Randy Gregory and Frank Clark were not earning their pay; so they were jettisoned in favor of younger, cheaper and hungrier players. The Denver Broncos defense, which was the laughing stock of the league after allowing 70 points in a game, has now done a 180 as evidenced by holding one of the NFL’s best offenses in the league without a touchdown.
The future of the defense could be very bright (or this could just be an illusion like when the Broncos started 3-1 in Vance Joseph’s first year as head coach).
While you look at the plots here are the points allowed by the Broncos by game: 17, 24, 70, 28, 31, 19, 17, and 9.
|Player||POS||Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5||Game 6||Game 7||Game 8|
|Patrick Surtain II||CB||100%||100%||100%||100%||100%||100%||100%||100%|
Defensive (Nose) Tackles
The Bronco defense has been poor at stopping the run so far this year, but that has more to do with the guys failing to set the edge than the men in the middle. The Bronco defense is allowing a league high 5.4 yards per rushing attempt so far this year along with a league worst 154.1 rushing yards per game. Much of this is tied to allowing 350 rushing yards to the Dolphins.
Frank Clark is listed as 272 lbs and as a defensive end on PFR. So I am putting him in with the DE’s despite the fact that he has been listed as an OLB at other sites. Either way, it’s a moot point since he is no longer on the team. This is mainly because his statistical contribution was two tackles and zero QB pressures in his (checks stat sheet) 36 defensive snaps for the Broncos all of which came in the first game.
Zach Allen has been the ironman of this group playing anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of the defensive snaps in every game. Jonathan Harris was playing a large portion of the snaps until the last two games when Ronnie Perkins appears to have moved into the rotation. Matt Henningsen has been the third or fourth guy in the rotation, but he has played in every game. Elijah Garcia has bounced between the practice squad, game-day inactive and game-day active, but he played 39 percent of the snaps in our game six loss in Missouri.
Data from SIS about the performance of out DE/DT players (their positional designations)
|Player||Zach Allen||Jonathan Harris||Randy Gregory||Matt Henningsen||Tyler Lancaster||Elijah Garcia||Mike Purcell||D.J. Jones||Frank Clark|
Randy Gregory was not playing well; so he’s gone. Nik Bonitto has been playing fairly well despite still having issues setting the edge in the run game.
Jonathan Cooper has been the ironman of this group playing anywhere from 61 to 86 percent of the defensive snaps. In the game six loss to KC, Bonitto played more than Cooper, but that was the only game so far this year in which that happened.
The return of Baron Browning in the last two games has been huge. His presence really changes what our defense can and can’t do and what opposing offenses can and can’t do.
Thomas Incoom played a few snaps in games two, three, and four and showed that he is not ready to play in the NFL yet. He has the physical tools, but needs time to learn how to play in the NFL (like Drew Sanders). As an undrafted rookie, this is not unexpected.
Unlike the last few years where we have rotated four OLBs, in most games this season we are only using three. It will be interesting to see how Cooper and Bonitto handle the heavy PT as the season nears its end. Will they still be playing at a high level or will all of those snaps have taken a toll on them and hurt their performance?
Josey Jewell’s absence was almost as disruptive to this defense as Justin Simmon’s absence. Having neither on the field led to disaster.
Drew Sanders, similar to Incoom, proved that he is not ready yet to play the majority of the snaps on defense. As a second round pick, this is concerning, but we have to remember that Sanders is still learning how to play off-the-ball as a linebacker having spent much of his time in college as an edge rusher.
Alex Singleton has been the constant in this group. He makes all the plays that he should, and occasionally makes great plays. The man he is covering has been targetted 21 times and has caught 18 of those for 163 yards. He has one PBU. He has been sent on the blitz 20 times and has one pressure to show for it. He has played on 194 runs snaps and has six TFL (these generally happen on running plays).
For comparison, Jewell’s man has been targetted 11 times with nine catches but he has three PBU. Josey has blitzed twelve times and has two pressures. Josey has played on 138 run snaps and has zero TFL. He had 17 last season.
|Player||Nik Bonitto||Jonathon Cooper||Alex Singleton||Baron Browning||Josey Jewell||Ronnie Perkins||Thomas Incoom||Drew Sanders|
It would appear that Essang Bassey played so poorly in the game against the Dolphins that he was let go from the team shortly thereafter. He’s currently on the Chargers roster (and has played 27 defensive snaps for them).
Damarri Mathis has played his way to the bench, as he was the worst defensive back in the league for some time in terms of QB passer rating allowed. In his place Fabian Moreau and Ja’Quan McMillian have gained playing time as CB2 and CB3.
Patrick Surtain continues to quietly have another good season. He surprisingly leads the team in targets (tied with Singleton at 44), but his completion percentage allowed is best on the team among players with any significant playing time (61.4 percent). He also leads the team in PBU with eight.
Similar to Bassey, Delarrin Turner-Yell proved that he is not ready to be an every down safety by his poor play in games three and four. He has been relegated to the bench since then. In Kareem Jackson recent absence, PJ Locke has played quite well and might have earned himself a starting role if KJ continues to show that he has lost a(nother) step in coverage.
Justin Simmons’ absence in games three and four did not help DTY one bit. Our defense absolutely has to have Simmons on the field to function.
Caden Sterns has turned into the second coming of Darcel McBath, a previous ball-hawking safety who could not stay healthy.