Last Sunday the Denver Broncos came off a fantastic home win against the Oakland Raiders 16-10. While the game was close, the ending is reminiscent of the wins the club achieved in the 2015 season prior to their Super Bowl win. The team had some positive and negatives on both sides of the ball. The offense struggled with the pass and had a single touchdown which was a Trevor Siemian 22 yard pass to tight end A.J. Derby. Denver’s run game remained strong, averaging 4.5 yards per rush for a total of 143 yards. However the defense was much better than the offense. The defensive line was great against the run and held the Raiders to 24 yards. Meanwhile the No-Fly-Zone only allowed one passing touchdown. Also they sealed the game with a late fourth quarter interception by second year safety Justin Simmons. Given the performance through the first four games of the season; its time to rate this much improved Denver team.
The offense has improved over the team from last year, but they have still struggled in terms of the passing game. Denver has averaged 24.5 points per game which ranks 11th in the NFL while also averaging 198.2 passing yards a game which ranks 23rd in the league. Overall the team has averaged 341.2 yards per game good enough for 13th in the league so far. The main issue for the passing game has been missed opportunities between the quarterback and receivers in addition to the offensive line. There have been numerous missed chances which the team can address during this bye week between Siemian and his receivers. Denver’s offensive line has struggled and allowed 13 sacks so far this season. The position that most needs to be addressed is the right tackle. Menelik Watson has had subpar game play through the season so far. Coupled with the fact that his backup Donald Stephenson didn’t play well last season doesn’t bode well for the team in the long run unless they make changes or look for a new tackle via free agents or trading for one.
The shinning part of the Denver offense has been without a doubt the run game. Denver has found quite the one-two punch by using both CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles. Between both backs, they have combined for 505 of Denver’s 572 total rushing yards for the season and three touchdowns. The running backs have averaged 143 rush yards per game which ranks 4th in the league and have an impressive 4.4 yard per rush average as well.
The Broncos D has been playing at a high level that similarly echoes memories from the famed defense that led the team to its third Lombardi Trophy. The team has without a doubt the leagues best run defense that fans and players have newly nicknamed “Ground Control.” In four games they have held four pro bowl players ( Gordon, Elliot, McCoy, Lynch) to a combined 95 yards averaging for 1.9 yards per rush. This is a tremendous turn around from last year when they were 27th in the league allowing 130 yards per game. Overall the team has only allowed 50.8 rushing yards a game ranking them 1st in the league. In addition they rank first overall only allowing 260.8 yards per game and allowing 18.5 points per game ranked at 6th in the league.
Denver’s pass attack has been quite good as well. They have 10 sacks on the season, with Von Miller leading the team with four followed by Shelby Harris with two. The No-Fly-Zone has been in midseason form with four interceptions total with one of them returned for a touchdown. However they have allowed 210 passing yards a game which ranks 10th in the league.
Special Teams: C
Special Teams for the Broncos has been decent so far this season but there is room for improvement. Kicker Brandon McManus is 7 for 10 on field goals after four games. His three misses have come from 50+ yards, 20-29 yards and 40-49 yards. While he has a 70% completion for field goals, he has made all 11 extra point kicks. Riley Dixon meanwhile has had 15 punts and averaged 44.6 yards per punt with a season long punt of 53 yards. Dixon has managed to have only one punt be a touchback as well as get 6 punts inside the 20 yard line.
Despite having struggles on both sides of the ball, the Broncos have managed to go 3-1 and currently are in second place in the AFC West. Denver has made improvements on offense by improving the offensive line and adding Charles. If both Charles and Anderson stay healthy they can keep Denver in the hunt for first place in the division. The issues that need to be addressed are the weakness at right tackle as well as improved chemistry between Siemian and the receiving corp.
The Defense has done well between the No-Fly-Zone and the birth of the Ground Control. However there is no room for mistakes. The defensive line needs to keep the momentum heading into the midway point of the season. If they can keep the run assault up they will be victorious. They do need to improve the pass rush because the team has only managed 10 sacks so far. Denvers secondary needs to improve and be more of the shut down No-Fly-Zone they have been the last two years. Increasing the pass rush should help the secondary make more plays on opposing receivers,
Special teams as mentioned before, has done well, but there is room for improvement. McManus needs to get better at making his kicks. There is a reason he got a recent contract extension and he needs to show the team why he deserves that money. Dixon has been very accurate with his punts and he needs to keep pinning the opponents deep in their own territory for this team to succeed. Denver needs to make the accurate adjustments and changes during this bye week in order to keep chasing another divisional champion spot and potentially make it into the playoffs.
Until next time, keep calm and Bronco on!