clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The offensive line did better against the Cardinals than you think they did

Grading the Broncos offensive line’s performance for Russell Wilson

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Let’s start with the facts.

Russell Wilson dropped back to pass 14 times against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday. Out of those 14 dropbacks, he would complete seven passes and throw six incompletions, three of which were drops and one of which was batted at the line of scrimmage.

Also out of these 14 dropbacks, Wilson would be sacked once, hurried four times, and was hit four times. He would only pass from a clean pocket three times in this preseason game. Wilson would end up being the most pressured quarterback over the first week of the preseason by being under pressure 64% of the time. And for what it’s worth, Jarrett Stidham would be the 3rd on that list, facing pressure 59% of the time.

If it wasn’t already, it is now blatantly obvious that the Denver Broncos' offensive line did not perform well in pass protection. And it’s not like the Cardinals have a highly touted pass rush. So, the question we all have to ask now is - who was the biggest issue on Friday? Well, let’s take a look.

If you want a video to look at with all the dropbacks by Russell Wilson, take a look at this tweet:

Dropback #1:

Time, down and distance: 8:53 - 1st, 1st &10

Play result: incompletion

The first pass of the game for Denver was mostly blocked up well. At first glance, it does look like Lloyd Cushenberry had a poor block, but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt because he was forced, as a center, to kick out all the way to the DE. Not an easy block.

Dropback #2:

Time, down and distance: 8:12 - 1st, 3rd & 7

Play result: incompletion (batted pass)

We have one of the newest offensive linemen to blame for this incompletion. Ben Powers stopped his feet on contact and leaned, allowing for the DT to take that B gap and forced Powers back into Wilson.

Dropback #3:

Time, down and distance: 5:04 - 1st, 1st & 10

Play result: completion

Good pass protection all around on this play. The only issue that could be seen here is RT Isaiah Prince almost getting beat to his inside, but Wilson got the ball out early enough for this to really be a problem. Prince kicked out slightly too far out to the pass rusher.

Dropback #4:

Time, down and distance: 3:54 - 1st, 2nd & 10

Play result: sack

Easily the worst Garrett Bolles performed out of the plays we are looking at. He has a habit of turning his shoulders to meet the pass rusher instead of keeping them square to the line of scrimmage, and this got him into a lot of trouble on this play. The defender would rush upfield hard, causing Bolles to essentially run sideways, which lead to him crossing his feat (a horrible thing to do on the oline). This allowed the pass rusher to put his foot in the ground and change direction, Bolles couldn’t keep up, and Russell Wilson would be sacked.

Dropback #5:

Time, down and distance: 3:11 - 1st, 3rd & 17

Play result: incompletion

This was a designed screen on third and long that was blown up by the play side interior DT. Quinn Meinerz got beat to the inside, which allowed for the DT to contact Perine, causing Wilson to have to hold the ball a touch too long and the play wasn’t able to be made.

Dropback #6:

Time, down and distance: 0:15 - 1st, 1st & 10

Play result: completion

Good blocks all around by the offensive line. A decent kick-out block by Powers and he got a little help from Perine too.

Dropback #7:

Time. down and distance: 15:00 - 2nd, 1st & 10

Play result: completion

A designed TE screen. The only complaint I had here was Bolles and Powers not getting upfield to block soon enough. Their excuse is that they had a good amount of ground to cover and Powers was held at the line of scrimmage by the DT (a common move for defensive linemen on screen plays that likely isn’t called enough by the officials).

Dropback #8:

Time, down and distance: 14:21 - 2nd, 1st & 10

Play result: completion

Back-to-back clean pockets created by the oline on true dropback passes by Wilson. Good blocking across the board. Meinerz does end up getting beat to the outside but it doesn’t result in much pressure on Wilson. The defensive line stunts on the right side which almost lead to Cushenberry getting beat but Wilson got the pass off before it was an issue.

Dropback #9:

Time, down and distance: 13:43 - 2nd, 2nd & 7

Play result: incompletion

The Cardinals were obviously bringing pressure on this play, a fact that was made apparent because the Will linebacker was eying Bolles down the way a lion eyes down its prey. Bolles would once again turn his shoulders to meet the pass rusher. Wilson is forced to roll out to his left due to the pressure created by Powers’ poor block, causing Wilson to run right into the blitzing backer that beats Bolles to the outside.

Powers lost this block because he was caught leaning.

Meinerz also failed on his block. He actually was doing the right thing by seeing that no pass rusher came his way, so he looked back inside to help Cushenberry with his block. But in doing so he would bury his head and right arm into the DT, which the Cardinals linebacker then sees, and then rushes the gap Meinerz just opened up.

Dropback #10:

Time, down and distance: 13:37 - 2nd, 3rd & 7

Play result: incompletion

Arizona brings seven on this play, but Denver has six blockers so this should be able to be blocked up fairly well. It isn’t. The Cardinals even do the offensive line a favor by rushing two players to a gap (both left B and right A gap), but the oline is still unable to make it happen.

This is mostly due to Ben Powers and his inability to get off his initial block quick enough to make the block on the blitzing linebacker. Meinerz also gets beat on this play because he lunges hard at the DT, which then allows the Arizona defender to work back inside on Meinerz (which I think was a mistake on the DT’s part because Arizona was bringing a blitzer through that A gap. Remember, you should never have two guys rushing one gap).

Dropback #11:

Time, down and distance: 9:03 - 2nd, 1st & 10

Play result: completion

Mostly good blocking across the board. Prince does lean a little and falls during his block and Bolles does almost get beat. The only reason he didn’t is because he was able to just barely push the defender up the field enough to give Wilson some room.

Dropback #12:

Time and down and distance: 8:20 - 2nd, 1st & 10

Play result: completion

The o-line gave Wilson a very clean pocket here. And I think this was the best block Meinerz had in any of these passes by Wilson. He did have a little help from Prince though.

Prince gave a hard shove to the DT which bumped him to the inside of Meinerz, and Meinerz was then able to just drive him down the line of scrimmage. Great stuff by both of those guys on this play. I love it.

Dropback #13:

Time, down and distance: 7:09 - 2nd, 3rd & 4

Play result: incompletion

I think that this was the best blocking, as a group, that the offensive line had for any Russell Wilson pass. It’s at least between this play and the previous dropback.

Bolles may have kick-stepped out a touch too far to the defender, but it wasn’t that bad. And Isaiah Prince does a solid job here of just taking the pass rusher up the field and past Russell Wilson.

Dropback #14:

Time, down and distance: 6:54 - 2nd, 4th & 4

Play result: touchdown

You know what? I was wrong. The last two dropbacks weren’t the best plays the o-line had, this one is. The Cardinals bring seven against only five blockers and Wilson still has enough time to see Jerry Jeudy open in the middle of the field.

To be fair, the A gap blitzer does go unblocked and gets a hit on Wilson, but I am still pretty happy with how the o-line looked given the circumstances.

The only thing I would change here is having Cushenberry slide to the left A gap to pick up the blitzer and then have Meinerz take over the block that Cush was making. But that is fairly nit-picky and the three blockers on the right side were taking on four defenders. General pass-blocking rules are to block the inward-most defenders, but this was a difficult situation for the o-line.

It would’ve been blocked perfectly if the play had Perine staying to block and he would’ve been able to pick up the A gap blitzer.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think the offensive line did a lot better than it initially looked. Now these were only the dropbacks that Russell Wilson had, and the o-line did struggle later in the game too. But I think there are a lot of simple issues here that can be changed before the season starts.

Grade-wise, I was surprised by who scored the highest. The grading system I use goes back to one I used in college - zero points for a failed block; one point for an acceptable to above acceptable block; and two points for an exceptional block.

The highest-scoring offensive linemen were Isaiah Prince and Lloyd Cushenburry, both receiving 13/14 scores (93%).

Bolles would score a 12/14 (86%) and both Powers and Meinerz would score an 11/14 (79%).


What overall grade would you give the offensive line for these 14 plays?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    (3 votes)
  • 6%
    (55 votes)
  • 40%
    (362 votes)
  • 41%
    (367 votes)
  • 11%
    (106 votes)
893 votes total Vote Now