The Denver Broncos had a fierce pass rush early in the season when Randy Gregory, Bradley Chubb and Baron Browning were rushing the passer. The problem is Gregory missed most of the season, Chubb was traded and Browning was not the same after he came back from injury. The data in the chart below is from SISdatahub.com, which is more generous with QB pressures that PFR.
Baron Browning had 22 pressures before his injury and only 13 after - both covering 7 games (SIS data). According to PFR, he finished the season with 8 TFL, 12 QBhits and 18 pressures, but 4 of those TFL, 7 of those QBhits and 9 of those pressures came in a two game stretch (IND and @LAC). In other words, he had a great stretch of two games where he dominated terrible offensive lineman and did very little during the rest of the season.
Against the Colts he was facing rookie LT Bernhard Raimann and he absolutely abused him. Raimann was a 3rd round pick who was making his first NFL start. IN addition to giving up pressure on Matt Ryan on almost every dropback, Raimann was also called three times for holding. Apparently he figured it out and get better because he finished the season with a PFF overall grade of 73.3 which would have made him the second best offensive lineman on the Broncos (behind Cameron Fleming). Raimann was benched the next game, but he did start and play every offensive snap for the Colts in their final nine games of the season.
The Bronco defense finished the season with 36 sacks, but six of those came in one game where we exploited a rookie making his first NFL start. Fourteen of those 36 sacks came in three game (vs 49ers, @IND and vs BAL). Against the 49ers the Broncos were exploiting freshly inserted Jimmy Garoppolo. Against the Colts we took advantage of a rookie LT making his first start. Against the Ravens, we exploited back-up QB Tyler Huntley. When facing established QBs and/or competent offensive lines, the 2022 Bronco defense struggled to generate any pressure on the QB.
Data for the whole NFL for the entire season shown as a heat map to see QB Pressures by team by game. Data from https://t.co/8kRhSSDAbo. Only 3 instances of a D getting 0 QB pressures in '22. https://t.co/1vcc2baUmY pic.twitter.com/ZNpyEBpTzQ— Joe Mahoney (@ndjomo76) January 12, 2023
The Broncos averaged 14 pressures per game, but if you look at the games where we failed to get close to that, they all came against “good” QBs (with the exception of Sam Darnold).
- Game 4 - loss to Raiders - 9 pressures - Derek Carr
- Game 8 - win over Jaguars - 11 pressures - Trevor Lawrence
- Game 9 - loss to Titans - 9 pressures - Ryan Tannehill
- Game 10 - loss to Raiders - 11 pressures - Carr again
- Game 11 - loss to Panthers - 5 pressures - Sam Darnold
- Game 15 - loss to Chiefs - 7 pressures - Patrick Mahomes
- Game 17 - win over Chargers - 11 pressures - Justin Herbert
The final three games of the season for the Broncos are particularly troubling (see my tweet above) with only 7 QB pressures (according to PFR - SIS is more generous showing we had 31) in those three games. Using sisdatahub.com, in the first seven games of the season the Broncos averaged 18.3 pressures per game (on the opposing QB - we’re not talking here about pressures we allowed on OUR QB - that’s a whole different article that I’ll write later). In games 8 through 17, the Broncos averaged 11.1 pressures per game.
According to SIS the Broncos had 239 QB Pressures on the season. According to PFR, we only had 123. SIS does not allow for team searchable data. PFR does. According to PFR, the Bronco defense was 26th in pressure rate, but fourth in blitz rate. Meaning that we had to blitz (rush five or more) to generate that meager pressure that we did generate. We finished the season with a pressure rate of 18.5%. The Cowboys had the best at 25.6 while the Falcons were the worst at 14.6. In terms of total QB pressures, only two teams finished the season with fewer than 100 pressures - the Falcons with 88 and the Bears with 85. The Eagles had the most with 168.
|3||New York Jets||556||94||14.9%||39||6.2%||76||13.7%||45||160||25.4%||68|
|5||Kansas City Chiefs||619||173||24.2%||59||8.3%||64||10.3%||55||178||24.9%||82|
|6||New York Giants||568||253||39.7%||48||7.5%||66||11.6%||41||155||24.3%||49|
|7||New England Patriots||596||148||21.9%||73||10.8%||36||6.0%||54||163||24.1%||73|
|8||Green Bay Packers||478||174||32.5%||42||7.9%||50||10.5%||34||126||23.6%||59|
|11||San Francisco 49ers||593||143||21.6%||39||5.9%||69||11.6%||44||152||22.9%||64|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||570||182||28.3%||38||5.9%||58||10.2%||45||141||21.9%||68|
|21||Los Angeles Chargers||505||177||31.1%||35||6.1%||38||7.5%||40||113||19.8%||65|
|24||Las Vegas Raiders||590||168||26.2%||36||5.6%||61||10.3%||27||124||19.3%||69|
|28||Los Angeles Rams||556||166||26.8%||35||5.7%||38||6.8%||38||111||17.9%||67|
|29||New Orleans Saints||536||102||16.8%||29||4.8%||29||5.4%||48||106||17.5%||74|
According to Pro-football-reference.com the Broncos defense also led the league in missed tackles with 98 which is exactly twice as many as the Commanders and the Giants (49).
Pulling the data for the entire front seven (+ K’Waun Williams who was really effective we had rushed the passer) you get the table below (from SIS). The table is sorted by pass rush (PR) snaps.
|Player||POS||Sacks||Hurries||Hits||Knockdowns||Pressures||Passes Batted||PR snaps||Pressure %|
|Bradley Chubb (w/ DEN)||OLB||5.5||7||12||3||21||1||190||11.1%|
|Jacob Martin (w/ DEN)||OLB||1.0||5||4||0||8||0||58||13.8%|
Our two best pass rushers were Williams and Jonas Griffith, but they combined for only 53 pass rush snaps. For Bronco players with more than 100 PR snaps, Randy Gregory was our best rusher and he got pressure on 15.7 percent of his pass rushes. Among guys listed as “LBs” by SIS, Josh Uche had the highest pressure rate for a defenders with 100 more PR snaps (20.3%). Gregory’s 15.7% was 7th best if you group him with the “LBs” and not the DEs.
If you move the bar down to 50 PR snaps, both Jewell and Singleton show up on the first page among pressure rate for LBs. Singleton then shows up as 17th. His pressure rate was comparable to Micah Parsons, but he rushed the passer about one sixth as frequently because he is an ILB and Parsons is a true edge (OLB). Parsons rushed the passer 88% of the time on passing plays. Singleton rushed the passer 16% of the time on pass plays.
If you are on the DL, then 10 percent or better is a good pressure rate. Dre’Mont Jones was our best DL pass rusher and he had a pressure rate of 8.1 percent. For guys listed as DE or DT by SIS, Bryce Huff had the best in the league for guys (min 100 PR snaps). He had a pressure rate of 19.5%. No Bronco defender appears on the first page of results which goes to 11.7%.
The end of last season was the worst stretch for a Bronco defense in terms of pressure the opposing passer since PFR starting tracking pressures back in 2018 (see below).
Good pass rushers are expensive. They either cost upwards of 20 million per year as free agents or they cost high draft picks. While you can find elite edge rushers later in the draft, they are few and far between. I wrote about this last year.
It’s possible that the Broncos could still find an elite edge rusher with our second round pick in 2022. Ngakoue (69th pick), Frank Clark (63rd pick) and Crosby (106th pick) were all taken in the late second or later as were Danielle Hunter (88th pick) and Matt Ioannidis (152nd). Of course, Shaq Barrett and Malik Reed were both undrafted. Barrett was #4 in total pressures in 2019, #6 in 2020 and #12 in 2021.
As of right now, Nik Bonitto is not an elite edge rusher. He could still develop into one, but I fear that he is much more Shane Ray than Shaq Barrett.
So how do you want the Broncos to address the poor pass rush for the 2023 season?
How should the Broncos address the anemic pass rush that they had in 2022?
This poll is closed
Do nothing - Browning and Bonitto will get better, and Gregory will play all 20 games in 2023 as the Broncos win the Super Bowl!
Use our first round pick (if we have it) on an edge like Isaiah Foskey
Use one of our 3rd round picks on an edge defender
Draft an a number of edge guys on day three and hope one is a gem like Trey Hendrickson (103rd overall pick in 2017).
Roll the dice on undrafted edge guys and hope that Christopher Allen is the next Shaq Barrett