FanPost

Sultan Azteca's Weekly Post 2 – Looking down at the Chiefs…

In Context: The best WR?

In week one, Jerry Jeudy fell victim to the cursed Turf from Hell in Meadowlands (now, if we could make MetLife the official insurance company of the NFLPA, surely something would change, wouldn’t it?).

Much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments occurred right after that. "Our best WR is gone! Woe unto us! All hope is lost!!!" was the cry among some sectors in Bronco Country.

But… is he?

In his first season, circumstances pushed Jeudy up and center to the stage, resulting in him being, by season's end, the top receiver in the team (856 yds), over 120 yds more than the 2nd best, Tim Patrick. Jeudy was also the top target by a lot (113). And I mean… A LOT.

As a result, in relative terms, Jeudy’s feats last season lose quite a bit of shine. Here is the analysis of all Broncos with 20+ targets last season (limit I applied just for sake of visibility):

NAME

REC

TGTS

YDS

Rank Yds

AVG

TD

FD

Catch Rate

Rank Rate

Melvin Gordon III RB

32

44

158

6

4.9

1

7

72.7%

1

Noah Fant TE

62

93

673

3

10.9

3

34

66.7%

2

Nick Vannett TE

14

21

95

7

6.8

1

6

66.7%

3

Tim Patrick WR

51

79

742

2

14.5

6

33

64.6%

4

KJ Hamler WR

30

56

381

4

12.7

3

17

53.6%

5

DaeSean Hamilton WR

23

44

293

5

12.7

2

16

52.3%

6

Jerry Jeudy WR

52

113

856

1

16.5

3

39

46.0%

7

Jerry Jeudy’s performance per target was the worst among ALL BRONCOS in yards/target, 2nd worst in TD/target (only above Gordon), and barely middle of the pack in 1st downs/target (only surpassing Gordon, Vannett, and KJH.

And before somebody uses the rookie justification or the weight of being WR1, let’s compare his performance vs all other top receivers in the league (including several rookies). This is the list of receivers with 800+ yds in 2020, ordered by catch/target rate:

RK Red Yds

NAME

REC

TGTS

Catch/Tgt

33

Curtis SamuelCAR

77

97

79.4%

36

Chris GodwinTB

65

84

77.4%

5

Davante AdamsGB

115

149

77.2%

23

Cole BeasleyBUF

82

107

76.6%

1

Stefon DiggsBUF

127

166

76.5%

38

JuJu Smith-SchusterPIT

97

128

75.8%

17

Tyler LockettSEA

100

132

75.8%

22

Cooper KuppLAR

92

124

74.2%

10

Darren WallerLV

107

145

73.8%

2

Travis KelceKC

105

145

72.4%

3

DeAndre HopkinsARI

115

160

71.9%

35

Tyler BoydCIN

79

110

71.8%

36

Jarvis LandryCLE

72

101

71.3%

14

Amari CooperDAL

92

130

70.8%

30

William Fuller VHOU

53

75

70.7%

20

Corey DavisTEN

65

92

70.7%

4

Justin JeffersonMIN

88

125

70.4%

15

Robby AndersonCAR

95

136

69.9%

24

Robert WoodsLAR

90

129

69.8%

26

Adam ThielenMIN

74

108

68.5%

12

Brandin CooksHOU

81

119

68.1%

19

Keenan AllenLAC

100

147

68.0%

9

Allen Robinson IICHI

102

151

67.5%

25

CeeDee LambDAL

74

111

66.7%

21

Marvin Jones Jr.DET

76

115

66.1%

16

A.J. BrownTEN

70

106

66.0%

13

Terry McLaurinWSH

87

134

64.9%

8

Tyreek HillKC

87

135

64.4%

7

DK MetcalfSEA

83

129

64.3%

18

Mike EvansTB

70

109

64.2%

5

Calvin RidleyATL

90

143

62.9%

28

Tee HigginsCIN

67

108

62.0%

27

Diontae JohnsonPIT

88

144

61.1%

29

Nelson AgholorLV

48

82

58.5%

31

Chase ClaypoolPIT

62

109

56.9%

34

Michael GallupDAL

59

105

56.2%

11

DJ MooreCAR

66

118

55.9%

32

Jerry JeudyDEN

52

113

46.0%

Jerry Jeudy was not only the player with the lowest catch/target ratio, he was the ONLY one among the list to have a success ratio below 50%. Of the top 100 pass receivers in 2020, only AJ Green (CIN) recorded a lower rate than Jeudy.

In conclusion:

It was not about our quarterback. Fant, Patrick, KJH, Hamilton, and Vannett shared the same grief.

It was not about being a rookie. Laviska Shenault, Justin Jefferson, and CeeDee Lamb all had both a +66% catch ratio, …and far more TDs. Nearly all WR rookies in the class had a higher catch ratio than JJ, regardless of who their QBs were.

It was not about being burdened as WR1. Less renown receivers as Curtis Samuel, Cooper Kupp, Sterling Shepard, and Jakobi Meyers all had catch ratios of 70% or more. Heck! Even infamous butter-hands Nelson Agholor had a rate over 12% higher than Jeudy’s!!!

In fact, if Shurmur had simply sat JJ out all season long, and spread out his 113 targets among the other top 6 Bronco receivers (Patrick, KJH, Hamilton, Fant, Gordon & Vannett), it would have translated into 19 additional completions (the equivalent to two of Sutton’s personal-record-setting games like the one he had last week, plus one), and 2.4 additional TDs. All those chips were left on the table by Jerry Jeudy last season.

Now, two positive notes. The first: Jerry Jeudy started out very well this season, catching 6 out of 7 targets in NY before leaving injured.

The second, and most important one: The Supreme Court (see The Good) is in session!

We may rest easy, we will do just fine, but Jeudy should not. He will need to work hard to justify his starting position when he is back.

Prediction

My prediction read: "Expect a field day for the Gordon/Williams tandem, aided by Muti down the middle, with at least one TD from either, plus another by The Bridge in a short red zone dash. 200 yds total, with Gordon taking the bigger share. +4.3 ypc combined. Passing will be similar to last week, with 2TD (maybe 3, if KJH corrects his dropping issues), but less than 300 yds. The Court will pace the group with a bit less than 100 yds, scoring once, Fant, and (hopefully) KJH the other, in a 20+ yd catch and run. Defense will overwhelm young Trevor since the beginning, without need of more than 4-men rush for most of the game (which is how Uncle Vic likes it, anyways). Von, Dre'Mont, Shelby, and Malik (with a couple of Chubb cameos), will get to the rookie hard and often. With an overload of personnel in the back, a couple of picks will arise as things get desperate, one by Simmons, the other from-rookie-to-rookie PSII. 4 sacks, one by Von. Only bad note is a missed 50-55 yd FG by McMoney that made things more difficult than needed in the first half. Final score 28 - 10 (35 if KJH gets his)"

What I got wrong: the run game went nowhere, with a pedestrian 96 yds rushing, Williams making the most (64), and Gordon having a day to forget. Muti was a non-factor in the run (and in passing, see The Bad). No TDs by ground. The Bridge DID break the 300 yd, and The Court DID break the 100 yd (and so much more), while KJH did not get his TD (and he still owes us). Von & Co. (with Chubb appearing in more than "a few cameos", before limping off) were not able to bring the heat on TL, getting a single sack, mostly due to Urban bolstering QB-pro with extra bodies, at the cost of numeric inferiority on the receiving end (and it showed). The safety corps got their INT, but it was not by Simmons.

Most importantly: McMoney (3 / 3 FGs) rubbed in my face the fact that he might be part of a lousy ST unit, but he is the resplendent crane flying immaculate over the pestilent waters of the mediocrity swamp. The bad kicking mojo ricocheted off to Josh Lambo instead (0/2), making the duel between kickers a 15-point swing in Broncos’ favor.

What I got right? Mostly individual achievements: two INTs (getting one name right), two pass TDs by The Bridge (getting one receiver right), one sack by Von, and predicting Fangio’s defensive plan right (all men fall back, let the front-4 put the pressure).

The score was closer than predicted. Blame the Special Teams for that (see The Bad).

Rookie watch

A bittersweet day for the rookies in Florida.

Javonte Williams had a good game, nearing the 5.0 ypc mark, thanks in no small measure to his ability to break tackles, keep the vertical, and get chunks of yards after the play is nearly over. It is sweet to see that we have two serious hustlers as our two lead rushers, even in difficult afternoons like this.

Surtain got his first career INT out of a deep pass, so beautiful that the refs had to sit down and enjoy it once again in their tiny monitor (equally beautiful was Kareem’s INT, taking the ball out of the receiver’s hands). This saved PSII’s afternoon, in which he previously allowed 4 completions (to 1 pass defended) and committed one glaring, long, and completely unnecessary PI flag.

Baron Browning was one of the several ST players who got yellow laundry thrown in their faces, in traditional Broncos ST fashion.

No major news from the rest.

Penalties:

A spotty performance, with 10 penalties for 101 yards. Dre’Mont had a bad day: committed an ugly roughing-the-passer in addition to an encroachment, while the ST accounted for 3-25 yds of the total (see The Bad, below). Surtain contributed with 36 yds, and both Chubb and Von got a 5-yd flag each. As for the rest? You will find them in The Ugly.

The Good:

The Court. The Bridge. Together: Career day for Sutton, with his highest output in receptions and receiving yards (159 yds, 9 rec/12 tgts, 6 1st downs). Interestingly enough, this was only Sutton’s third career 100+ yd game. Not surprising, considering the QBs he had had to deal with… until today.

So, Checkdown Teddy, right? The Bridge had another picnic day (125.6 rating, his third highest output since Dec 2015, in just his second start with the Broncos). His stratospheric completion rate of 77.1% is the 2nd highest in the league (only behind Mayfield’s 81.6%, who has 21 pass attempts fewer). Teddy is also 6th best in QB rating (120.7), and 2nd best in ESPN’s QBR (83.3, only behind Tyrod Taylor, and one above Mahomes’ 79.4). All this in spite of sitting behind a sieve of an O-line (see The Bad), resulting in being the 7th most sacked QB in the league (only surpassed by unlucky souls like Zach Wilson, Burrow, Wentz, Daniel Jones, Tannehill, and Russ Wilson). Regardless, The Bridge seems to be grasping Shurmur’s book better than anybody since Shurmur’s days in Minnie.

No Fly Zone 2.0: Outside of a few plays in which either Jewell or AJ were sent to gun into the backfield, the secondary did the job with nearly NO pass-rush aid, all by design and as predicted. Wonder Boy finished with an embarrassing 43% compl, 118 yds, 1TD/2INT, 37.2 rating day. Expect similar results vs equally novice QB Zach Wilson next week. It would not hurt to get us Darby back soon, though.

Ball Hogs: The Broncos offense nearly monopolized control on the ball, keeping it for 30 minutes with over TEN MINUTES left in the clock. They finished the game with an absurd 38:52 time of possession, vaulting the Broncos to 74:00 total in two games, highest in the league (you read that right: the 2021 Broncos are holding the ball longer than any team). This, along with ball protection, is the most important difference in the Broncos’ performance on both sides of the ball compared to 2020.

The Bad:

Munchak’s Crew: Massie let one defender go by in the Broncos first drive. The Bridge managed the slip-up by side-stepping the defender and side-pitching to Gordon for a large gain. A few plays later, a blown block by Bolles led to a 16-yd sack in the red zone that forced the Broncos to settle for a field goal. Things did not get better for this O-line.

Muti not only let us down in run-block, but also allowed the second sack (in the hands of also Broncos draftee Adam Gotsis). But make no mistake, this is not a single-individual issue. This O-line is notably the weakest link in this team (not true, that’s Special Teams, but not by much). Glasgow was out, but we must admit that things were no better last week with him in.

After two victorious weeks, this O-line is angling to have their QB sacked 40 times in a 16-game span (42+ in a 17-game season). For comparison, Teddy was sacked only 31 times in 2020.

As Topher Doll correctly pointed out last week, Munchak’s job after 2 years-plus has little to show, other than a surprising turnaround of an underperforming 1st-round LT.

3rd Down’s Not the Charm: The abysmal 3rd-down conversions today (2 of 11) will not make the cut vs real competition. Even factoring in the 2-of-2 successful 4th down conversions, it makes it a 4-out-of-11 success ratio, which is awfully poor yet. Last week, they went 7-of-15 in 3rd downs, a mediocre effort at best. The Broncos need to work hard on getting innovative and execute in 3rd down scenarios, a malaise that affects Shurmur’s offense since his first year in Denver.

The Ugly:

"Send those Zebras to sleep with the fishes": The refs gave their best effort to stop the Broncos from covering the spread, but could not deliver the goods to their underground clients. A glaring holding that negated a surefire 50+ catch by The Court went uncalled (with another less obvious jersey tug in similar circumstances early on), while a far less obvious PI was flagged on Kyle Fuller in the only scoring JAC drive. Fast forward to the 3rd quarter, a very obvious holding on Von that allowed Lawrence to escape for a 1st down dash (Note: in that play it was sweet seeing BIG BOY DeShawn Williams chasing after Trevor in the open, escorting him out of bounds). Now the kicker: A completely bogus false-start call against Noah Fant, in the same play where a flag was thrown in the END ZONE (30-YDS downfield) where Sutton was apparently being grabbed for the third time in the game (that flag was apparently picked). At least we can say that the zebras’ shenanigans had no effect in the final result. Now go ask the Chargers about theirs!

Never change, Special Teams! I mentioned in my FanPost last week that the Jags’ ST had the worst output in the league on week 1. Fast forward one week, and they are the only team with a KO return in the league. Thank McMahon’s crew for that! Allowing the longest KO return in your opponent’s history, while committing multiple penalties, pretty much tells you that it is not talent what has been holding back the Broncos Generic Teams for the past seasons. Patton is well aware of that. Either he places an ultimatum on McMahon, or "invites" him to bow out with some dignity, or finally makes the move that all Broncos Country have been scratching their heads for it to happen for seasons now.

No, Outlaw, NOOOOOOO! Regular readers of this series last season will know that I am a huge advocate of Josey Jewell. He was not only the Broncos runner-up leader in tackles last year (112, only behind Dino’s 124), but he also generated 6 tackles for loss (5th most in the team), and was used effectively in Fangio's conservative and seldom-used 5-man rush schemes (getting 2 sacks). Furthermore, Vic Fangio himself described his contribution as "[Outlaw] really quarterbacks the defense out there […] He’s got the coach-to-player communication and he’s the guy who leads it for us". Now, with a torn pectoral (while doing ST tasks, no less), his season is most likely over.

Around the league:

With the Broncos W, and the Chiefs’ and Chargers’ hard-fought losses, the Broncos now perch atop the AFC West, side-by-side with the Raiders (who started their season biting on their hardest muffins). Now all-West teams have a combined record of 13-3 at the end of week 2, with the three lost games by a combined margin of 1 TD. BTW, congratulations to our dear Matt Prater, who broke the NFL record for the longest field goal scored with 62 yds (that is SIXTY TWO YARDS). Don’t act surprised if next Sunday McManus pledges Vic for a 70-yarder at the end of the first half.

Looking forward: NY Jets

Next opponent: With an 0 – 2 record, and the 4th worst point differential in the league, the Jets come to the thin Rockies air with little to brag about. Nonetheless, take not these Jets lightly. At least not their defense.

The Jets D allowed only 186 pass yds from the Patriots’ Mac Jones on Sunday, sacked him 3 times, and barely allowed 100 rush yds from their RBs. Still, they lost with score 25 - 6. Less than 300 offensive yards do not yield 25 points in the NFL. But turnovers do. And that's what I would expect (hope?) to happen again for Broncos to win comfortably this coming Sunday.

New HC (and former 49’ers coordinator, and intimidating bouncer in upscale bar) Robert Saleh is already putting his mark on a Jets D that finished 24th only last season. In spite of two losses by 24 points combined, the Jets D is placed 9th in total yards and 14th in points allowed. Shurmur’s band will have a handful to deal with, in particular the O-line, trying to contain this aggressive D unit.

Offense: The Jets are still breaking in their shiny, new QB, 2021 2nd-overall-draft-pick Zach Wilson, after shedding their tattered, old QB, 2018 3rd-overall-draft-pick Sam Darnold. While Darnold is now keeping Carolina in the shrinking list of the undefeated, Zach is struggling to stay upright each game: he has been sacked a whopping 10 times (that’s TEN, highest in the league), six of them in the hands of Darnold’s own Panthers in week 1. Not only that, Wilson shares the honor (with another recent acquaintance of the Broncos’ D, Trevor Lawrence) as the most intercepted QB in the league, with 5. Zach has thrown a couple of TDs. The rest of the offense is made up by WRs (tiny but effective) Braxton Berrios, and new acquisition WR Corey Davis (from TEN), in addition to RBs rookie Michael Carter, veteran Ty Johnson, and new acquisiton Tevin Coleman (from SF). Not much to speak of their numbers, so let’s leave it at that.

Defense: A very young, cohesive unit here. Led by veteran LB CJ Mosley in his 2nd year with the Jets, and S Marcus Maye (both with 14 tackles, 9 solo each), supported by rookie CB Michael Carter (13 tackles, 6 solo), and (virtual) rookie LB Del’Shawn Phillips. All of them have more total tackles than our highest tacklers, Kareem and Kyle (8 each). That’s what happens when the D is forced to do the job for the entire team…, situation that might sound familiar to Broncos Country. Their sack leader is DE John-Franklin Myers (2), fewer than our Von’s 3. Nonetheless, the Jets’ D has more total sacks than Denver (4 vs 3). Their D are still in search of their first INT (and let’s hope that remains true after next Sunday).

Special teams: Theirs is better than ours. Moving on…

Turnovers: For the second consecutive week, Denver has a better TO ratio than their opponent (does it feel cool or what???!!!). While Broncos have the 4th best in the league (+2), the Jets have the 2nd worst (-4).

Spread:

The Broncos are favorites for the third time in as many games and by ever-increasing margins, now with a 10.5-point spread. With a still shellshocked rookie in command of the visiting team’s O, expect plenty of mistakes and mayhem in Mile High. The Broncos will cover.

POLL

What will be The Bridge’s greatest achievement this season?

(Please post your answers in the Comments section)

Staying in one piece through 17 games behind this O-line

Scoring 30+ TDs (more than twice his max output in a single season)

Zero Interceptions (say it with me: ZEROOOOO!)

20 - 0! (’72 Dolphins got nothing on us!)

Whorfin (all of the above)

Shasta (Other, please describe in comments)

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR.