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Broncos Defensive Player Grades: Week P2

With his offensive player grades in the books, MHH Analyst Erick Trickel is back with his evaluations for the defensive players from the Texans game. The offense didn’t play so great, but how did the defense do?

If you have yet to do so, check out the offensive player grades for Week 2 of the preseason.

The game against the Houston Texans was largely a defensive battle. Both defenses played good games, with a lot of excellent individual performances. Defensively, the Denver Broncos are stout. They have a more-than-capable front seven, coupled with a talented secondary.

Moving the ball against them has been hard so far this preseason, and should only get harder when the games count. They have flashed their potential as a unit, and that potential is record-setting.

With that said, time to get into the defensive player grades. The starters will come first, beginning with the left defensive end. After the starters, the remaining players will be grouped by position.

Derek Wolfe

Snaps: 15. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.

Wolfe is stout against the run, and he showed that yet again against the Texans. He also seemed to take a step forward with his pass rushing. He is far from being a good pass rusher, but the potential is there and has been flashed.

The best thing is, even against the pass, Wolfe has been demanding double teams, which keeps the double teams off the superior pass rushers.

Grade: 84.9

Sylvester Williams

Snaps: 22. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry, 1 stop.

First thing's first—Williams had an amazing spin move to record his sack. For a man his size, it was one of the best I have ever seen. He was so swift, quick and fluid with the movement, leaving the offensive lineman with his head spinning.

Williams is really flashing the potential that got him drafted in the first round. He played a really good game against the Seahawks, and took a another step forward against the Texans.

Grade: 94.7

Malik Jackson

Snaps: 14. Stats: 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop.

The whole starting defensive line put together an excellent game, and obviously, that includes Jackson. He has turned into a great player, who flies under the radar around the NFL. He has drastically improved a unit that was less that solid two years ago, into an excellent run defense.

Rushing the passer, he has no equal along the Broncos defensive line. All of his issues on the field come down to one simple thing, discipline. He gives up lane discipline, or self discipline to either open a hole, or draw a flag.

Grade: 97.8

DeMarcus Ware

Snaps: 19. Stats: 1 assisted tackle.

In his first action of the preseason, Ware looked a bit rusty. He wasn’t as quick off the snap as usual, which can also be due to his age. While he didn’t play a good game, it wasn’t a bad one, either.

It was just solid, in all aspects. If it is rust, then he should only get better. If it is age, then it may end up seeing him as only an expensive rotational player.

Grade: 64.9

Steve Johnson

Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 hurry, 2 tackles, 1 stop, targeted 3 times, allowing 3 catches for 17 yards.

Starting in place of the injured Danny Trevathan, Johnson put in a great showing with the first-team defense. His best suit is as a run defender, where he reads the offense and makes the play. Coverage has been his weak spot, but he has looked improved there this preseason.

Grade: 74.9

Brandon Marshall

Snaps: 16. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 stop, targeted 3 times, allowing zero catches, 1 pass deflected.

The impact Marshall has on this defense is tremendous. They were stout against Seattle, when Marshall didn’t play, and looked even better against the Texans. He just does everything at a high level and is excellent at it. He has a high football IQ and that is always on display with how fast he reads and reacts the the play.

Grade: 99.2

Von Miller

Snaps: 19. Stats: 1 hurry, 1 assisted tackle.

While it wasn’t like the game he had against the Seahawks, Miller still played great all-around. He was quick getting after the quarterback, despite only one total pressure. He also was very stout at setting the edge against the run.

To top it all off, he even dropped into coverage a couple of times and looked capable. This defense is built for players like Miller, and he is going to do great things in it.

Grade: 85.8

Chris Harris, Jr. 

Snaps: 16. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 5 yards.

Harris flies to the ball. It doesn’t matter if the ball goes to the other side of the field, he always seems to be right there. It’s like he is Nightcrawler just teleporting to the location of the ball.

The Texans game was his first action of the preseason, after he was held out of the Seahawks game. Harris played an excellent game both in coverage and defending the run.

Grade: 95.8

Aqib Talib

Snaps: 20. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catche for 10 yards.

Playing press-man coverage has done wonders for Talib and what he does on the field. He showed why he should be considered one of the best press corners in the NFL against the Texans. He was always successful when jamming at the line of scrimmage. He allowed only one catch, which went for 10 yards, which was his worst play of the game.

Grade: 92.8

Bradley Roby

Snaps: 40. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops, targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 11 yards.

The second-year corner started the game against the Texans, as did Harris and Talib. They started with three corners and only one safety. This is part of why Roby had such a high snap count, plus they wanted to get him a lot of reps.

He showed that he can handle being a starter in the NFL. He was flying to the ball behind the line of scrimmage to make the tackle for a loss. In coverage, he was always with his man, and if he allowed the catch, he made the tackle immediately.

Grade: 79.8

T.J. Ward

Snaps: 20. Stats: 1 tackle, 2 assisted tackles.

After having his presence felt against the Seahawks, Ward was invisible in Houston. His impact wasn’t felt or seen during the game, but that doesn’t always mean it was a bad game. In this case, he wasn't bad, but it wasn’t a good game for him, either.

He didn’t look as quick to come into the box to help against the run, nor as strong against the run. In coverage there were a couple of instances he seemed to not know what his role was on the defense.

Grade: 56.3

That wraps up the starters on the defense. I will now go into the remaining defenders, going position-by-position, starting with the backup left defensive ends.

Josh Watson

Snaps: 12. Stats: 1 hurry.

The depth on the defensive line actually proved to be really strong against the Texans. While Watson didn’t have a great showing rushing the passer, despite the one hurry, he did play the run excellently. He consistently set the edge and forced runners either farther to the outside, or back inside. It is unfortunate that when he did this, his teammates didn’t always do their job.

Grade: 81.2

Darius Kilgo

Snaps: 42. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops.

Kilgo had an excellent game. Although it wasn’t perfect, it was pretty close to it. He was so stout against the run and did a consistent job in clogging the middle running lanes. The best thing is he continued to show he isn’t a one-dimensional player and has a good all-around skill-set to stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback.

Grade: 96.9

Sione Fua

Snaps: 33. Stats: 1 hit, 2 assisted tackles.

Fua was one of the only players on the defensive line who didn’t have a good game, but it wasn’t bad, either. Fua just put together a decent showing against the Texans. He was shut down almost every time as a pass rusher, except for a handful of times.

Against the run he was stout at times, then was pushed around at others. On one play he gave up lane control by cutting outside, leaving a big hole in the middle that could have, but wasn’t, exploited for a big run.

Grade: 48.8

Antonio Smith

Snaps: 5. Stats: N/A

All of Smith’s snaps came as a pass rusher. In fact, of his 13 total preseason snaps, only three snaps had Smith as something other than a pass rusher. He is a really good pass rusher for a 3-4 defensive end, and Phillips knows that, so he uses him as such. All five of his snaps, Smith actually got good push and decent pressure, at the very least. Some of them were better than others.

Grade: 94.9

Vance Walker

Snaps: 31. Stats: 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop.

Against the Seahawks, Walker played a not-so-good game. He turned that around against the Texans. He was good against the run, and solid against the pass. He was able to set the edge perfectly a few times, but got beat trying to at other times.

He has a surprising quickness to his game that helps him out. All Walker needs to do is stay a bit more disciplined at times, and he will be a better player. A few times he gave up control on his rushes or defending the run that left lanes open, or brought him to a stalemate.

Grade: 78.3

Chuka Ndulue

Snaps: 22. Stats: 1 sack, 1 tackle, 2 stops.

The undrafted free agent has had one heck of a preseason so far. He is pushing for the 53-man roster, though he seems to be a long shot. He played the run excellently against the Texans, with only one or two mistakes, all due to lack of experience. On top of that, he continued to impress me with what he is capable of as a pass rusher.

Grade: 92.9

Shaquil Barrett

Snaps: 34. Stats: 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 2 stops.

With 9:18 left in the first quarter, on a third down, Shaq Barrett stepped in for Von Miller with the first unit. He got good pressure to force a quick throw that fell incomplete. That was just the start of a near-perfect game for Barrett.

On defense, against the run, rushing, or in coverage, Barrett was great. He even continued to excel on special teams. He is a complete player that just keeps getting better with the more time he sees on the field.

Grade: 99.4

Gerald Rivers

Snaps: 28. Stats: 2 tackles, 2 stops.

Rivers played a solid game. When defending the run, he made some excellent plays, but lacked any kind of consistency. The majority of his run defense snaps were nothing more than solid. As a rusher, it was a similar story, except he didn’t have any excellent plays, just a few good ones.

Grade: 46.9

Chase Vaughn

Snaps: 16. Stats: 1 hurry, 2 tackles, 2 stops.

Vaughn actually struggled defending the run for most of the game. He made a couple of good plays, but those all came when he went unblocked. If he got a blocker on him, he was taken out of the play. It was a similar story when rushing the passer, except he was able to control the blocker more than in the run game.

Grade: 51.0

Danny Mason

Snaps: 4. Stats: 1 QB hit.

With only four snaps, it is hard to accurately grade Mason. However, he came in and hit the quarterback as he threw, which gives his grade a huge boost. On his other three snaps, all as a pass rusher, he did a solid job of getting push at the line, even though he didn’t get any other kind of pressure. Of the four snaps, he had great impact on one of them, which makes his grade a great one, despite limited snap counts.

Grade: 98.7

Shane Ray

Snaps: 28. Stats: 1 sack, 3 hurries, 1 batted pass, 3 tackles, 2 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 10 yards.

I didn’t care for Ray’s game against the Seahawks, as he looked too one-dimensional. However, he turned that around against the Texans and looked like a competent run defender, as well as a good pass rusher. He was all over the field making plays on defense.

He came in when Ware was pulled out, and actually had the defense looking better than Ware did. Come regular season, Ray should be subbing in with Ware to help keep the veteran rested. The only area Ray is a liability is in coverage, but improving there comes with time and experience.

Grade: 89.4

Lamin Barrow

Snaps: 10. Stats: 2 tackles, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 12 yards.

Another bad game from Barrow, just adds to my thoughts that he doesn’t make this team. The defensive line did a good job opening holes for linebackers to make the play in run defense, but Barrow consistently found himself in the wrong place. In coverage, he looked lost and special teams play was a mess.

Grade: 3.9

Corey Nelson

Snaps: 25. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, targeted 5 times, allowing 2 catches for 19 yards.

Another backup linebacker who had a rough game, although it wasn’t the worst of the group. Nelson actually played the run well, despite a good amount of mistakes. In coverage he was targeted often, but did a good job a few times to keep the play from finishing.

Grade: 48.9

Todd Davis

Snaps: 30. Stats: 5 tackles, 3 stops, targeted 4 times, allowing 4 catches for 40 yards.

Davis played the run greatly, but was picked on in coverage. Although he did allow 4 catches for 40 yards, he didn’t play badly in coverage, just not good enough. He would allow just a small amount of separation, which is all that is needed in the NFL. He will still make the roster, and this didn’t hurt those chances at all.

Grade: 49.8

Zaire Anderson

Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 hurry, 2 tackles, 2 stops, targeted 2 times, allowing 2 catches for 10 yards.

Anderson was actually the best of the backup interior linebackers. He was so quick defending the run that it was hard for Houston to pick up yards at times. He also moves so quickly in coverage, but that hurt him a few times. He relies on his quickness too much, and though that isn’t always a bad thing, he needs to have more to his game than just that.

Grade: 71.9

Reggie Walker

Snaps: 10. Stats: 1 tackle.

The veteran linebacker played another rough game. He just looks lost, no matter what the defense is doing. His special teams play has been poor, to top it all off.

Grade: 2.9

Kayvon Webster

Snaps: 30. Stats: 1 sack, 3 tackles, 3 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 5 yards.

Webster drew a good amount of penalties, which hurt his grade. He has to cut back on the penalties. That said, he played a great game. He is tough and physical, which he consistently shows, and it's part of why he draws the flags.

He also can do an adequate job at whatever is asked of him. The biggest area of concern with Webster comes with those penalties. His grade would be roughly 30 points higher, if he didn’t get flagged like he did.

Grade: 61.9

Taurean Nixon

Snaps: 25. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 41 yards.

Nixon had a rough game. He was beaten in coverage multiple times, including times outside of the catches he allowed. He is a tough and physical player, but doesn’t seem to have what is needed, right now, to do well in coverage. He does have a skill-set that can translate to safety, though.

Grade: 12.8

Curtis Marsh

Snaps: 22. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 stop, targeted 2 times, allowing 2 catches for 40 yards.

On special teams, Marsh was great. On defense, he struggled. Against the run, he was taken out of the play far too often by receivers. In coverage, he was beaten multiple times and looked lost. He seemed to always want safety help, and hardly got it. I'm unsure if he didn’t get it by design, or by a safety not doing their job correctly.

Grade: 50.0

Tevrin Brandon

Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 assisted tackle, targeted 3 times, allowing 1 catch for 10 yards.

The speedster corner lacks a physical toughness to his game. It becomes obvious he lacks that whenever he goes to make a tackle. However, his speed helps him a lot on defense, especially with his recovery when he makes a mistake. He is a technically raw player, and that shows each snap he takes. He played a solid game against the Texans, but nothing to write home about.

Grade: 56.8

Lorenzo Doss

Snaps: 20. Stats: 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 6 yards.

Doss played a really good game. He looked good defending the run, and played it smoothly, as well. In coverage, he knew what he was supposed to do and executed it to near perfection. It was a huge step forward for Doss from his game against the Seahawks.

Grade: 85.9

Darian Stewart

Snaps: 20. Stats: 1 tackle.

Stewart did not start the game for the Broncos, but instead subbed in early when they changed their looks with the first unit. He is a smart player, who flies to the ball like a bullet. He reads and diagnoses the play from the snap, and trusts his instincts, which puts him in the right place often. Stewart has brought stability to the free safety position for the Broncos.

Grade: 88.5

David Bruton

Snaps: 35. Stats: 1 @QB hit, 3 tackles, targeted 2 times, allowing 1 catch for 7 yards.

Defensively, it was a step forward for Bruton from his last game. He looked better in all aspects of what he is asked to do, especially defending the run. However, he is known for his special teams play, and that remained bad. One time, with no fair catch called, he ran past the returner, who squeaked out a solid gain. Sadly, his play on special teams keeps his grade far lower than what it would be.

Grade: 29.9

Omar Bolden

Snaps: 22. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop.

Bolden didn’t play against the Seahawks, so this was his first action of the preseason. I was expecting a lot of rust, as he hasn’t played safety since two seasons ago. However, there were no signs of rust in his play, which turned out to be good all around on defense. Like Bruton though, Bolden had a rough time on special teams, primarily as a returner. This hurts his grade drastically.

Grade: 12.6

Josh Bush

Snaps: 23. Stats: 2 tackles.

The safety depth is concerning and Bush showed why. He wasn’t reading the play and was consistently in the wrong place at the wrong time. The defense just seems to be too fast for him and he can’t keep up. His special teams play was bad as well.

Grade: 5.9

Josh Furman

Snaps: 19. Stats: N/A.

Furman did nothing to show up on the stat sheet, but he still made an impact, only against the run though. He flew downfield a couple of times and blew up blocks that opened up a lane for other defenders to get to the ball carrier. Outside of the run game though, Furman looked mediocre, at best.

Grade: 38.9

That wraps up the defensive grades. If you have yet to do so, go check out the offensive player grades from this game. Also, go check out the grades from preseason Week 1 and see who stepped up, who fell off and who has played consistently.

Related Story: Broncos Offensive Player Grades: Week P1

Related Story: Broncos Defensive Player Grades: Week P1

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


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