The Denver Broncos defense was excellent in Week 1. Everyone knows they have the potential to be the best defense in the NFL, and they showed why. They played as a unit, with everyone playing at a high level. With how poorly the offense played, it was needed for the defense. They showed they can win games, which may come in handy multiple times this year.
With that said, it is time to get into the player grades. If you are familiar with my grades, you know how it goes. I will begin with the starters, and go into the players who subbed in during the game.
Vance Walker, LDE
Snaps: 34. Stats: 2 hurries, 2 tackles, 2 stops.
After a poor preseason showing, Walker was a pleasant surprise against the Ravens. His run defense was strong, and lessened the blow of Derek Wolfe being suspended. When rushing the passer, Walker created some great push at times. However, where he really did well in rushing the passer was eating space so the other rushers could get pressure.
Snaps: 37. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.
It was the first real action for Williams as a one-gap nose tackle, and he really did well. There were moments he could have done a lot better, especially when defending the run, but in those moments he wasn’t bad, just not good enough. There also were a couple times he was asked to two-gap that really didn’t go well.
The Broncos moved Williams around the defensive line, and had him at both defensive end spots at one point during the game. He has the quickness and agility to do better in the scheme. Lack of experience does show, which should go away with, well, experience.
Malik Jackson, RDE
Snaps: 26. Stats: 1 hurry, 3 tackles, 3 stops.
Jackson had a huge game for the Broncos, but ended up exiting the game with concussion-like symptoms. Once he left, the Broncos run defense took a big step backward. A year ago, his run defense was inconsistent, but against Baltimore, he was consistent and disciplined defending the run.
He and Wolfe will make an excellent run stopping duo. However, Jackson also has a great ability to create pressure on the quarterback. He is so hard to stop with just a single blocker, which makes him demand a double team just as much, if not more than, the other pass rushers on this defense.
Von Miller, LOLB
Snaps: 44. Stats: 2 QB hits, 4 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 4 yards.
Miller dominated the offensive line when defending the run. He was consistently setting the edge and made it hard for the Ravens to run his way. His dominance didn’t end there, as he was a force when rushing the passer. He was consistently in the Ravens backfield, wreaking havoc. The best part is, he is still learning the system. Just wait and see what he does come mid/late October and beyond.
Brandon Marshall, LILB
Snaps: 54. Stats: 1 sack, 7 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 5 stops, targeted 3 times, allowing 2 catches for 7 yards.
One of, if not the best player to see the field for both teams, Marshall was flying all over the place making the plays that the team needed. He notched the first sack of the season, and just kept playing at that high level. He said he was the best coverage linebacker in the NFL, and after this game, it is hard to argue against that. However, his run defense is on the same level as his coverage. It is such an underrated aspect of his game. He flies to the ball and sneaks through the blockers to make the play.
Danny Trevathan, RILB
Snaps: 32. Stats: 8 tackles, 3 stops, targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 12 yards.
The unsung hero on the Broncos defense, Trevathan only saw limited action in one game during the preseason. So, entering the first game, I was expecting a lot of rust, but there was none. He looked better than ever, especially when defending the run. He was taking on blocks, and beating them consistently, which is something he has never really shown before.
DeMarcus Ware, ROLB
Snaps: 44. Stats: 1 sack, 3 QB hits, 7 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 stop.
Ware was living in the Ravens backfield in the passing game. He was consistently getting pressure on Joe Flacco. The left tackle for the Ravens had a really long day when taking on Ware. However, for as good as he was rushing the quarterback, he looked mediocre defending the run.
Aqib Talib, LCB
Snaps: 53. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 stop, targeted 4 times, allowing 2 catches for 25 yards and 1 interception (pick-6).
The only big negative in Talib’s game came in coverage where he just backpedaled a bit too far, opening space for the receiver to make the play. However, he was right there to make the tackle immediately. That is something that Talib does consistently—allows the catch but makes the tackle. His interception came at the best time, and he returned it for a touchdown. Momentum was shifting, and his pick-6 put it back on Denver’s side.
David Bruton, SS
Snaps: 56. Stats: 1 hurry, 2 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 1 stop, targeted 6 times, allowing 3 catches for 38 yards, 1 pass deflected.
Stepping in for T.J. Ward is not an easy task, but Bruton did it admirably. His run defense was great, and he was flying to the ball carrier, or blowing up blocks. In coverage, he did a solid job, but could have been a lot better. Run defense has always been a strength, while coverage has been a weakness.
Darian Stewart, FS
Snaps: 58. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, 1 interception.
Stewart's run defense was amazing. He is so quick and physical when attacking the run, which is a breath of fresh air, compared to what Denver has had previously. He also played great in coverage. He was given a lot of freedom in what he could do, and he showed a high football IQ to be able to read the play and react. He was consistently in great position to make a play, which is highlighted by his interception.
Chris Harris, Jr., RCB
Snaps: 58. Stats: 4 tackles, 3 stops, targeted 5 times, allowing 4 catches for 13 yards.
One of the best corners in the game, and Harris played like that. He did allow four catches, but was so quick to make the tackle. His longest catch allowed was for 8 yards, and came because he gave just enough cushion for the receiver on the sidelines. The best asset for Harris is his run defense. One of the greatest run defending corners in the NFL was Champ Bailey, and he clearly passed his knowledge down to Harris. His run defense is just as good, if not better, than Bailey’s was.
That wraps up the starters. Now time to get into the players who subbed into the game.
Darius Kilgo, NT
Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 1 stop.
The rookie nose tackle saw action early, as in first drive early. He looked really good at everything he was asked to do. When entering the draft, many thought him to be a one-trick pony, but he has shown to be so much more than that. His game wasn’t perfect, as there were some rookie mistakes, but he looked like he wasn’t a rookie, more often than not.
Antonio Smith, DE
Snaps: 32. Stats: 1 hurry, 2 tackles, 2 stops.
This performance left me completely in shock. Smith is known as a excellent pass rusher, and a below average run defender. If you watched only this game, you would think something completely different. His run defense was excellent, and he was strong at the point of attack. He set the edge multiple times and forced the runner in a different direction. As for his pass rush, it was a major disappointment. He just seemed lost a few times and shut down for the majority of his reps. He did have a couple of good rushes, but not enough with that being his speciality.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB
Snaps: 14. Stats: 2 hurries, 2 tackles, 2 stops.
One simple sentence can easily sum up Barrett’s game, while paying him a high compliment. When he stepped onto the field, the only way to tell that he wasn’t Von Miller was by the jersey number. His play was that great. When subbing in for Miller, there was no obvious drop off in play. Rushing the quarterback, or defending the run, Barrett was excellent in every phase of the game.
Todd Davis, ILB
Snaps: 3. Stats: N/A.
Davis only subbed in for three snaps. He showed nothing one way or the other.
Corey Nelson, ILB
Snaps: 3. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 target, targeted once allowing 1 catch for 7 yards.
It's not a good thing for Nelson to come in for three snaps, and he allows a 7-yard play. He managed to make the tackle, but after five yards were picked up after the catch.
Shane Ray, OLB
Snaps: 14. Stats: N/A.
Even though he didn’t show up on the stat sheet, Ray played a solid game. His run defense was strong, which was a weakness entering the draft. As a pass rusher, he failed to show. Unlike Barrett, when Ray stepped in for Ware, there was an obvious drop off on the defense.
Kayvon Webster, CB
Snaps: 1. Stats: targeted once, allowing zero catches.
Webster came in for one snap, was targeted and didn’t allow a catch. Not a bad single snap for Webster.
Josh Bush, S
Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 tackle.
Bush saw a good amount of action during the game and looked solid on every snap. While he didn’t have the impact that Stewart or Bruton did, or Ward would have, he was still solid. His coverage and run defense, both just solid. While he doesn’t wow as a starter, he is a very solid backup to have around on the team.
Omar Bolden, S
Snaps: 6. Stats: N/A.
Bolden only saw a limited amount of reps, before suffering a foot injury and leaving the game. He has potential as a safety, but wasn’t able to show that potential against the Ravens.
Bradley Roby, CB
Snaps: 30. Stats: 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, targeted 3 times, allowing 2 catches for 11 yards, 1 pass deflect.
The second-year corner played a really good game, especially defending the run. He is so quick and physical. When watching him defend the run, you can see a lot of Harris in his play. In coverage he is still growing, and it shows. However, he made the underrated play of the game to impede a catch that likely changes the outcome of the game.
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