The Broncos ended their winning streak and finally had a positive performance today. We also got a taste of competent quarterback play from Drew Lock, which always makes the games much more fun to watch.
Speaking of Lock, let’s take a look at his play, as well as some other rising offensive stars in this edition of the stock report.
Biggest Riser: Drew Lock
Drew Lock has by no means solidified his position on Denver’s roster moving forward, but he definitely improved his stock with his good performance today, against a defense that appeared as if it was designed in a lab specifically to give quarterbacks like Lock a raging headache.
Early on, that laboratory creation was operating flawlessly. They came away with a quick interception on Denver’s first drive and made them go three-and-out on the second. Lock started a dismal 0-for-6 with an interception, but then the game changed.
Lock suddenly caught fire, completing his next seven passes for 95 yards and setting up 10 points for the Broncos, giving them a 10-7 lead. He was operating surgically and confidently over three series that showed another all-too-rare and brief glimpse of the high-end passer Broncos Country is so desperate for.
After the hot and cold start that excellently showcased the extremes of both sides of the Lock spectrum, the quarterback leveled out and turned in a fine performance for the rest of the game, which is still a huge upgrade from what we’ve seen in recent weeks.
The final scoreboard isn’t quite generous enough for Lock, as the Broncos had a drive that had the potential to end with six points cut short by an ugly Melvin Gordon fumble. Later, they had another drive that didn’t end with points because they decided to go for it on fourth-down and Gordon was unable to execute the one job he was brought to Denver to perform, rushing in short-yardage situations.
Broncos running game
The Denver ground attack, which was coming off a largely disappointing 66-yard performance in the loss to the Raiders, found new life today and might have formed the Broncos offensive identity for the second half of the season.
They forced Miami to adjust their defense early, which limited the complexity of their coverage and blitz disguises, and made Lock’s life much easier.
Both running backs went for over 80 rushing yards and averaged more than five yards per carry. Phillip Lindsay was averaging six yards per carry before some late-game runs in an effort to burn clock were swallowed up.
The only negative marks you could find for the running game today was a couple of glaring mistakes from Melvin Gordon. His fumble on Denver’s last complete drive removed the dagger from Miami’s back and opened the door for a Dolphins comeback, which the Broncos were fortunate to prevent.
He also was stuffed on a pivotal fourth-and-one, which is incredibly disheartening considering he was only brought in to be a bonus in those short-yardage situations.
Denver’s pass catchers
The quarterback position might be unsettled, but man does this team have some weapons to build around or what?
Tim Patrick continued to cement his case as one of the NFL’s most underrated receivers, though his stats were certainly fluffed up by a meaningless deep throw by Lock that was just meant to waste time.
Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler meanwhile continued to look like excellent draft selections. Jeudy is a star, if not a superstar, wide receiver in the making. Once he gets reliable quarterback play, and is allowed to be the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Sutton, he will feast. Meanwhile, K.J. Hamler’s toughness for his size continues to jump off the screen, as does his rare athleticism. If Lock didn’t overthrow him, he could’ve had a 40+ yard touchdown that would’ve made him the receiver of the game.
Last, but certainly not least, Noah Fant had another good game. He’s clearly one of the better tight ends in the league, and if he wasn’t so beat up for most of this season (including now) he might’ve been able to cement himself as member of the NFL’s elite class of tight ends.
Biggest Faller: A.J. Bouye
Bryce Callahan has been an amazing addition to the Broncos defense and secondary, but A.J. Bouye has been a total bust.
Bouye entered this game with a pretty ugly report card. He was allowing a passer rating of 108.9 in coverage (83rd among the 123 cornerbacks with at least 100 coverage snaps), 1.31 yards per snap (71st), 5.9 snaps per target (85th) and 8.6 snaps per reception (80th). He also had dismal grades from Pro Football Focus, with a 53.5 overall grade (ranking 80th among 121 cornerbacks with at least 170 total snaps.) and a coverage grade of 50.8 (86th).
Things didn’t get any better on Sunday as the Miami Dolphins feasted on Bouye. Their offensive game plan through the air consistently targeted him, and showed no fear whatsoever in doing so. Tagovailoa, and later Fitzpatrick, consistently targeted Bouye in coverage and were rewarded with an early touchdown pass and several key first-down conversions.
A.J. Bouye is a $13.5 million cap hit next season and he has no dead cap remaining if the Broncos decide to cut him. Unless he seriously turns it around down the stretch, there’s no way the Broncos keep him around for 2021.