure.
Mike Boone is a backup running back. He’s not supposed to be putting show-stopping plays on the field, but he did squander a great opportunity. He dropped two easy passes that hit his hands in the final drive of the game (though you can fairly point out that it is odd we’d be targeting our #3 RB in such a critical stage of the game).
Courtland Sutton keeps showing us why he’s the #1 WR on the team. He’s got the size, speed, and excellent route running that helps this team move the chains.
Jerry Jeudy showed great concentration on the deep pass on 3rd and 6 to get 20+ yards for the Broncos. He had a great game as our #2 guy and showed flashes of what his potential is for this offense.
Welcome back, K.J. Hamler! Sure, this guy only has one catch on the year, but it was a big-time deep pass for 55 yards.
Kendall Hinton needs to have a spot on this roster somehow, someway. All he does is run great routes and catch the ball. To me it doesn’t matter that he’s undersized…the guy is reliable even in big moments.
Montrell Washington was another bright spot in this game with the electric punt return early to put us deep in Raider territory. His 2nd punt return had him shucking and jiving through defenders to move the ball upfield. He’s looking like one of the best in the NFL at returns and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does as the season progresses.
Overall, this game showed that our team still has a long way to go. We’re likely to be on a roller-coaster season more than anything unless our offense finds some way to be consistent and help keep teams on their heels.
In both our losses this season the theme has been that we made too many mistakes. It is going to take time for this offense and defense to really get keyed into what they are doing. They are still thinking too much and trying to find their way.