Denver Broncos Report Card: Grades for Each Position Group from Monday Night
Week 1 of the NFL season always provides plenty of surprises, often of the negative sort. A number of teams turned in surprisingly poor performances to open 2011, or at least performances that were poorer than expected.
The Browns showed that their defense has no idea how to handle a quick snap, even from the lowly Bengals, and the Colts showed that Peyton Manning may have indeed been a one-man show. But the Denver Broncos managed to embarrass themselves on national television against the perpetual league punchline, the Oakland Raiders.
To be fair, I'm not sure Denver's performance on Monday Night Football was quite as awful as many of their detractors seem to think, but it was still pretty embarrassing. When your quarterback is so bad that fans are willing to pay for a billboard that argues to have him ousted, your problems may be, literally and figuratively, a mile high.
Producing a report card for the Broncos' Week 1 performance, I feel a little like an elementary school teacher calling a student's parents to tell them their kid is failing third grade. And indeed, maybe someone needs to call Kyle Orton's parents. Or John Fox's. Or perhaps the entire team's.
Following are grades for each position for the Denver Broncos' opening tilt against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night. Read 'em and weep.
Much to the confusion of those who were stuck watching him in Chicago for the first several years of his career, Kyle Orton actually managed to fool everyone into thinking he was a serviceable NFL quarterback during his 2010 performance for the Broncos.
Perhaps Chicago just wasn't a good fit for him. Perhaps he'd finally found his comfort zone in Denver. But after watching him on Monday Night this week, perhaps not.
Orton was 24-of-46 for 304 yards with one TD, one INT and one fumble. And for those who missed seeing it live, he was probably even worse than the numbers indicate.
To be fair, while Orton was pretty awful Monday, he wasn't the biggest problem for the Broncos, and I'm not certain benching him for Tim Tebow is the answer, either.
But that doesn't change the fact that Orton contributed heavily to the Broncos' implosion in their first game.
Kyle Orton made a stunning number of rookie mistakes for a guy with seven years of experience. Regardless of what you think of Tebow's chances to succeed, Orton left the door open for him to get that chance very soon.
2. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The lack of ground game for Denver left the Broncos in a bad spot on Monday night, forcing Kyle Orton and his receivers to attempt to be the crutch for an offense that they really didn't have the ability to carry.
While Orton made his share of bad throws, his receivers didn't do him many favors; not all of the incompletions were Orton's fault.
Brandon Lloyd was targeted 11 times and came down with the ball six times. To be fair, it wasn't that Orton's throws were awful or that Lloyd couldn't hang onto the ball on every incomplete pass. It was more a product of the fact that the Oakland defense seemed to know exactly where the ball was headed every time Orton dropped back to pass. This is particularly alarming when you consider that Oakland's pass defense isn't exactly stellar.
Still, Lloyd's performance wasn't really the problem, and Eric Decker was decent, if perhaps underused. The fact that Lloyd wound up on the sideline with a groin injury by the end of the game took away any chance Denver may have had to salvage their passing game.
As for the tight ends, well, what tight ends? Daniel Fells had three receptions for 32 yards, but aside from those three catches and a very small number of semi-effective blocks, you might assume Denver wasn't even carrying TEs this season.
While their performance was unimpressive, the Denver receivers were far from the team's biggest problem in Week 1.
3. Running Backs
When one lead running back posts just 38 rushing yards in a game, it's pretty clear that his team's ground game is in trouble. When an entire team posts just 38 rushing yards in a game, as was the case for Denver on Monday night, it's pretty clear that their ground game is virtually non-existent.
Knowshon Moreno had eight carries for 22 yards, and Willis McGahee logged three yards on four rushes. The remaining 13 yards went to a terrified Kyle Orton after he was flushed out of the pocket and forced to run for his life.
Suffice it to say that the ground game in Denver appeared to be dead before the game even started. Granted, I wouldn't expect to see a performance this poor out of the Denver RBs every week this season, but it's pretty clear that they'll be forced to put the ball in the air far more often than they desire to, using a quarterback whose aim is, well, questionable.
Two rushing first downs in the entire game? The Broncos' ground game was a stunning 2.9 YPC away from totally flat-lining. Yikes.
4. Offensive Line
As much fun as it is to blame things on favorite scapegoat Kyle Orton, a big part of his problem was that his offensive line threw him to the wolves again and again on Monday night.
Orton was sacked five times and chased around behind the line too many times to count as his line completely caved in on him and left him at the mercy of the Raiders' front seven. In caricature, we would surely see an image of Orton crumpled into a heap on the field with silver and black buzzards circling overhead.
If I were Orton, I would be buying my line bus tickets out of town instead of Rolex watches at the end of this season. Assuming I lived that long.
Whatever side of the Orton/Tebow debate you're on, you have to acknowledge that one of Denver's first priorities has to be finding a way to beef up their O-line. Tebow might wind up being the better passer, but he'll be roadkill just as quickly as Orton was if his line can't protect him.
Much of the fault for Orton's ineffectiveness lies with Orton himself, just as much of the credit for it has to go to the Oakland defense, but the Broncos' line gets a big share of the blame, too.
5. Defensive Line
As hapless as the Denver offense was for much of the game, their defense did little to help them out, especially on their front seven.
Jason Campbell, far from the NFL's most effective or accurate quarterback, was given seemingly endless amounts of time to stroll around behind the line, looking for an open receiver while Denver's pass rushers appeared to be taking a mental vacation.
Campbell was hit just one time. You can blame Campbell's poor aim and lack of quality receiving targets for the fact that the score wasn't far more lopsided. The fact that Campbell had just 105 yards and one TD certainly wasn't the product of the Denver line pressuring him and forcing him to make mistakes.
Further, they were completely mowed down by Oakland's ground game. Their lack of blocking on running plays made Darren McFadden look like Jim Brown.
If I had a dollar for every missed block by the Denver defense, I'd buy them a pass rusher and call it a charitable donation.
Compared to the rest of the position groups, the Broncos' secondary didn't look too bad. Granted, that's a little like comparing someone on their deathbed to someone who is already dead, but comparatively speaking, the Denver DBs weren't terrible.
The Denver secondary did a decent job of keeping Oakland's passing game in check. When a team logs just 105 passing yards, it's tough to go after the secondary with too much fervor.
Brian Dawkins did a nice job, and Champ Bailey, Rahim Moore and Andre Goodman were in the mix as well.
Bailey saved a touchdown with his tackle of the seemingly unstoppable McFadden, but injured himself in the process. With Bailey being one of the team's few perennial standouts, the fact that he's currently listed as questionable for Week 2 hurts the Broncos badly. Considering that Denver would have lost anyway, I'm sure many would have ceded that touchdown to McFadden in exchange for preserving Bailey's hamstring.
Not a bad performance overall, but if the injury to Bailey keeps him off the field, the Broncos' secondary could be in a world of trouble.