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Flacco’s caution is holding the Broncos’ offense back

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The Broncos’ quarterback is leaving plays on the field.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers
Sacks are a quarterback sack and Flacco’s taking too many.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Right now it seems really trendy to throw around blame for the Broncos 0-3 start and pile on with the weight of 100 bull moose. This has led to a lot of negativity and arguments among readers, writers, and Broncos Country in general.

Heck, on Wednesday Phillip Lindsay questioned fans’ faith in the team.

This has also led to a sort of rubber band effect. When something isn’t seen as a clear issue with the winless Broncos, it clearly isn’t an issue at all. Such is the case with Joe Flacco. By more than a few measures he’s had a strong first three weeks, which has quieted most of the jokes that were thrown around when John Elway acquired him in a trade last March.

Combine the above with the fact that the Broncos offense has managed to move the ball effectively between the twos has led more than a few fans to believe he’s blameless for the three losses to start the season. The offensive line, Fangio dropping linebackers into coverage, injuries, and Isaac Yiadom seem to be the popular culprits.

“Quarterback is the best it’s been since Manning retired,” they seem to say. “Why complain?”

The truth is a lot more complicated than that, as it always is. Flacco certainly isn’t the biggest reason Fangio’s still trying to notch his first victory as a head coach. He’s nowhere near blameless either.

Before you run to the comments to tell me, I’m well aware that Flacco’s scramble winds up leading to a Lindsay touchdown on this drive. The play above is a microcosm of a bigger issue I’ve noticed with Flacco’s play through three weeks: he’s so hesitant to make mistakes that he’s leaving plays on the field.

It’s fair to wonder if it’s working. As Joe Mahoney pointed out earlier this week, it’s left the offensive line in a lurch protecting a quarterback who’s hanging onto the ball too long. It’s also leading to passes that may as well be sacks.

Flacco isn’t the only reason Denver can’t get the ball downfield... but he is a reason.

Part of the problem on the play above is Elijah Wilkinson. I know there was hope he’d be able to slide over and replace Bolles just last week, but Preston Smith may have exposed that dream for what it is. A dream. Wilkinson struggled badly in Lambeau, and played a huge part in Smith winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The other issue is the fact that Flacco isn’t pulling the trigger on a lot of the deep shots until it’s 100% clear and free. It’s neutering the offense because he winds up needing to hang in the pocket forever, and far too often he looks off those shots for dumpoffs because he runs out of time.

Through the first two weeks of the season, that was still mostly effective. In Football Outsiders’ pre-opponent adjusted DVOA rankings, The Broncos offense topped out at 14th going into Wisconsin. Flacco was a top 10 QB by their metrics, as well. Now he’s fallen behind Mitch Trubisky and the offense fell to 22nd, despite an above average rushing performance.

Flacco’s issues are only magnified in the red zone. I mentioned the quarterback’s issues after the loss to the Raiders and they cropped up again in Green Bay. Through three games, the Broncos have made it into the red zone 10 times. Here is a look at Flacco’s statline on those trips: 9/18 for 72 yards, two touchdowns, a pick, and three sacks. He’s scrambled twice for two yards. Denver currently ranks 28th in the league in red zone touchdown percentage, behind the Jets, Washington, and Jacksonville.

The hope has to be Denver’s quarterback does his part to change that last one this week.

Your Broncos links

GIF Horse: Can Vic Fangio fix the flailing Denver Broncos defense? - Mile High Report

It’s time for the Denver Broncos’ Don to prove he’s “the guy.” Can he?

Bryce Callahan to have non-surgical procedure on foot; to miss 4 weeks - Mile High Report

Bryce Callahan, one of the Denver Broncos high priced free agents, has yet to take the field and will miss at least another month after this procedure.

Broncos feeling urgency to get a win - especially at home - Mile High Report

Facing a rookie quarterback could help, but the Jaguars D has bounced back into form, and “Minshew Mania” is carrying this team farther than most thought possible at this point. Is this finally the week the Broncos can get a win?

Denver Broncos have slew of starters listed on injury report for Week 4 - Mile High Report

The first practice report of the week is out for the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars game and all we see are starters on Denver’s report.

Denver Broncos defense must break through in Week 4 - Mile High Report

After three games, it is time for the Denver Broncos defense to break through and get a sack and a turnover.

QB Index, Week 4: Deshaun Watson rises into top five in rankings - NFL.com

Flacco distributed the ball well during the first two quarters on Sunday, finding the open receiver quickly and rocketing passes into the right locations. He finished the game with the fourth-fastest average time to throw of the weekend at 2.45 seconds, which is great, except when Packers pass rusher Preston Smith gets to him off the edge in 2.2 seconds. That strip-sack fumble and bizarre, back-breaking third-quarter interception, when Denver was still within six points, unfortunately overshadow a decent day by the veteran passer that included this 52-yard bomb to Courtland Sutton. Flacco is playing fine -- but many of the younger, more versatile (mobile) QBs just offer more positives at the position right now.

A look at the Jaguars

Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey will likely miss Broncos game for child’s birth - Big Cat Country

The Jacksonville Jaguars will likely be without cornerback Jalen Ramsey for their Week 4 matchup against the Denver Broncos.

Has the Jaguars offense gotten more aggressive with John Defilippo? - Big Cat Country

The Jacksonville Jaguars offense overall has been an improvement from the 2018 season, where at times it felt like watching grass grow and maybe even speeding up to paint drying.

5 questions with Mile High Report: What to expect from the Broncos, Joe Flacco, and more - Big Cat Country

We are heading into Week 4 of the 2019 NFL regular season, and believe it or not, the first quarter of the campaign will already be wrapped up by the time all games are played this week.

The legend of Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, explained by his dad - SBNation.com

SB Nation spoke with Minshew’s dad Flint to learn more about the Jaguars’ cult-hero QB.

Jaguars HC Doug Marrone on Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay: ‘A lot of respect for him. Really good football player.’ - Big Cat Country

The Jacksonville Jaguars defense will, in my opinion, have a relatively strong game against Joe Flacco and the Denver Broncos passing game.

A look around the AFC West

REPORT: Chargers RB Melvin Gordon’s ridiculous holdout is coming to an end - Bolts From The Blue

Melvin Gordon, the Los Angeles Chargers’ star running back, is finally going to end his absurd and ill-advised holdout and report back to the team on Thursday, September 26.

Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen on pace to set career-highs in every receiving category - Bolts From The Blue

Through the first three games of the 2019 season, wide receiver Keenan Allen has been on a whole new level compared to past seasons.

What Melvin Gordon’s Return Will Mean for the Chargers | SI.com

Still, there’s a way the for the Chargers to recover. They get the Dolphins on Sunday, then the Broncos, Steelers and Titans before playing the Bears and Packers right around Halloween. After that, Okung could return, and then James, and there might be a chance to build momentum the way Lynn’s crew did last year, with the lessons of those September late-game stumbles in the bank.

What Does Melvin Gordon’s Return Mean for Austin Ekeler’s Fantasy Outlook? - The Ringer

The Chargers running back has ended his holdout, and it could shake up this fantasy season

Anthony Lynn: We’re a better team with Melvin Gordon – ProFootballTalk

In other news, water is wet.

Chiefs News: PFF ranks Mahomes as NFL’s sixth best QB (so far) - Arrowhead Pride

Patrick Mahomes is widely viewed as the best quarterback in the league, but he only comes in sixth by PFF grades.

Troy Aikman: Doesn’t make sense to compare Patrick Mahomes to me – ProFootballTalk

“You can’t compare anything that’s happening in today’s game to any other era,” Aikman said, via the Dallas Morning News. “[Pat Mahomes]’s been phenomenal. Great kid, love everything about him. I just don’t like when we start trying to look at numbers and saying ‘this is why this guy’s greater than this particular player, this former player,’ whatever it is. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

KC Chiefs defense: Ravens focused on Frank Clark nearly half the game - Arrowhead Pride

Diving into the numbers to find where the Chiefs found success and failure this week.

Chiefs may go LeSean McCoy, Darrel Williams even once Damien returns - Arrowhead Pride

Is Damien Williams losing his starting job? Is it already gone?

Raiders hoping change in practice schedule will prepare them for long stretch far from home - Silver And Black Pride

Last season the Raiders had four games that started at 10am Pacific time.

NFL Links

Antonio Brown suggests he’s not done with the NFL, after all – ProFootballTalk

Pretty much everything regarding Antonio Brown is subject to change. Four days after announcing that he’d no longer play in the NFL, Brown has apparently contradicted himself, saying on Twitter: “I’m still the best why stop now.

Lamar Jackson: ‘I hate running,’ would rather pass - NFL.com

Baltimore Ravens dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson says he would prefer to sit back and pass, and throw touchdown passes instead of running them.

Brees believes he ‘can beat’ six-week rehab of thumb - NFL.com

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is expected to be out 6 to 8 weeks as he receovers from his thumb injury. But Brees believes he can be back on the field sooner.

Giants RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) won’t need surgery - NFL.com

After getting a second opinion on his high ankle sprain, Saquon Barkley received some good news. The Giants’ star RB won’t need surgery, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

Jay Gruden, Redskins’ struggles nearing a breaking point | SI.com

“I know everybody wants to say, ‘It’s over,’ and, ‘The season’s over; go ahead and play Haskins.’ But we feel confident we can turn this thing around.”

The Secret to the Packers’ 3-0 Start (Hint: It’s Not Aaron Rodgers) - The Ringer

Green Bay’s 2019 turnaround began with a defensive makeover—and by forgetting it had an elite quarterback

The Five Possible Timelines of Cam Newton’s Future With the Panthers - The Ringer

Newton has been the face of his franchise for nearly a decade, but now questions are being raised about his long-term outlook in Carolina. Here are all the ways the situation could shake out this season—and the ripple effects they’d have on the QB’s career.

What’s wrong with Baker Mayfield and the Browns’ offense?

Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar examines the problems plaguing Baker Mayfield, Freddie Kitchens and the Cleveland Browns offense.

Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield is broken, but there’s an easy fix

What’s ailing the Browns? Too much blame has been placed on the offensive line and head coach. The young start QB is the problem.