The Denver Broncos have largely had issues with their right tackle position for the past few years. Menelik Watson showed improvement in week three vs. BUF.
Through the first two games of the season, the Denver Broncos hadn’t exactly been shutting down opposing pass rushers. Specifically, Menelik Watson was a weak link up front, allowing pressure after pressure.
With really no other options on the roster, the Broncos had to see a bounce back game from Watson in week three against Buffalo, and they did exactly that. Watson was one of the team’s best in pass protection against the Buffalo Bills’ defensive front, and he did it against a variety of rushers.
The Bills boast a pretty solid group of players that can get after the quarterback, starting with Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander. They have seven players who have at least one sack this season, and four guys (three on the front seven) that have two sacks.
Watson’s work against the Bills’ pass rush was a much needed jolt into his season, which wasn’t going well thus far.
Through the first two games, however, it’s understandable that Watson struggled. He was going up against some of the best pass rushers in the league in Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Ingram was the AFC defensive player of the month for September, while Lawrence was the defensive player of the month in the NFC. Those players didn’t just earn those awards in one game against the Broncos, though their performances in Denver helped.
Bosa and Ingram have combined for nine sacks already this season. Lawrence has a whopping seven sacks.
I don’t care how good you are as a pass protector, going up against those guys is tough. That’s not an excuse for Watson’s poor performances, as you’d expect someone of his size and athletic ability to hold his own, but it does help explain why he wasn’t exactly shutting down that side of the field.
After watching him against the Bills, it’s clear that Watson isn’t nearly as bad as I thought he was after the first two games. Perhaps he needed a couple of games against those big time rushers to settle in, or he made some much needed adjustments.
Either way, he played more pass snaps (50) against the Bills than in any other game, and his pass blocking efficiency was very good, allowing just one pressure in 50 snaps.
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Now he faces one of his biggest tests of the season in Khalil Mack, his former teammate with the Oakland Raiders. Being teammates with someone like that doesn’t give you much of an edge, other than you have repeatedly gone against them in practice and perhaps have picked up on some of their tendencies.
Do any of us Broncos fans actually think going against Von Miller in practice would give Ty Sambrailo or Michael Schofield an edge, now that they’re with different teams?
So, we can’t assume going against Mack in practices is going to give Watson an edge against Mack. If anything, it’s a wash because Mack also has gone up against Watson in practices. These two are going to have to take it play-by-play, and for the Broncos to win this game, neutralizing Mack as a rusher is going to be critical.
Mack has been mortal this season, racking up ‘just’ 10 total pressures in three games, including two sacks. You can bet the Raiders will be moving him around the formation, looking for ways to get him involved against a Broncos line that has allowed far too many pressures and hits this year.
After Watson’s bounce back performance against Buffalo, a strong performance against Oakland would go even further to gaining the trust of his coaching staff and quarterback.