The Broncos are fresh off their week off and begin what is essentially their playoffs. With five division contests spread out over the final seven games, Fangio can’t afford a letdown game if he’s to justify keeping his job for 2022. First up is the Los Angeles Chargers, a team led by the 38-year-old Brandon Staley and his franchise quarterback Justin Herbert.
On this week’s Turkey day edition of Cover 2 Broncos I had the privilege to speak with Bolts from the Blues’ Michael Peterson about the AFC West showdown. What follows are a brief excerpt of our conversation as well as a few tidbits worth sharing.
Chargers’ offense vs Broncos’ defense
- Joe Lombardi is in his first season as offensive coordinator since a stint with the Lions in 2015. How will he attack a Fangio scheme he’s intimately familiar with?
- There is no question Justin Herbert is a franchise quarterback. Is there anything the Broncos can do to try and throw him off his game?
- Rashawn Slater looks like every bit the kind of steal Herbert was with his ability to hold down the left side in pass pro. He’s also a very good run blocker who has the quick feet, core strength, and technique to rush behind. Does he have any weaknesses Denver can exploit?
- One thing that always makes the Chargers scary is how their WR corps. stresses a secondary. Mike Williams is 6’5 with the ability to win jump balls over just about everyone, Keenan Allen’s one of the best route runners in the league, and both Cook and Parham have the kind of size/athleticism to create issues? Are there any matchups that really favor the Bolts?
- Austin Ekeler is coming off a 4 TD game and the Broncos rush defense has become a sieve in recent weeks. Will Lombardi try to establish the run?
- Baron Browning is currently a question for the game. If he can’t play the Broncos will play either Justin Strnad or Avery Williamson beside Kenny Young.
- Bradley Chubb could see playing time as he returns from the bone spurs that cost him most of the season. (19 snaps played so far)
- L.A. dabbles in heavier personnel such as 21, 22, and 13, but they’ve played between 85% and 90% of their snaps out of 11 and 12 this season. They are extremely pass heavy out of 11, but average over 4.5 YPC out of both sets.
- L.A. is a top 10 rush offense off left end and 13th off left tackle by Adjusted Line Yards.
- By DVOA, L.A. is better than the average NFL offense at preventing stuffs.
- By DVOA, L.A. is below the average NFL offense in power situations.
- By DVOA, L.A. is notably better at passing than running in the red zone.
Broncos’ offense vs Chargers’ defense
- Garett Bolles is in the NFL’s Covid protocol and expected to miss the game. There is a chance Bobby Massie plays right tackle. The Chargers pass rush is extremely dependent on Joey Bosa, who typically flips sides throughout the game. Will that continue or does he tee off on Calvin Anderson or Cameron Fleming?
- By DVOA, the Chargers have the worst run defense in football and they’re a bottom 10 team in every direction outside off left end. Some of this is by design as they prioritize stopping the pass and live out of lighter boxes. How can Pat Shurmur take advantage?
- The Chargers quietly have a pretty darn good pass defense. Like the Broncos under Fangio, they try to force teams to kill them down after down with short passes. There are two notable weaknesses - WR1s and TEs. There’s also a question as to Asante Samuel Jr’s status after he suffered a concussion in the Steelers game. What should the Broncos do when they have to go to the air?
- The Broncos play roughly 90% of their snaps out of 11 or 12 personnel. The next most used grouping is 13, but they dabble in 21, and 22 and could use it in this game.
- Broncos have a ton of issues with allowing stuffs, but they’re good in power situations and a top 5 rushing team at the second and third level. If they can get Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon past the LOS they could be running for awhile.
- Chargers allowed a blocked punt in the Steelers game and have issues separating from blocks and tackling on punt returns.
- Since Dustin Hopkins was signed the kicking game has improved dramatically.
- Broncos special teams is a mess: Ten games into 2021 and the Broncos’ special teams are among the worst in football. In their last game they allowed a Brandon McManus field goal to get blocked. They’ve given up a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown; Devin Duvernay’s career-long, 42-yard punt return; and they’ve had three punts come painfully close to getting blocked, so it shouldn’t be a shock that the Dallas Cowboys blocked a punt. Dre’Mont Jones was called for a critical leverage penalty in the loss to the Steelers, which isn’t a surprise considering the Broncos’ teams under Tom McMahon are among the league leaders in penalties this season. On top of all that, Diontae Spencer is among the least effective kickoff return men in the NFL.
- Who wins the special teams battle on Sunday?