Justin Simmons leaves it all on the field, earns highest PFF grade of all Broncos starters

Justin Simmons. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.
Justin Simmons. Credit: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports.

The Broncos once again have a winning record and hopes have been buoyed by the most recent win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Divisional wins this late in the season are critical to the Broncos chances to make the playoffs and they will need a number more if they hope to get there, but this was one they absolutely had to have.

It wasn’t a glamourous game of huge plays but Denver did what they needed to and were able to put together cohesive drives down the field that were capped off by touchdowns.

Many players rose to the occasion but these Broncos starters were graded the best and worst of the week according to PFF.

Best Offensive Performance-Cameron Fleming- 78.3 (12th of 73 offensive tackles)

With all of the injuries to the offensive line, it has taken a patchwork of bodies to create the quilt of protection that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater saw on Sunday. For the majority of the day, Bridgewater had time in the pocket and was only sacked once by Chargers pass rush specialist Joey Bosa.

Cameron Flemming was a huge reason for the offenses’ success on the day. Flemming isn’t the most polished pass-blocking tackle in the game but did enough to keep Bridgewater’s jersey clean.

Where he really shined was in the running game, creating alleys for Denver’s talented duo Melvin Gordon and Javonte William and using his athleticism to get out on the edge and mow down defenders. He has been invaluable in the rushing game and deserves a sizable bit of credit for the success Denver has seen running the ball over the last two contests.

For two weeks straight he has been graded as PFF’s best offensive starter for the Broncos and should be seen as an invaluable depth piece for this team moving forward.

Worst Offensive Performance- Noah Fant- 50.2 (74th of 83 tight ends)

With 3 catches for 12 yards, Noah Fant had yet another pedestrian game. It isn’t so terrible that the statistics are underwhelming but in a divisional game, with the season on the line, it would have been nice to see some fire from a first-round offensive weapon.

Fant was on the field for 53 of 62 offensive snaps against the Chargers and the fact that he was unable to generate more opportunities in the passing game is a definite red flag.

Teddy Bridgewater isn’t exactly the quarterback built to best utilize Fant, however his effort in the pass-blocking and run-blocking game was spotty and, at times, just non-existent. He has struggled blocking since stepping foot into the league and unfortunately there hasn’t been any definitive growth in that area.

Fortunately for Fant the season isn’t over and Denver is entering the portion of the schedule where players make their money. A huge performance against Kansas City and this inkblot can be completely washed away.

Best Defensive Performance- Justin Simmons- 79.8 (9th of 100 safeties)

This season has been an interesting one for Justin Simmons, who has drawn both ire and admiration from Broncos fans. In the beginning of the season, Simmons was ranked more often towards the bottom of the grade chart than he was near the top.

The last handful of weeks though, he has returned to the Pro-Bowl level player Broncos Country expected and it couldn’t come at a better time.

With seven on the day, he was behind only Kyle Fuller in tackles. The difference being Fuller was being targeted (11) by the Charger’s offense and Simmons was not. He was all over the field making plays and was the constitutive element in holding Los Angeles out of the end zone time and time again.

Aside from a near interception that fell right through his hands, Simmons played a very neat and tidy game. With luck, he can continue this trajectory through the end of the season and give the Broncos something to play for come Week 18.

Worst Defensive Performance- Mike Purcell- 45.5 (113th of 137 defensive tackles)

In uncommon fashion, PFF graded defensive tackle Mike Purcell as Denver’s lowest graded defensive player this week.

Purcell has been a stalwart in this team’s run defense and has made it his personal goal to disrupt each team’s running attack, but this week he struggled to do so. Perhaps it was the quick turnaround from thumb surgery that hampered him or the fact that he did not get as many snaps as usual. When you are out there sporting a cast, the question of effectiveness is a fair one to ask.

As long as Purcell continues to heal and does not suffer any more injuries or setbacks, he will be an integral piece to the defensive line rotation, and Broncos fans should not be unduly alarmed by this down week.

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