Now that we’re fully into the offseason in the Mile High City, I thought it would be as good a time as any to start going back and taking a look at some individual performances 2020 for the Denver Broncos.
Who impressed? Who took a clear step forward? Who took a clear step back? Who should we expect more from in 2021?
The one guy I wanted to start with is defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who closed his second season in strong fashion, recording 2.5 sacks in the final two games of the year, helping him double his 2019 sack total, finishing with a career-high 6.5 sacks in one less game for the Orange and Blue.
The numbers look good on paper for Jones, who really came into his own as a starter in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones saw his overall grade jump from 66.9 in 2019 to 74.7 overall in 2020, grading him out as the 21st-ranked defensive tackle in the NFL out of 128 qualified in PFF’s metrics.
Jones also saw his pass-rush grade jump from 70.3 as a rookie to 78.3 as a second-year player. However, according to ESPN’s Seth Walden, Jones had one of the worst pass-rush win rates in the NFL.
That said, Jones produced time and time again, giving the Broncos a legit building block along the defensive front.
First Sack of the Season
It took until Week 7 of the season for Jones to get on the stats sheet with a sack, but it came at a big point in the game.
Just inside the start of the second quarter with the Chiefs holding a 10-6 lead in a blizzard in the Mile High City and driving near midfield, Jones found himself in a one on one situation against right guard Andrew Wylie.
Jones does a great job getting into Wylie early in the rush, using his left hand to chop down Wylie’s punch. Once he knocks down Wylie’s punch, look at the quick swim to get up and around the big Chiefs guard, creating a free lane to Mahomes for the sack.
Two weeks later on the road in Atlanta, Jones had more of a high-effort sack for No. 2 on the year. They aren’t all going to be pretty like the first one of the year, but a sack is a sack.
Here, with the Falcons in the red zone, Jones finds himself over Falcons’ left guard James Carpenter.
Jones attempts an early bull rush, but Carpenter is able to drop anchor and stall out Jones. Fortunately for Jones on this rush, the Broncos do a great job with coverage in the back half, forcing Matt Ryan to hold onto this football.
Once Ryan pulls it back down, Jones does a great job of shedding Carpenter late in the rush, tossing him aside with ease to get to Ryan for his second sack of the year.
Two weeks after his second sack of the season on the road in Atlanta, Jones got after Tua Tagovailoa in Week 11 at home.
Much like the sack in Atlanta, Jones is all effort here to get to Tagovailoa.
Jones doesn’t do any sort of winning here early in the rush, but he stays engaged and keeps an eye on Tagovailoa, who can scramble and create plays.
Overall, the other Broncos’ defenders do a great job keeping Tagovailoa locked into the pocket, which eventually leads to Jones cleaning him up just shy of the line of scrimmage for this third sack of the season.
I’m a big fan of high-effort guys, and Jones falls into that category with plays like this.
Following the sack at home against Miami, Jones went two full weeks without a sack, entering the Week 14 game on the road against the Carolina Panthers needing to make a play.
Lined up over right guard John Miller in Week 14, Jones does a great job getting upfield quickly, making it impossible for Panthers center Matt Paradis to reach him.
Look closely and you’ll see a great rip move by Jones to keep himself clean.
From there, Jones shows great balance and body control to stay upright through the trash, closing in on Teddy Bridgewater for his fourth sack of the season, setting a new career-high.
In Week 16 on the road in Los Angeles with the Chargers driving late for a score, Jones comes through in the clutch, getting to sensational rookie Justin Herbert for a huge sack.
Jones does a great job on the stunt to get isolated on Chargers’ center Dan Feeney. Jones is so strong at the point of attack; look at that initial punch from Jones to stun Feeney backward.
Following the initial punch, Jones does a great job executing the push and pull, swimming over Feeney with ease — very similar to his first sack of the season – to get to Herbert.
Big Close to the Season
In what was basically a game that did not matter for either side, Jones closed his second season strong at home in Week 17 against the Las Vegas Raiders, recording 1.5 sacks to finish with the aforementioned 6.5 sacks on the year.
Jones doesn’t win early here; in fact, it looks like an ugly rep to start. He has a high pad level and executes the twist poorly.
However, he finds himself free and runs the arc well to get to Derek Carr, showing good lower half flexibility to turn the corner with ease, running right around a pair of Raiders lineman for his sixth sack of the season.
Later in the game, Jones paired with Malik Reed for half a sack.
Jones does a great job stunting around to get isolated on Raiders’ center Rodney Hudson in the second half of the Week 17 loss.
Once he’s on Hudson, Jones does a good job spinning back into a rush lane to keep Carr in the pocket.
From there, Jones shows his overall strength to wrangle Carr through Hudson, holding on until Reed can help clean it up from the back end.
A lot of the credit on this half a sack for Jones has to go to Reed and Jeremy Attaochu, who both get great rushes off the edge, forcing Carr to climb the pocket into the rush.
What it Means
Overall, Jones showed quite a bit he could be an interior pass rush factor for the Broncos in their 3-4 front under Vic Fangio.
Jones has the power to win inside and has some impressive athleticism for an interior defensive lineman when it comes to rushing the passer.
Where Jones needs to improve is against the run, where he was still below average in 2020 despite taking a sizeable step forward compared to his rookie year. If he can become a competent run defender, the Broncos will find themselves with a serious building block in the trenches on the defensive side of the football.