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Broncos: ‘We’re right where we want to be’

But 3-1 in a division with the only 4-0 team isn’t good enough.

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

As the Broncos take the weekend off for an early bye, head coach Vance Joseph and his players are feeling pretty good about sitting second in the AFC West at 3-1.

But the Broncos insist they aren’t getting too comfortable there because they know all too well how momentum can drop after a week off.

“There have been a lot of seasons where teams go into their bye week undefeated and they don’t win the game after that,” Von Miller said in response to how good the 2017 defense can ultimately be.

“You’ve got to constantly fight for success,” the edge rusher added. “You’ve got to be desperate every single week for wins, or they’ll evade you.”

But this weekend the coach wants his players to be desperate for nothing and enjoy their time off - because the next one is hopefully not coming for another three months.

“Again, it’s an early bye so if you don’t relax now, it’s going to catch you in about four weeks,” Joseph said, reminding players to “relax, be fathers and be husbands. Come back with a fresh minds.”

Joseph wants those minds fresh because while 3-1 looks pretty good overall, it’s not good enough - especially when the only undefeated team in the league is in the Broncos’ division.

And after the bye, the new coach is expecting some big improvements in key areas for the remainder of the season out of his team.

“I think we should feel good about that but have an understanding that it’s not good enough,” Joseph said. “We have to continue to work and we have some issues that we need to clean up. They should feel good about that. It’s a hard league and to win three out of four in the first quarter is good for this team.”

When it comes to the offense, Joseph is looking for better production out of the passing game while keeping the run game on its current solid course.

After four weeks, the rushing attack has contributed 572 yards, an average of 143 yards per game - an impressive improvement over last season’s sub-100 yards/game.

“We have to continue to run the football and force teams to give us fair coverage,” Joseph said. “Our run game has been effective. If we rush for 140 yards a game, that’s a good thing for us as far as time of possession and just controlling the football game from start to finish.”

Calling Trevor Siemian’s play so far “fine,” the coach would like to see his quarterback make fewer mistakes and the offensive line get better at pass blocking.

“I think Trevor’s played fine. He’s played 3-1 football. ...It hasn’t been perfect. No one’s played perfect football,” Joseph said, adding that Siemian has been a great leader on offense. “He’s in total control, he’s put us in great plays and his ball placement has been really, really good. His interceptions haven’t been ball placement issues; it’s been throw-aways, tipped balls and those things. He’s played really well.”

But the quarterback has struggled the last two games to score touchdowns in the red zone - and that’s not going to cut it when the Broncos go up against powerhouses like the Chiefs, the Patriots, the Eagles.

“It’s the difference in one play or two plays. When you have opportunities, you have to capitalize on them,” Siemian said. “I can think of a couple plays we could have turned into points. The one time when we were on the 1-yard line and we got the ball tipped. Then we were second-and-goal from the 15. That kind of stinks.”

On the defensive side, Miller has already pinpointed the biggest area of weakness ... but it’s ironically the same as the offense.

The Red Zone.

And how do you improve on that with this No. 1 defense that has held four elite running backs to a combined total of 95 yards and teams to an average of only 16 points a game?

“Not letting them score,” Miller laughed.

But actually, he wasn’t joking.

“That’s it. Not allowing them to score, getting field goals or backing them up and making them punt,” Miller clarified. “When we’ve let teams get down there, they’ve scored the ball with ease. We’ve got to do a better job at that.”

Miller puts much of the blame on himself for not getting to the quarterback often enough to keep those red zone plays from ever developing.

“I need to figure out ways to get to the quarterback,” Miller said. “I need to figure out ways to beat the double teams and beat the chip block. That’s just my individual goals.”

Miller added that overall the defense is “playing really good” in both the run and the pass.

“We’re right on track to where we want to be. We’re playing great run defense,” Miller said. “We have all of our goals in front of us.”

Joseph noted that while attention to the pass-rushing game is being diverted somewhat to improving the run-stuffing, that trade-off is necessary to keeping the defense as a whole fresh and able to be aggressive.

“Stopping the run for me was always my first call of duty because that controls the football game,” Joseph said, adding that forcing teams to throw the football is an advantage to the defense. “To allow them to pound you for four quarters, that’s not a good thing in my opinion.”

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Which unit’s red zone improvement is a greater need?

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