In their home opener, the Denver Broncos shut out the New York Jets 26-0. It was a loud environment that made things extra difficult for Jet's rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, leading to a great defensive performance from the Broncos, while the offense put up 26 points, despite some miscues.
There's a lot of potential with this team, but it needs everyone to consistently play at a high level. Most of the players performed outstandingly in this game, but a few struggled, which is reflected in their individual grades. The good news is, while there were few players with negative grades, only one was on the defensive side of the ball.
Before I get to the individual player grades, here are 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. With each bad play, it drops.
Just how much a player's grade fluctuates depends on his overall impact on the snap. After all, missing a block away from the play isn’t as costly as the lead blocker completely whiffing and letting the run get stopped for a loss.
Malik Reed | OLB | Grade: 93.4
The Broncos needed someone to step up and help Von Miller and Reed finally answered the call. It was a rough first two games for Reed, but he more than made up for it against the Jets. His run defense was good, but he brought the heat consistently as a pass rusher.
Dre’Mont Jones | DL | Grade: 91.7
After living in the Giants' backfield, Jones struggled against the Jaguars. In Week 3, though, he made huge plays against the Jets. One of his best plays was using Jets' center Connor McGovern to tackle the ball-carrier for a huge loss. The Jets struggled to contain the impact of Jones.
Tim Patrick | WR | Grade: 91.2
Even without the injuries, it is a good thing the Broncos have kept Patrick around. He is consistent and reliable, and that was on display often against the Jets. He had multiple drive-extending catches and his blocking was excellent as he continues to impress as a player.
Eric Saubert | TE | Grade: 89.3
Picking up Saubert in the offseason has proven to pay dividends for the Broncos. He has been the team's most consistent tight end, with Albert Okwuegbunam not too far behind him. Saubert's blocking has been strong, though inconsistent, until the Jets game, and he is a reliable receiver.
Dalton Risner | OG | Grade: 23.5
Going up against Jets' DL Quinnen Williams is a tough matchup, and he whooped up on Risner frequently. Risner struggled to hold his own, though he did have a couple of good plays mixed in. His play has been declining the past two years, as he doesn’t fit the blocking scheme, but this was one of the worst showings in his career.
Noah Fant | TE | Grade: 24.1
Where has Fant been? He had a good game in Week 1, but has since been largely missing. His play as a blocker has worsened, though he had one outstanding block against the Jets. Denver needs more from Fant, especially with the injuries piling up at wide receiver.
Shemar Stephen | DL | Grade: 49.8
The Broncos' defense was tough, shutting out the Jets, and everyone played well, except for Stephen. He was moved around easily in the running game and struggled to get push up the middle. There were some plays made, but his impact was small, which is why he was barely under the 50.0 starting point and the only defender under that mark.
Jonathon Cooper | OLB | Grade: 55.9
It wasn’t a bad game from Cooper at all, but he just happened to be the second-lowest graded defender. However, there were some solid pass rush snaps from him, and he wasn’t getting destroyed as a run defender either. He is starting to show progress in his development, and hopefully, he continues to grow.
Other Noteworthy Grades
Justin Simmons | S | Grade: 87.6
A missed tackle from Simmons stood out and was a significant negative play, but he was solid other than that. He was quick to come downhill against the run, and his ability to read blocking concepts and find the hole is outstanding. When in coverage, Simmons can read the quarterback. He will make many plays for the defense, which he showed in this one.
It is worth noting that rookie S Caden Sterns had a great game, too, and graded out well. However, an individual has to play a 15-snap sample and Sterns missed that by two. Nevertheless, his first career interception was outstanding and cemented the shutout for the Broncos.
Justin Strnad | ILB | Grade: 84.0
While there were some disappointing plays, Strnad looked capable in his first NFL start. He was quick with his run defense, though overly patient at times and struggled to get off blocks. But he made some big plays. In coverage, Strnad looked rough at times, but the athleticism and quickness were on display.
Quinn Meinerz | OG | 76.8
When Meinerz entered the game in relief of Risner, the play of the offensive line stabilized quite a bit. He was facing Williams and more than held his own. It was expected to take more time to develop, but Meinerz looked ready and comfortable out there as the left guard. Maybe the rookie is prepared to take over the left guard spot going forward if Risner misses time with his injury or is benched due to his poor play.
Andrew Beck | TE/FB | Grade: 64.5
Beck played a massive part in both rushing touchdowns for the Broncos, but he also whiffed some blocks. In addition, there is some apparent inconsistency with his play that can drive one mad. Denver should use heavier personnel with the injuries at wide receiver, especially with how rough the blocking upfront has been, which means more time for Beck.
Most Valuable Player
Alexander Johnson | ILB | Grade: 94.3
Johnson had the best game of his career. He wasn’t responsible for giving up big gains and made multiple huge plays in every phase for the defense. His two sacks were outstanding, and his run defense continues to be great. The best part about his game was that he looked smooth and reliable in coverage, which has not been the case.
A film piece will be coming out on this week’s MVP to help show why there was a close race between him and three other candidates. Stay tuned for that.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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