Before I get into the grades, there have been some changes as to how I grade that I want to cover. Ever since the disappointing loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs, I buckled down and went to work on how to improve my grades for you, the readers.
My older system was flawed. Players used to start with a 'C' grade and it would rise or fall based on performance. Grades remained on an 'A-F' scale. There are many flaws in that system and I wanted to improve it.
Now, all players start with an overall score of '0' and see it rise or fall based on performance. How much they rise and fall also depends on how much of an impact they had on the play. For example, if a right tackle gets beat on a block but the play goes elsewhere, he still takes a hit, but it wouldn't be as high had his poor execution ended in a sack or a tackle for a loss.
Just like if you scored 80% on a test, an 80-grade for a player here would signify a really good performance.
With that said, it is time to get into the game breakdown. The offense of the Denver Broncos did a very solid job to start, only to falter after the half, but regained some prowess towards the fourth quarter.
The offensive line, as you will soon see, didn’t do a great job as a unit, but there were some great individual performances. The receiver corps is deep, with a mixed bag of skill-sets. Running back is also deep, and saw a surprise player somewhat emerge against Seattle. One area of concern that popped up for me was the lack of depth at tight end, and of course more on that with the grades.
I will start off with the starting lineup—quarterback first, then move down the depth charts position by position.
Snaps: 40. Stats: 15-of-20 for 151 yards and one touchdown.
What a game from the young quarterback. He finally got a shot with the majority of the first unit offense and played a great game. He kept things simple and easy, much by the design of head coach Gary Kubiak.
On the couple of passes where Osweiler took a risk, he got an earful from Kubiak. Brock made a handful of excellent throws, including one that ended up not counting. He had to deal with inconsistent blocking from the offensive line, which led to him having to escape from pressure multiple times.
Also, for his first opportunity for serious playing time, he took command of the huddle, and led the team by example. The worst from his game came from the stalled drives that led to field goals, though that isn’t just on Brock. Every drive he played ended in points.
Snaps: 4. Stats: 3 rushes for 8 yards.
Unfortunately, Anderson had his night end early, due to injury. Before that, it wasn’t pretty. He had a great run for 11 yards, but was a mess after that. Not completely his fault, due to the blocking up front.
However, a year ago Anderson showed the ability to turn what would be a negative play into something positive, and that didn’t show this game. His grade really should be an N/A, due to his injury so early on. So, take this grade with a grain of salt.
Snaps: 34. Stats: 5 targets, with 4 catches for 49 yards.
Cody Latimer is going to do great things in this offense. He fits it tremendously. His well-rounded skill-set can be utilized in so many different ways and that was demonstrated in this game.
Each catch he made was a high-difficulty, and he made them with ease. His best catch came from a play that didn’t count, due to a penalty, but he caught the ball behind the defender's head.
However, his blocking was not up to par. He had some great moments as a blocker, but mostly struggled. I know he can do better as a blocker—I saw it a year ago. Hopefully he can turn it around and really show off his blocking skills.
Snaps: 27. Stats: 2 targets, zero catches.
The areas Latimer struggled was where Caldwell showed up. As a blocker, Caldwell was incredibly effective the majority of the time. Often he was more effective than offensive linemen or tight ends.
However, he didn’t show up as a receiver. Both passes thrown his way fell incomplete and he immediately went looking for a flag after both, one of which he should have been called for holding.
The other pass wasn’t a great pass to begin with, but Caldwell completely failed to even try to adjust to make the catch. Not every pass can be spot on and part of the job of receivers is to adjust.
Snaps: 24. Stats: 3 targets, with 3 catches for 29 yards.
Offensively, Norwood played a great game. He was quick in his route running and his cuts showed no sign of having suffered an ACL injury a year ago. In fact, he actually looks quicker now than he did a year ago. The issues with Norwood come from his special teams play, particularly a muffed punt.
Norwood went running towards the sideline and overran the punt trajectory. He then tried to hands-catch the punt. He made a rookie mistake as a veteran. At that point he should have just let the ball bounce.
Snaps: 19. Stats: N/A
A hybrid tight end/fullback, Casey excels as a blocker. This game he started off slow, but after a few plays he got it together and showed why he is known for his blocking ability. He does have the skill to make an impact as a receiver, though that is not what he is known for. He also didn’t get a shot to show it this game.
Snaps: 40. Stats: One quarterback hurry.
The rookie left tackle had a horrendous game to start, and it didn’t get any better. He had only a handful of good plays. The worst of Sambrailo were the plays he did nothing. One play in particular he just stood there as a rusher ran off his right to put pressure on the quarterback.
Later, he wasn’t blocking anyone and the left guard released the block to Sambrailo who failed to pick it up. The coaching staff wants Sambrailo to be the starter, but if he continues to fail, the plug will be pulled.
I would expect the next game to be the deciding factor. If he struggles, he switches with the backup left tackle. If he does well, he stays the starter for yet another week.
Snaps: 40. Stats: One quarterback hurry.
While the rookie left tackle struggled, the rookie left guard put together an excellent game. His quarterback hurry came from Sambrailo not picking up the released defender. Besides that, he was close to perfect.
He was stout in pass protection. In the run game, he was a mauler and was often the lead blocker because of how great he did. Of the first unit offensive line, Garcia was the best and most consistent. It was only game one, but he showed a lot of promise and potential.
Snaps: 40. Stats: One quarterback hit.
The first-year center put together a solid performance in his first serious amount of action. Multiple times, Paradis was blown off the snap, but was able to recover and actually put together a solid play. He has the smarts and tenacity to thrive, he just needs experience and work on technique.
There were multiple plays where Paradis really paved the way on a run play, and helped the run go for a good set of yards. While he did struggle at times, he was able to bounce back consistently and comes away as one of the best offensive linemen from this game.
Snaps: 16. Stats: N/A
Louis Vasquez is the only current starting offensive linemen who started last year. In fact, he was the only one who was on the Broncos 53-man roster last year (Paradis was on the practice squad).
It comes as no surprise that he saw limited action. In that limited action, he showed why he is one of the best right guards in the NFL.
Snaps: 31. Stats: N/A
The veteran offensive linemen is in his third stint with the Broncos, and put together a solid game. He used his experience to win some battles, but his age showed at times, too.
Some of the younger, faster rushers from Seattle’s defense gave him troubles in pass protection and run blocking. In his pass protection, he was able to recover at times to push the rusher just wide of the quarterback.
That wraps up the starters. Most of the starters put together a great game, while a few need to step up. This was game one, and if they keep performing badly, could end up being moved down the depth chart after another bad game or two.
With the starters done, time to go over the remaining players. As I said towards the start, they will be grouped by position.
Snaps: 19. Stats: 2-of-5 for 14 yards.
The third string quarterback put together an awful game. He almost turned the ball over multiple times, thankfully being helped by either the defender not completing the catch, or getting the correct call.
There were only two positives to come out of his game—the two completed passes, which were not anything spectacular.
Snaps: 12. Stats: 5-of-5 for 90 yards.
After the coaching staff made the switch from the struggling Dysert to Siemian, the offense started moving the ball pretty effectively again. Siemian played the game faster than Dysert and progressed through his reads really quickly for a rookie.
I also came away surprised at just how strong of an arm he has. He put a lot of zip on some passes that made my jaw drop. He also showed good accuracy with his pass placement, and repeatedly put the ball where only the receiver had a shot at it.
Snaps: 23. Stats: One quarterback hurry. 8 rushes for 26 yards. 1 target, with 1 catch for 7 yards.
Montee Ball actually played a good game. His YPC (yards per carry) was only a measly 3.3, but he showed explosiveness and awareness to bust off some good runs. On two runs he gained no yards, but picked up four total yards after contact. Meaning he got hit behind the line of scrimmage both times.
Running backs are very dependent on the offensive line, and Ball was let down multiple times. He did make some mistakes, including one run where he was late to the hole. He also played moderately well as a blocker, except for when he got beat to hit the quarterback.
Snaps: 18. Stats: 8 rushes for 66 yards. 1 target, with 1 catch for 11 yards.
Every year I find myself doubting Hillman. This year was no different and that was due in part to reports of his struggling to pick up the offense. His camp started off mediocre, but after a talk with Kubiak, who told him to practice and finish harder, he improved.
Hillman took those words to heart and it showed in this game. He was quick through the hole and showed great vision to pick up extra yards. He busted off multiple long runs and took advantage of the blocking upfront.
The underrated aspect of his game comes as a blocker. He looked smart and tough picking up blitzes to give the quarterback just enough of extra time.
Snaps: 13. Stats: 8 rushes for 12 yards. 1 target, with 1 catch for 18 yards.
A rough game all-around for Thompson. His best play came on the catch for a big gain, but the rest was a mess. As a runner, blocking didn’t help, but the few times a running lane was opened up Thompson completely missed them. That was not the worst from his game, however.
The worst comes on his special teams play. Seattle had multiple big returns, and each one can be traced back to Thompson for the blame. He didn’t stay disciplined, and would crash inside, leaving his lane completely open for the big return.
Snaps: 9. Stats: 4 rushes for 10 yards. 1 target, with 1 catch for 8 yards.
Not seeing action until late in the game, Stewart was facing the bottom of the Seattle defensive depth chart. He looked really good, and better than Thompson did.
He was able to pick up some decent runs, despite bad blocking up front. Stewart also did a solid job on special teams. It wasn’t great by any means, but a solid showing all around.
Snaps: 13. Stats: N/A
Joe Don Duncan saw action throughout the game, but mostly as a blocker. Of his 13 snaps, 10 of them came as a blocker and all in the run game. He had a couple of miscues early on where he missed his assignment.
After those, he turned it around and showed some solid blocking and technique. The three times he ran a route, he looked quick and solid route running.
Snaps: 27. Stats: 3 targets, with 3 catches for 67 yards
Bennie Fowler saw action early and often throughout the game on offense. He took advantage of every snap he got. Fowler was a force and made a couple of really good catches. He was one of the brightest spots on the offense as a whole.
However, he also was one of the only bright spots on the special teams units. He played a key part on two returns that would have been bigger returns, if not for Fowler.
Snaps: 32. Stats: 2 targets, with 1 catch for 8 yards.
Palmer, like Fowler, saw action early and subbed in and out with Latimer, Caldwell, Norwood and with the first unit. Palmer put together a solid performance, but nothing special. His special teams was solid, outside of one return where he froze for a half second, but the return was kept minimal.
He has an outside shot to make the roster, but really needs to take a huge step forward. His play needs to be great, and not solid like it was from this game.
Snaps: 18. Stats; 1 target, zero catches.
The one target that went Burse’s way, went over his head and ended in a near pick. The play wasn’t on Burse—he actually ran a good route and found the soft spot in the zone defense. That was the only good offensive play from Burse. The rest of his snaps as a route runner were a mess, though part of that is due to the play breaking down from bad blocking.
He also saw reps as a run blocker, which shouldn’t happen. Burse is a small and light receiver, which leads to him getting pushed around when he has to block. The only other good play he had was calling for a fair catch with Seattle coverage men around him.
Snaps: 7. Stats: N/A
Only two plays noteworthy came from Taylor’s game. The first play was a negative, where on a punt return he nearly ran into the returner who was calling for a fair catch.
He was able to stop just in time, saving the special teams unit from what could have been another bad play. The positive was an onside kick that instead of trying to catch, he just knocked out of bounds.
Snaps: 4. Stats: 1 rush for -9 yards.
Patton had an awful game. There was nothing good to come out of it. Three of his snaps came as a blocker, which is like having Burse block. Being a little guy, Patton just got thrown around.
His one run was a reverse, which Seattle read from the start. On top of that, Patton muffed a punt on special teams, which he was able to recover.
Snaps: 6. Stats: N/A
Louks saw a total of six snaps. Five of which came as a blocker. He didn’t look half bad, but not great either. His one other snap came as a receiver, where he ran a decent route.
Snaps: 34. Stats: 5 targets, with 5 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.
As a receiver, Green was excellent. His routes were sharp and he showed soft hands when catching the ball. However, Green carries the reputation of an elite blocker.
That reputation did not show against Seattle. He was beaten multiple times and let guys by him unblocked. He has the ability and should be able to get back to his elite prowess as a blocker.
Snaps: 26. Stats: 3 targets, with 1 catch for 7 yards.
Another tight end who had a rough game. Jones, at times, looked lost as a receiver and a blocker. He also was beaten, or let defenders by him unblocked multiple times. His special teams play wasn’t anything but average either.
Snaps: 17. Stats: 1 target, with 1 catch for 6 yards.
The tight ends as a unit had a tough game, and Jensen was no different. He did have a good catch that he turned into a solid gain. Besides that, it wasn’t pretty. Mediocre blocking coupled with bad routes just doesn’t bode well.
Snaps: 25. Stats: N/A
When I watched the game live, I thought Clark had a really good game. Going back over the game, Clark’s game was solid, but nothing special. He had some great blocks, especially against the run.
He was able to pave the way for a couple of nice runs. In the passing game, is where his struggles really showed. He was able to stall his man a few times, but found himself getting pushed back more often.
Snaps: 6. Stats: N/A
Roberts came in late in the game. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and he showed why.
Snaps: 31. Stats: N/A
The game for Garland was far from pretty. He showed exactly why he lost his starting job. He had some good moments, but they were few and far between. The best aspect to come out of his game was the ability to get to the second level, though he didn’t have a chance to do that often.
Snaps: 25. Stats: N/A
Like the rest of the backup offensive line, Gradkowski was a mess on the field. He struggled consistently throughout the game, outside of a handful of plays. He was thrown around like a ragdoll often. The blocks he did make came in the run game, where he was able to clear out space.
Snaps: 6. Stats: N/A
When I was watching Gradkowski, I didn’t think it could get any worse. Day proved that wrong. He was completely lost and unsure of what he was supposed to do each snap.
Snaps: 49. Stats: One quarterback hurry
When the swap was made from Vasquez to Smith, the change was obvious and reflected in the play of the offensive line greatly. Smith did surprise me some, simply because he actually had a few good plays.
He was the lead blocker on a couple of decent runs and got to the second level with ease a handful of times. Outside of that, is was a major mess. The only time he didn’t really struggle in pass protection came with assistance from one of the other offensive linemen.
Snaps: 6. Stats: N/A
At the end of the game, the third unit offensive line hit the field. That was when the line was at it's worse. It was filled with undrafted free agents. They all struggled to get any kind of push and that was no different with Davis.
Snaps: 34. Stats: one quarterback hurry.
Schofield put together a decent game, but nothing special. He was worst whenever he was asked to cut block, which he did effectively only once out of many attempts.
His pass protection was actually decent and he would push the rusher just deep or wide of the quarterback. He still isn’t where you would want, but this former third round pick has shown progress.
Snaps: 6. Stats: N/A
As with the other third unit offensive linemen, Sweeton’s play was filled with struggles. He got no push in the run game, and got pushed back in pass protection.
That wraps up the grades for the offensive side of the ball. Stay tuned for the defensive grades.
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