The Denver Broncos defense have had some down moments on the season, but they tend to recover, and go back to playing as the best defense in the NFL. Their visit to the Black Hole to take on the Oakland Raiders was no different.
They had their struggles, especially early, with dumb lack-of-discipline penalties. They also had some issues in coverage—not with everyone, but primarily with their linebackers and safeties. They still ended up playing a really good game, but there has been room for improvement, and there always will be. The biggest priority must be to cut back on the penalties.
With that said, time to jump into the player grades.
Derek Wolfe, LDE
Snaps: 48. Stats: 2 hurries, 3 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops.
Derek Wolfe returned off suspension for his first game of the season, and he had an impact on the run defense. He shut it down when they ran to his side, with the exception of one run, where he overpursued and had no one come down to take away the cut back lane. His pass rush was better than usual, but the end results were similar. He won’t rack up a big number of sacks, but he generates push and helps out the other pass rushers.
Snaps: 34. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 2 stops.
Willaims played his worst game of the season. He was unable to generate any kind of push as a rusher, and that is what he saw more snaps doing. He also was moved out of the way to create some running room for the ball carrier. He did manage to make a couple of great plays against the run, but not near as many as he has in previous games.
Malik Jackson, RDE
Snaps: 47. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry, 1 batted pass, 5 tackles, 5 stops, targeted once, allowing one catch for 3 yards.
Jackson played a great game all-around. His pass rush was excellent, and the only fault here was getting too far upfield. Other than that, he got stonewalled a few times, but that happens to the best of them. He also was excellent against the run, which was essential as it took away his side of the field. Even when they ran away from Jackson, he was coming across the formation to have an impact on the outcome.
Von Miller, LOLB
Snaps: 56. Stats: 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 3 hurries, 2 tackles, 3 stops, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
Miller was unstoppable. There isn’t much more that can be said about his game. He forced the Raiders quarterback to throw the ball quickly, or just get rid of it, otherwise Miller would have been there. He also made one of the best defensive plays I have seen in awhile.
Brandon Marshall, LILB
Snaps: 64. Stats: 8 tackles, 3 stops, targeted 6 times, allowing 6 catches for 29 yards.
Marshall is still playing excellent football against the run, but like Trevathan, his coverage has faltered. Holding his assignments to 29 yards on six catches is pretty good, but he has to do a better job. Allowing a 100% catch rate, just isn’t good by any means, and his 84% catch rate on the season is just a little better, but still bad.
His grade: 57.7
Danny Trevathan, RILB
Snaps: 52. Stats: 5 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops, Targeted twice, allowing one catch for 33 yards, 1 pass deflected.
The first three games were great from Trevathan, but he has taken a step backwards the past two. The step back has come in coverage, and he just isn’t sticking close to his man any longer. Instead, he is getting beat and allowing separation. He is still playing great against the run, but his coverage of tight ends has to improve before Denver comes up against some of the even better tight ends in the NFL.
DeMarcus Ware, ROLB
Snaps: 23. Stats: 1 tackle, 2 assisted tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing one catch for 4 yards
Ware only saw 23 snaps before he hurt his back and left the game. He wasn’t able to generate any pressure beforehand and his run defense was average. Had he not gotten hurt, he probably could have turned his game around. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given the chance to do so.
Aqib Talib, LCB
Snaps: 55. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops, targeted twice, allowing one catch for 19 yards.
After back-to-back bad games against the Vikings and Lions, Talib bounced back against the Raiders. He was spot-on in coverage, and even though he allowed a catch, he was right there to make the tackle immediately. He also stepped up and defended the run excellently, as usual.
T.J. Ward, SS
Snaps: 71. Stats: 5 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops, targeted 7 times, allowing 6 catches for 53 yards.
Ward played a solid game defending the run, but it wasn't his usual level of play. He just didn’t seem to be reading the play as fast, reacting slowly. He also was exploited in coverage, which Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio would know to do, after coaching Ward a season ago.
Darian Stewart, FS
Snaps: 58. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 3 missed tackles, 3 stops, targeted twice, allowing two catches for 12 yards.
This game was a big step backward for Stewart. He was looking like a force in the secondary holding down the free safety position. However, he failed often against the Raiders. His run defense was poor, and he was out of position a lot. On top of that, his angles to the ball carrier were atrocious. In coverage, he was slow, with a bad reaction time.
Chris Harris, Jr., RCB
Snaps: 70. Stats: 4 tackles, 2 stops, targeted 7 times allowing 4 catches for 40 yards, 1 interception (pick-6), 1 pass deflected.
The big issue with Harris’ game come in the fact that 25 of the 40 yards he allowed came after the catch. Normally when Harris allows a catch, he is right there to make the tackle for minimal yards, but with him playing off-coverage, teams take advantage of that. This whole season had been a down season so far for Harris, outside of a handful of splash plays. His interception was a great play that won the game for the Broncos. He also was quick to come up and defend the run, and did an excellent job in doing that. As it has been all season, his issues are coming in coverage.
That wraps it up for the starters. Now time to jump into the players who subbed into the game.
Antonio Smith, DE
Snaps: 28. Stats: 1 QB hit, 3 hurries, 1 batted pass, 1 missed tackle.
The Smith that excels rushing and is below average against the run showed up against the Raiders. Thankfully, he only saw the field for four snaps against the run, all of which weren’t pretty. He got pushed out of the play, or maneuvered to make a lane each run snap. As I said before, though, he excels against the pass and he was able to generate great push on the pocket with each snap he took.
Vance Walker, DE
Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 hurry.
Walker saw himself subbing in and out with Wolfe a lot, and there was a noticeable difference when the switch was made. So, it should go without saying that when he subbed in for Jackson, the difference was noticeable as well. He just kept getting shut down as a rusher, except for one of his seven pass rush snaps. When he was defending the run, he didn’t allow big plays, but that is more because of Marshall or Trevathan doing their job, rather than Walker doing something good or great.
Darius Kilgo, NT
Snaps: 15. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.
The Kilgo that started the season has not been the Kilgo of the past few games. Against the Raiders, he did a good job at clogging the middle against the run. He made it hard for the ball carriers to pick up even just a yard or two. His pass rush is where the difference has really been seen. He just has not been able to generate the push like he was earlier on in the season.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB
Snaps: 40. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry, 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 2 stops.
Barrett was playing a solid game before Ware left. Once Barrett was out there more, he stepped up his play to an even higher level. He was so stout against the run that he was better here than Ware has been all season. He also was able to generate solid push and managed to pick up a sack at a good time and cause a few pressures (four by my count), but only credited with one by Pro Football Focus. Look for him to get the start with Ware out this upcoming Sunday.
Shane Ray, OLB
Snaps: 25. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry, 1 stop.
When rushing the passer, Ray did a good job getting pressure on a semi-consistent basis. Where he faltered was in his run defense. He is inconsistent when defending the run on his best days, and the Raiders game wasn’t one of his best days. He was just blown off the point of attack and maneuvered out of the play. He had a hard time shedding blockers, and when he did, he was met with another blocker almost right away, or the play was over.
Bradley Roby, CB
Snaps: 44. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, targeted 4 times, with 3 catches for 53 yards.
Roby started off strong this season, but finds himself getting picked on by opposing quarterbacks. Even when he had good coverage on his assignment, the catch was still being made. The issue is, even when he has good coverage, his positioning is off and he isn’t in the best place to make a play on the ball. This is something he needs to work on, otherwise he will just keep getting picked on.
Kayvon Webster, CB
Snaps: 10. Stats: 1 missed tackle, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
Webster stepped in for an injured Talib and played a great game in coverage. He did miss a tackle, but other than that, he was great.
David Bruton, S
Snaps: 26. Stats: 1 tackle, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
Bruton went back to playing some great football. He was coming up and defending the run at a high level, which is normal for Bruton. His coverage, where he has struggled, was really good against the Raiders.
Todd Davis, ILB
Snaps: 6. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing one catch for 13 yards and 1 touchdown.
Davis again falls into the exception for the less than 10 snaps. This time it is because the number of snaps he had an impact on. On 50 percent of his snaps, he had some kind of impact, and one of them was far from positive. On the touchdown he allowed, he was completely out of position. Outside of that, he played well, but could have been better in every phase.
The only other player to see any action was Corey Nelson, who saw two snaps and had no impact on the outcome of the plays.
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