What follows are notes from my first watch through the all-22 of the Broncos season opening victory over the Giants. Sorry they’re a little more disjointed than I’d like. The hope is once (if?) NFL Gamepass begins to drop the film with some degree of consistency I can plan this post out a little better.
- Mike Ford is already showing up in a big way on punts. He’s a good gunner.
- Justin Strnad is a better special teamer than I gave him credit for in the preseason. He does a nice job running down kickoffs and was a key part of a couple punt returns. His fluidity in space makes him an effective blocker.
- Saw this before I got to catch the all-22.
Highest average box counts faced on early downs week 1: HOU, SF, DEN, CAR, MIA— Eric Eager (@PFF_Eric) September 14, 2021
Lowest: BUF, CHI, GB, JAX, WAS
- There’s a few things that cropped up on the tape. The Broncos utilized heavier personnel such as 12 frequently against the Giants. Shurmur also brought Tim Patrick into the formation a few times to help as a blocker or to create space for a route. We also saw Courtland Sutton sprinkled into these kind of looks, such as on Melvin Gordon’s long touchdown. As you’d expect, the Giants matched the offensive personnel tightening up with numbers in the box.
Looks like Teddy Bridgewater could have had a wide open touchdown here. pic.twitter.com/TEbQtbsjJZ— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 14, 2021
- The box count also played a role in the Broncos struggles to gain traction on the ground. Melvin Gordon’s 70-yard run hid the fact Denver’s backs averaged 3.16 yards per carry outside his long touchdown. I expect it to be a slog, and it was. Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence also played a huge factor. They found their way into the backfield on multiple occasions.
Melvin Gordon's 70-yard run hid the fact that the Broncos running game was painfully inefficient against the Giants.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 14, 2021
Something to remember when you see people make a ruckus about "balance." https://t.co/aUjzs9D2ew
- The way Williams, Lawrence, and the rest of the Giants front found ways to camp in the backfield is a huge reason I found myself so impressed with Bridgewater. On multiple occasions the Broncos quarterback found ways to buy himself time to find an outlet, and he didn’t hesitate to pull it down and run for yards when that’s all he could find.
- I thought Josey Jewell was good when I watched the broadcast over, but he really stands out on the all-22. His quick trigger showed up when he had to chase Kadarius Toney on a swing out of the backfield in the first quarter, and he did a good job using his quickness to shed a block in the second. The way he and Alexander Johnson held up the middle of the field in coverage didn’t go unnoticed either. While neither has topline athleticism, we’ll see both wind up on a few slot receivers this year as they carry out their assignments. Don’t fret.
- By season’s end I expect Dre’Mont Jones to be a household name. His burst off the snap combined with his quick hands are going to cause so many issues for guards this season. This also helps him to play gap and a half because he can protect his frame, which makes it easier to shake free.
Dre'Mont Jones makes it look easy. pic.twitter.com/lUxQetZJ1p— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 14, 2021
- Lorenzo Carter’s 2020 injury may have the NFL landscape sleeping on him a bit, as he had a number of good rushes against Garett Bolles. Sometimes the left tackle won, such as the long arm Bolles recovered from in time to ground the edge rusher in the second quarter. Other times Carter found ways to knock Bridgewater off platform, such as the third quarter where he beat Bolles around the edge and Teddy scrambled out before dumping the ball down.
- The Broncos touchdown drive at the end of the first half should help to east some of the concerns about Bridgewater’s struggles in end of game situations during his time with the Carolina Panthers. He went 6-for-6 for 57 yards and the offense left all of eight seconds on the clock for New York to try and answer. This created an opportunity to create a two score lead in the second half and Denver capitalized, creating the 17-7 lead.
Teddy Bridgewater hasn't gotten enough credit for what he showed during the Broncos touchdown drive at the end of the first half.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 15, 2021
The 5 throws to seal it were money. pic.twitter.com/Qa1MOPe942
- It shows up so often I take Kareem Jackson’s trigger for granted. He’s very good at getting downhill to thump the ball carrier.
- One area I’d like to see Noah Fant improve is as a blocker. He can be knocked back against stronger players, which mucks up run designs. It showed up when he was inline in the first half and also on an arc block in the third quarter.
- After watching the broadcast I thought Bridgewater’s first sack was on the coverage, but now I’d put it on him as it looks like he had multiple ways to get rid of the ball. On the second sack Leonard Williams beat Graham Glasgow too fast for Tim Patrick to get open, and Bridgewater never works down to Melvin Gordon on the swing.
- Let’s hope Bradley Chubb gets healthy soon. In his absence, the Broncos may be wise to try and stagger their edges snaps so Andre Mintze and Jonathon Cooper don’t wind up on the field at the same time. Daniel Jones took advantage of this in the first half by hitting a deep crosser on Patrick Surtain II for the 37-yard touchdown to Sterling Shepherd. You can bet NFL teams took notice.
- Speaking of Surtain, Darby’s absence may serve as a bit of a blessing in disguise. If the veteran corner only misses three games, the Broncos will be short handed against the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Baltimore Ravens. While losing the first team dime personnel may hurt, both the Jags and Jets bring rookie quarterbacks and the Ravens typically play out of heavier personnel.
It’s also worth mentioning that Paton may be evaluating the 9th overall pick of the 2021 draft in order to decide if Kyle Fuller or Bryce Callahan are expendable. Remember at some point before the trade deadline the Broncos may yet move pieces to accommodate the return of Michael Ojemudia, Duke Dawson, and/or Essang Bassey from their injuries.
- K.J. Hamler stands to benefit most from Jerry Jeudy’s absence. His long speed and elite athleticism pops off the tape against the Giants and he’s an underrated route runner. Look past the dropped touchdown and he had a nice performance. His 22-yard reception with about two minutes left in the third was a textbook example of how to keep both feet inbounds.