Grading The Denver Broncos Defensive Performances In The Divisional Round Of The Playoffs

The Broncos defense played a great game, with some hiccups. They allowed some big plays, but managed to shut the Steelers down for few points, and forced a turnover, which was a game changer. Just how well did they do on an individual level? MHH Analyst Erick Trickel examines.

Derek Wolfe, DE

Snaps: 48. Stats: 1 sack, 5 hurries, 4 tackles.

Derek Wolfe was excellent against the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was very little worth noting as negatives, but a lot of positives. He really looked like a different player from recent weeks out on the field.

Wolfe looked faster, stronger and more agile. It is like his extension was holding him back slightly and now that it is done and over with, he has no chain holding him down.

Grade: 98.9

Sylvester Williams, NG

Snaps: 28. Stats: N/A.

Clogging the middle was Williams' job, and he did it very well. He ate up space and created opportunities for his teammates to make the play. Similar to Wolfe, there were was very little to note negatively with Williams. Even though he didn’t notch anything that shows on a box score, he did his job and he did it very, very well.

Grade: 89.5

Malik Jackson, DE

Snaps: 49. Stats: 4 hurries, 2 tackles.

Now, with Jackson, he was the worst of the three defensive linemen out there. He was great getting after the passer, and causing pressure and disruption. There were very few negatives to his game as a pass rusher.

However, as a run defender, the negatives outweigh the positives. There were a lot of rookie, mental and discipline mistakes made by Jackson, which has plagued him over the last few weeks. Jackson started the season off strong as a run defender, but he stalled, possibly even going on the decline.

Grade: 64.3

Von Miller, OLB

Snaps: 46. Stats: 7 hurries, 2 tackles. Targeted 1 time, allowing 1 catch for 1 yard

The notion that the pass rusher was “invisible” against the Steelers is far from an accurate take of Miller’s performance. Now, he didn’t notch a sack, but was consistently generating pressure.

Whichever side Miller rushed from, he took that side away from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and forced him to slide in the opposite direction, which in turn helped take away a part of the field. Despite not notching a sack, Miller had himself a really strong game.

Grade: 88.7

Danny Trevathan, ILB

Snaps: 45. Stats: 1 hurry, 1 stop, 9 tackles. Targeted 3 times, allowing 3 catches for 38 yards.

The inside linebacker has really shown his fair share of issues as a coverage linebacker. However, he remains the best run defending linebacker the Broncos have and one of the best in the NFL.

Also, despite his issues in coverage, he is still well above average for coverage linebackers in the NFL. His play is leading him towards a big pay-day in the offseason, and hopefully it comes from Denver. His level of play isn’t expendable, or easy to find.

Grade: 83.9

Brandon Marshall, ILB

Snaps: 49. Stats: 1 hurry, 4 tackles. Targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 46 yards.

The other inside linebacker has shown his fair share of issues in coverage, as well, and this Steelers game didn’t help him. However, he has been a bit more consistent than his counterpart in coverage all season long. In the game against the Steelers, Marshall looked really good when tasked to defend the run.

Grade: 79.8

DeMarcus Ware, OLB

Snaps: 47. Stats: 1 sack, 4 hurries, 2 stops, 3 tackles. Targeted 1 time, allowing 1 catch for negative 1 yard.

The veteran pass rusher had an excellent game. He was really stout when tasked to defend the run, and setting the edge. However, there were some issues where his age, and the wear and tear on his body, really showed against the run.

As for getting after the quarterback, Ware looked like he was five years younger and still the dominating pass rusher who always was in contention for leading the NFL in sacks.

Grade: 93.1

Aqib Talib, CB

Snaps: 63. Stats: 4 tackles. Targeted 4 times, allowing 2 catches for 20 yards.

The coverage guys caught a break with Antonio Brown out for the game, especially after he tore them apart in the Broncos loss to the Steelers in Week 15.

Talib, of course, is one of those coverage guys and looked like a completely different player. He looked more comfortable with what he was tasked to do, and wasn’t making the mental errors he made in the first meeting.

Grade: 86.5

T.J. Ward, SS

Snaps: 63. Stats: 1 stop, 4 tackles. Targeted 3 times, allowing 1 catch for 2 yards.

The starting safety had a near perfect game. His run defense was outstanding. Ward was so quick to react to the plays, that he was involved in the play in a flash. The usual area of weakness for Ward, coverage, was actually his strongest suit in the victory over the Steelers.

Grade: 99.5

Darian Stewart, FS

Snaps: 54. Stats: 1 hurry, 6 tackles. Targeted 1 time, allowing zero catches.

The other starting safety was really good, but not quite as good as his counterpart. That doesn’t mean he was bad, as he was still very good. His coverage was really strong, and he knew his assignments very well. Stewart was fluid in his motion, with quick reactions, which led to being in the right place at the right time often.

Grade: 93.9

Chris Harris, Jr., CB

Snaps: 47. Stats: 3 tackles. Targeted 8 times, allowing 4 catches for 74 yards.

The injured cornerback had a really rough game. He was picked on early and often by the Steelers, which ended up doing a good amount of harm to the defense. His play was bad due to injury, which saw him take a step back in the game with his role.

Grade: 32.9

That wraps up the starters. Now time to get into the players who subbed in for ten or more snaps.

Vance Walker, DL

Snaps: 19. Stats: 2 tackles.

Walker subbed in both at defensive end and at the nose tackle position. While he looked good, it was a noticeable decline from the starters on the defense.

Grade: 77.4

Antonio Smith, DE

Snaps: 15. Stats: 1 sack, 2 tackles.

Smith has been quiet for a while, but showed up at a much needed moment in the victory over the Steelers. He busted through the line, seemingly with ease, to sack the quarterback.

Grade: 89.3

Shane Ray, OLB

Snaps: 17. Stats: 2 hurries.

The rookie looked really good rushing the passer, and managed to notch a couple hurries on the game. However, his run defense was below average, with very few positive notes.

Grade: 71.8

Shaquil Barrett, OLB

Snaps: 16. Stats: 1 tackle.

Barrett did very little to net some positive notes, but also did nothing to receive negative remarks.

Grade: 50.0

Bradley Roby, CB

Snaps: 52. Stats: 3 tackles. Targeted 6 times, allowing 5 catches for 144 yards.

Roby ended up seeing a bigger role with Harris getting hurt. Roby had a rough time. He blew coverage multiple times, which went for big gains, but thankfully were stopped by his teammates. The second-year player had a rough game in the first meeting with the Steelers, and it went down to a bad game in the second meeting. But he did force a key fumble.

Grade: 18.3

Josh Bush, S

Snaps: 30. Stats: Targeted 2 times, allowing 1 catch for 15 yards.

Josh Bush has a sizeable role on defense being the third safety. So, the fact he has played very well is great for the defensive unit. His play hasn’t been as strong as David Bruton’s was, who was the third safety, but Bush has been more than good enough to keep the defense playing at a high level.

Grade: 79.8

All that leaves are the three players who saw snaps, but less than ten snaps. A pair of linebackers, Todd Davis and Corey Nelson, both saw two snaps, while cornerback Kayvon Webster saw a single snap on the game.

To get instant Broncos notifications, download the NEW Scout mobile app for iOS HERE! 

Be sure to check out the ever-growing benefit package of being a Mile High Huddle Insider! Check it out HERE.

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

Follow MileHighHuddle on Twitter @MileHighHuddle and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and discounted Broncos tickets and merchandise.


Mile High Huddle Top Stories