Broncos-Seahawks grades: Not bad, but not great, either
In a way, Jerry Jeudy epitomized the Broncos as a whole Monday night.
You can’t run a route and adjust to the ball better than the third-year wide receiver did on the 67-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Russell Wilson. His second-quarter score was everything that you hope he can provide. But then … he dropped a pass in the fourth quarter.
For every position group, there was something to leave them wanting more.
It was, on balance, an average Wilson game. Which, in the previous six years of Broncos football, would have been terrific by comparison. He took some deep shots, was on-rhythm and did exactly what the Broncos hoped he would. The fact that he ran just once even though there were some opportunities wasn’t a surprise to those who have watched closely in recent years. But every so often, Wilson needs to take the open lane for a quick 6 yards to keep the defense honest.
RUNNING BACKS: C-plus
The career fumble rates for Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon are 1 every 88 touches and one every 80.7 touches, respectively. Those are percentages of 1.1 for Williams and 1.2 for Gordon. In other words, the two backs are actually quite similar in terms of how often the ball hits the ground. That being said, neither Gordon nor Williams had much of a chance when they fumbled Monday. Seattle engulfed each in the backfield.
Those goal-line fumbles sullied a day that saw each demonstrate good vision and cutback ability, with Williams distinguishing himself in the flat as a pass-catcher. It’s easy to forget that Williams was effective in that regard at North Carolina and added 43 receptions was a rookie — with 3 of his 7 2021 touchdowns coming via the pass. If not for the fumbles, we’re talking about Grade-A work from the Broncos’ top two running backs. There was a lot to like. But, fumbles.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
Jeudy was a final-series drop away from a perfect day. His exquisite route, adjustment to the ball and closing speed on the 67-yard touchdown was everything that the Broncos expected when they drafted him. Courtland Sutton drew a 31-yard pass-interference penalty on rookie Tariq Woolen; Hamler was the target on a 21-yard Woolen DPI call. Sutton was solid, but his false start effectively wiped out a touchdown.
One number to watch: times targeted. Wilson targeted his wide receivers on 15 of 41 non-penalized throws as Seattle conceded short passes outside, limiting the deep shots. Other teams may try to mimic this strategy. But at the same time, the Broncos averaged 13.2 yards per attempt to their wide receivers, when factoring in the DPA infractions. This should force safeties to play them honest and open up the underneath game further.
TIGHT ENDS: B-plus
Andrew Beck was the focal point early, but he never stopped delivering. Further, the Broncos offense never stopped working when he played. Denver averaged 6.7 yards per attempt and 13.0 yards per pass play when Beck played — although for only 10 snaps. And after the goal-line snafus in the shotgun, perhaps the Broncos should consider more I-formation use with Beck when they reach short-yardage situations in future weeks. Most of the blocking work from the tight ends was good, and Albert Okwuegbunam’s willingness to fight through contact for a last yard was promising. Eric Tomlinson came a toe’s length away from providing a potential game-winning touchdown.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
Cameron Fleming brought power to his work at right tackle, and earned more work until Billy Turner is good to go. Garett Bolles was solid, but is lucky he didn’t get called for holding when he arm-barred Uchenna Nwosu. Graham Glasgow had some nice moments in the run-blocking game, but had some rough ones, as well, as he filled in for Quinn Meinerz. He was the victim of pre-snap confusion on the play that resulted in Williams’ fumble And then, on the final series, he didn’t get out in front enough on a swing pass to Williams, allowing Cody Barton to make the tackle that put the offense behind schedule, short-circuiting the drive. Glasgow is just 10 months removed from a horrific injury and it showed. If he can get his quickness and fluidity back, he can become a plus player again. Meinerz was very effective in limited work. But two false-start penalties up front were costly.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B-MINUS
D.J Jones was as advertised against the run, and led the way in run-stop percentage up front, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics. Dre’Mont Jones was solid, getting a hand on a Geno Smith pass and logging four pressures by my count — he didn’t finish, but he was disruptive. DeShawn Williams drew a holding penalty.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: C-minus
Alex Singleton had a chance for the play that would make a difference when he had missile lock on Smith — but he missed, allowing Smith to escape and locate Will Dissly for the game-opening touchdown pass. That set the tone for the first half for Singleton and Jonas Griffith, who were close, but seemed to be at the focal point of big plays — although not entirely culpable.
Griffith trailed Colby Parkinson on his second-quarter touchdown catch, but it wasn’t all on the second-year linebacker. Their work against the run was solid and what one would expect. That being said, Seattle had some success throwing to the ILBs’ coverage area, so expect other teams to try to replicate that.
EDGE RUSHERS: B
Bradley Chubb twice gave Charles Cross a welcome-to-the-NFL moment. And while Geno Smith did drift into the sacks, Chubb’s ability to finish looks to be back where it was in his 12-sack rookie season. Randy Gregory didn’t get home on Geno Smith, but generated four pressures and delivered a difference-making play with his forced fumble. Baron Browning had a pair of pressures in rotational work. On balance, if the Broncos get this sort of performance from the position, they ought to do well.
Once Denver’s cornerbacks got closer to the line of scrimmage, the outside space for Seahawks receivers vanished as they chose not to test the corners deep. Surtain was solid. Ronald Darby drew a pass-interference penalty in coverage on Will Dissly, and it was a no-doubter. Darby also had the only pass defensed by anyone in the secondary.
Smith didn’t test the safeties deep much, and as a result, Justin Simmons had a solid-but-relatively-quiet night. Smith threw farther than 20 yards downfield just once: the 25-yard touchdown to Colby Parkinson. On that play, Kareem Jackson was the single high safety. He moved to his right as Tyler Lockett moved across the field 7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, Parkinson ran down the seam on the opposite side of the field. With Jonas Griffith trailing, Jackson was on the opposite side of the field and had no chance to prevent the connection. Jackson also drew an unnecessary-roughness penalty that pushed the Seahawks into field-goal range on their second series.
I’ve noted the extraordinarily low success rates for attempts from 60-plus, especially in stadiums without roofs. Thus, you cannot fault Brandon McManus for missing a 64-yarder wide left. You’re literally asking him to do something that has been done just one before in NFL history: hit a field goal of at least 64 yards in an open-air stadium. And the only other 64-yarder in NFL history came at 5,280 feet above sea level. McManus was perfect on his other kicks and he did a good job on kickoff placement.
Denver would have liked a bit more distance from Corliss Waitman on his first regular-season punt as a Bronco. The 36-yarder dropped just inside the Seattle 20-yard line, and with 4.66 seconds of hang time, he took a return out of play. But it was only one yard better in net than a touchback would have been.
It wasn’t a debut to remember for Montrell Washington, but he received help. On his final kickoff return of the first half, he moved to the right, and by the time he reached the 15-yard line, two Seahawks had beaten Broncos blockers and were inside the 20, closing in on him. Washington collided with Tyrie Cleveland, and that was that.
KICKOFF/PUNT COVERAGE: D-plus
This wasn’t good enough. Too much room to operate led to 25.7 yards per kickoff return — nearly 9 more yards than the Broncos averaged.
Some probably feel that this grade should be an “F,” based on the calamitous last possession. That’s fair, but this professor is grading the entire term, not just the final. Denver’s coaches made effective in-game adjustments, particularly in terms of increasing pressure generated on Geno Smith. Enough has been said or written about the last series to where there is no need to add; the fire has enough logs to burn for a while.