Jussel: Broncos pass midterms with flying colors

It’s time for midterm grades for the Denver Broncos. Pro Football Focus, the NFL’s statistical bible, has the answers as we gather the good, bad and, sometimes, downright ugly.

Pro Football Focus grades the performance of every player on every National Football League play, with each player given a score from a plus-2 to a minus-2. If the player does what he is expected to do, the score would be average, a zero.

For example, if a linebacker was to make a tackle in his territory, which he was supposed to do, that would be a zero. If he forced a fumble, made a tackle for a loss or had an interception, that would earn a positive grade up to a plus-2. If an offensive tackle totally whiffed on a block and got his quarterback sacked and knocked out of the game, that would earn a negative grade, probably a minus-2.

At 7-1, there should be many Broncos with positive grades to this point, and there are. Most of them are on offense, where they lead the league by a wide margin with a score of 91. Carolina is second at 65.7, with San Diego third at 59.9.

The top-scoring Bronco to this point is — taa-daa! — quarterback Peyton Manning, who has a plus-22.7 rating. Manning’s is the top QB rating in the league, with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers second at 17.3 and San Diego’s Philip Rivers third at 16.9.

The second-highest-rated Bronco player to this point may surprise you.

Is it Wes Welker, the tricky little slot receiver who has a league-leading nine touchdown receptions?


How about one of the other wideouts, Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker?

Running back Knowshon Moreno?

No and no.

The second-highest-rated Bronco, according to Pro Football Focus, is right guard Louis Vasquez, who has earned a plus-15.2 rating, second-best for a guard behind only Evan Mathis of the Philadelphia Eagles, who has a gaudy 25.1 rating.

Vasquez is the highest-rated pass blocker at the guard spot, allowing no sacks and only four quarterback hurries. By comparison, Logan Mankins, the All-Pro from the New England Patriots, has allowed four sacks and 11 quarterback hurries.

Vasquez is on the All-Pro trail as we speak.

No. 3 will also surprise you. It’s not Welker, who is No. 4.

It’s center Manny Ramirez, the guy everybody was trying to replace as training camp opened and beyond. Ramirez has a positive rating of 11.9 and, like Vasquez, is ranked second at his position in the league.

Welker is No. 4 at 10.6, the eighth-best wide receiver rating in the league, with Thomas the ninth-best wide receiver at 10.4.

Defensively, the leading point-getter at midseason for Denver is linebacker Von Miller, who has played only two games but has 10.7 points. He is already the league leader for outside linebackers in quarterback hits with five and fourth in quarterback hurries with seven.

The defensive scores give us an idea of why the Broncos have not been praised for their effort, where they rank 17th with 12 points.

By comparison, Kansas City ranks first with 117.4 points, with Seattle second at 91.9 points.

Most Bronco defenders are on the positive side of the ledger, with defensive tackle Malik Jackson second at 8.4 and defensive back Chris Harris third at 6.8.

There are, however, some defenders who are not getting the job done, chief among them defensive lineman Derek Wolfe at minus-12.7, mostly because he is downgraded at minus-11.4 on his pass rush.

Defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson is at minus-11.4, mostly because he is minus-7 in penalties. Vickerson has been nailed several times for penalties that changed the course of a drive.

Wolfe and Vickerson are certainly not the only two on the team who have not executed as expected.

It’s hasn’t been all roses for Champ Bailey and Wesley Woodyard, two defenders who are on the negative side, nor for offensive players Zane Beadles, Montee Ball and even the afore-mentioned Decker.

Beadles has struggled with his pass blocking. Although he has allowed only one sack, he has allowed four QB hits and 21 quarterback hurries, the second-highest total in the league.

Ball has taken a hit because of his dropped passes and lack of rushing production.

And Decker, despite having 46 catches, is rated only 61st in the league as a wide receiver, largely because he has six drops, lost two fumbles, and his blocking is rated as below average.

There you have it at midterm.

Read ‘em and smile or read ‘em and weep, courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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