The Denver Broncos defense played an excellent game against the San Francisco 49ers. They did allow a few big plays, but not a lot. They also kept the scoring down to field goals, and picked up two points themselves.
All preseason, the defense has been stout, keeping opposing teams from the endzone. This defense has potential to be one of the best ever in Denver, and in the NFL, but they have to play that way when the games matter.
Snaps: 11. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop.
Derek Wolfe continued to show his prowess as a run defender, and was excellent against the 49ers, who have a strong running game. When rushing the passer, he took a big step forward and showed more than he had the rest of the preseason. All he needs to do is get consistent against rushing the passer. Wolfe will be missed during his four-game suspension, if only because of his excellent run defense.
Snaps: 14. Stats: N/A.
The young defensive lineman hasn’t really shown that he was worth a first round pick—before this year, that is. He seems to have really taken to the scheme and being the nose tackle. It fits him better than many may think, and it shows each game. He does make mistakes, mainly in facing a double team against the run, but they do not occur all that often. He has shown a complete skill-set to get pressure and defend the run.
Snaps: 17. Stats: 3 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop.
While Wolfe is the best run defender on the line, Jackson is the best pass rusher. He is so quick off the snap, and turns that quickness into strength, making him hard to block. Now, Wolfe is the best run defender, but Jackson is no slouch. He could be excellent, it he stayed a bit more disciplined. He opens running lanes by shooting upfield too often. Jackson needs to start reading the play faster and staying in his lane, so he doesn’t allow the offensive line to use his lane for the run.
Snaps: 9. Stats: 1 sack, 1 stop.
In limited reps, Miller showed his dominance once again. Rushing the passer, he was excellent, as Broncos fans have become accustomed to. While defending the run, Miller did see a couple of issues, all in setting the edge. He managed to rebound on the failures, and ended up having a solid impact against the run. Although he dropped into coverage only once, he looked mediocre, as he always does when in coverage.
Snaps: 23. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
In his second action of the preseason, Marshall looked excellent. He recently took to Twitter, saying he is the best coverage linebacker in the NFL. Well, his play backs up that statement. He is excellent in coverage, and is pretty consistent. But, dropping into coverage isn’t the only thing he does well. He also does a great job at defending the run. He is excellent at sneaking through the garbage to find the ball carrier.
Snaps: 19. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 2 missed tackles, 1 stop.
In his first game back, Trevathan looked good, but rusty. He was still reading and reacting to the play as fast as he normally does. Where he looked rusty was when it came to making the tackle. Even on the one he made, the rust was obvious. No surprise there, as that is common for linebackers, especially when coming off of serious knee injuries.
Snaps: 9. Stats: 1 sack (safety), 1 stop.
Ware probably had the play of the game with a safety early on. The play was brilliant for multiple reasons, the biggest being he looked 10 years younger and faster. It was nice to see him make the play, as he looked old and slow in his first action of the preseason. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to rust.
Snaps: 23. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 8 yards.
Ware had the best play, but Talib had the best tackle. Reggie Bush went to hurdle Talib, but the veteran DB just body slammed him to the ground. That is the physical play that Talib shows—maybe not in that exact way though. He is physical no matter what he asked to do—cover, or come up against the run.
Snaps: 17. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle.
If you want to be a box score analyst, Ward didn’t have a good game. However, he had such a great impact on how the defense performed, which doesn’t show on the stat sheet. He flies to the ball, and forces the ball carrier to change direction when defending the run. As for playing coverage, he looks more comfortable and better than a year ago.
Snaps: 38. Stats: 3 tackles, 2 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 5 yards.
Stewart played a perfect game. He was outstanding when defending the run, and flew to the ball to have a big impact on the play. Even in coverage he was outstanding. He allowed a catch, but the catch was made before Stewart could come down to cover him, but he made the tackle immediately. There were only a couple of negatives from his game and all of them minor, and covered by his many positives.
Snaps: 22. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.
Roby played an excellent game. He is so quick and fluid in coverage, that it is hard for receivers to get space on him. Quickness and fluidity in coverage isn’t all he has, either. He is a very physical corner, in coverage and defending the run. He showed a lot of potential his rookie year, and is building on it greatly this year.
That wraps up the starters. Time for the backups.
Snaps: 32. Stats: 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 1 stop.
Walker has been largely inconsistent this preseason. He had a great game against the Texans, but struggled against Seattle and San Francisco. He had moments of brilliance, including a perfect stack and shed to make the stop. Outside of those few flashes, it was rough. He was consistently cleared out of the way to open some big running lanes and was shut down as a pass rusher.
Snaps: 32. Stats: 1 sack, 1 batted pass, 3 tackles, 3 stops.
The rookie nose tackle has been consistently great all preseason. In the third preseason game, Kilgo added another sack, bringing the total to three—one in each game. He also showed how great he is at defending the run. Not only does he hold control and clog lanes, he is able to shed the blocks and make the tackle. He ranks seventh in run stop percentage and ninth in pass rush productivity.
Snaps: 24. Stats: 1 hurry.
Smith only saw a handful of snaps in the first two preseason games. He saw the most against San Francisco, and it didn’t go that well. He did show as a pass rusher on multiple occasions. However, that is what he is known for. His run defense has been mediocre, at best, for a long time, and it doesn’t look like that is going to change.
Snaps: 19. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.
Fua played a solid game, and saw reps all over the defensive line. He actually went in as a sub at the left defensive end position. He did well, no matter where he lined up at. However, he may be in jeopardy, as the versatility along the defensive line leaves the coaches options, where they don’t have to carry a third NT. That would put Fua on the outside.
Snaps: 43. Stats: 1 hurry, 3 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 2 stops.
Barrett has played two great games already this preseason. Unfortunately he didn’t play a great game against San Francisco...he played a magnificent game. He was making plays in every phase. He didn’t get a sack, and only one hurry, but he gave the offensive line of the 49ers trouble on every rush. He really excels against the run and does a perfect, consistent job at setting the edge. While he didn’t play a perfect game, it was close to it.
Snaps: 32. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 2 yards.
Davis has consistently shown he can handle a starting role, especially in this defense. He did an excellent job filling in for a hurt Marshall and Trevathan, and continues to see success backing them up. Everything he does is quick and fluid. Combine that with a high football IQ and an ability to read and react quickly, makes for a dangerous player.
Snaps: 4. Stats: N/A.
Nelson only played four snaps, three of which were in coverage. He lost his man once, but played the other two snaps decently. His other snap came defending the run, where he got swallowed up by blockers.
Snaps: 28. Stats: 5 tackles, 2 stops, targeted four times, allowing three catches for 35 yards.
The game against the 49ers showed exactly where Johnson’s strengths and weaknesses are. He did a great job when defending the run. He was quick and strong at the point of attack, and made multiple plays. However, dropping into coverage, he lacked the speed and athleticism to hang with the tight ends and running backs. He allowed multiple catches, but at least he was quick to make the tackle most of the time.
Snaps: 46. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry, 3 tackles, 4 stops.
Ray had a strong game as a run defender, and a good game as a pass rusher. He does still have trouble disengaging from blocks, but if he manages to beat the offensive linemen off the first step, he is in a good position. When defending the run, Ray really had trouble setting the edge. He just doesn’t have the strength to do so consistently. He did flash multiple times with his ability to shed the block to make the stop.
Snaps: 3. Stats: N/A.
All of Rivers' snaps came as a pass rusher. He was shut down at the line of scrimmage each time.
Snaps: 12. Stats: 1 tackle, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
The only true backup strong safety on the roster, Furman played a solid game. He still looks really raw, and may be destined for the practice squad while he grows. He has flashed potential, but not consistently.
Snaps: 32. Stats: 5 tackles, 2 stops, targeted twice, allowing 2 catches for 30 yards.
Defensively, against the run, Bruton looked excellent. The issues in his game came in coverage and on special teams. Special teams just isn’t close to the level that Bruton normally performs. As for coverage, Bruton played at his usual level, but he needs to show growth there as a player. He is the No. 3 safety, and forms a great trio with Ward and Stewart.
Snaps: 6. Stats: N/A.
Bolden looked good on defense, before he got blindsided on a hit and left the game.
Snaps: 17. Stats: N/A.
Bush likely only saw the number of snaps he did, due to Bolden getting pulled from the game. He looked decent, but nothing special against the 49ers. He is on the bubble, and will have a final chance to show that he should stick. The numbers game may be against him though.
Snaps: 45. Stats: 1 missed tackle, targeted three times, allowing 1 catch for 10 yards.
Webster seems to be the forgotten man at cornerback. He had a solid rookie year, but has been stuck down the depth chart, or battling injury since then. He is a tough, physical player that really fits within the scheme. He plays the run great and does a good job in coverage. Still has room for growth, but showing signs of being a solid player.
Snaps: 32. Stats: 2 missed tackles, targeted twice, allowing 2 catches for 19 yards.
Marsh played a horrible game. He was beaten on coverage multiple times, some of which he got bailed out by bad throws. He also was a complete non-factor when defending the run. He managed to slip through the first set of cuts, but he has to take a major step up if he wants to stay.
Snaps: 5. Stats: N/A.
All but one snap came in coverage, and he looked solid. He moved smoothing and stuck with his receiver. His final snap came as a run defender and he came into the play with physicality. His impact was minimal each play, but plays a solid game.
That wraps up the defensive player grades, and the grades as a whole for the victory against the 49ers. One game left, and for many players left on the roster, it is their final chance to make a case for the 53 man roster, or practice squad.
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