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Broncos defense needs to flex its muscles against the Chargers

Denver needs to get back to what it does best: Play man-to-man and force turnovers. That’s how it gets the win.

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New York Giants v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The MHR Radio Podcast is now on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. Please subscribe to the one that fits your fancy, and also rate and review what you hear.

There’s a common theme with coaches … at every level.

They love to overthink and make their jobs more difficult. Want to know why that’s the case? Good luck. That requires a deep dive into mental aspects we don’t have time for. What’s important is to acknowledge and fix it. What’s so fascinating about this dichotomy is that coaches are always the ones who harp on making it as simple as possible for their players. Nothing in life tastes as good as rich, creamy irony.

Such is the life for Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods. In terms of yards per game, he has the best defense in the NFL; second in rushing defense; and sixth in pass defense. In terms of points, Denver is eighth. The biggest improvement is in rush defense, and Woods and his defensive staff should get major props for that.

But as Adam Malnati and I said on the latest Mile High Report Radio Podcast, at what cost? When you look at the statistics of defenses that play man coverage, per Pro Football Focus, you would think the Broncos with the No Fly Zone would rank in the top five, at least. They’re not. In fact, Denver isn’t close to the top five. In terms of percentages, the Broncos rank 14th.

That needs to change, and it needs to start this Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. The best guess as to why Woods is playing so much zone is because of how weak his team is in coverage against running backs and tight ends. As Pete Baron said in his key to the game, it really does feel like it’s been 20 years since the Broncos could cover the middle of the field. And if that is the case, as Sadaraine said in his key, show some innovation and ability to adapt.

When you play zone, you also take the aggressiveness out of the No Fly Zone. Through five games, Denver is tied for 27th with four turnovers, all via interception. That is unacceptable, for any unit, let alone the Broncos. As the tweet by Andrew Mason highlights, when Denver doesn’t force a turnover, it loses. Since the 2015 season, the Broncos are 1-9 when they don’t force a takeaway. I asked earlier: at what cost? There it is. What makes this defense and the No Fly Zone special is the aggressiveness and swagger. You take that out of the equation when you play zone.

Stop overthinking this and allow your defense to do what it does best. If Woods and Denver continue to play zone on Sunday, Philip Rivers will pick this defense apart. In the season-opening game, Rivers completed just two passes to tight ends. Me thinks LA offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt alter’s his game plan and we see way more passes to Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates. Will Woods alter his approach or continue to overthink it?

What the Broncos first-year defensive coordinator chooses will have a huge impact on Sunday’s outcome.

The MHR Radio Podcast is now on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. Please subscribe to the one that fits your fancy, and also rate and review what you hear.