Denver Broncos Week 8 Player Grades: Defense

The Denver Broncos defense faced a real test with the Green Bay Packers coming to town in Week 8. They stepped up as a unit, but how did they play as individuals? MHH Analyst Erick Trickel studied the tape and now reports.

The Green Bay Packers have one of the best offenses in the NFL and are led by arguably the best quarterback in the league today. That is, until they came into Denver and took on the Denver Broncos defense.

The defense held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to 14 first downs, 77 passing yards, and 90 total rushing yards. Of those 90 rushing yards, 31 came from Rodgers and 38 from big-time running back Eddie Lacy. This was the biggest test for the Broncos defense so far this season, and they showed just how great they can be.

With that said, time to jump into the player grades. As always, the starters will come first, followed by players who subbed in with 10 or more snaps. Any player with less than 10 snaps will be mentioned at the end, but won’t receive a grade.

Derek Wolfe, DE

Snaps: 29. Stats: 5 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 5 stops.

Perfection against the run. That really sums up Wolfe’s game. He was perfect in his run defense, which is backed by his run defense grade of +5.2, given by Pro Football Focus. Not only was it the highest for the Broncos of all season, it was the fourth highest of all 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL on the season.

His pass rush, despite not notching any pressures, was great as well. He was pushing the pocket and eating up space for the other pass rushers to do their thing. The best part is, he drew a good number of double teams as a pass rusher, leaving the bigger threats with a single man.

Grade: 100.0

Sylvester Williams, NT

Snaps: 25. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 1 tackle, 2 assisted tackles.

Later on in the game, it looked like Williams became the spy for Rodgers. There were a good number of times that he would back up off the snap, stay at the line of scrimmage and in front of where Rodgers was moving around to.

His run defense was solid, but he was pushed off the line of scrimmage more than you would like to see. He also was there with Wolfe pushing the pocket when he did rush, and managed to pick up one pressure. The three defensive linemen alone did a good job applying pressure.

Grade: 91.6

Malik Jackson, DE

Snaps: 40. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 1 batted pass.

To start the game, Jackson had a really bad play when defending the run. He simply got upfield too fast and left a big lane. When watching live, I thought he bounced back, but watching through after that, there wasn’t a bounce back. He continuously had bad showings as a run defender, but got a lot of his mistakes covered up by the linebackers.

He also wasn’t up to par as a pass rusher. He did help push the pocket, but normally you can rely on him getting to the quarterback often. It just didn’t happen against the Packers, and a big reason why is because of Rodgers' ability to sense pressure before it is there and move around.

Grade: 79.1

Von Miller, OLB

Snaps: 36. Stats: 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 3 QB hurries, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop.

Miller wasn’t his usual self, but still played a really good game. If he was his usual self, it’s hard to not imagine just how badly the Broncos could have beat the Packers. His pass rush was still good, just not as good as normal.

Again, it is largely due in part to Rodgers and his ability than anything else. The run defense from Miller was far from normal. He was getting pushed off his spot and struggled to set the edge, or maintain it when he did.

Grade: 86.5

Brandon Marshall, ILB

Snaps: 47. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 6 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops, targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 14 yards.

It was an excellent game from Marshall. His coverage was very good, but got exploited by speedy receivers on quick routes a couple of times, which is where the yards allowed came from. As for his run defense, it was excellent, and he helped cover up some of the mistakes made by Jackson up front.

Grade: 98.4

Danny Trevathan, ILB

Snaps: 31. Stats: 1 QB hit, 2 QB hurries, 3 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 17 yards.

Defending the run, Trevathan played a really good game. His strength at the point of attack is something special for a player of his size. He can consistently take on much bigger offensive linemen and control them.

Not only that, he has shown the ability to shed them and make the play, or to get into position to make the play. When in coverage against the Packers, he looked really good. He stuck with his man every time. He allowed a big catch, but it wasn’t because he was out of position. He simply got beat by a near perfectly-placed pass.

Grade: 97.3

DeMarcus Ware, OLB

Snaps: 35. Stats: 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 2 tackles, 2 stops, 1 forced fumble that lead to a safety.

Another excellent game for a Broncos defender, and another one from Ware on the season. His run defense was the weak spot, but is was still really good. He was strong and stout, and also helped cover up mistakes made by others. Rushing the passer is where he really stood out. Of course, the pressure count was limited, and again it was largely due to Rodgers' ability to move around.

Grade: 96.1

Aqib Talib, CB

Snaps: 49. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 3 yards.

Talib was outstanding. Not sure what else there is to say. His coverage was perfect and he was unselfish coming up to help out the run defense. He was part of a cornerback unit that allowed just 33 of the 77 yards passing, 23 of which came from one corner.

Grade: 100.0

T.J. Ward, SS

Snaps: 52. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, targeted twice, allowing 1 catch for 11 yards.

I feel like I am getting repetitive as I keep saying that a player had a great game. It applies once again with Ward. He was near excellent in every phase. On the catch he allowed, he had good position. He just was beaten by the throw. He made the tackle immediately afterwards, keeping the yards after catch to zero. As for his run defense, he was coming up to help, but often arrived after the play was already over.

Grade: 94.6

Chris Harris, Jr., CB

Snaps: 52. Stats: 4 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 2 stops, targeted 5 times, allowing 4 catches for 23 yards.

The worst cornerback on the Broncos and he played a near-perfect game. He got called for a holding penalty, which was a questionable call. He allowed the most receiving yards—23—but they came on four catches, which is actually great. On top of that, he continues to show why he is the best run-defending corner in the NFL, and the best tackling corner in the NFL.

Grade: 96.4

Bradley Roby, CB/S

Snaps: 50. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop, targeted 3 times, allowing 2 catches for 7 yards.

The excellence continues for the Broncos defense, and especially so in the secondary. WIth the Packers in town, Roby saw his highest percentage of snaps by playing 92.6 percent. He stepped up in a huge way, and did his part to hold them only to 77 yards through the air. With Talib and Harris helping him grow, he is developing into a great run-defending corner, as well as a great cover corner.

Grade: 100.0

That wraps up the starters for the game. Now time to jump into those who subbed into the game.

Antonio Smith, DE

Snaps: 26. Stats: 1 sack, 1 QB hurry, 1 stop.

Rushing the passer, Smith was solid, but not great. He just lacked any kind of consistency to get pressure, and was often shut down by an offensive lineman. As for his run defense, it was a big step backward from the starters. He was just controlled at the line of scrimmage in both aspects of the game. He made a few big plays, but that was it. Everything was was mediocre, at best.

Grade: 64.3

Vance Walker, DE

Snaps: 16. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 1 tackle, 2 assisted tackles, 1 stop.

Having to sub in for Wolfe, who was perfect defending the run, isn’t a good thing. Walker was a step backward, but not because he was bad against the run. He was actually really solid defending the run, but did have a few mistakes. As a pass rusher, he was unable to get any kind of push on even a semi-consistent basis.

Grade: 58.8

Lerentee McCray, OLB

Snaps: 19. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for negative 2 yards.

With Shane Ray hurt and not active for the game, McCray stepped in to take over for him. He did so excellently. He was a force as a run defender, and great in coverage. Only area he didn’t look great in was as a pass rusher, where he looked solid.

Grade: 89.6

Shaquil Barrett, OLB

Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 tackle, 3 assisted tackles.

Barrett, in limited action, did quite well against the Packers. He didn't get the start with Ware back in action, and he didn't quite play at the level he did when he started in place of Ware. Barrett's run defense was especially strong against the Packers. His strength at the point of attack was consistently on display.

Rushing the passer, he falls in with some of the other Bronco pass rushers. Rodgers' ability to really move around in the pocket really took away from the pressure Barrett was creating. 

Grade: 92.8

Darian Stewart, FS

Snaps: 31. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, targeted once, allowing zero catches.

Stewart didn’t start the game, due to the Packers scheme. Instead, Roby got the start and Stewart subbed in. When he entered the game, he played well. His run defense was solid and his coverage was good. Nothing to really highlight in his game. He just did what he was supposed to and did it very well.

Grade: 80.0

David Bruton, S

Snaps: 27. Stats: 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 4 yards.

Outside of a flag thrown his way, which was a bad call by the refs, Bruton played a solid game. He was flying in coverage, in good position time and time again. He also kept putting himself in a position to help against the run, although it was largely unnecessary.

Grade: 87.9

That wraps up the players who subbed into the game who had 10 or more snaps. Four other players saw the field, three of whom for only two snaps. Corey Nelson, Omar Bolden and Todd Davis are the three, and only Davis hit the stat sheet with a tackle and a stop. Kayvon Webster was the final player, and he saw five snaps total.

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Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Alaskan_Bronco. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook

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