Good morning, Broncos Country!
It’s been a long time since I’ve been tasked with writing a ‘Horse-Tracks-but-no-longer-called-Horse-Tracks’ post and that can only mean one thing...regular season is about to begin!
But I kinda cheated this week...I’m pulling in Ed Valentine from Big Blue View to answer a few “questions from the enemy” to give us some deeper insight into the team we’re about to play on their home turf. You can read my answers to his questions here.
The last time the Broncos played the Giants, they lost on their home turf despite the winless Giants having no receivers on hand and playing on the road at Mile High of all places. And the last time the Broncos played at Met Life Stadium, things didn’t go too well.
But those memories are for sissies because the 2021 Broncos know they need to start turning this franchise back into a winning one, and that fight begins on the road in New York (actually, technically, New Jersey).
And for all practical purposes, these two teams have a lot in common at the moment - strong defenses, potentially great offenses with some questions at just how productive the QB can be. That should make for a very interesting matchup on Sunday.
Laurie: OK, is Saquon going to play? What does it mean for Daniel Jones and Giants’ offense if he does? If he doesn’t?
Ed: The answer to that is yes. I think. The Giants have not made an official announcement one way or the other, but all signs are pointing to him playing. I doubt we know for sure until Friday — or even later.
What does it mean for the Giants offense? Well, he’s the best player on the roster, so it means a lot. I don’t know if he will be the “real” Barkley right away — Jabrill Peppers said this week that practicing against him it’s apparent he isn’t 100 percent yet. Still, he’s a game-breaking threat who can do things others can’t, and he has to be respected.
For what it’s worth, I don’t expect Barkley to get more than, say, 8-10 touches vs. Denver. The Giants play the Washington Football Team on Thursday night and I can’t imagine they would give Barkley 20-25 touches when he hasn’t been tackled in a. year, then ask him to play again four days later. So, you’ll see a good bit of Devontae Booker either way.
Laurie: When Saquon Barkley isn’t in the game, how much production can backup running back and former Bronco Devontae Booker provide the Giants’ offense?
Ed: Well now, that’s a question we all want the answer to. Many questioned why the Giants went out and signed Booker so quickly on the first day of free agency, and gave him a two-year, $5.5 million deal ($2 million guaranteed). It’s hard to see anything special when you watch Booker, because, well, he’s not special. The Giants, though, believe he can handle all three downs if necessary. That’s probably the biggest thing he gives them — the ability to run their full offense and not have to take things out of the playbook.
Laurie: A Denver radio guy described the Giants offensive line as “weaker than a junior high pep band banner the team runs through.” Would you agree? What is your prediction for sacks/hurries by the Broncos D?
Ed: Well, that’s harsh. I do agree that the offensive line was the biggest Giants’ question mark entering the season, and it’s an even bigger one now. LT Andrew Thomas had a rough rookie season, pretty good summer, then was awful in the final preseason game. Matt Peart was expected to be the RT and he has lost that job to Nate Solder, who isn’t very good. LG Shane Lemieux is trying to play through a partially torn patellar tendon. So, there are a ton of questions.
Thing is, if this line can be league average this season, the Giants have enough playmakers to be a good offense. The Giants get Denver (Miller/Chubb) and Washington (Chase Young/Montez Sweat) in the first five days of the season. We will know a lot by next Thursday night.
Laurie: Jokes aside on the offensive line talk (as Broncos fans, we are fully aware of O-line woes and express our deepest sympathies...after Sept. 12, that is) - what kind of problems could Jones and his wide receivers (if healthy) present the Broncos’ defenders?
Ed: Well, statistically in 2020 Jones did two things really well — throw the deep ball and make plays with his legs. You will have to defend the zone read, and be aware that Jones will pull the ball and take off with it.
Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney both missed most of camp but are trending toward playing. Golladay perhaps isn’t a top 5 receiver in the league, but he is a big target who can help at all levels of the field and specializes in contested catches. He’s one of those “open even when he’s not open” guys. Toney’s skills can be a quarterback’s best friend because he’s a guy you can give the ball to on bubble screens, jet sweeps, shovel passes and all manner of quick throws and just let him work. You don’t need great pass protection.
Sterling Shepard is an excellent veteran slot receiver who just had a fantastic training camp/preseason. Darius Slayton is a guy who has big-play ability and should benefit from Golladay being treated as the No. 1.
Throw in Barkley, Kyle Rudolph, Evan Engram (if he plays, which I doubt because of his calf injury) and there are a lot of weapons for Jones.
If he has the opportunity to take advantage of them.
Laurie: With all the injuries to the Giants offense, on paper it would seem the Broncos should overpower the Giants - but we thought that four years ago when Eli Manning and his Giants team strolled into Mile High and whooped Denver by borrowing some wide receivers from the parking lot. So how do the Giants get the win on Sunday? How do the Broncos?
Ed: It’s funny, because the Broncos are favored in this game. Six weeks ago I didn’t understand that because Denver won five games last year. Now, after really studying it, I understand it. That, though, does not mean I don’t think the Giants can win this game. I think it is a very winnable game for the Giants. Considering that the Giants have started the season 0-2 — or worse — seven of the last eight years and face Washington next Thursday you could almost say it’s a game the Giants NEED to win.
I know there is a lot of chatter about the Denver defense. The Giants, though, also bring a really good defense to the table, though it looks like cornerback Adoree’ Jackson won’t play. Still, they have an excellent secondary, outstanding defensive linemen in Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, and while they don’t have an edge rusher with the big resume, they have a number of potentially really good players.
The Broncos win this game if the Giants’ offensive line is a sieve and Jones becomes a turnover machine. The Giants win this game if they can give Jones a chance, he protects the football, and the Giants’ collection of play makers does what they were brought to the Giants to do.
One other thing. The Giants have gone to great lengths to build a top-notch special teams unit, even keeping two fullbacks because of their special teams ability. They will be hunting game-changing special teams plays. Can they get one or two on Sunday? (*editor’s note: Against the Broncos’ special teams coverage units? oh fo sho!)
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