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Broncos at Falcons: The No Bull Review

Is this 2011? Someone pinch me.

I am honestly still in a fog over Sunday’s game. I’ve seen it before…I saw a whole season of it back in the day. Our defense gets worn down and our offense is pathetic. Only this time we don’t actually have Tim Tebow at QB to pull out the actual win at the end of the game.

…and our defense kinda sucked because of all the injuries to starters.

…and our coaches aren’t actually scheming the offense to the strength of its quarterback.

Okay. I’m good now, Broncos Country. This is nothing like 2011. We’re in way worse shape.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos

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I’m not sure what I expect from Vic Fangio when he’s missing somewhere between one-half and one-third of this defense’s total talent on game day. I really can’t pick on anything. Our pass rush is using one starter and some depth guys that aren’t able to consistently move the needle. Our secondary is two safeties and a bunch of scrubs.

I do think at some point we need to discuss the lack of depth on this roster and that isn’t Fangio’s doing. That’s John Elway. He’s been lauded for recent years improving the drafting, but the depth of the roster overall is really lacking, and it is hurting this team.

Front 7

NFL: NOV 08 Broncos at Falcons

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Dre’Mont Jones had back-to-back big plays with a tip on a pass that was going to get a pass interference call. He follows that up with a big sack on 3rd down. He looked very Shelby Harris-esque in his play in this game at times, honestly.

McTelvin Agim got a big pressure up the middle early in the game. I’d like to talk about the excellent technique used or how he physically out played his opponent, but it was actually due to the Falcon offensive line just deciding to let him run free up the middle with no actual opposition whatsoever.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons

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Josey Jewell keeps getting love from the announcers in-game and I honestly don’t understand why. For every play that he’s on top of, he has a play where he’s not able to be in position to make a stop or break up a pass.

It is frustrating to watch because I did see several plays in this game that he was impactful on (TFL, pressure on the QB, great gap responsibility). But if he was just a ½ step faster laterally we would have gotten off the field on 3rd down a few more times and it could have made the difference in the game.

Secondary

Denver Broncos v Atlanta Falcons

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Justin Simmons did a superb job making Matt Ryan pay for being greedy in the second half with a perfect read and break on the deep ball to get the interception and put our offense back on the field. He also had a great blitz on third down early in the game. He really was on top of his game this week, and it is a shame there weren’t corners to be found on our roster who could even play at half his level.

Davontae Harris got schooled early and often. It makes me wonder about exactly why we let a talent like De’Vante Bausby go when this is the level of talent replacing him.

I’m going to take a detour from the normal NBR format and not break down the offense. It would be, at the end of the day, just a bunch of lipstick on a pig.

So let’s instead back up off the player review microscope and talk more about the offense as a whole.

There’s some very big problems with this offense right now, and I’m not entirely sure exactly what’s mostly to blame.

Quarterback

Denver Broncos v Atlanta Falcons

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The first problem is Drew Lock. And make no mistake that he’s actually a problem. His inability to read defenses, make quick decisions, read through progressions, and help call protections is absolutely killing the ability of this team to function. Sure, he’s been able two weeks in a row to get the offense going in the 4th quarter, but let me tell you one truth I’ve learned in life – hope is not a strategy.

I do want to say that on one of his TD passes he actually literally looked off a safety! I almost fell out of my seat when that happened and had to tell my wife about it in detail twice. Hopefully this is something he can build on.

But let’s back off that lipstick for a moment. When are we going to see progress in Lock? We’re eight games into the season at this point (granted he only played in six of them). This isn’t the preseason and I’m not about to hear excuses about how Covid ruined his ability to develop. We can put that nonsense argument to bed with one example: rookie Justin Herbert.

Lock needs to be developing and I’m not seeing the signs of him going through progressions, understanding what he’s seeing from a defense (to exploit it), or knowing how to slide protection when the defense shows blitz.

So while many fans may be hopping on the nonsense hype train that is building for Drew Lock, I’m not buying it. The flaws are real, and they are big. But they may not even be his fault…maybe he just isn’t being coached well.

Offensive Coordinator

Tennessee Titans v Denver Broncos

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Pat Shurmur has been getting more and more of my attention as the season progresses and with good reason. This offense is not good. It performs poorly in every way you want to slice it. We’re in the bottom half of the league in passing, in rushing, and in points per game.

If it weren’t for outstanding play by Philip Lindsay, Drew Lock (in the 4th quarter), and some of our talent guys, the Denver Broncos offense would be the laughingstock of the league.

Let me be clear – I’m saying the successful plays I’m seeing have more to do with individual talent and less to do with scheming and play calling. Guys aren’t getting wide open catches for big gains or TDs because the coach has put them in a superb match-up. These things are happening because a defender slips, or the playmaker just outplays them on-on-one.

Some may not like reading it, but I liked what I saw from Rich Scangarello with Lock last year more than anything Shurmur has done with Lock this season. Shurmur is where he is because of the cronyistic nature of the NFL. He has had exactly one season in his many years of coordinating that I attribute to him doing well and you can argue that that one was due to an abundance of offensive talent (Minnesota was absolutely stacked with talent in 2017).

While some tie him to the amazing coordinator that is Andy Reid, he’s only ever stood in the shadow of Reid and is nowhere near the designer, innovator, or schemer that Reid is.

Offensive Line

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos

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Let me step just real quickly back into the personnel arena and quickly point out that our offensive line is not and should not at any point in this season be off the hook for how bad this offense is.

Our tackles are definitely playing better than the first few weeks of the season (mostly due to Demar Dotson starting). But the interior of our offensive line is a hot mess. Even fan favorite Dalton Risner isn’t free from criticism here. There are run plays and pass plays where the line is losing the play before it ever gets started.

This also can go one of two directions: either the talent is lacking or the coaching is. Mike Munchak is supposed to be the offensive line whisperer, and I’m still leaning on believing that if only for the fact that Garett Bolles is playing the best football of his life and I didn’t think it would be possible for him to play as well as he is this season.

But we need better than what we have at RG and C for sure. Lloyd Cushenberry honestly needs an offseason of getting his body right (this is a pretty common problem for rookie linemen). Bad injury luck is causing most of our issues at RG though. This team misses Graham Glasgow in a big way.

As fans, we like to talk about the coulda, woulda, shoulda of football. If Drew Lock wouldn’t have gotten injured. If Phillip Lindsay could have carried the ball more. Receiver X should have held onto that pass!

But we’re halfway through the season, and this team is 3 – 5. No Bull, that looks absolutely spot on to me.

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