Grading The Individual Performances of the Denver Broncos Defensive Players in Game 2 of the Preseason

The Broncos have been praised for the depth on their defense, but in this preseason loss that depth didn’t look the best. How did the players grade out? Erick Trickel evaluates each player..

The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 off the backs of a top-notch defense. The 2015 starters were excellent and the depth stepped up when the time came. For this upcoming year, the players themselves set a higher standard for the defense and plan to be even better.

A big part of that will have to come from the depth, which sees many new pieces stepping in. This preseason has been a roller coaster for them with an excellent showing in their first game, then a big step back in their recent loss to San Francisco.

With these grades also come predictions for the 53-man roster. The offense and special teams have already been published, taking up 29 total spots, leaving only 24 for the defense. Now, time for us to jump into the player grades.

Defensive End

1. Derek Wolfe: 98.9
2. Jared Crick: 77.6
3. Adam Gotsis: 75.5
4. Henry Melton: N/A
5. Billy Winn: 70.5
6. Lars Koht: 79.1

At defensive end, I expect the Broncos to keep only four players. Derek Wolfe, who played a near perfect game in the loss, is the obvious choice to make it. The rookie, Gotsis, showed his rawness, but flashed his potential multiple times. He makes it, obviously, as well.

When Vance Walker was lost for the season, Jared Crick was the one to take over as the starter and he has played well so far this preseason. In the loss to the Niners, he showed that he is who he is, just a solid player.

Melton was signed after the game, but he is already seeing first team reps. Billy Winn just misses the cut, despite looking like a really solid player so far. He just loses the numbers game. As for Koht, he is looking at a practice squad spot.

Nose Tackle

1. Sylvester Williams: 82.3
2. Darius Kilgo: 81.3
3. Kyle Peko: 80.4
4. David Moala: 81.2
5. Calvin Heurtelou: 80.5

The Broncos have a lot of depth and potential on their defensive line. It is unfortunate that they won’t be able to keep them all. At nose tackle, expect them to keep only two of them, but use all their defensive linemen in a variety of ways.

Keeping only two means Williams and Kilgo are your two nose tackles, and both are capable of playing defensive end. Against the Niners, they both played really well, but showed some of their weakness against the run game.

Peko, Moala and Heurtelou all played a really solid game and have been having a good training camp and preseason. All three of them are deserving of a practice squad spot, but it is doubtful more than two get one.

Outside Linebacker

1. Von Miller: 95.1
2. Shaquil Barrett: 71.2
3. Shane Ray: 65.8
4. DeMarcus Ware: DNP
5. Dekoda Watson: 91.9
6. Vontarrius Dora: 89.5
7. Sadat Sulleyman: 64.1
8. Eddie Yarbrough: 63.9

Originally, the plan was to keep only four outside linebackers but the play of Watson and Dora have forced the Broncos to consider carrying at least five rush linebackers. Von Miller played well in his first action back, and is set as a starter. Ware didn’t play, but he will be back on a limited snap count.

Barrett and Ray will take over for Ware and based on their play, Barrett should be the starter—he was better last season and has looked better so far this preseason. The previously mentioned Dora and Watson have been pleasant surprises and have been balling out so far with 3.5 sacks between the two of them.

Dora registered two against the Chicago Bears and Watson added a half sack against the Niners. Sulleyman and Yarborough had high hopes when they were first brought in, and while they haven’t been bad, they have been a little disappointing.

Inside Linebacker

1. Brandon Marshall: 78.1
2. Todd Davis: 74.3
3. Zaire Anderson: 97.8
4. Corey Nelson: 51.0
5. Dwayne Norman: 89.1
6. Frank Shannon: 81.5
7. Darnell Sankey: 78.8
8. Kyle Kragen: DNP

The Broncos keep finding talent at inside linebacker where you don’t expect it. Brandon Marshall has played great, outside of a handful of plays this preseason. One of such plays was giving his assignment just enough space to make a catch for a big gain.

Behind him sits Todd Davis, who has looked good, with some flaws, so far this preseason. Expect those two to be your two starters and two of the four to make the final roster. Nelson was playing poorly before he hurt his wrist in the loss, and there has yet to be word about the severity of the injury. If it is bad, Denver could look at keeping five inside linebackers, or place Nelson on injured reserve.

Nelson sits at No. 4 after the play from Anderson boosted him over Nelson. Anderson has been on fire this preseason and is making a huge case for a big role on defense. Dwayne Norman and Frank Shannon are in close competition for the fifth/practice squad spot, but Norman has fared better so far.

Those two have separated themselves from Sankey, who has played decently, but not as good as those two and Kragen, who hasn’t played.

Cornerback

1. Aqib Talib: DNP
2. Chris Harris, Jr: 99.3
3. Bradley Roby: 83.7
4. Kayvon Webster: 87.1
5. Lorenzo Doss: 84.2
6. Taurean Nixon: DNP
7. B.J. Lowery: 31.9
8. John Tidwell: 0.0

Talib will make his debut on Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams, as will Taurean Nixon. Talib has his roster spot, but Nixon is fighting for one, and he will also get shot as a returner against the Rams.

Harris and Roby have been played good/great football and have their spots sealed. Webster and Doss also make this roster after showing a ton of growth both on the defensive side of the field and showing up on special teams as well.

As for Lowery and Tidwell, their play has put them in jeopardy of not even being considered for a practice squad spot. If Talib gets suspended, I expect the Broncos to carry only four corners, but five if he doesn’t get suspended. Nixon will have to really impress on Saturday to make it.

Safety

1. T.J. Ward: 81.8
2. Darian Stewart: 88.3
3. Justin Simmons: 78.1
4. Will Parks: 80.3
5. Shiloh Keo: 23.4
6. Brandian Ross: 25.7
7. Antonio Glover: 77.7
8. Ryan Murphy: DNP

The safety situation is a little different with Keo being suspended for the first two games. The Broncos could decide to just cut him and be done with it, but I think they keep him on the suspended list. As for the 53-man roster, I think they keep only four, with Keo on the suspended list. Ward and Stewart are your top-two guys, showing why they are a formidable duo.

Rounding out the group are the two rookies in Simmons and Parks. Simmons played well, outside of a couple missed tackles, and Parks has been an exceptional surprise this preseason. He netted the other half sack with Dekoda Watson for the only sack against the Niners.

Ross has some experience but has been getting outplayed by Glover. However, with my thoughts of Denver only keeping four, neither one of them are in the running to make it.

Denver has plenty of options and some hard decisions coming as they trim the roster down to 53 men.

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

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