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Taking the Reins: 3 Keys to Breaking the Charge(rs)

The defense will have to continue to hold the line this week against one of the league’s best young QBs. Here’s hoping Denver’s offense finally steps up!

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

After two disappointing losses, the Denver Broncos sorely need a win this Monday against the division rival Los Angeles Chargers. That may be a tall order for a team, and specifically an offense, that has struggled so far.

Nonetheless, the Bolts have weaknesses that can be exploited and the Broncos have strengths that can be leaned on. Let’s take a look at the top 3 keys to victory the boys in orange & blue need to achieve to go get a W in LA.

Chargers Broncos at SoFi Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

#1: Figure it out on offense.

Earlier this season I noted that improved game management was going to be #1 until it was solved, or at least notably improved. That happened for the most part, and as such that key is handing off the torch to its successor: offensive production.

After a yards-heavy but points-light Week 1, Denver’s offense has somehow regressed sharply into one of the worst units we’ve seen in the post-Super Bowl 50 era. That’s got to end at some point. The Broncos’ playmakers (at least the ones not named Courtland Sutton) need to start making plays. And their rushing game has to figure out how to unstick itself from being stuck in neutral.

That will be a challenge amid mounting injuries. The loss of LT Garrett Bolles for the season means a major downgrade for the offensive line, compounding the loss of RB Javonte Williams. Still, those issues will need to be overcome if this team is to find success on Monday. The fact that the Chargers’ much-hyped defense hasn’t quite lived up to its billing so far will hopefully give the good guys some wiggle room. Here’s hoping Hackett, Wilson, & company can figure it out.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

#2: Stifle the Chargers’ pass catchers.

Justin Herbert has the lowest sack rate in the NFL to this point in the season, and is tied for the fewest sacks taken among QBs who’ve started all 5 prior games. That indicates pretty strongly that it’s going to be a hard day on the Edge for Bradley Chubb, Baron Browning, & company.

The best way to give them opportunities is to lock down the Chargers’ receivers. That is going to be made significantly tougher by the loss of Ronald Darby. 4th round rookie CB Damarri Mathis has played well so far, but this will be a big test for the young corner as he steps into starting duties.

Speaking of big tests, let’s get into our 3rd key to victory:

#3: Next man... step up.

Counting long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer, the Broncos are currently sitting ugly with 7 starters on injured reserve. That’s pretty horrendous injury luck for just a quarter of a season. And that’s without even considering the staggering number of ligament tears within that group.

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

The good news is that the team will soon get all-world safety Justin Simmons back, though whether that will be in time for this game or not is up in the air. The bad news is that, outside of Randy Gregory, Simmons might be the only starter we can expect to see return from IR. Bobenmoyer might also return, but... meh. Long snapper.

That means its time for a lot of young players and career backups to step up and prove their worth. Calvin Anderson at LT, Damarri Mathis at CB, Nik Bonitto at Edge, and pretty much anyone who can actually run the ball effectively at RB... these are all guys whose performances this Monday will play a big part in determining the outcome- let’s hope they’re ready for that spotlight.

That’s not to say that the Broncos don’t have some serious bright spots among their 2nd string; players who have stepped up in big ways already. Baron Browning validated the coaches’ decision to move him to Edge almost instantly, and I’d argue that no team in the NFL has a better EDGE3 ready to step in when Randy Gregory got hurt. And the same goes for Caden Sterns, whose great play and ball-hawking will probably keep him on the field even after Justin Simmons returns.

What are your top keys to victory for the Broncos on Sunday?