The Denver Broncos defense played a really solid game in Week 3. However, they were exploited in a few ways, despite only giving up 12 points. The secondary played a lot of off-coverage, which opened up the quick passing game, which led to them getting exploited.
Not only does off-coverage open up the quick passing game, it ltakes away from their pass rush. Playing press-coverage gives your rushers an extra second or so to get to the quarterback. This is essential for Denver because their pass rushers were so close on just about every pass play.
Another way they were exploited was in their lack of depth on the defensive line. They got tired and slowed down. Fortunately, they Lions couldn’t afford to run the ball by this point and when they did, the defense still managed to shut it down.
Getting Derek Wolfe back and Kenny Anunike on the active list would help the depth tremendously. The final way they were exploited was through their linebackers in coverage. They started out strong but have taken a step back the past couple games.
With that said, it is time to jump into the player grades.
Vance Walker, LDE
Snaps: 31. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 1 tackle, 2 assisted tackles, and 1 stop.
A good game, then a bad game seems to be the trend for Walker, even going back to the preseason. His game against the Lions wasn’t so good. He wasn’t generating push as a pass rusher, which isn’t much of a surprise, as that isn’t the type of defensive linemen he is. He is known as a run defender, but was consistently pushed off the line of scrimmage.
If not for other players coming up to make the play, it would have reflected back on Walker even worse than it did. He was able to get into the backfield about five times to blow up a play, but some of those still went for solid gains because he just was too slow.
Snaps: 37. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 hurry, 1 tackle, and 1 stop.
Many fans doubted Williams manning the nose tackle position in Wade Phillips scheme, but he has done the job excellently. The single-gap penetration that Philips utilizes fits Williams perfectly. He is quick and agile enough to shoot the gap, causing all kinds of disruption. He also has a spin move that is a thing of beauty.
Malik Jackson, RDE
Snaps: 64. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry, 2 tackles, 3 stops.
Similar to Williams, Jackson is now in a scheme that fits him better. That is a scary thought, with how well he was playing under the old scheme. He is so disruptive and hard to block that he demands a double team just about every play, which most teams can’t afford with the pass rushers Denver has.
Jackson was consistently blowing run plays up and has been a huge reason the run defense has been doing so great. Wolfe returning and playing opposite Jackson will make the defensive line even scarier, especially against the run.
Von Miller, LOLB
Snaps: 67. Stats: 1 hi,t 8 hurries, 1 missed tackle.
Miller was betrayed by the secondary playing off-coverage. Had they been playing press-coverage, it would have given him just an extra split second. Had they done so, four of those hurries likely would have been sacks. That is how close he was on multiple pass rushes. He completely owned the Lions right tackle in the passing game. His run defense was just as great as his pass rushing. He was dominant all game long and a constant disruption.
Brandon Marshall, LILB
Snaps: 74. Stats: 1 hit, 12 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 7 stops, targeted 9 times, allowing 7 catches for 66 yards and 1 touchdown.
Marshall said on Twitter a few weeks back that he was the best cover linebacker in the NFL. His play has said otherwise. The last two games he has been a major disappointment in coverage.
Normally, his coverage is superb, but he has been in a bad slump. Hopefully, he can turn it around. On the other side of things his run defense has been excellent. Per Pro Football Focus, Marshall comes in at No. 4 in run stop percentage. That is 4 out of 37 qualifying inside linebackers who have played at least 50 percent of the run stops.
Danny Trevathan, RILB
Snaps: 53. Stats: 1 tackle, 5 assisted tackles, targeted 6 times, allowing 5 catches for 45 yards.
It wasn’t just Marshall who struggled in coverage, Trevathan did as well. For the first three games, Trevathan’s play was vastly underrated. He was a consistent and stable force on the defense, against the run and in coverage. Just like Marshall, Trevathan did a great job defending the run. He was eating up blockers and clearing space for a teammate to come in and make the tackle. On every snap, if the play goes his way or not, Trevathan is always so quick to the ball.
DeMarcus Ware, ROLB
Snaps: 63. Stats: 2 sacks, 2 hits, 2 hurries, 1 tackle, 2 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for negative 6 yards.
DeMarcus Ware was the best defensive player out there on the field, for both teams, though it is very close. He was just such a force as a pass rusher, that he caused the Lions to change their game-plan in the first half. He did have some bad moments defending the run, but they are outweighed by some great play.
Chris Harris, Jr., RCB
Snaps: 77. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 26 yards.
Harris has had some issues in coverage the last couple of games, and saw a small step forward against the Lions. He had an excellent game Week 1, but saw struggles Week 2. The Lions game was better, but it still wasn’t the Harris that is arguably the best corner in the game.
It wasn’t like Harris was bad—that wasn't the case. He just struggled. The biggest issue is his 78 percent allowed catch rate, which is his highest, even just after the first three games. He is still one of the best corners in the NFL, all he needs to to is not grant so much space to the receivers. That will help put him in a position to break up more passes.
T.J. Ward, SS
Snaps: 77. Stats: 6 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 4 stops, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
In his second game back, Ward played a huge game. He was one of the top three defensive players against the Lions. His run defense was perfect, and he was constantly plugging holes or making the stop. While he didn’t allow any catches, he did take some bad angles after catches were made. Those angles are the only thing keeping him away from a perfect grade.
Darian Stewart, FS
Snaps: 75. Stats: 7 tackles, targeted 3 times, allowing 3 catches for 19 yards.
Another great game by Stewart. He has probably been the most consistent player on the defense. His run defense is stellar, and he plays it like a linebacker would, which is a rare trait for a free safety. His coverage has been better than many, including myself, expected. He is quick to react to the play, which speaks to his ability to read the play and his high football IQ.
Arguably the best thing about Stewart’s play is his willingness to lay down the big hit. That physical presence scares receivers, especially if they are going over the middle and can lead to dropped passes.
Aqib Talib, LCB
Snaps: 78. Stats: 5 tackles, targeted 9 times, allowing 7 catches for 70 yards and 1 pass deflected.
Talib had a tough matchup covering Calvin Johnson. He did an admirable job, but was playing a lot of off-coverage. Now, some think playing off on Johnson is the right call, and it is, if your corner isn’t tall, long and physical. Talib is all those and should have been playing press on Johnson.
He isn’t a big threat to beat you deep, and Talib can compete better with the jump balls thrown Johnson’s way. One thing Talib did an excellent job at was controlling Johnson after the catch. Talib played a solid game on a hard matchup, but it could have been better.
That wraps up the starters, not time to get into the players who subbed into the game.
Darius Kilgo, NT
Snaps: 7. Stats: N/A.
Kilgo was limited against the Lions and saw the field mostly to defend the run. He is a stout run defender, who clogs the middle of the defense. He saw only two snaps as a pass rusher, and got decent push, but nothing major.
Antonio Smith, DE
Snaps: 45. Stats: 1 hit, 1 hurry, 1 batted pass.
Smith is known as a pass rusher, even though his run defense the first two weeks was actually pretty strong. Against the Lions, he went back to normal. His run defense was mediocre, at best, but he was great when rushing the passer. 35 of his snaps came as a pass rusher, and he consistently got push. When he didn’t he was getting his hands up to try and knock the pass down, and was successful once.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB
Snaps: 10. Stats: 1 sack, 1 stop, 1 forced fumble.
Barrett continues to have a huge impact on limited snap counts. He is quick of the snap, and strong attacking. The best attribute he has is his ability to translate speed into power. On top of that he keeps track of where the ball is and how the ball carrier is moving. He uses that knowledge to adjust to make the play. On the strip sack he had vs. the Lions, that is exactly what he did.
Lerentee McCray, OLB
Snaps: 6. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 stop.
McCray had an impact on four of his six snaps. He made the tackle twice and also got a stop. The other play he had an impact on was a pass rush where he got solid push and caused some movement from Stafford. The play ended on an incomplete pass.
Todd Davis, ILB
Snaps: 4 Stats: 1 tackle.
Davis came in and played four snaps against the run and notched a tackle. He did what he was supposed to do.
Shane Ray, OLB
Snaps: 15. Stats: 2 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 3 yards.
Ray played a solid game, but there were a lot of rookie mental errors. One came on a decent run by the Lions where Ray had the edge set, then disengaged, opening a hold for the runner. He also got some good pressure, but was inconsistent, even for his limited snap count.
Bradley Roby, CB
Snaps: 49. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 stop, targeted 3 times, allowing 1 catch for 5 yards, 1 interception.
Roby had an amazing game. He was excellent in coverage, and came away with a beautiful interception. His run defense was excellent as well. He really had a great, well-rounded game. For a second-year player, he played like he is a long-term veteran in the NFL against the Lions. He has grown tremendously as a player, and hopefully that growth continues.
David Bruton, S
Snaps: 29. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, targeted 5 times, allowing 3 catches for 60 yards, 1 interception.
Outside of the interception, Bruton had a not-so-good game. He was beaten in coverage and wasn’t always quick to make the tackle after the catch. His coverage has never been great, but he is opportunistic, which is part of why he misses a lot in coverage. His aggression works out sometimes, and doesn’t at others. Even against the run he wasn’t up to par for his normal standards.
Josh Bush, S
Snaps: 2. Stats: N/A.
Bush played two snaps and both in coverage. He knew what he was supposed to do, but had no impact on the outcome of the play.
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