Broncos: Defensive Line Grades from Win

Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi
Feb 7, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 at Levi /

All the grades for the Denver Broncos offense have been handed out from their win over the Panthers. Now it is time to get to the defensive, starting with the defensive line.

There were many issues with the Denver Broncos defense in the first half against the Carolina Panthers. However, as the game went on they got better and started looking like the defense from a year ago. The majority of the problem that the defense had in the first was they were getting tired out and not playing like a unit.

When a defense plays as a unit, then every all three levels did exactly what they needed to do. The defensive line helps out the linebackers, linebackers the secondary and the secondary the defensive line. It is the circle of defense, and that didn’t happen for the Broncos to start the game.

As with the three levels working together, all the players at a certain level have to play together, and this is where the defensive line really faltered. Often the defensive linemen lost gap discipline, which in turn not only hurt other defensive linemen, but the other levels as well.

Those who failed to maintain gap discipline will see their grades drop a lot. Keeping discipline in your gaps is what makes Wade Phillips scheme work so well. It is what starts off everything and failing or succeeding there has a domino effect. So it is time for the grades.

Second round draft pick Adam Gotsis only saw five snaps on the game. While he doesn’t get a grade it is worth noting that he really failed when he played. There is a long road ahead for Gotsis to become a quality player. He isn’t there, or even close to being there yet.

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As for those who get graded, Derek Wolfe stands alone at the top. Discipline is how he has built his career, and he remained disciplined against the Panthers. His game wasn’t perfect, but it was still really strong. He eventually left the game with injury and it was very noticeable with the decline of play from the defensive line.

He is known more as a run defender, and he really showed why. Wolfe’s run defense was excellent, and came with little to no mistakes. However, what does hurt his grade is his pass rush. Saying it was bad is an overstatement, but he struggled to get pressure. There are a few reasons about why that was the case.

Very obviously, the Panthers prepared for the pass rush more than they did before the Superbowl. This is what hurt Wolfe. They really looked into how to slow down everyone, including Wolfe and used what they found. The Panthers offensive linemen took Wolfe’s momentum and redirected it, or their quarterback was quicker with his throws.

All in all, Wolfe played a really good game before he left with injury. His pas rush wasn’t great, but he still was effective a few times. Meanwhile his run defense was excellent. This earned a 95.2 grade for Wolfe.

On the other side of Wolfe was Jared Crick, who, well, wasn’t very good. Crick often lost gap discipline creating lanes in the running game, and clear passing lanes. There is a reason Crick was brought in to add depth, but an injury to Vance Walker threw him into the starting lineup.

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Crick was clearly outmatched by the Panthers offensive line, and had very few good plays under his belt. One of which was teaming up to put a hit on the Panthers quarterback just after he threw the ball. The depth for the Broncos is hurting, so Crick isn’t going to be challenged to lose his starting job, but he has to improve. His measly grade of 21.9 just doesn’t cut it.

The final starter on the defensive line was nose tackle Sylvester Williams, who played a good game, but made his fair share of mistakes. In the run game, he was very up and down. Williams would look stout in the middle, and clog the A gap running lanes. Then he would follow that up with being pushed so far out of position, and let offensive linemen get to the second level.

It was a similar story in the passing game. Williams would get push up the middle, then follow that up with being brought to a standstill at the line of scrimmage. In a contract year, Williams has to do better than that. His grade of 55.5 needs to be on the rise, for his sake and the teams.

The backup nose tackle didn’t fare any better. Darius Kilgo started off last year hot, but eventually found himself on the bench for the majority of the games. His start this year is nowhere near as good as it was a year ago. He only played 11 snaps, but they were not good plays. He earned every bit of his poor 31.7 grade.

The last defensive linemen was Billy Winn, who saw most of his snaps after Wolfe left the game. Much like the other defensive linemen, Winn was very up and down. His gap discipline was great one play, than awful the next. Being the main depth on the defensive line and earning a grade of 46.8 hurts the team.

Now, Winn showed some flashes of really good play, but he needs to get consistent. Consistent not just with his gap discipline, but with his run and pass defense as well. By consistent, he needs to get consistent with his technique, which will help him get consistent with his play.

Next: Broncos Offensive Player Grades

That wraps it up for the defensive line, up next will be the linebackers, both inside and outside. One of the two groups was the best group on defense. Stay tuned to find out which one.