Week 5 brought more disappointment on offense for the Denver Broncos as they fell to a disappointing 2-3 record after losing a 60-minute slopfest 9-12 to the Indianapolis Colts.
That was the story of the season so far, as we saw some puzzling late-game decisions from Hackett combined with the worst game we’ve seen from Russ in a Denver uniform.
It was a heartbreaking display for fans hoping to see the Broncos offense regain some semblance of respectability, but as with any other week, there were still positives to be taken from the film. So, for the second week in a row, I will only be highlighting outstanding players on the defensive side of the ball.
Without lamenting the slope any further, let’s dive into the impressive performances of Baron Browning, Caden Sterns, Bradley Chubb and Alex Singleton from Week 5.
Clips of Baron Browning against the Indianapolis Colts
-Browning won in almost every way imaginable against weaker OTs
-Done Browning/Chubb loop several times on 3rd tries with great success
-Spins, ghosts, speed to power, hand shots and some of the best instant jumps of the year pic.twitter.com/QZwVxAHqZX
— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) October 9, 2022
Baron Browning is quite simply a revelation.
Browning put on pressure after pressure in Denver’s first game without the signing of standout free agent Randy Gregory, totaling an absurd 10 pressures and 2 sacks on just 22 quick passes. He posted the highest pressure rate ever by PFF and was pounding the Colts offensive line with a plethora of moves that left me speechless.
It was a “Von Miller-esque” performance (which is thrown too often), just one last sack missing to seal the game, who, if Browning doesn’t get injured… who knows.
Browning flashed the entire toolbox; rushing a tackle on Matt Ryan, using the spin move we saw in pre-season, using the ghost technique and flexing some of the most absurd runs I’ve seen in recent memory. Browning has the ability to beat tackles in every way imaginable, but what’s just as impressive to me as Browning’s monster athleticism is how defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero utilizes those traits.
One of Denver’s best defensive looks on 3rd Down sees Bradley Chubb lined up outside the OT shoulder with Browning extended even further outside lined up in a technical wide nine.
Bradley then fights inside to absorb the guard, and Browning’s elite speed allows him to loop inside around Chubb for a clear path to the QB. The Colts’ o-line struggled with this on several occasions, and it led to multiple sacks and down losses for their offense.
Evero also uses a ton of mock pressure looks (essentially fake blitzes) to scare the offensive lines into thinking Browning is rushing the passer, then on the snap of his fingers he uses his speed and agility to drop into coverage picking up crossers. This allows for more 1-on-1 upfront with dedicated Browning linemen, and takes away quick reads for QBs in the middle with Baron’s impressive covering ability.
Since Justin Simmons’ injury, Caden Sterns has filled the “ballhawk” role in the Broncos’ secondary.
Sterns’ range and ball skills are no joke, but over the past two weeks we’ve seen incredible talent for casting bait and timing PBUs and INTs.
Twice Matt Ryan made ill-advised throws that ended in the hands of Sterns, both times with him spinning as a thief, leaving Kareem as the only high. Both throws were ugly from Ryan, but on one we saw impressive work from Sterns reading Ryan’s eyes and just hiding out of his vision before reacting and jumping for INT.
We also saw him break a deep dig route led by Michael Pittman with excellent timing on the spot, leading to a Pittman drop that would have seen Indianapolis enter Denver territory. Instead, they kicked.
Caden isn’t quite the battering ram that Kareem Jackson is, but he’s more than serviceable in the running game and rarely misses open field stops. He does the correct readings, triggers runs very quickly and plays well as the last line of defense in a defense designed to bend, not break.
With Justin returning on Monday, hopefully Denver sees Caden and Simmons as the primary safety duo. Kareem has played well and is an important voice in the locker room, but the play we see from Sterns is too valuable to pass up in favor of the leadership provided by Kareem. Especially in the AFC West against Mahomes and Herbert, where the team will go 2-high all game, there’s no reason not to have the top two cover safeties there.
I don’t think Kareem is scrubbed in any way, as I hope he still plays a vital role on defense as a 3rd safety, dime backer, and possible nickel depth. But the time has come for a changing of the guard and a taste of what Denver’s starting safety tandem could be for years to come.
Give Bradley Chubb his money.
It may be unpopular among other Broncos fans, but keeping Bradley Chubb is huge if Denver hopes to win or even get closer to a superbowl at the time of Russell Wilson.
Right now, he has the 5th most sacks in the league, he’s top 3 in pressure rate against the league, and he’s one of the best defenders in the point position. Bradley Chubb deserves to be paid.
People will be quick to point out that injuries are a reason Chubb shouldn’t be paid, as he’s essentially missed two of five possible seasons because of them. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but NFL players, especially rushers, get hurt. You can’t look at the list of highest-paid rushers without realizing that nearly all of them have suffered some sort of season-ending injury at some point.
Some people will point to bag numbers as if they are the only usable defensive measures we have at hand. Bradley Chubb has two separate pressure seasons over 50, and if he continues at his current pace, he’s on track for a third. He’s the Broncos’ only 50-season pass thrower besides Von Miller since 2015.
On top of that, he makes a difference in the running game and constantly creates turnovers while being one of the best leaders in the locker room.
Denver isn’t short on cap space — they have the 12th-most in the league. Denver isn’t hungry for picks — they have five more this year, including two in the top 100, with an already young roster. They were just bought by the wealthiest owner in pro sports and as we saw with the Rams and Buccaneerswhich plays a huge role in players’ ability to pay.
I know it doesn’t look like it, but Denver has been in the middle of a Super Bowl window since acquiring Russell Wilson. Even though those first five weeks haven’t been promising, abandoning ship, selling talent and letting the stars walk is not the quickest route to getting this team back in the playoffs. Bradley Chubb is one of the few proven and consistent players on this list, and to see him out would be a complete tragedy, written by George Paton and company. They’ll recover a Day 2 pick at best through compensation or a trade, and that player will need enough time to become a late-season contributor close to Bradley’s.
This team doesn’t have a lot of time with Russell Wilson at the helm.
Josey Jewell’s absence is never fun as the outlaw is one of the most temperamental and hard-hitting members of the defensive unit.
But in place of Jewell came a different ass kicker, and he picked up where Jewell left off.
Singleton hits everything, and he hits everything hard. He only played the second half for Denver, but he played a huge role in limiting Indianapolis’ running game.
He consistently beat linemen on blocks, clogged running lanes and stacked runners for short wins forcing long 3rd downs.
In coverage, he’s not quite the athlete Griffith or Jewell are, but he held his own reading of multiple screen passes for saves and swing pass hunting for short wins.
He has been a standout player on special teams and deserves more recognition for the stability he provided as well as the communication he brings by carrying the green dot for Evero’s defense with Jewell out.