Another week in the books, another masterclass from Nathaniel Hackett in how NOT to coach an NFL game.
After only two regular season games, the National media and Broncos Country alike are questioning Hackett’s long-term future at head coach, and the Super Bowl hopes that seemed so close when Wilson first arrived seem to float further out of reach with each delay of game penalty.
It’s a brutal week to be a Denver Broncos fan; crazy to think about considering the team ended up winning their game, the first of the Hackett/Wilson era. Brutal game aside, there still were positives on the tape and players who stood out.
It’s easy to be caught up in the overall catastrophe that the coaching staff is putting on display, but hopefully with these weekly film breakdowns a semblance of positivity can be taken from every Broncos game. Win or Lose, great coaching performance or… not so great.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts and clips from the performances of Damarri Mathis, Courtland Sutton, Garett Bolles, and Baron Browning.
Damarri Mathis clips vs. Houston— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) September 20, 2022
-looked comfortable playing in QQH, triggers downhill hard on passes in his zone
-lost one goal line rep in man to Cooks (drop)
-next play he comes up with the PBU, good short-term memory
-a ton of key open field stops leading to punts pic.twitter.com/qBXO76n6dH
The secondary entered the game without its best player in Justin Simmons, and by the end of the first half Patrick Surtain was sidelined as well.
After a Seattle game that saw multiple communication breakdowns in the secondary, this would be a true test for some of the younger Broncos such as Caden Sterns, PJ Locke, and Damarri Mathis. Sterns and Locke were solid in their opportunities, but Mathis showed a ton of upside with impressive athleticism and physicality as a tackler.
Davis Mills and the Texans challenged Mathis early with underneath routes and he rose to the challenge, giving up minimal YAC and keeping his receivers in front of him. Whether tasked with a deep half or quarter, he showed comfort and plenty of range being able to keep pace with Brandin Cooks, and played passes physically in the air even getting his first career PBU.
He was sparingly put in man coverage and was exposed on a goalline rep which was dropped by Cooks, but he came right back the next play with sound technique to force an incompletion. Short-term memory will be key for the rookie corner.
Mathis made a few open field tackles one on one, including an impressive wrap up of Dameon Pierce for a short gain, and multiple stops on 3rd and 4th down that saw him come up and lay big hits inches short of the yard marker.
Overall it was an impressive debut for Mathis, who may be asked to start on the outside this week should Surtain need time to recover. He fits well in Evero’s scheme and the pure athleticism and toughness he plays with shows up all over the field.
Courtland Sutton clips vs. Houston— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) September 21, 2022
-Russell has clear chemistry and trust in him early
-Sutton might lead the league in DPI's drawn at the end of the year
-centimeters from an insane twirling toe tap TD
-made big plays on 3rd and 4th down all game to seal the win pic.twitter.com/q8h3UHtRes
Courtland Sutton is back and better than ever.
This shouldn’t have been hard to predict, as finally Sutton is fully recovered from the ACL injury and is playing with the best QB play of his career, and one of the better jump ball throwers in the league.
Sadly, Jerry Jeudy was injured in the game on Sunday and may be out for the coming game against San Francisco as well. But when Jerry went down and the passing game needed a hero, Courtland Sutton was there.
Eleven targets, seven catches, and 122 yards. He drew multiple DPI’s, and was mere inches from a beautiful spinning touchdown grab on the one-yard line (which was beautiful, but I REALLY didn’t need to see attempted twice in a row). It was a dominant day from Court and he seems well on his way to being the team’s leader in receptions, yards and targets.
His connection with Russell early on is evident, as seemingly anytime Courtland draws single coverage on the outside a deep shot is going up.
He also came up incredibly clutch on 3rd and 4th down where Tim Patrick has been the guy in years past.
On a must-have 4th and 2 he absorbed a Wilson’ missile to the shoulder pad on the curl for a conversion, and on 3rd and 15 looking to seal the game he ran a crisp out-and-up against the flat in the cover 2 for a massive 34 yard gain.
He also puts in great effort as a blocker in the run game, and we’re seeing him become a weapon on scramble drills with Russ finding open space once the plays break down. It’s the year of Courtland Sutton, and the sky’s the limit.
Garett Bolles clips vs. Houston pic.twitter.com/InARUVqrQ8— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) September 22, 2022
I was concerned about the line and Bolles in general with the departure of Mike Munchak, but through two weeks Garett has been as solid as you can ask for.
He hasn’t faced the toughest of competition, but this last week against Jerry Hughes and Jonathon Greenard he put on a pass-blocking clinic. His athleticism is on full display in this offense, which asks him to climb to second level defenders and angle off 3-techs in the run game while providing a brick wall for Russell Wilson to stand behind in pass-protection. Last week he played 41 total passing snaps and gave up one single pressure; meanwhile, the rushing attack put up 149 yards on 5 YPC. Bolles has started the season looking like an all-pro and if the offense can clean up its red zone woes and put up points, we could see Bolles getting the recognition he deserves.
The D-lines only get tougher from here for Bolles, as this week he’s tasked with blocking Nick Bosa and the week after that Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby, but I’m confident based on what we saw from him in week two that he can more than hold his own.
Baron Browning clips vs. Houston pic.twitter.com/6nKY3WTeGw— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) September 22, 2022
Baron Browning’s placement on this list may come as a bit of a surprise with the production out of Bradley Chubb, Randy Gregory, and Dre’mont Jones, but the way Evero has been deploying Browning and the flashes of high level pass-rushing tools on display need to be highlighted.
The burst off the line and bend we saw so prominently in the preseason has carried over into the regular season. Browning routinely beats tackles around corners off the snap, and his freakish lower body flexibility allows him to keep his balance and reach QBs far better than the average rusher.
The rawness to his game is evident as he can find himself on the ground time and again, but so often we see him attempting moves that most pass-rushers simply aren’t capable of making and he has one of the best get offs I’ve ever seen, beating tackles before they have a chance to set.
Evero is using him as a weapon on 3rd downs mixing him, Chubb, Gregory, and Dre’mont wherever he sees fit, keeping linemen constantly off guard. We saw him sent on the RG on Sunday executing a perfect spin move and pressuring Mills into a poorly placed throw.
He still needs to improve against the run, as blockers hitting him from weird angles and chipping him completely neutralize his talent, but what he’s shown through two weeks has me believing he could be a double-digit QB sacker in the coming years.
Luckily for now he gets to be in the perfect situation for his development, learning the ropes from Bradley and Randy while being asked mainly to get after the passer on key downs.