We are four weeks into the 2019 season, and the Broncos are still looking for a win.
Heck...they’re still looking for a sack...and and a turnover!
But if there’s ever an opportunity to turn this losing streak around, it is at home against the Jaguars - a good team but one missing some key starters that hopefully this building Broncos team can take advantage of.
This week’s ultimate fan is up to the task of getting us in the right mindset despite three harsh losses. MrBunnydoodles (where DID you decide on that name?) is a veteran in MHR commenting circles but a rookie to the UFG, and he has crushed it for a couple of touchdowns on his first outing.
Let’s hope the Broncos take some notes and do the same. On to the Jaguars!
Week 4: Broncos v. Jaguars
MHR - Broncos are 0-3 and players and fans are getting anxious. Are you worried, or have you adopted the Whorfin View that worry is a wasted emotion? How confident are you that this week can be a win?
MrBunnydoodles: What, me worry? I expected bumps and bruises and a slow start. We have a new defensive scheme and a new offensive scheme. IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO TAKE TIME. Despite the 0-3 start, we really haven’t played terribly and as I am not a believer in Minshew or his moustache, I foresee our winning ways returning this weekend.
MHR - Sticking with the panic mode questions, Broncos are dead last in the NFL for “game-changing” plays on defense with ZERO sacks and ZERO turnovers. Vic Fangio has noted all the justifiable reasons that this could be but has also hinted that part of the issue is no inside pressure to give the edge guys a few more milliseconds. What is it going to take for the Broncos to get a sack?
MrBunnydoodles: This one is a bit baffling to me. During the preseason, I felt certain Shelby Harris was going to shoot interior gaps with greater consistency, but three weeks in and we haven’t really seen this happen. I am hoping another week of Todd Davis will bring about some better ILB play that allows Fangio to utilize his down linemen differently. It would also help if we weren’t stuck running a No. 3 cornerback as our No. 2.
MHR - Related to game-changing plays, Chris Harris Jr. said at the beginning of the week that the Broncos don’t have the ballers on the team to be able to overcome mistakes - particularly turnovers by the offense. Do you agree with him? Does that mean the defense is going to remain sub-par all season, or is there hope?
MrBunnydoodles: This offense isn’t good enough to win from a two-score deficit and this defense is not good enough to carry a mistake-prone offense a la 2015. After three weeks, we are ninth in yards-per-game-allowed, but 18th in points-per-game. I think we are on the right track, but I don’t know that this defense will be a dominant top 5 unit.
If we are going to get there, Von, Chubb, CHJ, and whoever stays at CB2 (Bausby most likely) until (if) Callahan returns, are going to need to up their game tremendously. I don’t consider us sub-par either. Right now we are just an average unit, which is a bit of a shock to us as we haven’t had that in years.
MHR - De’Vante Bausby looked great against the Packers, being one of the few players to have anything close to a defensive “game-changer.” How do his ball skills help this secondary when a lot of QBs are likely to stay away from Chris Harris Jr. Is Bausby the answer as CB2 (especially with players like Dede Westbrook and
MrBunnydoodles: I wish I could confidently say yes, but then I remember that a year ago Bausby was the proverbial cell phone salesman. Bausby balled out against Green Bay, and it was a bright spot out of a secondary that has had its share of struggles. He is still young and has shown a lot of growth and I hope that he can be a low end CB2/high CB3. If not, we are in trouble.
MHR - I’ve been saying that Von Miller looks a little “slower” than he has, and I’m still concerned that gaining an extra 10 pounds of muscle is part of the reason. Why do you think he’s not getting to the QB and do you think he’s going to be able to have a strong season still and rack up a bunch of sacks?
MrBunnydoodles: Von at his present 5-10 pounds heavier is still faster than most edge rushers in the league. Two weeks ago we saw Von and #DEFWU make a mistake on a blitz, a statement I would not have expected to hear from two seasoned veterans. There is still much to digest, and I don’t think Fangio is using Von the same way as he used Khalil Mack last year due to supporting personnel differences. Von still needs to adjust his pass-rush game to better utilize his strength. We are already seeing him perform well in setting the edge, but he needs to elevate his pass rush.
What do the #Broncos need to do in #JAXvsDEN to earn their first win of the season?@philmilani and I break down a path to victory in another episode of #TheNeutralZone.— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) September 27, 2019
» https://t.co/ej0Yo6gxnC pic.twitter.com/I360cX3VvD
MHR - Gardner Minshew II. Enough said. He’s crazy, but he has swagger and he definitely has a full-throttle attitude about playing football. What worries you the most about playing him this week? How should Ed Donatell scheme against the rookie who has no turnovers and a great passer rating so far?
MrBunnydoodles: Minshew was fun to watch in college, and he definitely has carried that energy to the NFL. That being said, his arm strength is not good and he is not moving off his primary read. Jaguars OC John DeFilippo has done well to hide Minshew’s deficiencies, but I think Fangio/Donatell can pull from their successes last year against KC and the Rams. Changing the pre-snap QB reads and letting the safeties attack should net us our first turnover for the year. Mixing things up and locking down the run again this week will put added pressure on Minshew.
MHR - Joe Flacco was sacked six times last week in Green Bay. How do you expect our offensive line to hold up against the likes of Calais Campbell and Marcell Darius?
MrBunnydoodles: Flacco held the ball too long on several of those sacks (4 if I recall correctly), and he cannot do this again this week. Bolles sucked less last week, to the point of almost playing an average game, and I think he will do it again. Wilkinson needs some help as he looked out of his depth several times last week. Our line has a tough task this week; they’ll be just fine in the run game. Here’s to hoping Flacco doesn’t get broken in half in the passing game.
MHR - Jalen Ramsey is not expected to play this weekend. How does that help the Broncos and in what ways should Rich Scangarello take advantage of that?
MrBunnydoodles: Scangarello called a helluva game last week. If it weren’t for some untimely turnovers and a phantom hold, we would all be talking about how well he got our offense moving against a really good defense. I won’t be surprised if Scangarello attacks the deep edges and the middle of the field as a counter attack. I expect Sutton and Lindsay to feast in the passing game this week.
MHR - Flacco has been average to above-average in the first three games but hasn’t really employed his “big arm.” He has hinted at wanting to take more shots downfield. Do you think this week could be a good time for that? With a receiver like Courtland Sutton, do we have a guy who can really field a Flacco pass?
MrBunnydoodles: I would love to see Flacco air it deep several times a game, just enough to keep defenses honest. I think Flacco attacking the mid ranged middle of the field is where Sutton, Sanders, and Fant can all create mismatches and Flacco can use his arm strength to find those windows. What I don’t want is to take the path where we are seeing “Air Flacco” and our passing attempts start to heavily eclipse our rushing attempts. More Flacco is not necessarily a good thing, and the shots he needs to take are the ones that will exist in his <35 passing attempts per game.
MHR - Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman proved last week that the Broncos running game is for real. Do you want to see a run-heavy scheme to wear down the defense or is there some danger in being too methodical in getting down the field?
MrBunnydoodles: 36 carries, 144 yards, 2 TDs. Yes please. Our running game is stout, and as long as Flacco can keep defenses from creeping up (unlike Keenum last year) Scangarello needs to feed our RBs! Oddly enough, I think we have the tools to air the ball out with Sutton, Sanders, and Fant over the middle and deep. Using Lindsay underneath gives us three levels of the field to attack. The only problem is that Flacco is Flacco, and while it is better QB play than what we have had since 2014 Manning, I don’t trust Joe to carry the load. Pass enough to keep the running lanes open.
MHR - Brandon McManus has missed two extra points. Is this concerning or just a fluke?
MrBunnydoodles: Other than making my fantasy football team almost lose last week, no I am not concerned. Yet. Kickers are weird so a case of the yips is not out of the question, but if this occurs, I am not sure a real solution is sitting at home.
Stats for Joe Flacco? 252 yards, 1 TD/1 INT
Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay 20/80 and a TD; Freeman 15/60 and a TD
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sutton 107 yards, 1 TD; Sanders 70 yards; Lindsay 50 yards; Fant 25 yards.
Longest FG for McManus? 47
Number of sacks to Flacco? 4
Number of sacks to Gardner Minshew? 4
Broncos player with the most tackles? Todd Davis
Who gets the first sack for the Broncos? Chubb
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1/1/1
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? 3
How many holding penalties for Garett Bolles? 0 (yes, I went there)
Final Score? 24-17 Broncos!
Through three games, first-round pick Noah Fant has shown "flashes of greatness."— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) September 26, 2019
And while Fant still has room to improve, OC Rich Scangarello says "he just brings so much good to the table."
» https://t.co/pxW8BpRJib pic.twitter.com/BCKkLfsNiW
Favorite Broncos game EVER? September 17, 1990
Where were you the day the Broncos beat the Packers in 1998 in SB 32? Watching the game at my mother-in-laws house. She, growing up as a Chefs fan, did not understand why I was so elated when Favre’s last pass was swatted down. I believe her exact words were “it’s just a game”.
Team(s) you hate to lose to the most? Avoiding the usual suspects, I am going to say the Cowboys, since I live in Dallas.
Team you love to beat? The Cowboys, just for the sole fact that I get to flaunt that victory in the face of so many.
Favorite game this season? The next game, I always look forward to the next chance to see my Broncos play.
Toughest game still on the schedule? KC is the toughest opponent we have. (besides ourselves)
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? #DEFWU, Phillip Lindsay, Phillip Lindsay’s hair.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Choosing only one...Mecklenburg. Growing up and watching him play several weeks in a row with a broken hand had a tremendous effect on my younger self. Runners up being Atwater, Elway, Davis.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Dalton Risner is a tough son of a gun, and I love him for it.
Former Broncos player who most deserves HOF? Gradishar. Nothing more needs to be said about his career and his leadership. Gradishar, Gradishar, Gradishar!
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Simms and Collinsworth. Give me nails on a chalkboard for 3 hours. I would take Gilbert Godfrey over those two clowns.
Favorite game-day snack? Popcorn. The light-weight snack doesn’t break things when I throw it, and my dogs get a treat as well.
Superstitions on game day? No game-day superstitions during the regular season. After SB 50 I came to the realization that we are 0-4 in Super Bowls that I watch from my own home, but we are 3-0 when I go to someone else’s home to watch the game. Guess where I won’t be the next time we make it?
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I lived in South Dakota and was just beginning to understand what this game was all about. With few choices available to watch, and the fact I thought purple was a terrible color, I mostly watched that team with the orange who had a QB that seemed to have a flair for coming back. Nothing was more gripping than never truly feeling like we were out of the game. Down by two scores going into the 4th? No problem, we have an Elway for that. It was all signed and sealed when we needed 97 yards in the AFC Championship game against Cleveland in 1986. To my 6-year-old self, nothing was greater than that moment.