Sunday’s contest with the Rams was Denver’s fourth straight loss, and the Broncos appear to be on their way toward another prolonged losing streak.
Denver’s offense is trending in the right direction, with a young, underutilized rushing attack, an underrated receiving core, and an improving offensive line, but the defense has been the inverse. Every year since Denver’s Super Bowl campaign, the defense has taken a step backwards, and now resembles a weakness rather than a strength.
Without a strong defense to lean on, the offense isn’t nearly potent enough and Denver once again finds themselves stuck in the mud.
Still, we can find some positives out of the game, with our weekly three up – three down:
Bradley Chubb was easily the Broncos’ biggest star on Sunday. The fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, Chubb finally had his breakout game. It came at the expense of Andrew Whitworth, one of the league’s best offensive tackles, as well. Chubb beat up on the trusty veteran, collecting three sacks, and forcing Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff into another. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for Chubb. As Von Miller himself said, “He’s just getting started.”
Emmanuel Sanders was another player that the Rams had no answer for. On Sunday, Sanders led the team with seven receptions for 115 yards and a score. In the first quarter, Sanders made a horrible mental error when he taunted a Rams’ defender after a near touchdown. The penalty gave Denver first and goal at the 16 rather than first and goal at the Rams’ one. The drive stalled and Denver had to settle for a field goal, but outside of that one error, Sanders was electric.
He had twice as many yards and receptions as any other Broncos wide receiver. It’s now clear that Sanders has become the Broncos’ 1A receiver and Demaryius Thomas has become the Broncos’ 1B.
Darian Stewart was another Broncos player who had a strong performance. Throughout much of the season, Stewart has been a weak spot on the defense opposing teams have targeted and taken advantage of successfully, but this week that was not the case. Stewart made the play of the game when he made an interception of a wild, ricocheting pass, deep in Rams’ territory that lead to one of Denver’s two touchdowns. Two drives later, Stewart made a touchdown-saving tackle on Todd Gurley which kept the Broncos in the game. Stewart better keep playing like this because, in three weeks, offseason acquisition Su’a Cravens could come off injured reserve and compete for that starting job.
A week removed from a game against the Jets where the defense allowed over 300 rushing yards, they allow Todd Gurley to go over 200 rushing yards, and the Rams to rush for 270 yards total. Given the Broncos talent in the front seven, it’s unacceptable for them to give up 593 rushing yards over the course of just two weeks.
The porous run defense that appeared to be fixed just a season ago now appears to be even worse than it once was. If Denver’s coaching staff can’t make an adjustment soon, the defense will become more of a liability than a unit for the offense to lean on.
Although, it may be an entirely different staff making those adjustments if Denver keeps playing the way they are. The newest poor decision came when Joseph opted to bench right guard Connor McGovern for Max Garcia. Garcia had been the starter at left guard for Denver the past three seasons, but McGovern appeared to be an upgrade. PFF even graded McGovern as one of the top guards in the league. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making guys compete for their starting job, but it doesn’t make sense to me, to bench one your best performing offensive lineman on an average offensive line.
Vance Joseph’s tenure in Denver has been so tumultuous that he even ranks a couple spots below Josh McDaniels in terms of winning percentage among Broncos coaches. If Joseph doesn’t improve, he’ll go down as the least successful Broncos coach since 1966, when Coach Mac Speedie went 6-19-1 over 26 games.
Joseph, without a doubt, is on the hot seat.
Case Keenum appears to be a mistake as well. Keenum is probably an upgrade on what the Broncos had at quarterback last season, but that upgrade is minor at best and certainly isn’t worth what they’re paying him.
Keenum’s $15 million salary for 2018 is almost five times more than what Denver paid Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch in 2017 combined and almost 25 times what they paid Siemian alone. Through six games last year, Siemian was 133-211 for 1,264 yards, eight touchdowns, and six interceptions. Keenum through six games is 147-233 for 1,687 yards, seven touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Maybe it’s Chad “Swag” Kelly time in Mile High.