New Guys make noise
A hat tip must be made in the direction of the New Guys for Sunday’s work. Defensive lineman D.J. Jones was a force in the interior, especially in the first quarter when he dropped Josh Jacobs for a crucial tackle for loss and Derek Carr for a sack at the Raiders’ 1-yard line. Fellow free-agent signing Alex Singleton saved a possession after jumping on a loose ball on the Raiders’ ill-conceived onside attempt. And fifth-round pick Montrell Washington was a revelation in the return game with punt returns of 30, 20 and 16 yards.
Saubert down the seam
Good things seem to happen when tight end Eric Saubert gets looks down the seam. A couple of weeks ago, it was Saubert running along the hash marks that produced a touchdown against the Texans and cemented a Broncos victory. On Sunday, the 25-yard hookup between Russell Wilson and Saubert sparked the team’s first touchdown drive against Vegas. Nobody would suggest this needs to be a staple of the offense, but it’s better than anything we’ve seen between Russ and Albert O early on this season. Which actually might be a little concerning.
Three holding calls. Three sacks allowed. An inconsistent running game (3.5 yards per carry on non-Russell Wilson runs) — even when Javonte Williams was healthy. Simply put, this was not a banner day for the Broncos offensive line. The fact that Garett Bolles, a franchise pillar at left tackle, accounted for two of the holding flags (and has three in the past two weeks) should trigger alarm bells. So, too, should the fact that there were long stretches of the game when Denver appeared to have no answer for Maxx Crosby off the edge.
A week after declaring themselves the best defense in the NFL, the Broncos D failed to come up with a stop when it was needed most — late in the fourth quarter with Las Vegas clinging to a two-point lead. It’s not just that the Raiders were able to drain the clock, it’s the way they did it: running Josh Jacobs and Zamir White down the Denver D’s throat. The total damage in that close-out march: seven carries for 49 yards, with Derek Carr’s third-down scramble tacking on another 9 rush yards to that drive. If you want to be considered among the NFL’s elite units, that cannot happen.
Extra down: RB depth
It’s been clear for some time that Williams is far and away the top option in the Broncos backfield. Sunday made that plain for all to see. There was, of course, the Melvin Gordon fumble — which not only directly led to a touchdown but also killed what was, up until then, a promising Broncos drive. Mike Boone did little to make his own case for more playing time, and completely misread a cornerback blitz that gave Nate Hobbs a free shot on Wilson on the game’s first drive. Not exactly ideal for someone who might now be needed as a third-down back.