The Broncos returned to MetLife Stadium where they got blown out in the Super Bowl. Very few of the Broncos players played a good game that day last February, so few that they can be counted on one hand. This time around, more players showed up, but there were instances of sloppy play that reminded Broncos Country of the Super Bowl, including a botched snap. Both sides of the ball had up and down moments, more so the offense, however. They managed to overcome those down moments and had some great execution, enough to help them pull out the victory.
Now onto the player grades. Each player starts off with a C. A positive play raises their grade, while a negative play lowers their grade. As always, we will start off at the head of the team; the quarterback position.
Snaps: 74. Stats: 22/33 for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Manning is one of, if not the, best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Game after game, he shows why, and it was no different against the Jets. Manning is a cerebral quarterback who will beat a defense with his brain, more than his arm. His grade: B. Manning throws a lot of ducks. There is no argument there. But, right after a duck, Manning turns around and makes a great play.
Snaps: 56. Stats: 24 rushes for 107 yards, 1 fumble, 5 targets, with 3 catches for 16 yards.
Congratulations to Hillman for his first start and first 100-yard rushing game. He played a really good game against the Jets, but there were a few issues. The biggest was, Hillman was so quick to the line of scrimmage that there were times he missed a hole and got stopped for a short gain. His grade: B+. The biggest fault in Hillman’s game was his fumble, something that ended him on the bench last season. His leash is short already, so one more fumble may land him in the doghouse again.
Snaps: 17. Stats: 8 rushes for 38 yards. 1 target, with 1 catch for 0 yards.
Hillman had a great game, but Thompson should be the starter. Thompson is a power back that can wear down a defense easier than Hillman can. Starting Thompson would allow Hillman to sub in and use his speed better. Thompson also had a good game against the Jets, despite the lower snaps. Had he saw the snaps Hillman did, his game would have looked even better. He also remains the best blocking running back on the roster. His grade: A-. Thompson is a strong back who always keeps his legs churning forward. He has a special skill-set that fits with this offense. At the very least, he deserves a bigger role.
Snaps: 1. Stats: None
Anderson went from the #2 running back to the #4 in just a couple weeks. His grade: C. He saw the field for one snap against the Jets. He didn’t do anything positive, nor negative for that one snap.
Snaps: 71. Stats: 12 targets, with 10 catches for 124 yards and 1 touchdown.
After a slump in the first few games of the season, Thomas sure has turned it around the last two games. It started vs the Cardinals and continued against the Jets. To start the game he and Manning connected on a 54-yard play. Thomas was reliable, as usual. His grade: A. One of the few A grades to be handed out. Even when the rest of the offense was struggling, Thomas looked to be playing at a high level.
Snaps: 73. Stats: 6 targets, with 3 catches for 38 yards.
After an excellent three game stretch, Sanders took a small step back in production on the field last Sunday. Even though he didn’t produce, doesn’t mean he was bad. He actually played a major role for the success of Demaryius Thomas against the Jets. He often softened the coverage to open up space for Thomas. However, Sanders' weakness was on display early in the game. He is not the best blocker. Of course, for a guy his size, it isn’t surprising the he would struggle in that area. His grade: B. The blocking keeps his grade from being slightly higher, if it weren’t for Sanders though, Thomas wouldn't likely have had the game he did.
WR Wes Welker
Snaps: 35. Stats: 1 target, with 1 catch for 8 yards.
The slot machine saw only one target, much to the dismay and curiosity of many fans. However, he was solidly covered for the game. Manning won't favor one receiver over the other, though the stats may make it seem that way. Manning finds the open man and Welker was not that guy vs the Jets. Welker did come out with two clutch plays, however. One being a botched snap recovery and the other being a 3rd down conversion. His grade: B+. Welker is more dangerous in this offense than many give him credit for. He is hard to cover, and when a defense does pull it off, it comes at the expense of being beaten elsewhere.
Snaps: 3. Stats: 1 fumble recovery.
Just like I campaigned last week, it is time to bench Caldwell. He is the main kick returner, but he stumbled doing that, opening up the possibility of losing his job. His only good play vs the Jets came on a fumble recovery, something any player in the position he was in could have done. Cody Latimer has a better skill-set and Omar Bolden can take over kick return duties. His grade: D. Caldwell has been used less and less on offense. In the last four games he has seen 17 snaps, 8 of them as a run blocker, which is something he does not do very well.
Snaps: 66. Stats: 5 targets, with 4 catches for 51 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Being a free agent after this season, Thomas is in search of a big contract. If he keeps up at this pace (catching all the touchdowns), he will get a solid deal. However, it won’t be the highest ever for a tight end. Why? Because he can’t block. He has shown promise, but never really improved. Teams won’t dish out a big contract for just a receiving tight end. They want them to be able to block, as well. If they can’t block, they are a liability. His grade: B-. As the season goes on, his blocking will affect his grade more and more. He is an excellent receiver, but there is no question about that. I can't stress it enough; it is time to see an improvement in blocking.
TE Virgil Green
Snaps: 16. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed.
Green remains as the best blocking tight end on the roster. Yet, he allowed a hurry against the Jets. This season he has played 92 snaps, 72 of which came as a blocker. The coaches know his skill-set and use him accordingly. However, it was reported over the off-season that he had improved as a receiver. If that is true, it has yet to be seen. His grade: B. Being the best blocking tight end and allowing a hurry is not good, but it is better than some of the offensive linemen for the Broncos.
TE Jacob Tamme
Snaps: 11. Stats: 1 target, 0 catches.
The Broncos kept Tamme around, and even at a reduced rate. Many fans wanted him cut, but Tamme still has a lot of value to the team. He can come in and provide a spark for the offense, if needed. He is reliable, which Manning and the coaches know. However, he failed to come down with the reception on his one target against the Jets. His grade: C+. Being hardly used may not be fair to the vet, but the offense has so many weapons that it makes it hard for him to get a bigger role. unless an injury occurs.
Offensive Line Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Manuel Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Chris Clark, Paul Cornick.
Snaps: Clady-74. Franklin-74. Ramirez-74. Vasquez-74. Clark-74. Cornick-21. Stats: Clady- 1 hit, 1 hurry. Ramirez- 1 sack. Clark- 1 sack, 1 hurry.
Something needs to change on the offensive line. Of the five starters, there are only two deserving to keep their job after five games; Ryan Clady and Louis Vasquez. The issue is, Ramirez and Franklin don’t have a backup that would provide a step forward. As for Clark, Cornick is there, pushing to take over the starting right tackle spot. The last two weeks, Cornick has stepped in and been a major help. If Clark continues to struggle, a switch is likely.
Entering the season, this offensive line was said to be improved. Ramirez and Clark had a full season of experience in the offense, or close to it. Clady was back healthy. Franklin was moved inside, where he was going to supposedly shine. Vasquez was in his second year in the offense. However, that was on paper. After five games, this offensive line isn’t close to as good as they were a year ago. The coaches need to focus on getting it improved. Their grades: Clady B, Franklin C-, Ramirez F, Vasquez , Clark D-, Cornick B-.
Finally, why is the offensive line able to perform in only one type of blocking, in any given game? If they are succeeding in run blocking, they are failing in pass protection. If succeeding in pass protection, then the run blocking is failing. The starting five needs to take a look in the mirror, along with their coaches, to figure out what the issue is and fix it.
There are issues on this offense, mainly in the trenches with the offensive line. They have seemingly taken the right steps forward. It all starts up front. If they struggle, so does the rest of the offense, more often than not. As a whole unit, the offense looks better with each passing game. If they keep progressing, then it is easily believable that the offense will peak just in time for the playoffs. Only time will tell if that is the case, however.