The Denver Broncos’ playoff hopes might have officially died during their Sunday loss to the Tennessee Titans, as they dropped even further out of the playoff picture, and watched key contributors crippled by injuries at seemingly every position.

Where does the team go from here? What positives can Broncos Country still cling to? What glaring weaknesses sunk the team’s chances today? All that and much more, in this edition of The Stock Report.

Stock Up for the Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos wide receiver Jalen Virgil (15) celebrates his touch down with teammates in the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Jalen Virgil (15) celebrates his touch down with teammates in the second quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
Nfl Denver Broncos At Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos run defense

If someone told you on Friday that the Denver Broncos would hold Derrick Henry to 16 yards rushing on eight carries in the first half, and 37 yards rushing on 11 carries in the second half, you’d probably feel pretty confident in an orange-and-blue victory.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end result, but you can’t blame the run defense for that.

Since the start of the decade, only this year’s Buffalo Bills have held Derrick Henry under 55 rushing yards, and today, Denver held him to 53. The last time Henry rushed for this few yards in a Titans win, was December of 2018. “Aquaman” was the top movie in the country and Ariana Grande’s “Thank U Next” was the top song.

That’s a remarkable performance.

D.J. Jones and Mike Purcell were monsters on the defensive front, while Jonas Griffith, Josey Jewell, and Alex Singleton did a tremendous job cleaning everything up on the 2nd level.

Denver Broncos’ unheralded WRs

With Jerry Jeudy exiting this game early, the Denver Broncos had to turn to a series of pass catchers that were either struggling or complete unknowns, and for the most part, they performed well.

Courtland Sutton, Kendall Hinton, and Jalen Virgil combined for just eight receptions for 72 yards off 18 targets, over the last three weeks. Virgil hadn’t seen the field at all, Hinton had seen his workload decline considerably with KJ Hamler working back into the fold, and Sutton was experiencing a slump that had him as one of the NFL’s least efficient receivers over the last several weeks.

Today, all of that changed for the better.

Jalen Virgil hauled in his first and only NFL target for a 66-yard touchdown. Kendall Hinton was Mr. Reliable on third down, moving the sticks on multiple 3rd-and-longs, and finished the game with 62 yards on four receptions. It was also a return to form for Courtland Sutton, who made numerous eye-popping plays at the catch point, including this amazing diving grab.

Overall, with the Denver Broncos down Javonte Williams, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler, and now, potentially, Jerry Jeudy, different players are going to have to step up. Today, that happened to some extent.

K’Waun Williams

In scouting, there’s a term that perfectly describes players like K’Waun Williams — glass-eater.

A nasty, gritty defender, who’s going to throw his body through a storm of fire and brimstone to make the difficult, physical play.

That’s K’Waun Williams.

Today he delivered a bevy of bone-crushing blows that separated receivers from potential receptions, sent running backs stumbling, and even knocked the wind out of Ryan Tannehill.

Williams also continues to be a tremendous coverage player.

Upgrading from the on-field version of Bryce Callahan felt impossible this offseason. 10 weeks in, it feels like the Broncos accomplished that seemingly unconquerable goal.

Stock Down for the Denver Broncos

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (15) gets away from Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson (22) as he runs in a touch down during the third quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (15) gets away from Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson (22) as he runs in a touch down during the third quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
Nfl Denver Broncos At Tennessee Titans

The health of the Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos offense has been miserable all season long, and it’s hard to imagine things getting better after the team lost three key contributors on Sunday.

Jerry Jeudy was experiencing the best couple-months of his NFL career, and was averaging more yards per route run against man coverage than any other offensive player since at least 2015 (as long as the database goes back), so losing him on the very first offensive play was a crushing blow.

Fortunately, the injury doesn’t seem to be as serious as some feared, per the reporting of 9News’ Mike Klis, but it’ll still be hard to overcome for as long as Jeudy is absent.

Making the problems on offense even worse were injuries to Billy Turner, the team’s best-remaining tackle by a wide margin, and Graham Glasgow, the team’s best center by a wide margin.

It wasn’t a sheer coincidence that Denver’s offensive line play immediately improved when Glasgow replaced Lloyd Cushenberry III. Nor was it coincidental that the line completely imploded the moment Glasgow was replaced by Luke Wattenberg.

With the team this beat up, how can Broncos Country cling to hope still?

This also continues a multi-year pattern of the Broncos being among the most injury-prone teams in the NFL. With the Waltons lording over the operation, ready to bust out the biggest checkbook in all of American professional sports, one can safely assume the training staff’s seats are just as hot as those belonging to the coaching staff.

Kareem Jackson

It’ll be easier to diagnose exactly what went wrong once the All-22 comes out midday on Tuesday, but based on what we saw today, Kareem Jackson had a dreadful performance.

With Justin Simmons and Caden Sterns unavailable, the Broncos’ safety room was heavily dependent on Jackson, and he wasn’t up to the challenge today.

Each of the Titans’ four biggest offensive plays was aided in some way by a Kareem Jackson mistake. The first was a 25-yard reception from Nicholas Westbrook-Ikhene, who Jackson lost in coverage. The second was the first touchdown, where Jackson was slow to break on the ball, leaving an opening for Tannehill to fit the pass in a tight window. The third was the flea-flicker touchdown, where Jackson had an opportunity to make a touchdown-saving, and potentially game-saving, tackle, but came up short. If Jackson is even able to slow Westbrook-Ikhene down, help probably arrives and forces the Titans to work against the NFL’s top-ranked redzone defense. Last, was the 41-yard reception to Okonkwo, where Jackson missed a tackle that opened the door for the tight end to pick up several additional yards.

He also dropped an easy interception opportunity.

The fact he was recently voted a defensive captain exemplifies his value as a leader, but on the field, he hurt the team today.

Denver Broncos’ offensive coaching staff

Penalties and questionable play calls. A tale as old as time for the Denver Broncos coaching staff under Nathaniel Hackett.

While Ejiro Evero was turning in yet another masterclass in coordinating the defense, the offense once again looked the part of a shipwrecked unit, despite coming off the bye week.

In the first half, the Denver Broncos ran the ball several times in 2nd-and-long situations, and were pitifully ineffective on a regular basis, forcing themselves into 3rd-and-long all too frequently.

They also were once again heavily penalized.

Entering today, the Broncos led the league in penalties and penalty yards, and that was added to greatly in the game against the Titans, as Denver found themselves penalized eight times for 50 yards. Believe it or not, that’s actually a good bit better than their average of 8.6 penalties for 70 yards.

It should also be noted that the Denver Broncos have now been penalized 19 times for false starts so far this season, by far the most in the NFL. The average NFL team has just nine such penalties. Denver had three today.

These penalties consistently ruin offensive momentum and make it impossible to get in any rhythm, but more importantly, it puts the Broncos in a hole, and right now, the offense is nowhere near good enough to overcome any additional disadvantage.

Damarri Mathis

Damarri Mathis generally played a strong game for the Denver Broncos, but it also served as a downgrade relative to how he’s performed, other than his debut start against the Chargers.

Over the last two weeks, Mathis allowed just 52 receiving yards, per Pro Football Focus. By biting hard on the Titans’ flea-flicker, Mathis allowed a 63-yard go-ahead score, which ultimately served as the game-winning touchdown.

Now, this is likely just a dip in the market. One should hold onto their Mathis stock, given how impressive the majority of his play has been, but today’s devastating hiccup demanded mention.