The Denver Broncos defense put in another good performance in week 6, but again, they're being diminished due to playing the New York Jets “bad” offense. However, just like last time, it should be ignored. It isn't easy to shut down an opposing team's offense in the NFL. For each game, teams game-plan differently, which is what makes it so hard.
Despite that, the Broncos defense played great again. For the majority of the season, they have played at a high level, although there have been some mistakes. This time around, there were few mistakes or issues to take away from the game on the defensive side of the ball.
With that said, it is time to get down to the player grades. Focusing on the defense, we will start out on the defensive line. Each player starts with a C grade. A positive play will help their grade, while a negative play hurts their grade.
You can check out the offensive player grades here.
Snaps: 48. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hit, 5 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops.
When the Broncos signed Ware, shortly after his release from the Dallas Cowboys, there were many Broncos fans who were wary of the signing. He has, however, showed that there is no reason to be concerned. He has been a dominating force all season, especially against the Jets. Ware was all over Geno Smith from start to finish, racking up seven total pressures. His grade: A-. There are only a couple very small issues with Ware’s game, all of which come from the run game. He is so quick off the snap, even against the run, that he gets up-field too quick, making space for the running back.
DE Derek Wolfe
Snaps: 49. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hit, 1 batted pass, 3 tackles, 4 stops.
Being stout against the run was not enough for some Broncos fans, but even still, Wolfe showed even more against the Jets. He was a force to reckon with in the run game, and as a pass rusher. He didn’t just eat up space for others, Wolfe got the pressures himself. Even on the plays he wasn’t credited with a pressure, he still kept the QB from stepping up, allowing someone else to make the play. His grade: A. Wolfe finally stepped up and flashed potential as a pass rusher, instead of being just a run defender. If he can keep it up, this defense will get a lot better.
DE/DT Malik Jackson
Snaps: 35. Stats: 1 hit, 1 hurry, 3 tackles, 3 stops.
When Jackson was drafted in the 5th round of 2012, expectations were limited. However, in his short career, he has already exceeded them. Jackson is a very talented pass rusher, and it is on display nearly every week. However, he shows his weakness against the run nearly every week as well. That was no different against the Jets. His grade: B. Jackson could be a starter on just about any other team, despite his issues against the run. He is talented enough as a pass rusher to have a starting role, but that would come at the expense of another. Somewhat surprisingly, Jackson is second in the NFL in run stop percentage, second only to teammate Derek Wolfe.
Snaps: 24. Stats: 2 hurries, 1 tackle.
Being essentially a rookie, after missing all of his first year on I.R., it is understandable that Smith has been very up and down this season. It hasn’t been just game-to-game, but play-to-play. That streak of spotty play continued against the Jets. One play he would look like an All-Pro, then the next he would look like he doesn’t deserve a role on the defense, even in a limited capacity. His grade: C-. As time goes on, it should be expected for Smith's play to improve. Only time will tell if that holds true.
Snaps: 30. Stats: 1 hit, 1 assisted tackle.
If you look at just the stats, it seems like Knighton had a bad game. Yet, defensive tackles are rarely seen with huge stats. In Denver’s system, they are meant to plug the middle against the run and push the middle when rushing the QB. Knighton does both of those really well. His grade: B. There were times against the Jets where Knighton was missing, but he played really well for most of the game.
DT Sylvester Williams
Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.
For the first time this year, Williams looked like the best defensive tackle on the Broncos roster. Like Knighton, he didn’t fill up a stat sheet, but that is not the job of a defensive tackle. He did his job and did it extremely well on close to every snap he was on the field. He earned himself another week as a starter. His grade: B+. If Williams can keep his performance like this going as the season goes on, it will help the defense drastically.
DT Marvin Austin
Snaps: 10. Stats: None.
For the first game of the season, Austin did not look like he deserved a bigger role on the defense. Against the Jets, he often looked lost. The times he didn’t look lost, he was shut down seemingly with ease. His grade: D. Was this a one game slump for Austin? Hard to say, but Broncos fans should hope so. Even with limited snaps, Austin plays a big role on the defensive side of the ball.
SLB Von Miller
Snaps: 54. Stats: 2 sacks, 1 hit, 2 hurries, 1 batted pass, 2 tackles, 2 stops.
How many times can we say that Von Miller is back? It has been said after every game so far this season! Truth is, Miller was back in the first game of the season, although he didn’t get any sacks. Miller is a more complete linebacker, able to cover and stop the run at a high level, to go along with his excellent pass rushing skill-set. His grade: A. Miller was all over the field against the Jets, causing all kinds of disruption. It seems as each game passes, Miller gets better and better.
MLB Nate Irving
Snaps: 16. Stats: 2 tackles, 2 targets, with 2 catches for 26 yards allowed.
Irving seems to have lost favor with the coaching staff, especially with coverage responsibilities. The last two games, when the Broncos were in a sub package with two coverage linebackers, Irving was not on the field. He has seemingly been relegated back to a two-down run stopper, which he does really well. His grade: C-. When a run stopper doesn’t show up against the run and gets exploited in coverage, it is going to hurt his grade a lot. That just happens to be the case with Irving this week.
WLB Danny Trevathan
Snaps: 2. Stats: None.
Trevathan got hurt in the preaseason, and missed the first three games of the regular season. He then came back, played a great game in week 5, played in his second and got hurt. Now he is out for 6-8 weeks. The defense will take a small step back with Trevathan hurt, but nothing major. Trevathan's grade: N/A. A grade won’t be handed out, due to the few snaps he played before getting hurt.
WLB Brandon Marshall
Snaps: 61. Stats: 3 tackles, 3 stops, 3 targets, with 1 catch for 13 yards allowed.
When Trevathan returned against the Cardinals, the Broncos created a look called “derby”, with four linebackers, but Miller as a DE. They did that because Marshall performed so well when Trevathan missed those three games and they wanted to find a way to get him on the field. Now, Marshall will see his original role returned, and has the experience behind him now. His grade: A-. Marshall has really stepped up his play in each game. He is the reason the defense should be just fine without Trevathan.
LB Corey Nelson
Snaps: 36. Stats: 3 tackles, 3 stops, 1 target, with 1 catch for 2 yards allowed.
When Trevathan got hurt, the Broncos turned to Marshall. Yet, when they went to two coverage linebackers, it wasn’t Irving who was out there, like the first three games. Instead, they went with the rookie, Nelson, which speaks to the progress he has made. Nelson was great doing what was asked of him. He did so great on the field that he actually didn’t look like a rookie. His grade: B+. Nelson really stepped up, which only makes the defense better. With his progress and Trevathan out, look for Nelson to have a continued role as the second coverage linebacker.
CB Aqib Talib
Snaps: 53. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, 9 targets, with 7 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown allowed, 1 interception and 1 pass deflect.
When the Broncos signed Talib, many fans were worried. They should no longer be. Against the Jets, Talib was up and down in his performance though. He allowed a touchdown, but on a play that is hard to defend. Broncos fans are familiar with the play. It was a pick play, which freed up Decker to make the catch. His grade: B. Talib rebounded from his up and down game to seal the win for the Broncos with a pick-6. He showed his value and why the Broncos valued him as much as they did.
CB Chris Harris, Jr
Snaps: 63. Stats: 1 tackle, 3 targets, with 1 catch for 13 yards allowed.
Has there been any cornerback better this season than Harris? No, there hasn’t. Harris has been great from game one. Many were concerned, and rightfully so, coming back from an ACL injury. Harris continued his dominance this season against the Jets. On the one catch he allowed, he came up and immediately stopped the receiver. His grade: A. Harris was all over the field making plays, despite what the stats say. Harris has been a key factor in the defense's success.
CB Bradley Roby
Snaps: 48. Stats: 1 sack, 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, 4 targets, with 1 catch for 7 yards allowed, 1 pass deflect.
When watching Roby, it is hard to tell that he is a rookie. He plays like a veteran. Harris, Talib and Roby have been one of, in not the, best cornerback trio in the NFL. When Roby sees the field, the defense looks better than when he isn’t on it. He has that kind of impact already, despite being only a rookie. His grade: A-. Roby has been a huge steal for the Broncos from the draft, after being selected 31st overall. If his play continues on the upward trajectory, he will likely end up as one of the biggest steals from the draft.
CB Kayvon Webster
Snaps: 21. Stats: 4 tackles, 2 stops, 5 targets, with 4 catches for 23 yards allowed.
A week ago Webster needed to be benched. Now, he has turned it around enough to where he deserves the time he sees on the field. He turned his play around in a major way. He did allow 4 catches for 23 yards, but his reaction time was surprisingly quick. The catch would be made and Webster was right there making the tackle almost instantly. His grade: B+. Webster's play was an added bonus against the Jets. He was having some kind of impact left and right. He flashed just why the Broncos took him in the third round in the 2013 draft.
SS T.J. Ward
Snaps: 59. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, 6 targets, with 4 catches for 16 yards and 1 touchdown allowed.
Ward looked like a weak point in the defense at times. That happens every now and then. However, he still looked great out there on the field. That says a lot about the talent of the defense, when the weak point still looked great on the field. His grade: B-. Ward had some issues in coverage against the Jets, but they were not as bad as many make them out to be.
FS Rahim Moore
Snaps: 63. Stats: 3 tackles, 2 stops, 2 targets, with 2 catches for 7 yards allowed.
Moore has been huge for the Broncos this year. After many fans wanted him cut, he has more than proved his worth. He continued to do the same against the Jets. Moore plays fast on the field, and it allows him to play a bit off of his cover assignment and quickly come up to make the play. His grade: A-. Moore has been huge for the Broncos this year, and it will only continue. He has already tied his career high in interceptions. He did that early in the season. The only big thing he needs to work on, is getting to the ball faster while it is in the air.
LB Lamin Barrow
Snaps: None. Stats: None.
Normally, special teams players don’t get graded. However, this is an exception. Barrow gets an F. If I could give him a worse grade, I would. He ended up getting ejected from the game. Inexcusable. Danny Trevathan had already gotten hurt. If another injury occurred, the Broncos would have been even thinner at linebacker, because Barrow made a stupid and selfish decision, one that will likely see him benched for a while. The rookie needs to learn his lesson.
The defense was great against the Jets. They surrendered two touchdowns, both from great plays by the offense. They have a top ten run defense and their passing defense is coming around. Just like with the offense, the defense should be peaking at the right time. Just as the playoffs start.