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Full team improvement needed for the Broncos to beat the Bucs

Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette, Shaq Barrett, Devin White...it’s a long list of great veterans that will be testing a young Broncos squad.

Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

The Bucs are coming to town, and no matter how much more we’d like to whine about the injuries to so many Broncos, there’s just no time.

Because as Steve Atwater said earlier this week, Tom Brady & Co. will not be feeling sorry for the Broncos.

And that means a lot of young, inexperienced and frankly over-matched players will need to have the games of their lives to pull out a win over a team whose quarterback has been playing in the NFL for as long as some of the Broncos’ starters have been alive.

Fun fact - Brady’s 21 years of NFL experience alone are just a few less than the Broncos’ entire starting offense.

So perhaps there is a window of opportunity, hoping that a 43-year-old Brady will move just a little slower, throw a couple extra short passes and generally play like Week 1 Brady and not Six-Super-Bowl-Ring Brady so that the Broncos can compete.

“He’s still operating the same, still can make every throw,” Kareem Jackson said Thursday. “It’s a big task for us—a lot of weapons on offense, on wide receiver, two running backs—so we have to be up for the task on defense.”

Being up to the task for Brady, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette when the Broncos are down Von Miller and A.J. Bouyé is no small feat, but Jackson emphasized the responsibility to play better doesn’t fall on one player. It’s the whole defense.

“I don’t think it just has to be on me to do that. ...We feel like all 11 guys have to do more. Me personally, I definitely want to do more in anyway I can,” Jackson added. “It has to start this Sunday. I’m definitely—if it takes that type of game, I’m definitely willing and capable of going out and doing just that.”

A lot of attention this week has been on rookie Michael Ojemudia after he gave up an 84-yard touchdown to Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool last week. Like every corner in the league has had to do, Ojemudia will have to have a short memory because there’s little doubt Brady will try to take advantage of the young DB.

But Bryce Callahan is hoping to take a little pressure off Ojemudia as he’ll line up on the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Mike Evans.

“As a corner, you’re going to give up plays. It’s just the name of the game. There’s a saying to have a short memory, knock that out, keep your confidence and go out there and do what you know you can do,” Callahan said. “Mike Evans, he’s a great receiver. He moves around, so obviously I’ll be lined up against him. I feel like we’ve got a good game plan for the Buccaneers.”

It will take an excellent game plan from the Broncos’ offense to get past former Broncos’ outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who led the league in sacks last year for the Bucs.

Driskel will certainly keep an eye on him.

“They’re a great front. They have really good guys off the edge, but they’re also really big and strong and powerful inside. It’s going to be a challenge,” Driskel said, noting the importance of getting the ball out quickly. “I’m going to have to be dialed in with my eyes to be able to get the ball out quickly because we know that’s a challenge up front. We also know we have the guys that can block them. We’re aware of the situation. We’re aware of their talent level, but we’re excited about the challenge.”

But if Barrett is contained, there is also Ndamukong Suh and Devin White to worry about. And given the Bucs’ stout run defense, more responsibility will likely fall on Noah Fant and rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. The young guys are up for the challenge.

“We prepare a lot, so I think that everybody is ready to step up,” Hamler said. “I think you saw that last week that everybody has to be prepared at their position and do what they have to do. Our receiver room is very versatile and we can play every position on the field, so I think that brings value to us as well.”

Jeudy, a former member of the national champion Crimson Tide, isn’t used to starting seasons at 0-2, and he’d like to do his part to change that.

“We have a good team here; we just need to finish.,” he said. “I feel like the first game was on me. I felt like the second game I could have done a lot better than I played. Me personally, I feel like I haven’t been playing my best football. I’m just working week by week to improve that and get better each and every day.”

Melvin Gordon, one of the most senior members of the offense, believes individual accountability will be the first step for the Broncos turning around the losing streak.

“At some point, each player at each position and every guy has to put their foot down and tell themselves, ‘We’re going to make a difference, we’re going to make a change. We’re going to find a way,’” he said. “It’s not looking for other guys to make a play and slowly build momentum. You have to come out there knowing that this is what you want to do, this is what we need to do as a team and I’m going to be the guy to start this out. You want to be the guy. You don’t want to look around for the guy to make plays, you want to be the guy.”

And when every player has that mentality, Gordon believes the wins will come - no matter the odds.

“Once you put your foot down and make it up in your mind that we’re going to start winning these close games as unit—not just one, two, three four or five players that you expect to think like that,” Gordon said. “The guys that aren’t talked about need that mindset and that confidence that they’re going to make a difference. That’s when change happens.”

Broncos/NFL News

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How Leonard Fournette’s career day in Denver triggered change for the Broncos – The Athletic
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