NFL: Denver Broncos Begin 2023 0-1, Face Washington Commanders Next

The Denver Broncos played a hard fought game against their rival Las Vegas Raiders in week 1, falling just short, and losing their first game under Sean Payton. Now they welcome the Washington Commanders to town for week 2. Will Denver be saying “I am the captain now” after defeating the Commanders, or will Washington make it to 2-0 before Denver finds its first win?

Denver Broncos Washington Commanders

Looking Back at Week One

The Denver Broncos have had very bad luck against the Raiders for the last several years. This loss, makes it their seventh straight, with three straight years of sweeps by the Raiders. The Broncos are now halfway toward a fourth year in a row of being swept by their hated division rival. What did the Broncos do well, and what went wrong?


In this game the quarterbacks combined for just 13 incomplete passes total. Jimmy Garoppolo finished the game 20-26 for 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, while Russell Wilson finished 27 of 34 for 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Wilson averaged just 5.2 yards per attempt, while Jimmy G averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. The Broncos passed 8 more times than the Raiders but produced over 20 yards less in this game. The Broncos must take more chances against the Washington Commanders and push the ball down field more often. Part of the issue could be the pass protection Wilson is getting, and the pressure has faced forcing him to get the ball out of his hand quick.

Offensive Line play is concerning for the long term future of the Broncos. Two of the most expensive members of this line graded out as some of the lowest performances on the team. Mike McGlinchey was graded out at a 55.2 while Ben Powers graded out at 57.1, and Lloyd Cushenberry graded 58.5. Quinn “The Belly” Meinerz was the topped ranked player on the day with an 87.8, the next closest player on the team as a whole was Garrett Bolles who graded 77.3. Back-up left tackle Quinn Bailey played three snaps and graded out at a 61. The Broncos need to find a way to pass protect better, and keep Wilson from being rushed through his progressions. Ultimately it didn’t effect much in this game, but we might have seen a much higher average yards per attempt if he had been able to let plays develop before throwing the ball.

The running game with Javonte Williams, and Samaje Perine was efficient, but not used as often as expected. Combining for 21 carries in week one, the two backs totaled 93 yards. We saw the offense use them in the passing game early and often as well. They combined for 8 receptions, for 42 yards as well. Both backs graded out well with 66.2 for Williams, and a 61.3 for Perine hurt severely by his 17.7 in pass blocking, based on one single pass blocking snap. Hard to say he had a bad day when he led the team in receiving yards, caught 100% of his targets, and led the team in yards per carry with over 5 yards per attempt. Jaleel McLaughlin was in on 5 snaps, graded at a 60.8 overall, as expected his highest grade came in the passing game with a 66.5. Ironically, his only touch was a 7 yard loss on his only target.

Whether it was due to game flow, or the uber-conservative game plan in place, the wide receivers were left in the cold. The wideout position combined for 13 targets, and 10 receptions for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns. It appears that Payton and Wilson like to target the larger receivers near the endzone, which is why we see Courtland Sutton and Lil’Jordan Humphrey scoring the team’s lone touchdowns. The tight ends and fullback saw many more touches overall. These positions combined to be targeted 8 times, catching all 8. They certainly will be happy to get Jerry Jeudy back from injury.

Adam Trautman led the team with 5 receptions for 34 yards, while Greg Dulcich had 2 receptions for 22 yards. Fullback Michael Burton caught one pass for 3 yards. Dulcich finished the day with the third highest overall rating with a 71.9. His grade would have been much higher overall if not for his low number in the run blocking department where he managed a 48.6. Michael Burton was graded out at 64.4 and 59 in run blocking. Adam Trautman and Chris Manhertz were among the lowest ranked with 56.7 and 39.9 respectively. Both were among the best on the team in pass blocking, however this came on just nine snaps total.

Extra Point

Manhertz is a guy who in my opinion should simply be given the task of moving to tackle. He was not targeted in this game, and after making it in the NFL coming from college basketball, he has caught just 24 passes in 105 games played. At 6’6 he certainly has the frame to make the move, but he would need to gain weight. After initially trying out with Buffalo in 2015 at 233 pounds, he has gained 22 pounds and now stands 255. Have him try and add another 20-35 pounds, and get him in the 275-290 pound range, and move him to right tackle. He could even still be used as a tight end at times, similar to how Dwayne Carswell once made the move from tight end to tackle late in his career, this could be a way for Manhertz (31) to extend his career.


Of all the players that suited up for week one, eight of them were graded out at 65 or above, signifying the team played well, and efficiently did their job throughout the game. In particular the linebackers had a great game with Alex Singleton graded out at a 90.4 the highest on the team. Josey Jewell was third with a 79.3 grade, Jonathan Cooper continues to impress whenever he steps on the field. He had the highest run defense grade on the roster against the Raiders, barely edging out Singleton (79.1 to 79.0). The Broncos are certainly trying to keep their outside linebackers fresh. Four different players saw at least 15 snaps including Cooper, Gregory, Clark, and Bonito. Frank Clark is ruled out for this game, making Bonito’s role even more important.

On the defensive line, Zach Allen had a decent game, but he really needs to stop missing tackles if he wants to take a step toward being elite. He missed two tackles for a 28.6% miss rate. Matt Henningsen is developing into a nice piece for the Broncos. Mike Purcell, and DJ Jones continue to rotate at nose tackle and form a decent duo, although there is room for improvement from both currently.

In the secondary the Broncos were led by one of, if not the best young cornerback in the game. Patrick Surtain II, was targeted 5 times allowing 2 receptions, with 3 pass break ups. He was called for 1 penalty, he also had 2 tackles including 1 run stop. This kid has a bright future in the NFL and hopefully Denver has a plan to keep him around past his fifth year option. Kareem Jackson is and always will be solid. He isn’t the best safety in the league, and quite honestly may not even be top ten, but he does is job efficiently, and delivers bone crushing hits. Justin Simmons on the other hand might be among the best free safeties in the league, but he is coming off one of his worst performances in a long time.

They will need the rest of the secondary around Surtain II, and Jackson to step up against Washington so slow down playmakers like Curtis Samuel, who had 5 receptions for 54 yards, and 1 carry for 6 yards, Jahan Dotson who was targeted 7 times, catching 5 for 40 yards, Terry McLaurin 2 receptions 31 yards, and Logan Thomas who had 4 receptions for 43 yards. Sam Howell played well enough going 19 of 31 for 202 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception adding a touchdown on the ground as a runner. The Broncos and specifically Randy Gregory, and Frank Clark need to be living in that backfield all game long to keep him off his game.

Week 2 Preview

In week 1 the Washington Commanders gave up a lot of pressure. Sam Howell was pressured on 13 pass attempts, and ultimately he would be sacked 6 times. He threw two turnover worthy passes, and had an average of just under 3 seconds to throw the ball. His average depth of target on the day was 7.7 yards showing he was doing a good job of pushing the ball downfield, but also opened him up to seeing more pressure.

This could prove to be a point of contention this weekend. In week 1 Randy Gregory, Jonathan Cooper, Frank Clark, and Nick Bonito combined for 50 pass rush snaps but only produced 2 pressures, and 0 sacks. The Broncos have ruled Frank Clark out of this game. The Commanders have weaknesses on their offensive line that the Broncos will need to try and exploit. Charles Leno Jr., Samuel Cosmi, and Andrew Wylie have proven to be solid, but Saadhiq Charles, and Nick Gates are large question marks. This could be a big game for Jonathan Harris, or Matt Henningsen against the left side of this line.

If the Broncos can’t produce pressure on Howell, Damarri Mathis might be in for another poor performance. In week one he was targeted 9 times by Jimmy G, and he allowed 8 receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Anytime a cornerback allows a near perfect QBR, he can expect to be tested every week until he steps up or gets benched. This will be a test of his mentality, and if he can truly handle being a starting NFL cornerback. I expect him to have a better game in week 2, but every one of these Commanders receviers are tough match-ups. He will need to bring his A game this week.

Washington Commanders Could Be in for a Long Day on the Ground

In week one the Broncos defense held Josh Jacobs, and the Raiders rushing attack to just 61 yards total on the ground. With no rusher on the roster over 2.5 yards per carry on the day. The Commanders weren’t much better producing just 92 yards at 3.3 yards per carry as a team. No running back managed over 3.1 yards per carry on the day versus a defense that has been dismantled, on a team that could be attempting to make their best attempt at going winless for Williams in the 2024 draft.

With the depth and talent the Broncos have up front, and their rotation at outside linebacker they should be able to create even more pressure on the quarterback, and stuff the run game more often than Arizona was able to in week one. This could end up being the most interesting part of this matchup. If Denver can keep Brian Robinson, and Antonio Gibson in check this could turn into their first win of the season.

Denver Broncos Need to Push the Ball Downfield

Kendall Fuller is the top defensive back on this roster, but I don’t know if he will be tasked with traveling the true number one on Denver’s roster who is coming back from injury in week 2. Jerry Jeudy is expected to be available against Washington, but if he isn’t 100% is it worth occupying Fuller all game long? Marvin Mims could actually prove to be the more dangerous receiver in this game. If Benjamin St. Juste, and Fuller are occupied on Jeudy, and Sutton, that leaves Mims to go one on one with Emmanuel Forbes. With potential very little safety help over the top. It should be interesting to see if Mims can beat the one on one matchup against Forbes, or if the Commanders simply expect to leave players in their regular positions, and not focus so much on the individual match ups.

That could leave the Commanders at a disadvantage given that Mims and Jeudy work out of the slot and both are significantly faster than Benjamin St. Juste. Jeudy was touted for his route running ability, and 4.46 speed coming out of college. Mims was known as a burner running a 4.38 40-yard dash. St. Juste meanwhile ran a 4.55, and would be a nearly ideal player to go one on one with Courtland Sutton a larger, less quick receiver. If Wilson see’s Mims one on one with St. Juste, watch him to try and exploit this match up deep every chance he gets.

Denver Broncos Rushing Attack

One area the Broncos seemed to find at least moderate success throughout week one was in the ground game. Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine look to be a solid one-two punch in the backfield, and Michael Burton seems to be a valuable addition at fullback. It will be interesting to see if they keep the carries a near even split, or if Williams will begin to take more of the lion share as he gets further and further from is injury last season?

Samaje Perine to his credit certainly made the most of his touches. With 13 total touches he managed 78 yards, and led the Broncos as a receiver. On only 8 carries he had 3 runs of 10 yards or more. It will be tough not to keep him in the lineup and continue getting him touches this season. Perine has shown to be the better of the two backs as a pass catcher but he needs to improve his pass protection dramatically after week one.

Jaleel McLaughlin is a guy you have to manufacture touches for in this game. Whether its in the run game, as a receiver in the slot or on special teams he is simply too explosive to keep him on the bench all game long. During the preseason he scored four times in three games on just 28 touches. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry, and on his receptions he averaged 8.28 yards, if not for an average depth of target that was around 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage his stat line would have looked much better.

Special Teams

Wil Lutz gets this week’s award for being directly tied to his team’s loss. He left four points on the board missing an extra point, and a field goal in a game Denver would end up losing by one point. Daniel Carlson on the other hand was perfect on the day helping his team to win the game. I will say Lutz missed from 50+ yards, but these are the kicks he was brought to Denver to make, and he also missed an extra point which is inexcusable for a veteran of his caliber.

In the return game, Mims seems to be providing solid starting field position with 2 returns for 55 yards in the kicking game, but he fair caught his only chance at a punt return in week one. Assuming Mims can keep this up, it will prove to be crucial for the Broncos success against Washington, especially if Wilson continues to average just over 5 yards per attempt.

Riley Dixon is back in Denver, and he has been so far doing a solid job so far. With an average of 40 yards per punt, and one of two landing inside the 20, the Broncos can’t complain about his game so far. Hopefully he can keep it up against Washington when called upon, and pin Howell deep often.

Injury Report

Both Frank Clark, and Greg Dulcich are ruled out for this game, but Denver gets Jerry Jeudy back from injury. Riley Moss, and DJ Jones were limited were limited in practice but will play.

On the Commanders side they will be without defensive back Jartavious Martin. Curtis Samuel was limited in practice all week due to a hip injury. It will be a storyline to watch in week 2. Samuel Cosmi, Terry McLaurin, and Chase Young all appeared on the injury report but will play and were full participants in practice on Thursday and Friday.

Betting Odds/Predictions

The Broncos are considered 3.5 point favorites in week two, the money line for Denver is -190 while the over/under is 38.5 points. The Broncos individual over/under is 21.5 points, while Washington is 17.5 points.

Prediction: Denver collects their first win 24-17

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