It’s safe to say that the Denver Broncos offensive line’s performance from last week did not carry over to their game against the New York Jets. They looked good against the Chicago Bears, but maybe that’s just what happens when a mediocre offensive line faces off against a bad defensive line.
This week, when they faced off against a defensive front with real talent, it didn’t go as well. A strong front seven, paired with a great defensive-minded coach, ended up spelling disaster for the Broncos. The offensive line would be met with plenty of stunts and blitzes that ruined them, and ultimately led to nine points for the Jets.
Let’s take a look at these plays and break down all that went wrong.
The big picture
In pass protection, the Broncos’ offensive line would see the Jets stunt or blitz 14 times. 11 times they would stunt or blitz on a dropback pass, twice on screens, and once on play action, resulting in four pressures, four QB hits, and two sacks (one sack was called back due to a penalty and is not recorded in these stats).
One of those sacks resulted in the 39-yard scoop-and-score that iced the game.
According to the Ross Grading System (RGS), the unit would record one ‘great’ play, four ‘good’ plays, five ‘meh’ plays, and four ‘bad’ plays. This would result in a score of 7.75, or 55%. Since this grade is from blitzes and stunts, obviously it wasn’t going to be a great score, but this is just bad.
Time to break into the specifics. And if you need, an explanation of the RGS is available on the film breakdown that featured Garett Bolles.
All things considered, the offensive line was not horrible against the blitz, but they weren’t that good either. Most mistakes came down simply to what I believe is miscommunication, and I will give Saleh a lot of credit too. He had the Broncos’ passing game down to a science most times.
Given that there was one ‘great’ play and four ‘good’ plays, there is some decent film for the Broncos to work off of. Let’s take a look at one of the ‘good’ plays that I feel is most notable.
Yes, I am saying that the play that forced a safety was a good job by the offensive line. I know the video is slowed down, but Wilson had at least four seconds to get the ball out, and he had an easy rollout to the left if he decided to do so. This play mostly is due to the coverage that the Jets had. In fact, they actually did a great job throughout the game taking away any option for Wilson; even his checkdowns. This is mostly a coverage sack, or Wilson has to get the ball out and throw it away.
But, let's take a look at what the offensive line does. This is ultimately a pretty simple blitz for them to pick up, and they do it almost perfectly. A five-man pass rush should almost always be picked up, and there are a few times when the oline is not responsible for those five.
The blitzing backer here is the left outside backer that ends up rushing the B gap. Garett Bolles gets some help here with a chip from the TE, but his man is going to be the defensive end and he does a good job against him. Ben Powers is the guy that will have to pick up the blitzer and he does a great job with that. It is a little hard to notice, but you can see Powers step up into the backer and initiate contact. A common mistake for offensive linemen is catching the blitzer. Most times you’ll probably just get blown up unless you’re significantly bigger and stronger. But here Powers steps up, doesn’t lean/ lunge into the backer (which is another common mistake), and dominates the blitzer.
The only issue here is that Cushenberry leans and gets his shoulders turned, giving up inside leverage, and giving up the pressure that leads to the sack. But even with that, he was still able to give Wilson what should’ve been enough time to get the ball out.
Let’s take a look at a stunt that resulted in a pressure on Russell Wilson.
This is a simple DE and DT stunt, which is where the DE crashes down inside and the DT loops around behind him. The slant inside is meant to bring the OT down inside as well, opening up the edge for the DT to run around. That is exactly what happens here.
The best way for this play to have gone is for the LT Garett Bolles to follow the DE inside with just his right hand on the DE until he got hip to hip with the LG Powers. At this point, he would pass the DE over to Powers and then proceed to kick-step out to the DT and pick him up. Instead, Bolles follows the DE but gets caught turning his body with his left hand on the DE and his shoulders turned. That would allow for the DT to get the edge because it would take more time for Bolles to recover and kick out to him.
You may have been able to guess which play we would showcase here. It’s the one that ultimately iced the game.
Here is the rush that the Jets end up running:
There is a blitz by the outside linebacker to the C gap, which causes the DE to rush the B gap. The DT rushes the left A gap, and there is a DT/ DE stunt on the right side (the DT slants and the DE loops behind the DT). A five-man rush that the oline has to be able to pick up.
We can blame the RG and RT for the failure of this play. And miscommunication, or an incorrect understanding of the protection, led to a free rusher on Russell Wilson. I am working through this mistake with my high school offensive line right now.
You can see in the film that Quinn Meinerz hardly even takes a look outside and has his eyes locked on the DT. He should have his eyes outside and be leaving that guy for Cushenberry.
If the running back was in as a blocker, then the way the oline blocked this up would not have been a huge issue. You would leave the outside-most defender for the RB to pick up and the offensive line would deal with the interior rushers. I wonder if they didn’t know the running back was going on a route.
Here is how the Broncos offensive line should have blocked it up:
In this outcome, you have the RT kicking out to the blitzing backer, the RG kicking out to the DE, and Cushenberry being locked in on the DT. This would be perfect. It’s a shame that this did not happen.
While the offensive line did not perform horribly against blitzes and stunts, they did not do that good of a job either. I’m not sure what to blame for this lackluster performance. The culprits can be poor communication, a lack of experience as a group, poor coaching, poor skill levels, a great defensive game plan, or what’s most likely, a mix of all of these.
But it’s a sure thing that you can expect opposing defenses to mimic what the Jets did on Sunday.