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10 things we learned in the Broncos sloppy 37-28 win over the New York Jets

Harris, Patrick, Chubb and Bausby were key in Thursday’s win. Here are 10 things we learned from the Broncos’ victory over the Jets.

Denver Broncos v New York Jets
The “tank for Trevor” camp can hang out over there.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Broncos came into tonight with the best odds at the No. 1 pick in the draft. They left with a victory over the worst team in the league.

This is what we learned.

Mekhi Becton didn’t start, but tried to play.

Best I could tell he never played in the game. If you’re wondering why he was even active if the Jets never planned to play him, look no further than the new 2020 rules.

Nick Vannett didn’t take long to remind us he was active.

I watched the offense play through the Steelers game three different times and no player made me want to throw my computer quite like Vannett. He dropped passes, missed blocks, and committed boneheaded penalties. It was so bad I thought Fangio didn’t activate him because of issues with the performance. I was wrong.

The rationale for Vannett definitely seemed to be part of a bigger plan to incorporate more two tight end sets tonight. On top of the extra 12 personnel, the Broncos seemed to make a conscious effort to utilize more Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton as blockers, motioning them into what’s called a “nasty” split right beside the end of the line of scrimmage. Part of this was to help provide another body to block on running plays, but it also created more ground for the rush to have to cover to run around the edge.

It makes sense given the issues Denver has had with protection the last few weeks.

Tim Patrick was a focal part of the offense.

On top of what I just said about his job in nasty splits, Patrick has continued to show hints of his prowess as a receiver. At halftime, the greybeard of the receiving corps had two catches for 61 yards including a really nice go-route down the sideline where Brett Rypien dropped the ball in a basket.

With K.J. Hamler and Noah Fant leaving the game with injuries, the passing attack ran through Patrick in the second half. Low and behold, he wound up with the first 100+ yard receiving game of his NFL career.

In the second half the Broncos drove down into scoring range. On 3rd-and-6 Tim Patrick found the end zone when Rypien hit him with perfect ball placement to beat the safety.

Jerry Jeudy mossed Pierre Desir!

A big reason Brett Rypien got the start over Jeff Driskel is how his quick decision making and ability to mitigate the Jets’ pass rush would give the coaching staff a chance to evaluate players like Jeudy. I had enough concerns about his arm strength that when the second year passer uncorked a shot down the sideline, I held my breath.

Jerry Jeudy made him right.

The Broncos brought heat.

As the Broncos have lost players to injury, it’s made the pass defense more and more reliant on blitzing and stunts. Last week it helped Shelby Harris and others get some hits on Tom Brady. Unfortunately, it also left them susceptible to big plays. That continued early in the Jets game when Alexander Johnson, Justin Simmons, and Kareem Jackson missed or didn’t even attempt a tackle on Sam Darnold.

Josey Jewell has his best game as a pro.

The Broncos’ linebacker has made strides since he found his way back into the starting lineup this year. He’s been good leveraging gaps and has been a key part of the strong run defense. He’s also been a bit of a liability in coverage, despite his best efforts. Whether it be Tannehill, Roethlisberger, or Brady, opposing passers have made a point to attack Jewell when he’s been isolated on faster players in space.

Adam Gase and the Jets tried tonight with crossers and comebacks in the middle of the field as well as wheel routes. Kudos to Jewell for answering the call, even if Kalen Ballage and Frank Gore hardly bring threatening athleticism. Jewell also got home on one of Fangio’s blitzes in the third quarter.

Harris and Chubb wreaked havoc.

Without Jurrell Casey, there’s been little doubt that the Broncos best defensive lineman is Shelby Harris. He made a number of plays last week, including an impressive hurry on Brady when the Broncos sent just three. Tonight he basically planted a flag in the Jets’ backfield.

With Becton and Chuma Edoga giving way to the Jets’ third-string left tackle, I wanted to see Bradley Chubb generate some pressure. He didn’t disappoint. Early in the game he was left unblocked and just missed Darnold. In the second he got home on his first sack of the season and also pressured Darnold into an ugly throw.

Neither Chubb nor Harris made a lot of noise in the third quarter. At one point with the Jets driving in the fourth, Troy Aikman mentioned how Chubb was looking for a holding call. In year’s past, I’d agree that he should have earned one (or more) but offensive holding is getting called at a historically low rate across the NFL this year.

Fortunately, Chubb didn’t need the zebra’s help to seal the game.

Bassey met the bench for Bausby

With the Broncos up 17-10 and the Jets facing a 2-minute situation Sam Darnold did what any veteran quarterback would - he attacked a rookie defensive back. He found a ton of success at the expense of undrafted nickel corner Essang Bassey.

It didn’t take long for Fangio to respond by throwing De’Vante Bausby into the game on the boundary and sliding Bryce Callahan inside. Bausby rewarded the trust by coming up with a pass breakup in the end zone.

Full disclosure, I thought Bausby was going to be the Broncos’ CB3 this year, and he showed me why in the second half. It looked like the Jets tried to force him to make a bunch of tackles with short throws, but he held up. Late in the fourth he came up with a second big pass breakup against a third down shot into the end zone.

I’ll be curious to see if that remains the case with some extra time to prepare for the Patriots and Cam Newton.

O.J.’s good bad game.

There’s a chance the penalty overshadows what otherwise looked like a really solid performance and encouraging growth from the rookie. Don’t be surprised if box score scouts rain hate on Michael Ojemudia after tonight. The Jets scored a field goal on a drive following a questionable Defensive Pass Interference call. While the results are less than ideal, how Ojemudia played the route and stuck on his man looked really encouraging.

Rypien looked like a promising young QB2 until the 4th quarter.

There’s six or seven different qualifiers to remember here - weak opponent, very little tape for an opposing coaching staff to dissect, etc. It’s also important to remember Rypien did have a couple of really big mistakes in the first half of game and got rather lucky on the Jeudy touchdown.

With all of that in mind, I was thoroughly impressed with Rypien’s first half. He handled the pressure, displayed good ball placement, and showed off a stronger arm than I anticipated.

Late in the game things began to unravel.

With back to back picks in the fourth quarter including the first pick six since Trevor Siemian, there’s definitely a possibility Blake Bortles sees the field in week 5. Even if Rypien plays, things get significantly more difficult against Bill Belichick and his talented secondary.

Final Thoughts

I came into tonight conflicted over what the best route to “win from now on” is. 1-3 doesn’t make this Broncos’ team a playoff contender, and it pushes them farther away from the top of the draft order if Drew Lock can’t show that he’s the guy everyone hopes over the back end of the season.

Maybe those concerns should wait for another day. It’s been a brutal start to the year after spending all summer over-the-moon stoked for this roster. It wasn’t pretty, but a victory over the Jets gives this young Broncos team something to build on going forward. Let’s hope Noah Fant and K.J. Hamler can get healthy in time for Week 5.