Monday night's loss to the Oakland Raiders wasn't exactly the start to the season this Denver Broncos team was expecting, eh?
I’ll admit, it’s easy to get carried away with some of the poor play we saw in this game, but there were a lot of positives to take away as well. Normally the saying goes 'the good, the bad, and the ugly'.
Well for this breakdown, let’s go in reverse order so we can get all of the negative venting out of the way first and more forward with renewed optimism heading into Week 2.
This is the positional unit that will seemingly always haunt this team. How many years have we been talking about improving this glaring weakness? Three years? Five? 10?
It’s hard to even pick a place to start with this group. Honestly, outside of Dalton Risner, there was not a lot of good that came from the Broncos' O-line. The right side in particular was difficult to watch the entire game.
We knew it would take some time for Ronald Leary to shake off the rust at right guard, but he flat out looked like Garett Bolles in his rookie year out there getting flagged multiple times for holding and getting bullied all game.
We also saw the right tackle trophy signing Ja’Wuan James go down after just 10 plays with a knee injury. At the time I’m writing this, we do not yet know the extent of his injury, but judging from how he went down, I can’t imagine it’s good. His replacement, Elijah Wilkinson, played more poorly than just about any other Bronco that took the field.
You’d expect Leary to improve (if he can stay healthy), but there are a lot of red flags going flaring up right now for the O-line as a whole. The unit's depth was a major concern coming into the season, and is already being tested after just one game.
At this point, Broncos fans are putting a lot of stock into hoping Mike Munchak is able to, as they say, 'make chicken salad out of chicken s***'.
Remember all of the progress we saw from Isaac Yiadom this summer? Man, that was short-lived.
Yiadom was targeted 10 times in the game. Of those 10 targets, he relinquished a whopping nine completions for 123 yards. 90% completion!
At times, I started to get deja vu from last season where Philip Rivers threw right at Yiadom on seemingly every play. It didn’t matter who drew in coverage, he got beat consistently all night. The Broncos' defense hopes to get starter Bryce Callahan back soon, but Isaac Yiadom has to rebound from this horrid Week 1 showing.
I think the majority of Broncos Country thought Vic Fangio would have an ironclad game plan heading in this Monday night game. Boy, were we wrong.
I’ll start off by saying you have to give credit where credit is due — Jon Gruden called a hell of a game. The Raiders offense stayed on schedule and kept the Broncos defense on their heels all night long.
The Raiders did everything you’d hope from an offense — gained positive yards on first down, didn’t commit drive-killing penalties, didn’t turn the ball over, and converted a high percentage of third downs (10-of-14).
What’s so frustrating is the Raiders utilized this same exact gameplan last season. Get the ball out quick and negate the Broncos' pass rush. Pick on weaker defensive backs. Throw to TEs and RBs. Check, check, check. It was all on film.
Fangio is going to have to make some adjustments quickly or other opponents are going to continue to expose these same weaknesses with similar gamelans.
I went back and forth on whether I should consider the pass rush to be ugly or just bad. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were nonexistent in this game. It felt at times that one of them was dropping into coverage on every pass play, bringing back nightmares of the Vance Joseph days.
I don’t see this being a trend, however. A lot of the lack of production on the field was due to 1) poor coverage and 2) a solid gameplan by the Raiders. I’m confident Fangio will make adjustments and find better ways to get these guys into the backfield going forward.
Many expect Simmons to have a breakout season this year. Everything up to last night's game certainly pointed to that being a probability. However, he’s going to have to make major improvements if that’s going to be the case.
Derek Carr finished the game going 22-of-26 passing and Simmons was a big reason for the high completion percentage. Similar to Yiadom (but not quite that bad), Simmons was out of position consistently throughout the night and opened up a lot of opportunities for the Raiders' passing attack.
Sense of Urgency
One thing that really stood out in this game was the lack of urgency from the Broncos. It almost felt that they didn’t take this game seriously heading in. Certainly not as serious as the Raiders did. Oakland came out fueled up and energized, while the Broncos looked flat and slow.
Pick a point in the game. Whether it was the end of the first half or the end of the game, the sense of urgency was never there for Denver. It honestly felt as if they thought they were still playing in the preseason.
Someone (hopefully more than one) needs to step up as a leader on this team. You know Fangio is keeping the team accountable behind closed doors, but it doesn’t seem like there is a vocal leader on either side of the ball right now.
The Broncos didn’t add a single coverage linebacker this offseason (unless you count Corey Nelson), so it comes as no surprise that covering tight ends is still a major issue. Josey Jewell (even though he played a great game) is a liability in coverage.
Behind him, there isn’t much to speak of when it comes to assuaging the coverage woes except maybe Joseph Jones when he returns. Todd Davis will be back soon (we hope) but he is also poor in coverage.
It’ll be interesting to see how this group looks when everyone returns from injury.
Somehow second-round pick Dalton Risner has quickly become the best offensive lineman on the team, and to be honest, it’s not even close. He is also quickly becoming a fan-favorite as well.
Risner played a very clean game, didn’t commit any penalties, and stayed with his assignments. It’s going to be fun watching Risner play this year and it’s reassuring to know there’s at least one good lineman on this roster for the next several years.
Yes, it’s easy to look at the box score and think…really, Joe Flacco? He finished the game 21-of-31 for 268 yards, with one touchdown and zero interceptions — good for a 105.3 rating. And if DaeSean Hamilton could catch a ball that hit him right on the numbers in the endzone, you could add eight more yards and another score to Flacco's statline.
Of course, Flacco is no Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady, but this team shouldn’t need him to be in order to win games. If I told you Flacco would have those stats going into the game, you would have probably guessed the Broncos would have won by a wide margin.
Flacco’s play in this game was very encouraging. He made a handful of fantastic throws over the middle that we haven’t seen since #18 was wearing the Orange and Blue. Flacco is going to certainly open up the offense more than we have seen the last couple of years — he’s just going to need some better help from his teammates.
Yes, McManus went 3-of-4 on field goal attempts, but his one miss was from 64 yards kicking off of a dirt infield. Even with that going against him, he almost nailed it, just a couple feet short.
'McMoney' has been automatic all offseason so it’s nice to see that success translate into meaningful games.
Courtland Sutton & Emmanuel Sanders
This was hands down the best game of Sutton’s short career. He was making great plays all over the field and especially over the middle (an area he struggled in last year). He looked like Flacco’s favorite target early and the QB rewarded him with his targets. Sutton finished the game with seven catches for 120 yards on eight targets.
Sanders is not human. This guy tore his Achilles last December and somehow retook the field a short nine months later to haul in five catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. He looked like his old self out there and showed no signs of lingering injury.
So there you have it, an ugly Week 1 loss to what was thought to be the worst team in the AFC West. Denver is going to need to make quick adjustments and pick up a 'W' next week against the Chicago Bears in order to get back on schedule.
It may seem all bad right now, but the majority of the issues we saw are fixable — and there were a handful of bright spots we should all be very encouraged to see more of.