The Denver Broncos got their first win for the new owners, the new head coach, and the new quarterback. It was a hideous 16-9 win over the Houston Texans, but you would rather win ugly than lose pretty.
There were some good positives from this game, but plenty of negatives. The Broncos’ defense was solid — defending a Davis Mills-led Texans offense should be the expectation. Unfortunately, the Broncos’ offense faltered.
So far this season, the Broncos are singing the same ol’ tune: the defense keeps it close in hopes the offense can do enough. Time will tell how much things change, but fans shouldn’t give up on the Broncos. There are a lot of new pieces with the inexperienced coaching staff.
So, a quick word about the grading system and then the grades.
As always, a few quick notes about how grading works. Each player starts with a 50.0 grade, which is average, and with each positive play, their grade goes up, and with each bad play, it drops.
There were slight adjustments to the scoring system to balance the grading scale, as well as the minimum number of snaps to qualify for a grade climbing from 15 to 20. However, the biggest change is the addition of grades for the coaching staff.
The main elements are the predictability of their calls, creativity, player usage, time management, and how prepared the team looks. In addition, the coaches are graded similarly to the players on a play-by-play basis.
Offense: Courtland Sutton | WR | Grade: 83.8
There were multiple instances where Sutton bailed out a bad throw from Russell Wilson, who did not have a good game. Sutton did a tremendous job as a blocker when the ball wasn’t in his hands.
Sutton’s ability to move with Wilson when he scrambles, and find openings, bailed out the offense. Back-to-back game MVP goes to the wideout who looks like a bonafide top-10 receiver in the NFL.
Defense: Randy Gregory | OLB | Grade: 80.2
There were issues with Gregory against the run, especially with how aggressive he can be to get after the quarterback. However, he had more good than bad there, and he again showed why he was highly sought after as a pass rusher.
Gregory picked up four pressures, one strip-sack, and three quarterback hits. This came against a quarterback who averaged 2.34 seconds to throw this season, the second-fastest in the NFL.
Javonte Williams | RB | Grade: 81.7
The coaches obviously spent time with Williams to improve his vision and understanding of his landmarks in the running game. It showed, and he looked significantly better.
There were not as many yards left on the field this week as there were in the opener. The biggest change was Williams stepping it back up in blitz pickup compared to Week 1.
DJ Jones | DL | Grade: 78.8
Through two games, Jones seems to be the best pickup by the Broncos, and not just on defense. He does so well against the run, and it really opens up others to be in a position to make a play.
All Jones needs is for them to make the play. While the run defense is the key to Denver signing Jones, he has helped the pass rush by demanding attention and pushing the pocket.
Demarry Mathis | CB | Grade: 78.3
It was a good game from Mathis. There seemed to be some nerves early on, but he settled down and played a good game. Mathis did get bailed out when Brandin Cooks dropped a touchdown, which hurt his grade enough to prevent him from being the MVP of the game on defense.
His run fills were great, and was part of four stops by the defense and allowed only 3-of-6 targets to be caught. Mathis was thrust into the fire and walked out, barely scarred.
Garrett Bolles | OT | Grade: 77.3
Bolles did well in pass protection, allowing one pressure, and played a clean game with penalties. There were multiple reps he started to lose, but he recovered and pulled out a win on the rep. If Bolles could be consistent as a run blocker, he would be much closer to that 2020 form.
Eric Saubert | TE | Grade: 74.2
Denver received some good blocking from Saubert, which was great to see. The Broncos’ tight ends were struggling in that department for most of the game. It also helps that Saubert caught the game-winning touchdown.
Bradley Chubb | OLB | Grade: 73.9
The Broncos’ pass rush has been the only consistent unit of the defense. Chubb added three total pressures, with two quarterback hits.
Chubb and Gregory could be an outstanding duo, but they need help to get the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer. There were some hiccups against the run, which dinged Chubb’s grade, but this unit has so much promise.
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DeShawn Williams | DL | Grade: 39.3
Teams have discovered Williams’ weakness against the run and are attacking it. He had a chance for a couple of tackles for a loss but missed them, leading to a big gain. When that didn’t happen, Williams was often taken for a ride. Hopefully, he can figure out the issue and take the proper steps to stop the leak.
Lloyd Cushenberry III | C| Grade: 41.6
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The Broncos’ center has had two extremely rough games. Cushenberry has consistently been pushed back in the run game and has even gotten tossed. It’s been hard to get anything going in the middle because of his issues there. He’s had success as a pass protector, but it’s more because of the lack of one-on-one blocks he has to make more so than his play.
Caden Sterns | S | Grade: 42.0
Sterns wasn’t a liability in coverage, which was needed with Justin Simmons going to injured reserve. However, Sterns needs to do a better job with his run fills, and even more importantly, his tackling.
Albert Okwuegbunam | TE | Grade: 42.1
There isn’t much to say here. Okwuegbunam had a bad drop on what could have been a good play by him on a third down early, especially with what he showed after the catch. He seems to remain allergic to blocking.
Andrew Beck | FB | Grade: 42.4
After a good game on 10 snaps to start the season, Beck faltered while seeing 21 snaps on offense in Week 2. This doesn’t reflect his poor play on special teams, which included two penalties.
Beck’s worst play was a bad play-call for a read/option sweep on 3rd-and-1, which wasn’t his fault. His poor blocking in the run game was, though, and it created issues for the Broncos’ running backs.
Alex Singleton | LB | Grade: 49.2
While Singleton is tied for the team lead in pass deflections, the fact that he is the Bears’ front linebacker is concerning. His play has not been great, but that was known to be an issue in coverage.
What Singleton has shown against the run has been the biggest concern. He is late to fill his run, struggles with blocks, and even fills the wrong lanes. If Josey Jewell can’t go next week, then a switch to Jonas Griffith as the top linebacker needs to be made.
Other Noteworthy Grades
Graham Glasgow | OG | Grade: 65.1
Glasgow had a very solid game for the Broncos after getting a full week of practice as the starter. There is no question he is still a downgrade from Quinn Meinerz, especially in the run game. However, Glasgow showed he is more than capable of starting when needed, as is the case currently.
Cameron Fleming | OT | Grade: 63.9
Watching the game live, it seemed like Fleming was terrible out there, but here is a reminder that looks can be deceiving. While Fleming wasn’t great, primarily in pass protection, he wasn’t terrible.
Dre’Mont Jones | DL | Grade: 62.5
Jones, the pass rusher, had a huge day, but his run defense was almost on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The concern about Jones has been his issues against the run, and if he truly wants to be one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, he has to improve there. Everyone knows he is capable of getting after the quarterback, but there’s more to his responsibilities than that.
Baron Browning | OLB | Grade: 59.7
While Browning did not register a pressure, he showed how he could strain the pocket and create a tight space for the opposing QB to throw from. There were some good run reps as well, one in particular on an option where Browning stayed disciplined on the back end.
However, these were only flashes and not there consistently. When it came to the run, Browning had more issues than not, especially with getting off some blocks.
Nathaniel Hackett | HC | Grade: 48.1
There were plenty of issues, and getting the play-calls in time remains a big one. However, Hackett did not display the same level of incompetence with decision-making as he did in the final seven minutes of their first game. That alone is the biggest reason for the spike in his grade.
That said, there is still a tremendous amount of work for Hackett to do, which goes beyond getting plays faster. Penalties remain an issue, and the red-zone issues need to be fixed. Helping cut back on the 25 penalties that the Broncos have been flagged on will help.
Finally, when the offense is sputtering, Hackett has to show more to get them out of the spiral and do so quicker than he did. The Broncos struggled offensively against the Texans and often shot themselves in the foot. The majority of that falls at Hackett’s feet.
Ejiro Evero | DC | Grade: 73.9
There are still questionable decisions, especially with personnel, from Evero. For example, having Singleton being the Bear-front linebacker will forever be a mystery. As for actual performance, Evero needs to figure out how to get tackling down with the players. Two games in, and missed tackles have been a consistent issue.
The run defense is also a concern, as the Broncos rank 10th in most rush yards allowed per game. Teams have identified a weakness here — DeShawn Williams — so Evero needs to either help him improve or provide help. There also can be more done to help the pass rushers get home, as the Broncos got close to Davis Mills often but fell short due to a quicker passing game.
It was an overall good game, but the defense was supposed to handle Mills and the Texans the way it did.
Dwayne Stukes | STC | Grade: 63.7
There were improvements from Week 1, but there is still plenty of work to do. Stukes has to improve his blocking on the punt team as Corliss Waitman came close to having a couple of attempts blocked.
Stukes also needs to get better coverage from his gunners to bring down the ball. Blocking on kick returns was once again messy and remains a priority to get fixed. A work in progress, but steps are being made.
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