Grading The Denver Broncos Defensive Performances In Week 1

The Broncos defense stepped up in a major way in their victory over the Chargers. Having to deal with five turnovers isn’t easy, but they held the Chargers to only seven points off them. It was a great team performance, highlighted by some great individual play. MHH Analyst Erick Trickel reveals his player grades.

Derek Wolfe, DE

Snaps: 57. Stats: 1 sack, 8 hurries, 1 stop and 3 tackles.

The defensive end has entered the conversation for elite 3-4 defensive ends. His run defense is some of the best in the NFL, if not the best. Under new defensive line coach Bill Kollar, Wolfe has also added a complimentary pass rushing skill-set that fits perfectly with everyone else the Broncos have on their defensive front. He was a force against the Chargers, as he has been all season long.

Grade: 98.9

Sylvester Williams, NT

Snaps: 38. Stats: 4 hurries, 2 tackles.

The nose tackle has sort of been missing over the last few weeks, but showed up in a big way against the Chargers. He was consistently clogging the middle of the trenches for the Broncos defense against the run, and opening space for the linebackers to make plays. Williams also emerged once again as a pass rusher, using his surprising quickness for a player of his size to shoot the gaps and apply pressure.

Grade: 87.9

Malik Jackson, DE

Snaps: 60. Stats: 1 sack, 8 hurries, 2 tackles, 2 missed tackles.

Jackson is one of the best pass rushing 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL, and if you asked about Week 8 or 9 of the season, I would say one of the best run defending 3-4 defensive ends as well. However, over the last few weeks his run defense has looked just average, and not on the level you would expect from one of the best.

This was made clear in the game against the Chargers when Jackson missed two pretty easy tackles for a loss, and was moved and manipulated at the point of attack somewhat consistently. As for his pass rushing prowess, he is one of the best 3-4 ends in the NFL, which goes unnoticed by many. Jackson just has so many tools to win his matchup and apply pressure, that it makes it hard to block him.

Grade: 79.9

Von Miller, OLB

Snaps: 46. Stats: 1 sack, 7 hurries, 1 tackle.

The pass rusher had a really good game rushing the passer. However, his run defense has come into question as the season has gone on. It isn’t that he can’t do it, he just makes mental mistakes, like getting out of position, too much. This is largely due to his aggressiveness as a player.

Back to his play as a pass rusher, he really did have a good game. Of course it helped Miller, as it helped all of the pass rushers, that the Chargers offensive line was so beat up.

Grade: 77.6

Danny Trevathan, ILB

Snaps: 66. Stats: 1 QB hit, 10 tackles, targeted 8 times, allowing 5 catches for 28 yards.

It was a great game defending the run from Trevathan. He is so quick and strong that it makes him hard to block. His stack and shed of offensive linemen is a thing of beauty. However, the area of weakness for Trevathan is in pass coverage, and it has been an area of weakness all season. This weakness was exploited by the Chargers, especially with them getting favorably matchups with Trevathan covering running backs.

Grade: 81.0

Brandon Marshall, ILB

Snaps: 3. Stats: targeted 1 time, allowing 1 catch for 11 yards.

Marshall started the game with an injured ankle. He played three snaps, allowed a catch, then left with the injury worse than it was when he started.

Grade: 50.0

DeMarcus Ware, OLB

Snaps: 27. Stats: 7 hurries, 2 tackles.

The other outside linebacker for the Broncos ended up subbing in and out of the game before being pulled, and in just 27 snaps, managed to rack up 7 hurries on the Chargers quarterback. On top of that, Ware played a solid game defending the run.

Grade: 88.8

Aqib Talib, CB

Snaps: 72. Stats: 5 tackles, targeted 5 times, allowing 4 catches for 100 yards and 1 touchdown.

If you take away an 80-yard touchdown from busted coverage, Talib played an excellent game. However, the busted coverage occurred and it is on both the corner and the safety. Besides that play, his coverage was tight and he was making tackles immediately. Finally, there is the run defense from Talib, which was as good as it always has been.

Grade: 69.8

T.J. Ward, SS

Snaps: 64. Stats: 3 tackles, targeted 3 times, allowing 1 catch for 16 yards.

It was clear that Ward has still been hampered by the injury he suffered a few weeks ago. He wasn’t as quick up to the the line of scrimmage when helping out against the run, nor was he as strong at the point of attack as normal. Ward did look quite solid in coverage, making a couple of big pass breakups, but got beat once for 16 yards.

Grade: 75.5

Darian Stewart, FS

Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 stop, 4 tackles, targeted once, allowing zero catches.

Similar to Marshall, Stewart started despite injury, but left after the injury got worse. This occurred when Stewart broke up a deep pass to Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. It is unfortunate that Stewart got hurt, because he was on his way to an excellent game.

Grade: 89.9

Chris Harris, Jr, CB

Snaps: 71. Stats: 1 tackle, targeted 3 times, allowing 1 catch for 10 yards.

This Chargers game was one of the few in which Harris looked like the best corner in the NFL and a true shutdown corner. He completely took away his side of the field and shut down whoever he was matched up against. It was an excellent game from Harris, and probably his best of the season.

Grade: 100.0

That wraps up the players who starters. Now time for the players who saw ten or more snaps on the game.

Vance Walker, DL

Snaps: 22. Stats: 1 hurry, 3 tackles.

The rotational defensive end really played a solid game subbing in with Wolfe, Jackson, or even sometimes Williams as nose tackle, but there was a noticeable change with the performance of the defense. Walker was solid, but didn’t command the attention that the starters did.

Grade: 71.8

Antonio Smith, DE

Snaps: 16. Stats: N/A

Smith saw limited action, and didn’t do anything noticeable, which isn’t positive, nor is it a negative. He just was there doing what he was supposed to do.

Grade: 50.0

Todd Davis, ILB

Snaps: 35. Stats: 2 QB hits, 1 stop, 5 tackles, 2 missed tackles.

Seeing his first serious action on the season with Marshall on the sidelines with injury, Davis not only met expectations, but exceeded them. His two big negative marks both came in his missed tackles. Outside of those, he looked great on the field doing whatever it was he needed.

Grade: 93.7

Shaquil Barrett, OLB

Snaps: 33. Stats: 2 tackles.

To put it bluntly, Barrett had a rough game. He was overly aggressive, which hurt him, especially with his coverage. The pass rush wasn’t there, and his run defense was just mediocre.

Grade: 38.5

Shane Ray, OLB

Snaps: 31. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 hurry, 1 stop, 4 tackles.

The rookie pass rusher was great from start to finish. Rushing the passer, or defending the run, it didn’t matter. He was showing excellent technique and discipline on each and every snap.

Grade: 88.9

Corey Nelson, ILB

Snaps: 14. Stats: 2 tackles, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 9 yards.

The reason Nelson saw action was the injury to Marshall. Nelson played solidly in his limited action. There was a catch allowed for nine yards, but the rest of his coverage snaps Nelson took his assignment out of the play with tight coverage. He also played the run very well.

Grade: 80.1

Bradley Roby, CB

Snaps: 39. Stats: 2 tackles, targeted 6 times, allowing 2 catches for 6 yards.

Roby was excellent all game. He consistently took his man out of the play, and when he was targeted, Roby was in great position to break up the pass. When he allowed his two catches, both for three yards, he was right there to make the tackle immediately.

Grade: 97.4

Josh Bush, FS

Snaps: 48. Stats: 2 tackles, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 12 yards.

It was a solid game from Bush, who stepped up with Stewart leaving the game. He and Talib had a part in the broken coverage on the 80-yard touchdown, however. Outside of that, Bush was really good coming up to help against the run, and solid in coverage.

Grade: 73.7

Shiloh Keo, S

Snaps: 21. Stats: targeted once, allwoing 1 catch for 13 yards and 1 touchdown, 1 interception.

Had Stewart not left the game, Keo probably doesn’t see the field. He got beat, easily, for a touchdown when he was matched up with Gates. Later in the game, he picked off an overthrown pass, helping to seal the victory for Denver.

Grade: 64.2

That wraps up the players who saw ten or more snaps subbing into the game. Two other players saw action, but not more than ten snaps. OLB Lerentee McCray led the two, with seven snaps, but didn’t notch anything in the statistical category. The other was CB Kayvon Webster, who saw four snaps, and got targeted twice, allowing one catch for four yards. Webster also made the tackle on that play.

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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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