Broncos-Chargers grades: At least the defense got high marks
DENVER — As is the case for the season as a whole, the defense sits at the head of the class, while the offense by and large lags behind …
Russell Wilson has to see the field better. And at times, it seems as if the 11-year veteran is dodging ghosts. This can happen when a passer is under siege. But Wilson is also culpable in the pressure he faces, as he isn’t sliding pre-snap protection as one would like to see in an ideal situation. He didn’t turn over the football, which keeps the grade from being worse, but dynamic plays were few and far between.
RUNNING BACKS: C-plus
Latavius Murray looks to be the No. 1 running back going forward. He had the hottest hand Monday, while also demonstrating good vision. He also forced a pair of missed tackles. Mike Boone and Melvin Gordon didn’t provide much of a spark, but their opportunities were scant. Further, there were no explosive runs; the longest pickup was 14 yards.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C-plus
Drops weren’t a problem this week, but the timing was off after the first quarter. There was solid work in providing blocking support for the running game from Kendall Hinton and KJ Hamler. Courtland Sutton was a non-factor, but both Hamler and Jerry Jeudy had explosive plays.
TIGHT ENDS: B
Greg Dulcich made a terrific acquittal of himself in playing 41 snaps. Nathaniel Hackett wasn’t afraid to leave him in as a blocker. While he had some difficulty blocking on wide-receiver screens, he held up better at other times. Dulcich played more snaps than the other three active tight ends combined, as Andrew Beck and Eric Tomlinson played 16 snaps apiece, while Eric Saubert played one offensive snap and contributed mainly on special teams.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-minus
Calvin Anderson conceded pressure on Wilson multiple times during what proved to be just 19 snaps of work. Cam Fleming had perhaps his steadiest and best game, made more impressive by the fact that he flipped from right tackle to left tackle in the second quarter when he replaced Anderson. Quinn Meinerz was effective as a pass protector in his first work since Week 1.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-minus
Pressure was frequent and consistent, particularly from D.J. Jones and Dre’Mont Jones. Mike Purcell, DeShawn Williams and Matt Henningsen all got to Justin Herbert on separate occasions, with Henningsen capitalizing off a protection bust to earn his first professional sack. This continues to be one of the most consistent and proficient unites on the roster.
EDGE RUSHERS: B-plus
Baron Browning became the first Broncos defender since Von Miller in 2018 to post a sack and interception in the same game. And as dynamic as he is in the pass rush, he is equally effective at diagnosing runs as they develop. Bradley Chubb got a bad break on a roughing-the-passer call, as the NFL continues to ask the near-impossible from its pass rushers in trying to avoid reasonable contact on opposing quarterbacks. Jonathon Cooper made a notable return to the lineup, hitting Herbert twice. Any plans for this position group should include Cooper, who continues to maximize his chances.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: A
It would be easy to get caught up in Alex Singleton’s prodigious tackle total. But that was a function of his anticipation and quick diagnosis that he displayed throughout the game. And he missed just one tackle in 21 opportunities. Jonas Griffith was no slouch, either; he too seemed a step ahead. Both got to Herbert with pressure. They had plenty to do as Herbert took check downs, but they also kept the Chargers offense from gaining yardage in chunks, too.
Individually, the grades would be all over the place, although it’s fair to have a curve on Damarri Mathis. Officials flagged him for a quartet of pass-interference calls. Two were disputable, which left two as clear as the skies above SoFi Stadium on Monday. Mathis deserves a salute for his resilience, which manifested itself in a key pass breakup late. He also never lost his aggression. The tests he passed Monday were ones of character and spirt; with more snaps, his technique should catch up to his resolve.
Justin Simmons returned and seemed to be a step ahead in diagnosing plays as they developed. It wasn’t all perfect; Simmons and Kareem Jackson each had missed tackles. But by and large, Simmons remains a presence most quarterbacks try to avoid when they look downfield.
The operation was smooth and Brandon McManus hit all four of his placekicks, including three field goals. Two of the kicks came from 48 and 51 yards.
Waitman could have used a bit more distance on a fourth-quarter punt that saw Denver bypass a 57-yard field-goal attempt; he had a high-but-short 22-yarder. But in overtime, Waitman delivered, with two punts that netted 47 yards apiece. Los Angeles began both of the subsequent drives at its 19-yard line. Waitman has already shown an ability to deliver under pressure.
KICKOFF/PUNT RETURNS: F
The grade would have been low even before overtime, as Montrell Washington muffed his first punt return of the night. But after also being credited with a fumble when P.J. Locke was blocked into him, Washington now has three fumbles in the past two games. Washington took the blame on himself, saying, “It’s just my job to yell, ‘Peter,’ and that’s just a call to get the guys out of the way, to let them know that the ball is short. I’ve just gotta be louder. That’s all.”
KICKOFF/PUNT COVERAGE: B-minus
Waitman out-kicked his coverage once, leading to a 19-yard return. On two kickoff returns, coverage broke down once, allowing Los Angeles to start at its 29 after a 27-yard runback.