The Denver Broncos 2021 NFL draft class was lauded out of the gates, as were the team's undrafted free-agent signings. As the Broncos prepare for their Week 6 home bout vs. the Las Vegas Raiders, the team's rookie results have been mostly good.
The rookies have shown the promise to be a great class but in the past, draft classes have started out on solid footing only to falter as time marched on. However, Denver can't allow that to happen with the 2021 crop.
So far this season, the Broncos have had six or seven rookies take the field pretty consistently between the three phases of football. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, the Broncos had only one rookie see significant playing time defense, while another contributed on offense, with the rest seeing action on special teams.
The results were promising, but there was a reason to be concerned with this group's play. Let's start with the highest-profile rookie in the Orange and Blue.
Patrick Surtain II | CB
The first-round pick has displayed some issues in coverage but the more concerning aspect to his game has been his run defense and tackling. Over the last two weeks, there have been multiple instances of minimal effort from Surtain on the edge as a run defender as he's easily getting handled by blocks from wide receivers.
Another issue that Surtain showed against the Steelers was his missed tackles. He missed two tackles in the game which brought him to four on the season.
Javonte Williams | RB
Williams continued to be a shining star on offense, picking up 86 yards total against the Steelers. Whenever he touches the ball, he shows his power and contact balance which helps him break a lot of tackle attempts.
Williams is currently tied for the third-most missed tackles forced with 19 this season (on 54 carries). The running backs with the most and second-most have 28 on 90 attempts and 20 on 142 attempts, respectively. Among running backs with at least 50 rushing attempts, Williams leads the NFL in breakaway percentage.
Caden Sterns | S | Jonathon Cooper | OLB
These two also saw minimal snaps on defense as well as special teams. While Cooper played well, mostly as a run defender, Sterns struggled with the uptick in playing time he received after his big Week 4 performance. Sterns was caught out of position a few times by the Steelers' offense and was inconsistent coming downhill against the run.
Quinn Meinerz | OG | Baron Browning | LB | Andre Mintze | OLB
The remaining trio of rookies who saw action were only on special teams. When Meinerz played started at left guard in Week 4, which was preceded by about 25 snaps in Week 3, he looked good and made a strong case for why he should be starting (especially in contrast to the continued lackluster play of Dalton Risner).
Meanwhile, Mintze struggled when on defense, and Browning is proving to still be quite a ways behind in picking up the defense after spending most of the offseason and training camp injured, and has barely seen any action there.
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