Denver Broncos Week 17 Player Grades: Defense

The Broncos closed out the season with a victory over the Raiders. With the win, it also sealed another perfect 8-0 record at home and 6-0 in the division. Just how well did the defense do for the Broncos? Mile High Huddle’s very own Erick Trickel went analyzed the film in order to hand out his player grades. (Photo courtesy of: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos defense played a great game against the Oakland Raiders. They gave up only seven points, as the other seven came from the Raiders defense.

The Broncos gave up one play of 20+ yards, which occurred when a Broncos defender went to change direction and slid for a yard, giving enough space for the Raiders receiver. The defense also held them to a 33% third down conversion rate (5/15) and only 10 total first downs. The Broncos also took the ball away twice, one of which went for a Broncos defensive touchdown.

There was very little to take away from this game on the negative side. The defense worked as a unit and put together one of their best showings all season. There are only a couple issues that need to be worked on moving forward and into playoff football.

The biggest is the need to get a consistent pass rush, which has been missing the past few weeks. Against the Raiders, they had a pass rush, but at times it was missing, only to come back for a short time and disappear again.

With that said, it is time to get to the player grades. As always each player starts with a C grade. A positive impact on a play helps their grade, while a negative impact hurts it.

DE DeMarcus Ware

Snaps: 29. Stats: 2 quarterback hurries, 3 tackles and 1 stop.

Ware played a solid game. He was able to get pressure on the quarterback, although it was inconsistent. He did show up big as a run defender. He was setting the edge and made it hard for the Raiders to run at him. His grade: B-.

DE Derek Wolfe

Snaps: 34. Stats: 1 assisted tackle.

Wolfe did not play his best game, but it was not his worst either. He was struggled in getting after the quarterback, which is usual for him. His strength comes in his discipline and defending the run. He was disciplined and stuck to what he was supposed to do in all phases. In run defense he did a solid job clogging holes and maintaining edge discipline. His grade: C+.

DE/DT Malik Jackson

Snaps: 33. Stats: 1 quarterback hit, 1 quarterback hurry, 2 tackles and 2 stops. Batted 1 pass. Targeted 1 time in coverage, allowing no catches. 1 pass deflected.

Jackson started the game as an interior defensive linemen, which he has played most often throughout the season. When he is inside, the defensive line actually plays their best, with Wolfe and Ware on the field as well. The Broncos should stick with starting Jackson in this role. He has been excelling at it, and puts the four deserving defensive linemen as starters. His play against the Raiders was some of his best on the season. He was great at getting pressure and stopping the run. His grade: A-.

DE Quanterus Smith

Snaps: 27. Stats: 1 assisted tackle.

Smith saw a good amount of snaps against the Raiders, and did little with them. He was unable to generate pressure and was bullied around in the run game. His grade: D+.

DT Terrance Knighton

Snaps: 22. Stats: 1 quarterback hurry, 1 tackle, 1 stop and 1 missed tackle.

Knighton played a great game against the Raiders. He was able to push the middle of the pocket on a somewhat consistent basis. His run defense was stellar, as well. He clogged the middle and made it hard for the Raiders to get yards between the tackles. His grade: B+.

DT Marvin Austin

Snaps: 35. Stats: None.

Austin saw a large increase of snaps, partially because the starters were pulled towards the end of the game. He did well with the snaps, but nothing special. He was, at best, inconsistent. He would clog the middle against the run, then turn around and get pushed out of the way. He did show his quick first step to penetrate, but overshot the play too often. His grade: C+.

DT Sylvester Williams

Snaps: 32. Stats: 1 quarterback hurry.

Williams has been a starter for most of the season, but against the Raiders he subbed in and did well. He was able to clog the middle against the run and generate push in the passing game. Moving forward, he should be relegated to a similar role. This was one of his better games on the season. His grade: B.

SLB Von Miller

Snaps: 42. Stats: 1 quarterback sack, 2 quarterback hurries, 2 tackles, 1 assisted tackle and 2 stops. Targeted 2 times in coverage, allowing 2 catches for 22 yards.

Miller played a good game, when he wasn’t dropping into coverage. He was able to generate good pressure on the quarterback, and was the most consistent in doing so. His run defense was strong, though at times he failed. In coverage though, he looked lost, losing track of his assignment a couple times, which led to completions. His grade: B-.

MLB Steven Johnson

Snaps: 26. Stats: 2 tackles and 1 stop. Targeted 1 time in coverage, allowing 1 catch for 14 yards.

Johnson played a solid game against the Raiders. His coverage was solid, and he stuck with his assignment the majority of the time. He also stepped up his run defense and played well there. He did make some mistakes, but they were fewer and farther between than in his game against the Cincinnati Bengals. His grade: B-.

WLB Todd Davis

Snaps: 61. Stats: 6 tackles, 2 assisted tackles and 1 stop. Targeted 6 times in coverage, allowing 3 catches for 16 yards and 1 touchdown. 1 pass deflected.

Davis had a bad game against the Bengals, but rebounded against the Raiders. He “allowed” a touchdown, though blame could go on four or five other players. Basically, it was a mess from the start and no one covered the back-end of the endzone. He stepped up and played well against the run by plugging the right holes. In coverage he stuck with his assignment and made it hard to complete the pass. His grade: B.

WLB Corey Nelson

Snaps: 27. Stats: 2 quarterback hurries, 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle and 1 stop. Targeted 2 times in coverage, allowing 1 catch for 46 yards.

Nelson was great when getting after the quarterback. He was able to get pressure when coming off of a blitz. He also played the run really well, though he was taken out of the play when engaged by a blocker. His coverage was actually great, although he allowed a 46-yard play. He was in coverage taking the crosser, but when he saw a shallower crosser he went to change direction and slid a yard on the field. That gave the receiver enough space to make the catch and pick up a big gain. His grade: B-.

SLB Lerentee McCray

Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 quarterback sack, 2 quarterback hurries, 1 tackle and 2 stops. Forced 1 fumble.

McCray saw an influx of snaps, due to pulling the starters. With the increase, he took advantage. He was getting pressure on a near consistent level and his run defense was good as well. His best play came from taking the offensive tackle up-field, stopping and getting a clear path to strip sack the quarterback. His grade: A-.

CB Chris Harris

Snaps: 48. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle and 1 stop. Targeted 4 times in coverage, allowing 2 catches for 14 yards. 1 pass deflected.

Harris played a great game. His coverage was something special, as it has been all season. He also played a great game when it came to run support. For pretty much the whole season, Harris took away one half of the field and that was no different against the Raiders. His grade: B+.

CB Aqib Talib

Snaps: 1 quarterback sack, 2 tackles and 2 stops. Targeted 2 times in coverage, allowing 2 catches for 9 yards.

Talib played a great game before he got pulled. He was excellent in coverage, by sticking with his man and gave little separation. He also played a great game in run support and was aware of what was going on when he got his sack. His grade: A-.

CB Bradley Roby

Snaps: 44. Stats: 3 tackles and 2 stops. Targeted 7 times in coverage, allowing 3 catches for 12 yards. 1 pass deflected.

Roby has had rough games this season, but he was great against the Raiders. He was practically a shutdown corner and took away his assignment in the passing game. He also played really well in run support. His grade: B+.

CB Kayvon Webster

Snaps: 17. Stats: 2 tackles and 1 stop. Targeted 3 times in coverage, allowing 1 catch for 7 yards. 1 pass deflected.

When the starters began to be pulled, Webster was sent out and played really well with his snaps. He was great in coverage, which is where he spent all but one of his snaps. Even when he wasn’t targeted, he stuck by his man and took him out of the play. His grade: B.

CB Tony Carter

Snaps: 13. Stats: 1 tackle. Targeted 1 time in coverage, allowing 1 catch for 12 yards. Recovered 1 fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

Carter made another heads-up play by scooping up a fumble and taking it in for a touchdown. Outside of that, he played well in coverage. He lost his man once, and it resulted in a 12-yard gain. On his other snaps in coverage, he stuck by his assignment, who went un-targeted. His grade: B.

FS Rahim Moore

Snaps: 51. Stats: 1 tackle and 1 stop.

Moore played well in coverage, but was lackluster in run support. He remains soft in run support and avoids contact. Instead of moving forward to help make the tackle, he backpedals and comes in for cleanup duty. His grade: B-.

SS David Bruton

Snaps: 48. Stats: 5 tackles, 2 assisted tackles and 2 stops. Targeted 4 times in coverage, allowing 1 catch for 6 yards. 1 pass deflected.

Bruton has stepped up in a big way, due to injuries. He played a great game against the Raiders, both defending the run and in coverage. He was reading the play and reacting quickly. He was flying to the ball and making the tackle. His grade: A-.

FS Omar Bolden

Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 tackle and 1 stop. Targeted 1 time in coverage, allowing 1 catch for 1 yard.

Bolden stepped up in a big way. He saw action, due to injuries and pulling the starters. He is fast in coverage and was flying to the ball. He allowed a catch, playing off his assignment, but came up quick to make the stop. His grade: B+.

SS Josh Bush

Snaps: 9. Stats: 1 assisted tackle. Targeted 1 time in coverage, allowing 0 catches. Intercepted 1 pass.

Bush saw his snaps late in the game when the starters were pulled, as was the case with a lot of the defenders. He showed promise in his snaps and played well. He plays heads up football and read the play in order for him to intercept the ball, on the final defensive play of the season. The interception finished off the game by giving the Broncos the ball back to kneel down. His grade: B.


The Broncos defense played a great game as a unit. The two aspects that were missing were a consistent pass rush, and good coverage by the linebackers. They had some players get it on an individual level, but it is needed as a whole.

If the interior players get push, they need the edge guys to close the edges, and vice versa. They have the run defense playing at a high level and their secondary is playing well in coverage. Getting their pass rush going on a consistent basis should lead to more takeaways.

The linebackers used in coverage have been up and down all season, but lately have been bad. Part of that is due to injuries and who they have had to use (inexperience). Moving forward, the defensive unit should perform well, but there's room for improvement. The pieces are there, they just have to put them together.

Next up for the Broncos is a week of rest. With their victory over the Raiders they clinched a playoff bye. This gives them some time to get Brandon Marshall and T.J. Ward back and healthy for whomever they do end up facing. They will face the highest remaining AFC seed from the Wild Card round in the playoffs.

Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @AlaskanBronco. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook.

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