Nothing lasts for long in the NFL, and we’ll get to see the effects of that churn in real time when the Broncos face off against the Jets this weekend. The last time the two faced off was only a year ago around this time, when Brett Rypien made his first start on Thursday Night Football. Since then Adam Gase has given way to Robert Saleh, and Joe Douglas shipped Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers to clear the way for Zach Wilson to start. If not for that move, Teddy Bridgewater probably isn’t the Broncos starting quarterback.
Beyond the “if, then” history is the game itself. Denver is riding high off an undefeated summer while New York is trying to secure its first victory under the new regime. To become better informed about the opponent, I reached out to Gang Green Nation’s MacGregor Wells.
1st and 10
Through two games Zach Wilson has thrown five interceptions and taken 10 sacks. There’s little question the rookie is undergoing a trial by fire and things don’t look like they should let up on Sunday. How do you expect the Jets to try and ease him in, and how will Mike LaFleur try to take advantage of a Denver pass defense minus three of their best players in Bradley Chubb, Ronald Darby, and Josey Jewell?
Wells: Zach Wilson has been criticized by Jets head coach Robert Saleh for not being boring enough. That is, he needs to take the easy completion when it’s there and not always challenge downfield. After his horrendous performance last Sunday I expect the Jets will put together a game plan that emphasizes getting Wilson some easy completions, along with a heavy dose of the running game. Short, quick throws will likely be the order of the day, at least to start the game. Slants, screens, rub routes, quick outs, checkdowns to the running backs, etc. Wilson will likely be under orders to take the easy completions and the checkdowns whenever they are open, and only look downfield when his primary reads are covered. Perhaps if Wilson can gain some confidence early with the short stuff, the Jets will then open up the playbook and take some shots down the field as the game progresses.
PFF's lowest-graded quarterbacks through week 2:— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) September 22, 2021
5th-worst: Josh Allen
4th: Zach Wilson
3rd: Aaron Rodgers
2nd: Ben Roethlisberger
Worst: Trevor Lawrence
2nd and 3
Robert Saleh made his way through the ranks as a very astute defensive mind. In year one there’s definitely some talent deficiencies on the roster, but it seems like he has a plan. How do you expect the Jets to try and attack Teddy Bridgewater?
Wells: The Jets probably won’t change much when facing Bridgewater, primarily because Bridgewater’s game plays into what the Jets are trying to accomplish on defense. That is, the Jets try to keep everything in front of them and eliminate big plays. Force the opponent to execute on long, many play drives, then keep them out of the end zone. This matches up well with what Bridgewater likes to do and is best at. Teddy doesn’t take a ton of shots down the field. He is known to favor short, conservative passes. That of course doesn’t mean Bridgewater can’t beat the Jets at this game. It just means Bridgewater’s game matches up with what the Jets are trying to do on defense, so I expect this week to be a pretty standard approach from the Jets. They will play mostly zone defense, try to get pressure primarily without blitzing, concede a lot of short passes, try to keep everything in front of them, swarm to the ball after the catch, try to eliminate big plays, and challenge the Broncos to execute on multiple long, many plays, time consuming drives. That’s the plan. Whether the Jets can execute it well remains to be seen.
3rd and 9
New York’s secondary is a bit of an unknown to most of Broncos Country. How confident are you that they can match up with Denver’s receiving corps? What do you think they’ll do when the Broncos go with 2 or 3 tight ends?
Wells: The Jets’ cornerbacks are probably the least experienced group in the NFL. Coming into the season the Jets had zero cornerbacks with more than 10 NFL starts. It was a big worry prior to the regular season. It is slightly less a worry now, as the Jets young cornerbacks have held up well so far in the first two games, albeit against less than stellar quarterbacks. Can they hold up against the Broncos receivers? Maybe.
The Jets play a lot of zone, so you aren’t going to have one on one matchups the majority of the time. I have little doubt the Broncos will be able to find room underneath for many short completions. The question will be can the Jets secondary limit the damage and for the most part keep the Broncos out of the end zone? Here much of the success of the Jets defense or lack thereof will likely depend on the Jets pass rush. If Bridgewater has all day to pass, it’s unlikely the Jets secondary will hold up well. If Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins, Shaq Lawson, et al have success putting consistent pressure on Bridgewater, the Jets secondary may have some success.
As far as what happens if the Broncos go to 2 or 3 tight end sets, frankly I think the Jets will be pleased to see those sets. The Jets’ primary goal on defense is to keep everything in front of them and not give up big plays. The more tight ends on the field, the less chance of big plays. That doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t beat the Jets with multiple tight end sets. It just means if the Jets could choose, I suspect they’d say the more Broncos tight ends, the better.
Broncos personnel breakdown through 2 weeks.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 21, 2021
11 P - 51% of snaps
Pass 69% of the time, 3.7 YPC on runs
12 P - 31% of snaps
Pass 54% of the time, 4.1 YPC on runs
13 P - 17% of snaps
Pass 26% of the time, 6.6 YPC on runs
Worth noting Melvin Gordon's 70-yard run was out of 13. pic.twitter.com/JWIgmcBh4Y
4th and 4
Are there any x-factors in this matchup that I may be overlooking? Any unsung names that could have a huge impact?
Wells: On defense, defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers may be a name non-Jets fans are unfamiliar with. He is probably the Jets best pass rusher, and he may be a big factor in this game if he can get a lot of pressure on Bridgewater.
On offense, rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore is probably not a household name. Moore has come along a bit slowly to start the year, but he is the Jets’ best big play threat, and he is capable of making game breaking plays if he is overlooked.
Elijah Moore's first catch of the day. Wide open for 27 yards pic.twitter.com/Woe30t74g8— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) September 19, 2021
What is your prediction for the game? Broncos win if....? Jets win if....?
Wells: The Jets are the youngest team in the NFL, and one of the worst teams in the NFL. The rookie quarterback is struggling and the offense has put up just 20 points in two games. Going into Denver is always a difficult task for a visiting team. No rational analysis of this game has the Jets favorites to win here. So the Broncos win if they just play their normal game, avoid a letdown that could occur if they overlook the lowly Jets, and don’t turn the ball over.
For the Jets, they’ll have to thread the needle. Zach Wilson has to calm down, stop trying for the big play when it isn’t there, and take the easy stuff whenever it presents itself. The Jets will probably need the run game to be effective and a big play or two from wide receivers Elijah Moore and/or Corey Davis. The defensive line will need to generate consistent pressure on Teddy Bridgewater without blitzing. The Jets will need to keep everything in front of them and for the most part limit the damage to field goals. Finally, the Jets will need to win the turnover battle. Do all those things and the Jets can win. It’s possible, but it’s not the way to bet.
Will the Broncos beat the Jets?
This poll is closed
It’ll be closer than I’d like, but they’ll get it done.
I smell a close loss coming.
They’re going to fall flat and get blown out.