The Denver Broncos defense took on a young Minnesota Vikings offense that has a lot of talent. Their quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, is developing into a fine young player and they have pieces around him.
The Broncos defense sure had their work cut out for them, and for the most part they did just fine. They were taken advantage of with their playing off-coverage, allowing the Vikings speedy receivers to get a lot of separation.
As mentioned in my offensive player grades, players with less than ten snaps won’t be graded, depending on certain circumstances. In the offensive grades, there were no exceptions, but there are two with the defense. The reason why will be explained with the player. With that said, let's get to it.
Vance Walker, LDE
Snaps: 43. Stats: 1 hurry, 2 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop.
Walker was on a pattern of playing a good game, followed by a bad game. The pattern broke. He played a bad game in Week 3, and followed suit in Week 4. Week 4 was better, but still far off from anything good. He was pushed out of position multiple times when defending the run, but thankfully was covered up by the play of the linebackers. He also couldn’t generate much pressure in the passing game. The one time he did, he failed to finish the play, despite having the Vikings quarterback pretty much wrapped up for a sack.
Snaps: 46. Stats: 1 sack, 1 tackle, 2 stops.
This scheme is making Williams look excellent and well worth the first round pick the Broncos used on him in 2013. Against the Vikings, Williams really showcased his high football IQ with how fast he diagnosed the plays. Because of that, he was consistently blowing plays up in one form or another. Whether rushing the passer, making the stop, or redirecting the ball carrier, this scheme is bringing the best out of Williams, and it should only get better with time.
Malik Jackson, RDE
Snaps: 50. Stats: 1 hit, 6 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop.
The Vikings do not have a very good offensive line, and Jackson took advantage of that. It didn’t matter if it was a run or a pass, Jackson was consistently controlling the line of scrimmage. He was completely dominant and near perfect all game. The best thing though was he had no mental errors, which is uncommon with Jackson.
Von Miller, LOLB
Snaps: 55. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hit, 1 hurry, 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops, targeted once, allowing a catch for 6 yards.
Even though Miller didn’t rack up a high pressure count, he still played a great game all-around. He was such a threat that he consistently drew double teams, or a chip block, just to slow him down. When the Vikings didn’t do either, they regretted it once the play was over. The amount of attention that Miller was drawing, allowed the other pass rushers for the Broncos to do work all game.
Todd Davis, LILB
Snaps: 1. Stats: N/A.
Here is one of the exceptions of a player with less than ten snaps. The reason for the exception is simple. Todd Davis was a starter. He saw only one snap, but it was the first snap of the game. He had a major impact on the play, which was a run by Adrian Peterson. He blew up an offensive linemen, impeded Peterson’s running lane and forced him to try and change direction. However, due to the speed of the defense, Peterson was unable to change direction.
Danny Trevathan, RILB
Snaps: 50. Stats: 3 tackles, 2 stops, targeted 3 times, allowing 2 catches for 6 yards.
After a rough game Week 3, Trevathan bounced back to the great play he showed in game one and two. His run defense was excellent. It didn’t matter if he was taking on a blocker, or sifting through the garbage to cause disruption, he did it all excellently. On top of that, his coverage was great. He consistently closed down a part of the field because of his positioning in the zone and how well he was covering.
Brandon Marshall, LILB
Snaps: 50. Stats: 1 QB hit, 7 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, 6 stops, targeted 5 times, allowing 4 catches for 30 yards.
Still playing stout football against the run, Marshall had a solid game all-around. The last few games, he has struggled some in coverage, and that didn’t change facing the Vikings. He did play better in coverage, but not “best linebacker in the NFL” level. His run defense is still excellent, and with how he has played, it is easier to argue he may be one of the best run stopping linebackers in the NFL—not coverage.
DeMarcus Ware, ROLB
Snaps: 49. Stats: 1 sack, 3 hurries, 2 tackles, 2 stops.
Rushing the quarterback has always been Ware’s strong suit, and he seems to have found the fountain of youth. His pass rush has been excellent, and he looks like his old self, the one who would lead the league in sacks. His run defense has been solid, but he tends to jump upfield too fast, leaving his running lane wide open. This really hurts on draw plays, which the Vikings used a couple of times to pick up some solid yards through Ware’s lane.
Aqib Talib, LCB
Snaps: 75. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop, targeted 7 times, allowing 6 catches for 70 yards and 1 touchdown.
After a great first three games, Talib had a really bad day against the Vikings. His weakness playing off-coverage was exploited multiple times. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t really have the speed to make up for playing off. The worst came on the touchdown he allowed. He just seemed to not even try to defense the receiver. Not sure if it was a miscommunication, or just him not going 100%, but either way, it was bad and painful to watch.
T.J. Ward, SS
Snaps: 74. Stats: 2 sacks, 1 QB hit, 1 hurry, 4 tackles, 2 missed tackles, 4 stops, targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 5 yards.
Ward played a near perfect game against the Vikings. If he didn’t miss on a couple tackles, it would have been. His run defense was excellent. He consistently was up near the trenches, involved in the play, even if it was just by taking on blockers to free up other players. Normally he struggles in coverage, but again he was excellent and really shut down his assignments or kept them from breaking free.
Chris Harris, Jr., RCB
Snaps: 74. Stats: 6 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 3 stops, targeted 7 times, allowing 4 catches for 48 yards.
Harris' run defense was great, as it has been all year. His speed and ability to read through blockers helps him play the run so well. However, he has continuously struggled in coverage, and it was no different. Just like Talib, Harris has been playing off-coverage and that has attributed to his struggles. He has the speed to make up for it, but his angles against the VIkings were poor.
That wraps up the starters. Now time to jump into the players who subbed into the game.
Darius Kilgo, NT
Snaps: 19. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop.
The rookie was playing some great football, but he has slowly regressed. While his game wasn’t bad, it wasn’t as good as his play has been in previous weeks. He has still been strong when defending the run, but just isn’t getting push when rushing any longer.
Antonio Smith, DE
Snaps: 31. Stats: 2 hurries.
The pass rusher was shut down for the majority of his run snaps. He barely saw the field to defend the run, and the five times he did, it wasn’t pretty. It just wasn’t a good game by any means for Smith.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB
Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 hurry.
Barrett subbed into the game and played a solid, but not great game. When he saw the field, it was noticeable that Von Miller left the game, but he didn’t make the defense bad. He just did what he was supposed to do, but never made the big splash play.
Shane Ray, OLB
Snaps: 25. Stats: 1 sack, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop.
Ray made a big play notching his first career sack. Outside of that, it was just a solid showing from the rookie. His pass rush was good, but his run defense slightly below average. He has a similar problem to Ware—jumping upfield too fast—eaving a big running lane open.
Corey Nelson, ILB
Snaps: 3. Stats: 1 tackle, 2 stops.
Another exception to grading players with less than 10 snaps. This time it isn’t because he was a starter, but because he made an impact, each snap he was out there. He played a great game, even though it was a very limited snap count. Also, in those few snaps, he showed a lot of growth as a player.
Bradley Roby, CB
Snaps: 39. Stats: 5 tackles, 1 missed tackles, 1 stop, targeted 8 times, allowing 6 catches for 86 yards.
Roby was exploited a lot by the Vikings. A lot of quick slants and ins caused separation that Roby just couldn’t recover from. The only thing he played well, was against the run.
Darian Stewart, FS
Snaps: 70. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
Even though Stewart didn’t play the first snap, he played just about every snap after that. He put together an excellent game and was flying all over the field. He didn’t appear on the stat sheet often against the Vikings, but he was doing everything right. How he was coming up to defend the run, or drop into coverage, it didn’t matter, he was doing everything the right way. He has really developed into a stout free safety.
David Bruton, S
Snaps: 30. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 18 yards.
Bruton played a solid game, but did make multiple mistakes. The biggest mistake was his attempt to jump a route. He missed, badly, and allowed the receiver to pick up nine extra yards after the catch. On top of that, he just failed to plug the wrong hole a couple of times when defending the run, but doing so allowed another player to plug his hole.
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