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Broncos Game Grades: Cam Fleming steps up in Denver's 17-16 opening-night loss

Henry Chisholm Avatar
September 14, 2022

The Broncos fell 17-16 to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football in the season-opener. Penalties and turnovers killed Denver but there was plenty to like about the first game of the Russell Wilson Era… assuming you’re willing to put aside the result.

Here’s how the Broncos graded out:


Russell Wilson – B

For the most part, Russell Wilson was sharp in his Broncos debut.

He was a little off target on a few early throws (most of them were still caught) but the inaccuracies didn’t last long. He completed just about everything he tried short of the sticks. He hit on a couple of long balls too, and had a couple more deep shots result in pass interference calls. Wilson also hit three receivers in the hands in the end zone on incompletions.

Courtesy: PFF

On two occasions Wilson was nearly picked off. First, Jamal Adams and Javonte Williams both slid for a ball that neither came up with. On the second, Wilson led Courtland Sutton a little too far in double coverage but Quandre Diggs couldn’t make the Willie Mays catch.

Wilson didn’t run much either. He evaded pressure in the backfield to extend a couple of plays but he only scrambled once for two yards.

Wilson completed 29 of his 42 pass attempts for 340 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers. No Bronco had thrown for 340 or more yards since October of 2018.

It was a solid debut for Wilson, who led a couple of good pushes for points in the fourth quarter, but a couple of plays were left on the table, and he benefited from a good break or two.

Javonte Williams – C

This might be the toughest grade of the game.

Javonte Williams was spectacular. He gashed Seattle for big gains on the ground early on and finished with seven carries for 43 yards. He also caught a ridiculous 11 passes (only reigning triple-crown winner Cooper Kupp caught more) for 65 yards.

Williams was breaking tackles. He was picking the right holes. He was the safety net that kept the Broncos on schedule all day.

But he also fumbled the ball on a carry from the 1-yard line that likely would have been the difference in the game. Unacceptable.

So does the fumble drop Williams’ grade from an A to a B+? Maybe a D?

I’m going with a C here, and calling it a slightly-below-average performance from Williams.

Melvin Gordon – D

Like Javonte Williams, Gordon doomed his day with a crucial goal-line fumble.

But the production wasn’t quite as good as Williams’.

Gordon had a solid day (other than the fumble of course) with 12 carries for 58 yards and a couple of catches for 14 more. He broke some tackles. He hit the hole hard.

But the fumble was more impactful than the rest of his game combined.

Andrew Beck – A+

What if I told you that Andrew Beck only played 10 snaps on Monday? Wild, right?

Beck primarily lined up at fullback and was a force from the first drive. After he couldn’t quite pull in a ball that was just over his head in the flat, Beck bounced back with catches for 25 and 27 yards a few plays later.

He also had the key block on two 13-yard runs and one for 9 yards.

Beck almost scored the game-winning touchdown on a shovel pass up the middle but a false start negated the play.

Albert Okwuegbunam – A-

The third-year tight end graded out well, but he should thank Nathaniel Hackett for that.

Albert O was used exactly as he should be: as a receiving tight end, who blocks just enough to keep the defense honest. Okwuegbunam was on the field for 44 snaps and 37 of them were passing plays. Only 16% of his snaps came on running downs. The next fewest for a tight end was Eric Saubert, who saw runs on 44% of his snaps.

For perspective, the Broncos ran the ball 49% of the time Okwuegbunam was on the field last season. (It’s worth noting that the Broncos only ran the ball on 29% of their snaps on Monday.)

Albert O was used to his strengths and it showed. His five catches were the second most for the Broncos even though he only gained 33 yards. He reached out through contact to pick up a crucial first down as the Broncos tried to put together a game-winning drive. He also caught a ball at the goal line but couldn’t push his way in. The Broncos fumbled shortly thereafter.

When asked to block, Okquegbunam didn’t make egregious mistakes. He was beat cleanly on the backside of a run that would’ve resulted in a tackle for loss, but the Broncos were called for a false start that negated the play.

Eric Tomlinson – C

The Broncos used Tomlinson primarily as a blocker but the results were mixed. He gave up a couple of pressures and also was driven back on Javonte Williams’ fumble. He won as often as he lost in the blocking game, giving him an average grade. And he had a chance to bring in a game-winning touchdown but couldn’t get his second toe tapped.

Eric Saubert – C

Like Tomlinson, Saubert had a chance to give the Broncos a late lead. He dove for a perfectly-placed ball from Wilson but couldn’t bring the ball in at full extension. To be fair, that isn’t really his game. Like Tomlinson, he won as often as he lost as a blocker.

Garett Bolles – B-

Almost everything went right on Bolles’ side of the field. He was solid in the running game. He gave up one pressure.

But he was also called for two penalties—one illegal formation and one false start—and he may have gotten away with a hold on a long ball to Courtland Sutton.

Dalton Risner – C+

Risner was solid in pass protection but made some mistakes in the running game, including on the first play of the second half when Shelby Harris beat him to clog up a running lane and create a tackle for loss.

Lloyd Cushenberry – B

The third-year center almost always finds a way to keep his body between the defender and the ball. He may not get as much pus as other linemen—and he occasionally gets pushed a few steps backward—but his long arms help him consistently recover and hold his blocks.

The Broncos used him on a handful of screens against the Seahawks. He doesn’t have the best speed in space, but he takes good angles and finds a defender to get his hands on.

Quinn Meinerz – A

A hamstring injury knocked Meinerz out of the game after 18 offensive plays (and for the next few weeks) but those 18 plays went well for the second-year guard.

Meinerz provided crucial blocks on a pair of runs that went for double-digit gains. He pushed defenders backward on a couple of other plays. He looked stronger than anybody he lined up against. Most importantly, he didn’t get beat once.

Graham Glasgow – C

There was a noticeable drop-off when Glasgow subbed in for Meinerz, but that was more because of Meinerz than Glasgow.

Glasgow was beaten on a stunt, pushed into the backfield on Javonte Williams’ fumble and gave up a pressure to Shelby Harris that forced a throwaway on third down. He also did well passing off defenders on double-teams and he opened a couple of nice holes. It was an up-and-down day.

With Meinerz sidelined for a few weeks and Billy Turner set to return soon, the right side of the Broncos’ line is in flux. The most likely solution is Glasgow sticking at guard and Turner taking over for Fleming at tackle, but Turner could sub in for Glasgow instead. Or, maybe, Glasgow and Fleming showed enough to run it back with the current group.

Cam Fleming – B+

The 30-year-old tackle signed back with the Broncos on the first day of training camp and slowly worked his way up the depth chart. When Billy Turner couldn’t go in Week 1, Fleming got the start at right tackle.

And Fleming ran with the opportunity.

The Broncos ran effectively to the right side (10 carries for 71 yards, versus 9 carries for 40 yards to the left), and Fleming led the way more often than not. He manhandled the Seahawks’ defensive line.

Fleming also allowed a couple of pressures though, mostly late in the game. On Jerry Jeudy’s drop, the edge rusher flew upfield and around Fleming. Fleming was able to get the rusher on the ground before he got anywhere near the quarterback, but Russell Wilson pulled the trigger early anyway and the play was mistimed.

Fleming was also called for a false start.

Courtland Sutton – A

The fifth-year wide receiver caught four passes for 72 yards and added a drawn pass interference that set the Broncos up inside the 10. He also showed great chemistry with quarterback Russell Wilson.

On one play that Wilson extended with his legs, Sutton leaned outside, broke inside, sat there for a second, rolled upfield and then back outside for a catch on a sideline. His feel for space was exactly what you’d hope for with a quarterback like Wilson.

He was also incredibly useful as a blocker on running downs. He set the edge on a 13-yard run from Melvin Gordon. He also took defenders out downfield on a couple of occasions.

Jerry Jeudy – B+

The Broncos broke through with a bomb to Jerry Jeudy in the second quarter that resulted in a 67-yard touchdown.

The third-year wide receiver was the most productive receiver in the Broncos’ offense with four catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. He also had a crucial drop at the sticks during the Broncos’ final drive and might have had a shot to pull in a touchdown in the side of the end zone on the previous drive.

KJ Hamler – C-

KJ Hamler had a quiet day, with no catches on one target.

He made a fairly-acrobatic catch on the sideline but wasn’t close to getting his feet down in bounds. He was open on a five-wide 1st & 15 but Wilson rolled out of the pocket too soon and didn’t see him.

His lone contribution was a pass interference he drew when he got behind the Seahawk defense, setting the Broncos deep in the red zone.

Hamler was also asked to lead block on a pitch to Javonte Williams and got his clock cleaned by rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen. I shouldn’t have to say this, but Hamler shouldn’t be lead blocking. I guess you’ve gotta keep the defense honest though…

Tyrie Cleveland – B+

Tyrie Cleveland’s role was simple: do the dirty work.

Of Cleveland’s eight offensive snaps, two were on plays where he served as a lead blocker, and he performed well. Tim Patrick probably would’ve filled that role, if he was healthy.


DJ Jones – B+

The veteran defensive lineman made his presence felt in his Broncos debut. He provided the most consistent push from the middle of the Broncos line, but more often than not there was a lane for the running back to escape. (I think that’s a linebacker problem.)

Jones wound up with three run stuffs, a batted pass and a pressure. He also produced four tackles.

He was called for a hold and also drew a hold.

Dre’Mont Jones – B+

The big play from Dre’Mont Jones came on a fourth-and-short at the goal line. He was able to get his hands on the ball as Geno Smith tried to move forward and was able to hold it just outside the end zone. Dre’Mont took points off the board on that play.

Jones also added a handful of pressures, but never notched a sack. He finished with one tackle.

Bradley Chubb – A

The Broncos probably didn’t get as much out of its revamped pass rush as it wanted, but Bradley Chubb did his best to fill the void late in the game.

Chubb flew around the edge and chopped down on Geno Smith’s arm, forcing a fumble that was quickly recovered by Seattle. Then he ended the next drive with another sack from the quarterback’s blindside.

Chubb was a force in the run game as well, setting the edge and collapsing the line. He provided two tackles for loss.

He loses ground in the grades because of a roughing the passer penalty. It was a great play to get through a double-team quickly enough to be within a step of the quarterback.

Randy Gregory – B+

The big play from the Broncos biggest defensive addition of the offseason was a strip of DK Metcalf that stopped a Seattle drive near midfield.

Outside of that play, Randy Gregory was fairly quiet. He was solid setting the edge against the run but didn’t have any other tackles. He provided a few pressures in the passing game but didn’t stand out as a rusher.

Baron Browning – C+

The second-year linebacker was the primary sub for Chubb and Gregory but he doesn’t have much to show for it.

Browning struggled to set the edge on a couple of occasions, including on Geno Smith’s quarterback sweep that converted a third down. His tackle for loss came after he was suckered in by a play-action but DK Metcalf ran behind the line of scrimmage and gave Browning a chance to get back into the play.

Jonas Griffith – C-

Jonas Griffith stood up Noah Fant at the line to gain on a third down catch, which likely took points off the board.

For the most part, though, Jonas Griffith struggled. His three tackles were nothing to write home about and he blew the coverage on the Colby Parkinson touchdown.

Alex Singleton – B

The veteran addition made a couple of mistakes but was crucial in slowing down the Seattle rushing attack. He made a couple of shoestring tackles (and missed one or two others) but he was always around the ball.

His commitment to the run also meant he was out of position on a 13-yard play-action throw to Noah Fant, who he should have been covering.

Singleton blitzed on the first touchdown of the game and just about got to Geno Smith but couldn’t quite make the play.

Pat Surtain II – B

The battle between Pat Surtain and DK Metcalf was one of the marquee matchups of the night.

In one sequence, Surtain was called for holding Metcalf but bounced back two plays later with great coverage on Metcalf. (That play was washed out by the Chubb roughing the passer.) Then Surtain glued himself to Metcalf on a dig but couldn’t break the pass up.

The battle was back and forth all night (and Surtain hung on the left side of the field instead of following Metcalf) and picking a winner isn’t easy. A missed tackle from Surtain knock his grade slightly.

Ronald Darby – B+

The veteran cornerback didn’t have a perfectly clean night in coverage but he was a force in the running game.

He had a loud breakup on Noah Fant on a third down but was also called for a pass interference against him.

He also chased down Rashaad Penny and knocked the ball out of his hands on a long run. He was around Metcalf’s legs when Gregory knocked the ball out of the receivers’ hands, too.

K’Waun Williams – B-

The Broncos’ new nickelback didn’t stand out in his first game. He made a play against the run and helped to stand up Metcalf when Gregory forced the fumble. He wasn’t touched in coverage but he didn’t make any real plays either.

Justin Simmons – B

Simmons crashed down to try to jump a couple of throws to DK Metcalf when Pat Surtain was in off coverage early, but was always a step late. He hung around the box more than we’ve probably seen in the past and that’s why he tied for the team lead in tackles. He missed one tackle in the hole that wound up being a 26-yard gain. I didn’t credit him with allowing a catch.

Kareem Jackson – C

The veteran safety was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit that gave up 15 yards. He also appeared to be responsible for the first Seahawks touchdown, when Will Dissly walked into the end zone.

Special Teams

Brandon McManus – B

McManus missed the game-winner but I’m not knocking him too hard for missing a 64-yard kick, especially when he was perfect the rest of the night and dropped all of his kickoffs perfectly on the goal line.

Corliss Waitman – B-

In his Broncos debut, Corliss Waitman punted one time. It traveled 36 yards and resulted in a fair catch at the 19. Not bad. Could definitely be better.

Montrell Washington – D

Why did the rookie bring the first kickoff out of the end zone? Who knows, but winding up at the 11 didn’t feel all that surprising. The longest of his three kick returns was 21 yards. His only punt return went three yards. He didn’t play any offense. Tough debut.

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