Justin Simmons can feel it.
KJ Hamler can feel it.
Teddy Bridgewater can feel it.
Von Miller always feels it.
This Broncos team really is different.
There are a lot of the same players from recent years. Coaching staff is in a third year together. As Simmons said, it just seems “cohesive.”
“Oh, for sure. Yeah, 100 percent. It’s all cohesive, right,” the safety said, adding it’s not just cohesive within the defense or offense; it’s the whole team. “It’s not just the defense wanting to talk about starting fast and having turnovers. The offense had our back. ...We’re getting rest on the sideline and we’re able to come out and play faster and see things faster. It was just great overall team execution and team football.”
Bridgewater felt it during the game Sunday when the offense made a few early mistakes and nobody blinked. They just got down to business and settled in.
“To see how we responded - that said a lot about this team,” Bridgewater said, noting the turnover in the red zone that didn’t prevent Vic Fangio from trusting his offense. In fact, he trusted it so much, he called plays for three fourth downs.
That told Bridgewater all he needed to know.
“On fourth-down, coach is going for it and no one’s looking like, ‘are you sure?’ but more like, ‘man, let’s do it!’” Bridgewater said. “You can see a lot of growth in this team, and I’m glad that I’m witnessing it.”
He also witnessed it from the defense, which refused to let a red zone turnover deflate them and their pursuit for perfection.
“The defensive guys are like,’ We’re going to go out there and get a stop.’ I think we forced them to go three and out right after that,” Bridgewater remembered, adding that the offense isn’t trying to put its D in such a tough spot, but it appreciates the bailout nonetheless - and gave a little payback later in the game by staying on the field.
“Of course, we don’t want to put our defense on the field like that but to see the defense go out there and stop them...that’s just a sign of growth. ...No one’s panicking, no one’s pointing the finger,” Bridgewater said. “You walk up to ‘Big O’ (Albert Okwuegbunam) and say, “Hey, don’t worry we get the next one.’ To KJ [Hamler], ‘Hey man, it’s alright. We’ll hit the next one.’ Then he comes up big for us on third down, so it’s a game where you have to have a short memory, and I think the guys did a great job of showing that on Sunday.”
Hamler definitely sees that trait in his QB and loves getting coached up from No. 5.
“Teddy’s a real positive dude. We could mess up in practice and he’ll come over and coach you right away or he’ll tell you how he wants the routes—stuff like that,” Hamler said. “He’s been in the league eight or nine years right now, and it’s my second year. I’m not going to not listen to the guy that’s been in the league for that long. He’s seen a lot, he’s been through a lot. I’ll always listen to him.”
That kind of connection is why Simmons thinks this year is different - and why the wins will come.
“I feel like this team is definitely something special in terms of just bonding together,” he said.
And it will get tested in the heat on Sunday against a struggling-but-likely-to-better Jacksonville team led by a rookie QB who no one doubts could be a worthy adversary.
As the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 Draft, Trevor Lawrence was always going to have an uphill battle getting his new team into contention. Last week’s 37-21 loss to the Texans - along with a 3-touchdown but also 3-picks kind of day - reminded Lawrence that the NFL is not college and the road to relevance will take time.
But the last thing the Broncos defense - and offense - want to do is assume their day will be easy.
“I’ve always thought Trevor Lawrence was a really good quarterback,” Simmons said. “He always seemed like he had this calm, poised demeanor while he’s back there progressing what the defense has given him. There’s always a learning curve almost at every single position, especially the quarterback position in the NFL. I’m really excited to play against him and see how we match up.”
As predicted, Miller gushed over the young QB.
“Trevor is a great quarterback. I’ve been watching him for a while. ...He’s a hell of a player,” Miller said. “He has a great arm, amazing hair. Everybody loves him, and he’s going to have a very successful career in the National Football League.”
Just hopefully not on Sunday.
Despite Lawrence’s talent, Miller, Simmons and the rest of the defense will still be doing everything they can to wreak havoc with the rookie’s lack of experience.
“A lot of it is just eyes, and sometimes—especially with someone that has great arm talent—they tend to try and force things when they don’t need to be forced,” Simmons said. “As a defense going down there in Jacksonville, we just have to be able to do what we do best and just get after the quarterback.”
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